Provence

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ShermansTravel experts rely on years of collective travel experience to bring you the best money-saving tips for your vacation. We take a discerning look at all the attraction passes, public transportation options, and other local bargains to make sure you get the most bang for your buck while traveling.

Provence Money-Saving Tips

Fly late

France is 6 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time and 9 hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time. The later you leave, the more likely you are to sleep on the flight and wake up rested.

Primary destination

Because Provence is large and diverse, it’s best to make it your primary destination rather than an add-on to Paris or the French Riviera. That said, it is possible to get a taste of the region in just a few days.

Book early

Book 4-6 months in advance for summer travel. Last minute (within six weeks) airfare rates often triple, hotel prices increase, and accommodations options decrease as choice properties sell out.

Smart money

Before leaving the U.S. ask your bank if there are any French ATMs you can use for free and find out if your credit card company charges fees (some tack on as much as 5% for overseas purchases).

Save on breakfast

Many French hotels include breakfast (normally a hot beverage, juice, Danish, croissants, and yogurt) in their nightly rates. When booking, ask if breakfast is included; if not, request it – it’s a quick, easy timesaver.

Daily menu

You’ll save up to 30% and experience regional specialties by ordering the daily menu at restaurants. You’ll have your choice of starter, but the main course will be the chef’s selection of the day.

French hospitality

Staying at a French B&B (gîtes-chambres d’hôte) can provide an authentic French experience if you land somewhere with friendly hosts. The site www.gites-de-france.com lists options – but call ahead to see what kind of services the property offers guests.

The French stereotype

Unwelcoming? Anti-American? It’s not true. Parisians, like New Yorkers, can be “brisk,” but outside Paris the French are warm, welcoming, and friendly, especially if you make an attempt at speaking their language.

Cuisine

Provence is known for simple, hearty food including bouillabaisse and ratatouille. Black truffles and Herbes-de-Provence (rosemary, thyme, marjoram, basil, bay leaf) frequently appear in savory dishes. Rosé is the wine of choice. Pastis, a licorice-flavored alcohol, is the regional apératif.

History

Although Parisians tend to view the region much like U.S. urbanites view the American south, Provence is responsible for many contributions to French culture, especially cuisine and impressionist art.

Hotel stars

All French hotels are government-rated. One-star hotels often have shared bathrooms and lack A/C, and not all two- and three-star hotels have both a shower and bath; if you prefer one or the other, inquire when booking.

Tipping

In France, restaurants are legally required to include tip. As a general rule, tip 1 euro per bag for the bellboy and coat check, 1-2 per day for the maid, 10% for taxi drivers, and 50 cents for restroom attendants.

Annual events

Fêtes, often harvest-focused, abound throughout spring and summer. In July-August it’s lavender festivals, while grapes and olives are celebrated in September-October. August sees the running of the bulls. Even small towns host numerous celebrations over summer weekends.

Provencal style

The Provencal style is heavily influenced by Italian and Mediterranean culture. You’ll immediately recognize the style, most visible in fabrics and earthenware. Tablecloths, napkins, pitchers, and bowls make excellent souvenirs and gifts.

Architecture

Provence is known for its Roman (and pre-Roman) waterways, theatres and ruins, as well as Baroque cloisters, Italianate monasteries, and Romanesque cathedrals. Recently, the region has gained fame for contemporary architecture as well, including buildings by Swiss architect Le Corbusier.

Artists of note

Some of the most famous French artists have roots in Provence. Renoir, Chagall, Matisse, Picasso, Jean Cocteau, Cézanne, and Van Gogh have all lived in the region and its influence is evident in their works.

Authors

Provence was also home to many famous French authors, including Henri Bosco (Avignon) and the famous existentialist and Nobel Prize winner, Albert Camus (Lourmarin). Provence has received the most exposure from Peter Mayle and his best-selling series on the region

Pétanque

The unofficial French pastime of the game of Pétanque began in Provence. On a dirt court, players toss heavy balls as close as possible to a smaller target-ball. Once popular among the older generations, it’s now a young favorite, too.

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