As you get to know French culture better, you might wonder what the customs and history of French Valentine’s Day are. Actually, you might be surprised to find out that Valentine’s Day might possibly have started in France.

To some it will be no surprise that a country regarded as one of the most romantic in the world (France) should have invented Valentine’s Day. On the other hand, the history of the holiday is not clear enough to say with certainty that the holiday originated in France.

History of French Valentine’s Day
There are two reasons why many people link Valentine’s Day with France. One is that it was commonly known, in both England and France, that birds and other animals paired off and mated ‘in the middle of February’. Coincidence? Most likely not, since February 14 is exactly the middle of February. It is thought that people began celebrating this as the special day for lovers because of this association with ‘love’ in nature.

In addition, a Frenchman, the Duke of Orléans, is thought to have written the first love letters that later became Valentine’s Day cards. The Duke of Orléans, Charles, was captured in 1415 and taken as a prisoner to London; while imprisoned in the Tower, he is thought to have written love letters to his wife back in France. These are thought to be what became cartes d’amitiés, now known as French Valentine’s Day cards.

St-Valentin, France
In France, in the department of Indre (Central France), there is a village called St-Valentin. Although nobody really knows anymore who St. Valentine was historically, there’s no doubt that the village of St-Valentin has capitalized on its name and marketed itself as le village des amoureux! Of course, with a name like that, one can’t help but make the association.

Create a Valentines Day à la française
Looking for a new way to celebrate Valentine’s Day? Create a French theme for your special day and surprise your loved one with a French evening. Use the opportunity to try out a delicious French dessert, serve French bread and cheese between the dinner and your delectable dessert, and have some romantic French music playing in the background all evening. Don’t forget to set the table in a French way, which is to say that the table should look like art: complete with a tablecloth, cloth napkins, a tasteful centerpiece, and an array of cutlery and glasses suitable for each course you will serve. Your valentine will never forget the year you made the most romantic day of the year even more romantic!

Have a great day with your loved one!


27th December is Madame’s birdie.

Bon Anniversaire…

The joy of her life

The joy of her life




The French like to believe that they invented Christmas. Their belief is that they did this shortly after discovering the secret of fire (Prometheus was from Marseille) and a little before they invented reggae music (which Bob Marley copied from Serge Gainsbourg). But we do admit grudgingly Christmas couldn’t have been invented by any other nation. The details of the nativity are unmistakably French: a family undergoing extraordinary inconvenience for the sake of a massive bureaucratic exercise; a leading lady who may or may not have been sleeping with her husband; and of course the Christ child himself, who grows up and promptly turns water into the national beverage. (The gospels don’t specify which kind of wine was produced at Cana, but locals assure me it was at the very least a  Château Latour or Miraval).


Children love a French Christmas because the French really do it right. In many countries, there is occasional loose talk to the effect that Father Christmas may not exist. In France, they do not permit this heresy. Since 1962, there has been a law that any French child posting a letter addressed simply to “Le Père Noël” must receive a postcard in return. Adults who break the spell are shunned. On the other hand, the French have found a way to make the Christmas magic work for parents, too: they have provided Le Père Noël with an evil sidekick. The terrifying Père Fouettard – literally “whipping father” – rides on the tailgate of the sleigh, delivering beatings to naughty children as Father Christmas delivers presents to the good. When you’re trying to get children to sleep on Christmas Eve, the Anglo-American song exhorting children to “be good for goodness sake” is not nearly so effective as “be good or Le Père Fouettard will come down that chimney and thrash you”. You have to hand it to the French.

Bon Noel to everyone! And, as the French say, Bon Fetes!






Another chapter in our self-help saga..


HEY HO, it’s off on holiday we go. To France. The South of France to be more accurate – Provence. Land of sunshine, grapes, olives, blue skies and a relaxed way of life.

The problem is, the French piss you off!

Why go? Why put yourself through the trauma of living side by side with Provençal French, as well as holidaying Parisians (quelle horreur!)? Some things the French WILL do that WILL upset you, unless you really WANT to be there:

