About Belle Provence

Sanary Market Sanary-sur-Mer Saturday Market

Welcome to la belle Provence!   This site is about living in, and traveling around, the south of France.

I’m a 40-ish American woman, born & raised in southern California, and I’ve been living in Provence for 6 years. In 2007, I took a break from my much-loved career in higher education to experience a *mid-life* adventure in Rome, Italy. After a few years of English teaching (and living the dolce vita on a very slim budget!) I met my French husband-to-be at a Christmas party.

I didn’t speak a word of French and never imagined getting to know the French people and their culture… let alone falling in love with the place I now call home. It was a long personal journey moving from Italy to France, and it took me about 4 years to speak decent French – one of the biggest challenges I faced moving here. In fact, one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever faced – it’s one tough language! I’m still learning every day, but my life has become a lot fuller since I crossed that bridge and I’m very thankful for the patient French people who helped me along the way.

My husband Nicolas is a self-proclaimed expert in “eating” and provides much of the French-background for the posts. About 90% of his explanations involve the phrase “it’s complicated”, which really explains about 90% of living in France.

We live in Toulon, in the Var department, and much of this site is dedicated to places we often visit in the region – like our favorites Bandol, Sanary-sur-Mer, Le Castellet, and the “off the beaten track” villages that make up Provence Verte (Green Provence). We’ve also fallen in love with Cassis, Aix-en-Provence, Avignon, Saint Rémy de Provence, and Isle-sur-la-Sorgue – just to name a few! Provence is a big and beautiful place, there’s a lot to love.

I really enjoy learning as much as I can about the south of France, so please don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like to contribute to this site in the My Provence section.

You can also contact me at:  tuula@belleprovencetravels.com


Thank you for taking the time to stop by, à bientôt!



-For more of my travel writing, please see the Travel Belles and I’m also a contributer to the 2015 Charming Small Hotels France guidebook.  In 2015, I became an Arts Ambassador for Arts Alliance in Provence – learn about their program and and view their performance calendar here.


Charming Small Hotels






24 thoughts on “About Belle Provence

  1. Hello~
    I am going on a cruise to Toulon,Nice for only for a day at each place. I am a chef and all about market,food stores,kitchen gadgets and truffles any ideas of off the beaten path a foodie like me would love.


    1. Lisa, that sounds like a great cruise. For Toulon, when you arrive at the port, there is a large market across the street which sells regional foodstuffs, spices, and local products – bakeries & cafes also line the market. You could start there, then double back to the port & take the “Petit Train” (leaves from the port, directly in front of town hall) to the beaches of Le Mourillion – you’ll find several restaurants along the beach serving Provencal specialties. One of the best (moderately priced) restaurants is also along “the boardwalk” of the Mourillion. Try having lunch or dinner at Tout le Monde En Parle (369, Littoral Federic Mistral) – a real foodie treat. I don’t know of any “kitchen stores” in Toulon as yet, and for truffles you can check what’s in season at the market. (At the moment, figs!).

      There is so much to do & see in Nice. Personally, I would head straight to Vieux Nice & wander the streets behind the Flower Market on Cours Saleya – you’ll find food stalls & restaurants packed with Nicoise cuisine & local seafood. Have a “walking lunch” or stop for a more leisurely bite at L’Escalinada – featured in the NY Times (www.escalinada.fr).

      Don’t miss the intense gelato flavors at Fenocchio in Vieux Nice (www.fenocchio.fr). There are also several wine “caves” & food markets around the corner from Fenocchio – selling everything from teas to homemade Italian raviolis. If you have time, stroll through Place Massena in the direction of Canel – a gourmet confectioner (2, Rue de France).

      Hope that is helpful – have a wonderful trip.


      1. You truely helped me out so much!!!!! I will write down all your tips in my travel book that i will take with me. I am also goin to Italy Rome,Florence,Capri do you know anyone like yourself who has a italian version of your site???
        Happy Traveler Lisa


      2. That’s great to hear Lisa. Have a wonderful time in Italy – you will love it. For Florence, you might have a look at this site: http://www.divinacucina-blog.com

        and Katie Parla is really the food expert for Rome: http://www.parlafood.com

        I haven’t found anything for Capri, but you’ll have a great time just hiking around the island – gorgeous!
        Let me know if you have any more questions & bon voyage!


      3. Yes i have one important question …..rest rooms my mom and myself have to go quite abit…In USA its no problem goin into a restaurant or store but how is it there? public restroom?


      4. Yes, the restrooms are okay here – but people don’t usually have a habit to walk into a restaurant or store. I would say you could find a public restroom or pay for a coffee at a local cafe as needed. Just a euro or two & a safe bet. Safe travels.


    1. Hi Carol, yes the market will be open and there is another open market in the “Le Mourillon” neighborhood until about 12:30pm on Sunday. Take Bus #3 from in front of the port (marked “Mourillon”) and it will leave you directly in front of the market. There are little shops & small squares with cafés around the market – personally, I prefer this one to the larger market as you’ll get more of a “small town” experience within larger Toulon. Enjoy!


