When we first moved to Provence we had to pinch ourselves on January days where we’d often sit in the sun for hours and bask in the winter sun. Could this be so? Coming from snowy Montréal and dreary London, quite frankly, we still can’t believe our luck.
Winter Weather in Provence
December – February Average Temperature in Provence: 44 F, 7°C and in March temps climb up to 51F or 11C.
Although we do get more rain during the darker half of the year, mostly in November and April, the main cause for not leaving the blankets and tea at home is the Mistral. This famous wind can reach gusts of up to 80 miles per hour and quite often does. The northwesterly wind gains speed though the rhone valley, causing streaming tears, skirts to rise against their will, and sometimes tiles to fall from old roofs.
The local folklore, because such a glacial wind warrants the telling of tales, says that the wind will continue to blow for either 3, 6 or 9 days at a time. The latter of which has been known to cause madness! Of the mild sort anyhow. I can vouch for that- and so can my cat!
Now, if the science behind the exact amount of time that the wind blows holds any weight I do not know. However, the wind does indeed almost always come after the rain, to dry the limestone hills. The Mistral is responsible for our lion’s share of sunny days in France, as it literally blows the clouds away. The noise of the trees in the wind has led us to suffer sleepless nights and a gust even fell a large Tilleuil tree during our first week in Provence. The glorious cracking sound of that is something I’ll never forget.
All to say, we don’t have it perfect in Provence. That being said, when the wind isn’t blowing, winter in Provence is an absolute delight. The sun warms your bones on January afternoons as you sit at the same café terraces you do during the summer. It is not uncommon to have a sunny Christmas lunch outside. The weather is perfect for long walks in the countryside as it’s too hot, and sometimes forbidden, in the dry summer months.
Winter Sea Urchins and Oysters
The countryside local events in Provence always focus on in-season local food products. In April we have strawberry festivals, in August melon festivals, in September wine festivals, and in February we have sea urchin festivals.
The sea urchins of the mediterranean are much smaller than the ones you’ll find in Northern France. This delicacy is synonymous with the festivals in Carry de Rouet and other seaside towns in Provence that set up long convivial tables on Sundays during the month of February. You’ll find large platters of seafood at these tables and locals that make these festivals their winter tradition. Recently, we participated in Café de la Place’s version in Eygalières in Les Alpilles. A more chic crowd, but just as much wine!
After a walk up to the town ruins and one of my favourite views of Les Alpilles, we managed to get the last table in front of the café. A waiter plonked down a container of tellines cooked in garlic and cream and a bottle of white wine. Hundreds of oysters were stacked in a market-style stand already opened and ready. Thankfully, we were spared the awkward task of trying to open the sea urchins with specialised scissors.
Earlier on, the vendors were eating their lunch of terrine, oysters and rosé. Basking in the sun, we waited for our friends and felt a slight tension in the crowd of tables as it was discovered that all the sea urchins had already been sold out. It was only 12:30.
Like cats, as people left we moved with the sun until the chill of early evening and the buzz of the second bottle of wine had done it’s work. We had spent an afternoon feasting on shrimp, oysters, sea urchins and local white wine while taking in the view of the upper heights of beautiful Eygalières. Winter in Provence isn’t so bad after all.
NOTE: Author Ashley Tinker is the creator of CuriousProvence blog, moved to Provence 4 years ago with her British man. The renovation of their village house was featured on Househunters International. Ashley offers private market trips in the most beautiful hilltop villages of Provence. She’s also a professional photographer in provence specialising in vacation photography. Follow Curious Provence on Instagram or Facebook for daily photos from life in Provence.
NOTE: GG2P runs guided trips to Provence every year. Our next one start on April 25th, 2018. If you hurry you still might be able to join us! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.