My vacation pictures seemed to generated some interest, and since I have a few unpublished ones I really like, I thought I’d do another post. They also give me the opportunity to follow up on some interesting comments from Corinne and Rich, both of whom alluded to the changes in vacationing since the seventies in their comments on Notes From Vacation: Nîmes.
I wasn’t around to see European vacation patterns in the seventies, but the typical vacation Corinne described corresponds quite well to my observations in Provence over the last few years. I can’t attest to the length of their stay, but judging by the provenance of license plates on the roads, vacationers from all over France, Belgium and The Netherlands, many in campers or towing caravans, make up a large percentage of visitors to Provence at this time of year.
These vacationers are self-sufficient and get the most out of a minimal budget. There are lots of campgrounds in France and they are mostly full in August. A place at some campgrounds can cost less than 10€ per day without hookups!
For entertainment, there’s no need to pay for museums or pool privileges. People go to Provence to be outdoors anyway. There are many rivers with popular bathing spots and these are usually crowded. The last few years have been dry, but the water is cool and deep enough for younger children to wade. Adolescents and adults can cool off in the shade of the trees along the banks, while talking, picnicking, reading or playing games.
At this spot known as Three Rivers a romanesque bridge still carries modern traffic. The site was more crowded than it looks in the photos, the advantage being that since it’s a river, people tend to spread out, walking up or downstream to find a place that’s not too crowded.
This looks almost as inviting as an exotic beach. Anyone looking for rest and relaxation shouldn’t feel deprived of a real vacation just because admission is free.
Judging by what I see, the most popular sports are hiking, biking and rock climbing. The Dentelles de Montmirail near Gigondas is a well-known destination, but there are plenty of other beautiful sites. Grozeau at the foot of the Mont Ventoux is one such site.
It was known mostly by word of mouth until recently. This year it seemed much more crowded than in years past, probably because it has now been described in a widely available rock climbing guide.
If rock climbing isn’t your thing, most of these sites can be found along designated hiking routes, and there are hundreds of kilometers of trails.
A tour of the backcountry by car or bike also makes a wonderful day.
This morning, on the morning show on France 2, Télématin, I heard an interview with Julien Lauprêtre, president of the non-profit organization Secours Populaire dedicated to fighting poverty and exclusion in France and around the world. I missed the beginning but tuned in as he mentioned the importance of vacation for children and spoke about the association’s programs to offer vacations for those whose families can’t afford to get away.
He said the organization is seeing more and more of these cases as the economic situation worsens. I think these programs are wonderful, but for children who are lucky enough to have supportive families, nothing is more nurturing than a family vacation where parents or grandparents take the time to spend with their children. This is what I saw in Provence, and it looked wonderful.
For any readers considering vacationing in France, if you do go bathing in the rivers, remember that the health department tests the water at selected sites at least once a month. Check the quality of the water online or at the local Syndicat d’Initiative before you go.