We recently sought out our friend, chef, and favorite travel guide, Stan, for his perspective on Provence through a native’s eyes. Raised on traditions passed down from generation to generation, Stan shares with us the places in Provence that carry the most significance in his memories.
"Since I was born here in Aix-en-Provence, I revel at the chance to unveil the secrets of this region, which many artists of all kinds accredit as their muse. In spite of yourself, you cannot help but to absorb, to soak up this goodness of Provence. Picasso, van Gogh, Cézanne are among those who were seduced by its beauty and spent most of their lives capturing its essence. Provence's lifestyle and landscapes arouse all senses to which inspiration and creativity become second nature. As we find ourselves here, we are attracted by the wealth of sensorial, natural delights that unite this region, and at the same time, we marvel at the myriad of diverse products and traditions here, distinctive city by city.
Vincent van Gogh's "The Starry Night" in Saint Rémy
Take for example Saint Rémy, one of the more notable terroirs located in the heart of Provence. Rimmed by valleys, this endearing region gives us a feeling of security and refuge within a naturally shaped cocoon. Perhaps this is the reason why van Gogh sought out asylum here for his mental health and recovery, while still mindful of the undeniable inspiration lingering throughout its breathtaking countryside. Similar to his famed artwork painted here, it is hard to ignore this Provencal charm of Saint Rémy reflecting the romantic ambiance scattered throughout the South of France.
When it comes to traveling in Provence, I daydream about Camargue. It's a terroir where the Rhône River meets the sea. The striking landscapes leave visitors awestruck by its romantic ambiance of scenic wetlands that are home to our favorite Bastide bath salts as well as some of the most beautiful creatures. Known for being the oldest living breed in the world, Camargue’s wild horses gallop through the everglades. The white and grey herds have tame temperaments, which makes riding them effortless, yet thrilling. Celebrate the bulls by attending festivals that offer delectable traditional cuisine and Camargue folklore, all while watching the Guardians, or French cowboys, bullfight. These customs are evocative of ancient legends and, in turn, inspire the imaginations of famed authors and artists.
The Toros of Camargue (@Aixoisefr)
Another among the most famous and notable cities in the region, Saint Tropez is a unique case given its geographical location and flat panorama, perfectly picturesque now for centuries. The turquoise beaches combined with a gleaming sun create a jet-set environment for the peninsula, attracting masses of vacationers from the region and around the world. Although its Provencal affiliation is weakened by a strong presence of global tourism, this seaside lifestyle exemplifies a perfect getaway from the stresses of everyday life.
As my hometown as well as Bastide's, I saved the best for last. Yes, I may be a little biased, but to me, Aix-en-Provence is effortlessly chic. Elegant and ripe with art and culture, yet down to earth, tasteful Provencal charm can be found throughout the city, juxtaposed against modern art and sophistication. The public squares boast rippling fountains, outdoor cafés on modest cobblestone roads, and lush boulevards where lovers wander. The backdrop exposes the Saint-Victoire Mountain and all of her extravagance, while endless fields of lavender blanket the earth. With every inhale, natural fragrances of Aix conjures a soothing atmosphere and vivid colors of contrasting landscapes leave you questioning this reality.
There is an overwhelming feeling that resonates here, so powerful that it manipulates all of the senses, including one’s sense of reason.
Art, food, nature, and culture. These essentials blend together to map out the good life of our beloved Provence lifestyle. There is an overwhelming feeling that resonates here, so powerful that it manipulates all of the senses, including one’s sense of reason. It demands that you surrender your rationale senses and to profess, ultimately, that Provence requires a permanent study, with enough substance to last us a lifetime. We must submit to our senses and be seduced by the elements in order to properly respect and distinguish the beauty, diversity, and inspiration throughout the terroirs of Provence."