  2. Hi Tuula,
    My family and I are coming to Lorgues for a wedding June 22-23. After visiting Marseille and St. Raphael a few years ego we decided to take a closer look this time around. We are staying for 2 weeks but I am at a loss as to where to start. All of a sudden 2 weeks doesn’t seem like enough time to even scratch the surface of Provence. We are traveling with a 4 year old so moving town to town seems a bit daunting. Can you recommend 1 or 2 central towns to stay in from which we can take day trips. We would love to do a bike tour and take cooking classes as well. I appreciate any advice you can give me


    1. Hi Deana,
      Oh, how fun… a wedding in Provence will be lovely. I understand why you feel at a loss, it’s a big area and hard to know where to get started. I guess the one question I would have is whether or not you want to be close to the sea – that will make a big difference on which town you choose to be “based”. If you are more inland, you could take day trips from Lorgues to villages like Correns & Barjols, which are beautiful and won’t be as crowded as other well-known spots. You won’t be very far from the Gorges de Verdon either, which will be busy in the summer but is absolutely stunning. It’s true that if you go the inland “village route” you will be doing a fair amount of driving. On the other hand, have you considered staying in Nice, you won’t be too far from it in the end, and you could use the train to take day trips along the coast (Antibes is great)- and maybe this is a more comfortable option with a 4 year old, I find the train rides quite relaxing myself and a very easy way to travel in France. It will be a bit of a drive to the wedding, but it could be a nice choice… also I know there are cooking classes in Nice(http://www.petitsfarcis.com/) and you could rent bikes in town. I hope that is helpful, if you have follow-up questions, feel free to send them along. I have a few posts on villages under Travel Posts if the info is useful. Good luck!


  3. Just found your blog, and I will be reading every single entry as I try and get my head round moving to France. We have visited as tourists several times but have decided to be brave and make the permanent move. So I’m in the early stages of trying to work out how to relocate four children, two little dogs and a pony. I’ve managed to do it from east Scotland to west Wales…….but this seems so much more challenging! Thanks for a great blog.


    1. Hello Kelly, thanks for your kind comment and good luck with your move. It can be challenging in the beginning but it’s more than worth it in the end! France is a great place to live and I think you will be surprised by just how welcoming the French actually are 🙂 If you ever need an expat “boost” please drop me a line… and above all, bon courage!


  4. Hope to see you soon in Provence, Michelle…. and I’m a huge fan of Italy as well! Many thanks for your comment and bon weekend.


  5. Hi Kelly,
    I too just found your blog. I’m dreaming of moving to Provence with my family but it’s convincing my husband that has been the hold. He’s worried about our 4 kids falling behind in school which I think is crazy. Any helpful tidbits you could offer? Where do you live and I’d love to hear about the school you run.



    1. Hello Kathy,
      Moving to Provence can be a lot of fun and is certainly a big project to start. If you have a chance, have a look at this site which is a good resourse for expats in the region, and should also help with finding schools for the kids (if that’s in order!) : http://provence.angloinfo.com/ . We live in the Var department which is very pretty and close to the sea. I would also love to live near Aix-en-Provence or even in the Vaucluse. There are really so many beautiful areas in the South to consider… The school where I currently work is a language-training center and I’ll be writing more about my experiences moving/working abroad shortly on the blog. If you have any more questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at: tuularampont@gmail.com. Tuula


  6. Hello dear Tuula

    Just popping in to let you know that I really like your blog. Today is the first time that I visit it and I am fascinated by all the subjects you are writing about. There is a chance (1/3) that my dearest and I move to the Provence in about a year (area of Aix-en-Provence) and although in March, I’ll be visiting Aix and its surroundings for the third time, this blog is really ‘helpful’ to dive in the atmosphere and to get to know more about how it feels to actually live in France. I’ll be back soon. Thank you so much for sharing all this beauty and interesting articles! Wishing you a lovely week ahead et à bientôt!


    1. Thank you for your kind comment and happy to hear that you’ve found the blog helpful! You’d be very lucky to move to Aix… such a gorgeous town, one of the best in Provence. Please let me know if you have any questions about moving… et à bientôt! Tuula


  7. Just moved to Provence (from Italy) and I stumbled upon your blog, a wonderful discovery… I guess you found a new reader! 🙂

    A bientôt!



  8. Welcome to France . and Bravo for your blog.
    For having been living out of France for a while, (Spain, Great Britain and USA,) I know the “difficulties” some can find being ‘à l’étranger”.
    Tuula, if you need something, please don’t hesitate : I will always have some time for you..
    And as I I have a mosaic studio in Crillon le Brave (close to Avignon) may be you come and we can meet sometimes.. or I come and see you!!!


  9. That’s very kind of you Marie-Agnès, thanks so much for your offer. I’ll be sure to let you know if I visit Crillon le Brave, I’ve heard it’s a beautiful place, lucky you!


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