Aaaaww, the Provence. The Provence as so beautifully described in the stories and poems of my childhood’s heroes Alphonse Daudet, Marcel Pagnol and Frédéric Mistral. The Provence of smells, apricots, peaches, figs, rice, of dramatic love stories and ancestral disputes between families. The sunny and dry Provence of my grand-parents.
Look at and smell these gorgeous lavender fields, hear the chant of cicadas, admire the rows of olive trees stretching to the horizon. Just a little down the road, walk into the Big Blue and her beaches softly beaten by the waves at the village of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer.
See these sleepy little stone villages under the sun. Visit the ruins of Roman theaters, arenas and baths. Van Gogh’s Café at night, Place du Forum in Arles. Avignon’s famous bridge and Popes’ Palace.
Wild Camargue horses and pitch-black, long-horned bulls and their Guardians. Flocks of wild flamingos in their swamps.
Enjoy an apéritif on a terrace, in the shadow of a wisteria; feel your brain start to feel foggy and sleepy at the buzzing of the bees….zzzzzzzzz….
Yo! You there! Wake up! It’s May, you fool, the lavender is not in bloom yet and the olive trees won’t bear fruit for a while. There are rainy clouds on the horizon, waiting to drop their contents on your straw hat. The Big Blue carries wave after wave of human (plastic) waste and oily stains. The Roman ruins are still used for that ugly show that is bull fighting. Van Gogh’s café really does look better on his painting, and the price of coffee on its terrace is really so 21st Century. The Camargue horses wait all day in the Sun, riding gear up, for that one adventurous touristy rider. The black bulls are nowhere to be seen, probably locked up somewhere in stalls. The pink flamingos are living their wild lives in a bird park. Bees and cicadas are on the verge of extinction, courtesy of Monsanto. The colourful and beautiful original, typical and local souvenirs… are made in China.
The South of France, in my opinion, is really overrated. It’s my fault obviously: my “memories” of the Provence were not actually lived, but created by the impressions I got reading Manon des Sources or Lettres de mon Moulin. Anyways, veni, vedi, vici and I’m glad we went.
I’ll tell you what is not overrated at all.
Séverine Dufour, Student Affairs Officer Science Programme