  • Lunch will be from 12h00 to at least 14h30. Shops will close and for the 15 minutes before 12h00, the roads will be mayhem as the locals all go home for lunch – quickly.
  • You will most likely not be allowed to enter a restaurant after 13h15 for lunch; the chef and staff like to be out of the restaurant as soon as you have wiped the last drop of coffee off your lips. So must you – no linger longer here.
  • The Supermarkets will close at 13h00 on a Sunday.
  • Many shops will be closed on a Monday – sorry for you.
  • The vehicle behind you will ride as close to your rear number plate as possible. They say that within the skeleton of a Frenchman beats the heart of a Formula 1 driver. The French are a frugal bunch; don’t expect them to waste the space between you and their car.
  • Your car might break down. Drag out as much patience out of your body as you can – the mechanic will arrive eventually; everything will be very difficult; everything will take time; and, you will wince at the invoice. Live with it.
  • The French are not very good at roundabouts, nor at roads that enter a major road. Both are relatively new concepts – roundabouts are from England which puts them at a distinct disadvantage, and the rule that you had to at least yield when you enter a major road has only been around for about 15 years. Not long enough to sink in.
  • Waitrons and bar staff are experts at ignoring people. Especially if they do not know you, and that is even not a certainty for service. Wait patiently, smile, know what you want and wait patiently. Don’t forget to say thank you! Tipping is a rarity in France ‘service’ staff are not incentivised to deliver service rapide.
  • Occupational Health and Safety is a relatively new concept in France, and not easily understood. Your rental may have a few plug plates dangling from the wall; the electricity connections in all the villages are precarious to say the least; telegraph posts are often down on the side of the road. However, find a man beavering away on the side of the road doing some weeding and you’ll find two little moveable traffic lights perched 100 metres down the road stopping the traffic. Be patient, they will change – eventually.
  • France has some of the most obscure and incomprehensible regulations and laws on earth. Often there is no logic in the local by-laws; parking rules; opening and closing times. Live with it. All in all, you’re visiting their country. Embrace the culture and enjoy it!


DISCLAIMER: All the stories and anecdotes told in this Quick Read are true, but for obvious reasons names and locations have been changed. If any incident scratches a nerve, the hurt is purely unintentional and told in the interest of harmless, satirical fun. The author apologises in advance if any reader feels affronted by some of the comments made.




Another chapter in our tongue-in-cheek look at life in Provence……


The French love statistics, and are pretty good at it. There is no excuse for being ignorant about what the rainfall, temperatures, humidity, thunder activity, frost density etc. has been for the past 20 or so years. It’s all documented. Hundreds of websites give you the information. In addition, your hosts will know. The South of France has 300 days of sunshine a year, but this does not mean that you prance off British Airways in November wearing Bermuda shorts, a Royal and Ancient polo shirt and loafers, expecting to sun yourself next to the pool.


Pools are closed in September, except where they are heated and then your hosts will probably have closed them in any case because electricity is expensive. You check into your self-catering holiday rental. Most caring owners would have pre-heated the house for you. However, that is pre-heating to a comfortable 20 degrees C. Not a raging 35 degrees C so that you can stay in your shorts and polo shirt.

What happens? Calamity. The heaters are all turned up to the maximum at once; the towels rails turned from heated to radiator and the carefully laid fire lit. The house’s power trips. Frustration. The Guest Information Book gives some information but you end up scrabbling around for a torch with a flat battery and spend the rest of your first night flicking the trip switch up and down. Cursing the owners, your spouse and life in general. Not a good start.

It gets worse. You have no warm clothing; you don’t know how to light a fire after the pre-laid wood had been used up; now you’re miserable and take it out on the owners. They roll their eyes and think “why come on holiday so unprepared and be miserable”.

That’s the cold, now what about when the mercury goes way over the 30sC?

Once again, refer back to the statistics. They will tell you that the average temperature in August is in the upper 30s C and can go into the 40s. That’s  hot.

No sunscreen. Long pants, woolly socks and sandals. Why does it seem to get hotter at 16h00 and stay hot until midnight? Because it is the South of France and because of daylight saving, darling.

However, it’s better to whinge and whine than enjoy the warmth.

Oh my Gosh! What about the insects, the flies, and the scorpions!

Some friends live next door to their renters and were phoned at midnight – “we are being invaded! Help!” They rushed next-door expecting to see blood on the floor. What did they see? They saw a nest of tiny beetles, which had hatched up in the beams of the bedroom. About as dangerous as a floor mop on an armed drone.

A regular gripe is the preponderance of insects near to the swimming pool. Sorry, this is rural France and we have insects, we have flies and we have scorpions.

(Household tip: Put a sprig of lavender on the windowsill if you are terrified of scorpions – that scares them away).

Another tale was the guests who wanted their money back because there were ten earthworms in the pool. They counted them! Earthworms are good for the garden, but sometimes they get thirsty and go for a swim. Their fate is far worse than yours if you swim with them. They died, you won’t.

The ultimate anecdote is the one of some tourists (origin classified), who demanded their money back and were leaving – the weather was lousy!

It takes all kinds.


