There have been far too many invasions of France with devastating effects, but Provence experienced a different sort of invasion. When Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence was published in 1989, within a year the word had spread like wild fire; and within 20 years, the book had sold 6 million copies! Those who had previously enjoyed their provincial country life and those who had called Provence their second quiet home found the flood of tourists and property seekers overwhelming. Even the Mayles had busloads of tourists dropping by their home in Ménerbes!
But I’ve gotten a bit off topic, haven’t I? After all, I’ve not tangled with a truffle smuggler nor redone a Provençal home at the whimsy of local contractor’s schedules. What immediately comes to mind about Provence is one attribute with two parts – color. The blue skies, mustard-colored fields, spectacular rows of lavender, ancient olive trees and the rich red and ochre layers of soil near Roussillon. The play of light over the rainbow of landscape colors defies description; it simply seeps into your spirit, never to leave again.
The second part of the color equation is in the products that reflect the land. Cheerful provincial linens burst with orange, blue, red, green and yellow threads. Glazed potteries do the same, utilizing all of the vivid pigments from the land. Red-tiled roofs top pastel and earth-red homes, while traditional brightly-colored shutters shield from the southern sun.
Provence eludes capture; it is a wandering place, neither a department nor an administrative region, officially part of “Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur.” Where does one begin and the other end? Perhaps, it is more a state of mind and heart, a reflection of the artists who have tried to capture her beauty or the writers who have reached for words to describe her diversity. Some things simply cannot be defined.
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