Updated: Jun 28
Let’s see the true face of Provence and learn useful Provence French vocabulary through my French English bilingual story and beautiful pictures.
1 – Provence Story: Clichés
What are the clichés about Provence?
You all know the clichés about Provence: pastis drink, [French] accent, blue skies, cicadas, pine trees, lavender, sunflowers, mistral wind, markets, petanque balls etc…
But Provence is not only about that, isn’t it?
2 – Provence Story: What is Provence ?
True Provence is also…
1. Round tiled rooftops, blue shutters,
2. Stone stairs, winding paved streets, bell towers, 3. Villages, perched high-up on hills, 4. The smell of country herbs: rosemary, thyme, marjoram, sage… And of course lavender!
5. Boats dancing on the water…. Children splashing around while laughing… All the shades of blues of the Mediterranean!
3 – French Provence Vocabulary
Here is some vocabulary which will be useful in Provence.
La Provence: Provence, the region in the South of France close to the Mediterranean sea.
1. Provençal(e) – from Provence
2. La province: everything which is not Paris – watch out for the pronunciation difference!
3. Provincial(e) – from outside of Paris. This adjective is often used in a derogative way, to say “low class”, “vulgar”… it’s a bit snobbish.
4. Une cigale : cicada – a small insect that lives on trees and rubs its wings to make “the” sound of Provence: gzzz, gzzz, gzzz
5. Un pin : pine tree, which are plentiful in Provence. Watch out for the pronunciation… “un pin” is pronounced like “le pain” (bread). I’m sorry to be vulgar, but “une pine” (with an “een” English sound) is a way to say ‘penis’ in French… So mispronouncing “pin” would be a very embarrassing mistake!
6. Un clocher : steeple, clock tower
7. Une ruelle: small street
8. La lavande: lavender
9. Le thym : thyme
10. Le romarin : rosemary
11. La sauge : sage
12. La marjolaine: marjoram
13. La transhumance : when the shepherds move the sheep from one pasture to the other. They often have to cross villages to do so, people sometimes dress in traditional costumes… It’s quite an interesting event to witness!
14. Un berger: shepherd
4 – Provence Parks
Provence has several amazing national parks:
1. le Parc régional des Alpilles
2. le Parc régional du Verdon
3. le Parc régional du Luberon
4. le Parc national des Calanques
5. le Parc régional de Camargue.
They are in green on the map. Through the names of these parks, you can already picture the wild variety of landscapes.
To the west, the Camargue is the most fragile Provencal land. It harbors many protected animals and plant species. It’s also well-known for its wild horse herds.
In the north, in the Verdon Regional Park, the Provencal countryside is at the forefront but the canyons are too. In the Gorges du Verdon, many activities such as pedalo (paddle boat) and canoe are possible. But you can also find fields of lavender and small historic villages built upon the rocks.
To the south, the Calanques National Park is a must do (yes, we use the English word “must” in French!). But by the way, what is a “Calanque”?
It is a small cove surrounded by rocks. There are the Calanques de Marseille but also the Calanques of Cassis.
5 – Provence Traditions.
Although different, all these regions have one thing in common: respect for tradition and nature.
In the Camargue region (in the town of Saintes-Maries de la Mer) every year in May, Gypsies and Provençal people celebrate Sara The Black. It’s a very important event in the region.
In the Verdon Park, few shepherds still cross part of Provence on foot with their sheep. It’s called transhumance. The transhumance goes from Ramatuelle (altitude: 130 meters) to Allons (1073 meters). The inhabitants of the villages like this event. Drivers less so… The waiting time can be long as the sheep take over the streets!
France is administratively divided into regions and departments. However, as you have already understood, Provence is not just a region or a department. It’s more like a state of mind.
In Provence, enjoying life is sacred.
If you come to my place for an immersion stay in Provence, I will make you discover the different aspects of Provence: the landscapes and the scents, but also the culture, the gastronomy... while helping you to improve your French. See you soon in Provence!
Virginie In Provence