DISCLAIMER: All the stories and anecdotes told in this Quick Read are true, but for obvious reasons names and locations have been changed. If any incident scratches a nerve, the hurt is purely unintentional and told in the interest of harmless, satirical fun. The author apologises in advance if any reader feels affronted by some of the comments made.



We’ve lived in Provence for nearly six years now and have had some of the most amazing adventures way beyond our wildest expectations. We’ve also met some incredible people. However, as one of the most visited places on earth, Provence sometimes cannot meet some tourists’ expectations for a variety of reasons.

Inspired by the new trend for Quick Reads by many authors and, particularly,  self-publishing authors, we are bust compiling some material into what will become a Quick Read, available on Amazon, entitled Don’t Come to Provence and be Miserable. It’s designed to be a tongue in cheek look at many of the issues which we have seen and experienced. There is a bit of a self-help guide too : follow the tips and you’ll not be miserable on your long awaited trip!

We kick-off…..



You know the story. You spend a month really looking forward to your visitors’ arrival. The schedule has been prepared, markets arranged, table reservations made. The property is pimped and prepared – the garden is immaculate, the pool chlorinated to an inch of its life, and off you go to Marignane Airport in the outskirts of Marseille.

They arrive. And, the first words are, “we need a doctor, Dennis has such a head cold. He has been working so hard you know and they don’t seem to clean the planes like they used to.”

Instead of an excited buzz in the car for the 98km journey to your home, where the rosé is sitting prettily on ice, you have the sounds of sniffling, snorting, wheezing and you watch through your rear view mirror as your precious stock of car tissues becomes depleted. The doctor. He or she should probably speak English. That narrows down the field somewhat. The doctor’s secretary only works in the morning for giving you an appointment, it is mid-afternoon on a Tuesday. On Wednesdays, he only does house visits to the really ill, not a wheezing tourist.

We’ll have to grin and bear it. Wait until Wednesday morning to get an appointment for Friday. Now, wasn’t that the planned trip to Lourmarin market with a lunch at the newly Michelin-starred La Closerie in Ansouis? “Yes, but one’s health must come first”, bleats dear Deidre. Dennis is parceled off to bed having swallowed some of France’s cure-all medication – Daffalglan (the French description for these little white tablets is that they are for ‘intense symptoms of pain’; our doctor, Dr Jean-Luc says that they are for Frenchmen in the morning with their croissants and café after a long night on the red wine).

We sip our rosé with Deidre. The subject matter of conversation is now firmly centred on the possibility of Daffalglan having an adverse reaction to Dennis’ heart, uric acid, and blood pressure medication. Not a thought about touring, lavender fields or tasting a succulent poulet roti from a market.

What we’re going to do over the next 10 days? Forget it, tear up the schedule.


(Or perhaps, bring a broad-spectrum antibiotic with you, in case you get sick on holiday)

DISCLAIMER: All the stories and anecdotes told in this Quick Read are true, but for obvious reasons names and locations have been changed. If any incident scratches a nerve, the hurt is purely unintentional and told in the interest of harmless, satirical fun. The author apologises in advance if any reader feels affronted by some of the comments made.

A misty start to 2015

A misty start to 2015


Typical Provençal quirky - seen on the Les Pastras farm.

Typical Provençal quirky – seen on the Les Pastras farm.


There are many reasons why people like to live in Provence. The light, the sunshine, the people, the unhurried way of life. So it is when you visit – except in the pandemonium (relatively speaking!) of August. We like to call this time the ‘secret season’.

The tourists hand over the area to the locals. What can be nicer than popping down to one of the two friendly hostelries in Coustellet, greeting the patron at 13h30 and being waved to a table with a smile and a ‘Manger? Bien Sur!’ (Eat now? Of course, my pleasure!). Normallement, it would be a surly shrug at the thought of serving anyone after 13h15! Everyone smiles, everyone is revelling in the peace and quiet.

New Year’s celebrations tend to take the form of long dinners, private parties and a time for quiet reflection. The weather has chilled somewhat, the fires are lit, the stews bubble on the stove and general bonhomie pervades. The main sounds you hear are the chainsaws as the gardeners and farmers catch up, clip and prune, waiting for the sun and the new season.

And, of course, its great to watch the fireworks around the world – from the TV and your armchair.

Bon Anneé! Happy New Year everyone.



swimming pool


We’re famous! The prestigious USA Town and Country magazine has featured Bastide les Amis as one of the 5 most ‘jaw-dropping’ villas in France.

Have a look here.

Another  picture that did not get featured….


garden androses


To book at Bastide les Amis, click here.

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