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A Year in Provence

The writer Peter Mayle of course popularised the idea and, as a result, living for a year (or more if possible) in Provence is on many people's bucket lists. To understand why dip into the articles featured on this page.

Provence really is a remarkable place to live. The locals call it a corner of Paradise, and on crisp clear winter days, with an almost impossibly blue sky, it's easy to understand why. Although rainfall in Provence is as high as London, rather than arrive in the form of dank drizzly days, rain in Provence falls in biblical fashion. After a day the heavens have shot their bolt leaving the skies clear for months on end. It's one of the best climates in the world.

The lifestyle on offer is enviable. A spoonful of local olive oil in the morning to aid digestion. Then coffee on a sun-drenched terrace, a walk in the ever changing countryside. In the summer visits to the seaside and hops up the motorway for skiing in the winter. For culture Aix, Avignon, Arles and Marseille offer internationally recognised exhibitions and events. Scarcely a weekend goes by without a festival celebrating the local produce or wines.

Food comes directly from the surrounding fields. A bonanza of fruit in Spring, starting with cherries, then wood strawberries, melons, and peaches. In Autumn pumpkins replace the melons in the fields, and after the first heavy rains mushrooms sprout in the forests - including hearty cepes and delicate girolles. And in the depth of winter when the frosts are biting and the moon is full, priceless truffles grow in the ground. Almost all year round wild herbs, including thyme, fennel, and rosemary can be gathered by the roadside. Amateur cooks will rejoice in plentiful fresh ingredients to create seasonal dishes.

The only problem with living in Provence is that times passes so quickly.

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Light and Colour

Living in high definition

Provence is all about colour. The crystal clear nature of the light adds a unique sharpness and definition to the landscape. The most famous swathes of colour are of course the high lavender fields around Sault in late June, early July. But look around and colour is everywhere, in the multicoloured umbrellas of the market traders, and in the shadows as the sun sets over the rocks of Les Alpilles, or the soft folded mountains of the Luberon. In Autumn as the leaves fall from the trees and vines, the countryside glows with lustrous yellows and oranges. And deep in winter the light is so clear that cliffs look brittle enough to crack with your fingers.

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Provencal sayings

The locals are famous for their dry humour. Here are a few of their more famous expressions:

Gibier d'ete

A nickname given to summer tourists. Wild game such as guinea fowl is known as gibier. In the summer when the hunting season is officially closed, the locals make their sport with the tourists instead.

Oursins dans les poches

Used by market traders to describe people who go to markets to enjoy the atmosphere rather than buy things. An oursin is a sea urchin - an animal that inhabits a spiky, ball-shaped shell for protection. Imagine reaching in your pocket for some change and instead encountering an oursin. You'd never spend any money.

Touche les cinq sardines

The Provencal equivalent of the American high five. Sardine tins traditionally contained five fish sitting side by side like our fingers.

Faire fanny

A player losing 13-0 at boule must kiss the bare arse of his or her opponent. This practice dates back to the origins of the game at the turn of the century in La Ciotat, near Cassis, where the barmaid in the local bar was called Fanny.

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Popular Provence Market Days

Cavaillon, Cadenet, Fontvielle, Forcalquier, Goult, Lauris, Saint Saturnin Les Avignon

Aix, Beaumes de Venise, Caromb, Cucuron, Fontaine de Vaucluse, Gordes, La Tour D'Aigue, Saint Saturnin Les Apts, Tarascon, Vaison La Romaine

Aigues Mortes, Gargas, Le Thor, Merindol, Rognes, Roussillon, Saint Remy de Provence, Salon, Sault, Valreas, Velleron

Aix, Aubignan, Les Baux, Beaucaire, Cairanne, Maussane Les Alpilles, Mirabeau, Oppede le Vieux, Robion and Avignon

Bonnieux, Carpentras, Chateauneuf du Pape, Eygalieres, Lagnes, Lourmarin, Pertuis

Apt, Cheval Blanc, Crillon le Brave, Morna, Richerenches, Saint Martin de la Brasque

Aigues Mortes, Camaret, Chateaurenard, Jonquieres, L'Isle sur La Sorgue

What to buy
As well as fresh fruit and vegetables markets are also great places to buy: tablecloths, ceramics and pottery, soap and other lavender products, flowers, even extra-ordinary items like electric bikes and very occasionally beds and mattresses. Artisans can be found to recover old chairs with new fabrics, and weekend vide-greniers (literally empty attic) are great places to pick-up old garden furniture and other brocante. Thanks to the markets in Provence life can go on without the need for shops.

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Making the move

What you need to know to move to Provence

The good news is that it is easier than ever to move to Provence. First you need to decide where to live. For culture vultures in and around Saint Remy de Provence is a popular option. Arles and Avignon are close by with the Van Gogh centre and the Palais des Papes respectively. Nature lovers and outdoor types will adore the Luberon national park with its picturesque villages and endless trails. Shopaholics and lovers of a little sophistication should consider the area in and around Aix-en-Provence.

Many people who move to Provence chose to rent a house long term rather than buy. This can be difficult because landlords like to maximise their income from the peak summer months of July and August and are often unwilling to have long term renters in their house for this period. But renting out of season can be an absolute bargain with large properties going at knock down rates.

The financial implications of moving permanently to Provence need to be considered carefully. Tax rates are relatively high compared with the rest of Europe and America and transferring pensions can be difficult. Seek professional advice from an independent financial advisor

See the Guru selection of accommodation in Provence , including long term villas to rent and hotels and chambre d'hote to stay in whilst exploring possible areas to live. For properties to buy in Provence see our selection drawn from the best local immobilier.

Staying in touch with friends and relatives while living in Provence could not be easier with regular flights to major hubs from Marseille airport, Avignon airport and Nice Airport. The new eurostar line direct from London to Avignon is competitive in terms of price with flying.

International bilingual secondary schools in and around Aix en Provence offer the English exam system, as well as the international baccalaureate. English speaking primary schools are also available in and around Aix. There is also an international secondary school near Manosque. Here is a full listing of international schools in Provence.