January and February can be so dispiriting: the celebrations of Christmas and the New Year are in the distant past and summer seems far away….but wait! This is Provence where, not only are there endless days of bright winter sunshine, but where these two months mark the beginning of the festival and carnival season. For example, the truffle markets continue in many towns such as Aups and Nyons on Thursday mornings and in Carpentras on Fridays, culminating in the associated fetes towards the beginning of March.
Carpentras is also a great place to visit the Brocante held in the main car park every Sunday. This is a good day for witnessing the antiques markets that are so popular in this area and one of the most well known is at Isle sur la Sorgue. However, whilst it’s worth seeing this very attractive town, those watching their budget carefully will prefer Carpentras where there are fewer tourists and more bargains.
Of course, one of the pleasures of this time of the year is that there are less people around and if you want to stay out of any passing Mistral, there’s no better time to visit the Pope’s Palace in Avignon. There are no crowds and you can experience this wonderful site at your leisure. In fact, the whole of Avignon is a joy in the winter: the Place d’Horolage is generally sheltered enough to eat your lunch outside and whilst you’re admiring the beautiful Opera House, why not treat yourself to a little high culture? Puccini’s La Boheme is being staged at the end of January and there is a wide variety of dance, theatre and symphony concerts available during the first two months of the year. If that’s not to your taste, the delightful Utopia cinema shows films in the language of origin, with no sub-titles or dubbing, seven days a week.
The Cathedral d’Images at Les Baux de Provence is constantly rated as one of the best experiences by visitors to the area. Within the caverns of this medieval fortress village, situated in the Alpilles, a Son et Lumiere show projects images onto the ancient walls. The current theme is Venice which is replaced in February by the works of our adopted son, Van Gogh.
Finally, February is the celebration of St. Valentine whose relics are kept at Roquemaure, La Capitale des Amoureux. On the 16th and 17th of this month, the Lovers’ Festival sees the shops and the villagers dressed as in the nineteenth century; stalls selling mimosa and violets for the ladies, street theatre, processions and fireworks in the evening. Who said romance was dead?
This article was written by Alison Green a university support tutor and author of a wide range of academic resources. She is currently on sabbatical in Provence working on a project on French culture. She lives in Rognonas.