From its herb-scented hills to its yacht-filled harbors, no
other region of France fires the imagination as strongly as Provence. The vivid
landscape and luminous light have inspired artists and writers from Van Gogh to
Picasso and from F. Scott Fitzgerald to Pagnol.
The borders of Provence are
defined by nature: to the west, the Rhône; south, the Mediterranean; and
north, where the olive trees end. To the east are the Alps and a border which
has shifted over the centuries between France and Italy. Within is a
contrasting terrain of plummeting gorges, Camargue salt flats, lavender fields
and sun-drenched beaches.
Past visitors have left their mark. In Orange and
Arles, the buildings of Roman Provincia are still in use.
villages like Eze were built to withstand the Saracen pirates who plagued the
coast in the 6th century. In the 19th century, rich Europeans sought winter
warmth on the Riviera, and by the 1920s, high society was in residence all
year, and their elegant villas remain.
The warm sunlight nurtures intense
flavors and colors. The image of Provence bathed in sunshine is marred only
when the bitter Mistral wind scours the land. It has shaped a people as hardy
as the olive tree, yet quick to embrace life to the fullest the moment the sun
Influenced by traditional French, Italian, and North African
cuisine, the food and drink of Provence presents a variety of tastes which are
sure to please. Provençal cuisine is almost always prepared with olive
oil (huile d'olive) and garlic (ail). Tomatoes are another common ingredient,
and you can safely assume that any dish described as "à la
provençale" will be prepared with garlic-seasoned tomatoes.
vegetables that frequently appear on Provençal menus are eggplant
(aubergine), summer squash (courgette) and raw onions. Tomatoes, eggplant and
squash stewed together along with green peppers,garlic and various aromatic
herbs produce that perennial Provencal favorite ratatouille.
most typical sauce of the region is the Aioli, prepared by mixing mayonnaise -
made with olive oil of course - with lots of freshly crushed garlic. It is
spread generously on hot or cold vegetables and seafood. Provence's most famous
dish is bouillabaisse,which is made with at least three kinds of fresh fish
cooked for ten minutesor so in broth with onions, tomatoes, saffran, and
various herbs, includinglaurel, sage and thyme. Bouillabaisse is usually served
with toast and rouille, a spicy sauce that some people mix into the soup but
which others spread on the toast. The most renowned bouillabaisse is made in