Belle Provence Travels

A South of France Blog

Colors of the season… Fall in Provence

November 6, 2016

Greetings dear readers and friends! Well, fall in Provence is just whipping past us… witnessed by the fact that Christmas decorations are already on sale in most stores around town. Not to mention that they’re preparing to open our local Christmas market (in Toulon) any day now. No complaints here, as Christmas in France is an equally beautiful time of year, but I thought I might share some colors or the season before we slowly slip into the winter months.

Because fall in the South is quite spectacular and a real “explosion” of color!

PumpkinsFrom the markets – which are featuring more and more “decorative” objects for the season like gourds and pumpkins of all shapes and sizes – to the muliple “foodie-themed” festivals that take place around the region, fall is a perfect time to explore the natural side of Provence and sample some of its finest regional products.Chartreuse de la Verne

 

Or a chance to visit hidden-treasures like the Chartreuse de la Verne, a monastery near the village of Collobrières – which is famous for its annual chestnut festival (the biggest, and most-attended, food fête in the region).

chestnut-collage

Apart from the food festivals that highlight the products of the season, fall is a particularly nice time to visit because of the temperate weather that lasts well into November. Gone are the blistering-hot days of the end of summer – where mid-afternoon required setting yourself up in the nearest air-conditioned café. Fall days may be shorter, but they are still full of sunshine and allow for whole days spent along the seaside.

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Olive festival in the village of Ollioules.

This fall season has been especially nice as far as the weather is concerned. Our town, Toulon, is quite full of retired folks, and it’s always amazing to see many of them swimming in the sea into November. I was down at the beach last Wednesday morning chatting with a women who told me I absolutely had to take a “bain”, dip, in the sea – said she’s been doing it during the holiday period (All Saints’ Day) for as long as she could remember. It was 10am!

fall

You may not find yourself swimming in the sea in November, but you will enjoy all the beauty of Provence if you come for a visit in the fall…

Bon weekend and bon voyage!

Tuula

10 Great Reasons to Visit Provence in the Fall

September 10, 2016

Greetings dear readers and friends! Well here we are, at the end of the summer, and sorry to say that I haven’t been a very active blogger because, well….summer! A summer in the south of France is something not quite of this world… full of festivals, bbq’s, lazy beach-days and 5 weeks of vacation that almost seem illegal. Keyword being “almost”… don’t think you’ll find many French folks complaining about all that holiday time, or any *ahem* expats, for that matter. France has spoiled me for good!

So now that we’ve entered back-to-school life, and the days will slowly start to cool off, September and the fall months are an excellent, far-less crowded time, to visit Provence.

Here are 10 of our favorite ways to spend the season in Provence… with indeed many more festivals, events, and places to visit than just this short list (feel free to add your own favorites in the comments below!):

poquerolles

Quiet Saturday morning on the island of Porquerolles

  1. Porquerolles island

This is a top destination any time of the year, but especially great in early fall and spring as it’s your chance to avoid the crowds and have this little slice of paradise all to yourself! We took an early-morning ferry from Hyéres to the island one Saturday in September to find the beaches all but deserted (photo shared above). Spreading out our beach towels, we couldn’t get over the stillness of the water and the tiny waves lapping gently at our feet. Giddy with excitement, I rushed in waist-deep and had asked my husband to take photos of me in the crystal-blue water (photos not shared!)…just an example of what a day on Porquerolles will do to you.

harvest-le-beausset

Havest festival in the village of Le Beausset

  1. Harvest festivals

Another favorite way to celebrate what the south does very well… wine, and a lot of it! You’ll find harvest fêtes all over the area (good websites to check for dates and locations are Visit Var and Provence Guide). We attended a festival in the nearby village-town of Le Beausset and were treated to a real local celebration – complete with food stalls, a parade, and ceremonial “wine-tasting”. Just be careful of those first few batches of “new wine”!

  1. Wine fairs

Well, these aren’t like the traditional “fairs” I grew up attending in Southern California… the term in French here is “foire” and the fair in this case means one big, humongous wine sale!  Since fall in France is synomous with harvest-time, the French do the good & decent thing and offer large reductions on wine at all of the major supermarkets and numerous wine merchants. This is a perfect time of year to pick up some great deals on French wine to stow in your suitcase or savor during an outdoor picnic. Vive la France!

  1. Outdoor picnics

Well, there you go… you’ve got your wine from the “foire au vin”, now all you need is a quick trip to your local Provençal market and you’re all set for a picnic-day. Cooler temps mean nicer beach days, not to mention the beautiful colors of the changing leaves in the countryside. Pick up a bicycle on your way and you’ve got the makings of an idyllic French getaway.

sanary-market

Fall finds at the Sanary-sur-Mer market

  1. Markets, markets, markets

No post is complete without a mention of what makes Provence such a special place to visit… the Provençal markets! Each season brings something new and special to the local markets, and fall is no exception. My favorite “fall finds” include pears, mushrooms of all shapes, colors, and sizes, and purple figs from Solliès-pont.

chestnut-festival

Roasting away at the Collobrières chestnut festival

  1. The Chestnut festival in Collobrières

A top foodie festival (with sister festivals in other regions) in our area is the Chestnut festival in the village of Collobrières. So popular that it takes place over 3 Sundays during the month of October and shuttle-buses in thousands of eager chestnut-buffs to sample chestnut crème, cakes, cookies, ice cream, liquor, and of course, hot-roasted chestnuts. You can’t get any more fall than that!

  1. Quieter Provençal towns (Saint Rémy de Provence, Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Avignon)

Fall is a great time of year to hit up some of the most popular towns & villages in the south minus the heat and crowds of the summer season. We’ve had some wonderful, and quiet, trips to Saint Rémy de Provence, Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, and Avignon during the months of October and November and besides enjoying Provence “like a local”, we also ate really well. Take advantage of these slower months to book at off-the-beaten-track restaurants.

daube

Delicious daube and chestnut polenta

  1. Provençal daube

It’s still a little early in the season for this, but a Provençal daube is one of the “foodie-highlights” of the region when temps start dropping. Think of it as the south’s answer to boeuf bourguignon… slow-cooked meat in red-wine sauce with carrots, potatoes, and a handful of olives if it suits your fancy. Served with polenta or pasta, and a generous heaping of sauce, daube is a fantastic fall stew.

  1. Having the beach (almost) to yourself

Early September is perhaps the best time to enjoy the beaches as the south stays quite hot until the middle of the month. I was fortunate to have this last Wednesday morning free and found myself all but alone at the Mourillon beach in Toulon. The temperature of the water was just perfect and besides a few (lucky) retired folks, I got to enjoy this pretty little corner of our city quite alone.

le-castellet-fall

Fall colors in Le Castellet village

  1. Changing colors at the hilltop villages

There’s nothing quite as cozy as sitting in a café with a hot chocolate and taking in the fall colors at a hilltop village. Le Castellet village is one such place to marvel at the creeping yellow, orange, and golden vines along the stone houses or admire the changing colors of the grapevines along the hillside. Provence really knows how to get dressed up for fall.

These are just a few of the highlights of fall in our neck of the woods, feel free to share your favorite experiences in the comments below, bonne journée!