Why Canadian Paula Kane Chooses the Provence Lifestyle
Paula Kane spends nine months a year dreaming of her life in Provence and the balance of the year soaking up all the beauty that the region offers. The saying might be that opposites attract, but a Canadian girl who like to cycle, loves food, wine and Provence sounded just a bit too much like my twin. Our birthdays are one day apart.
Based in Alberta, Canada where Paula creates marketing programs for exclusive food and wine events for her corporate clients. Paula’s blog “A Table en Provence” is the perfect name for the storyboard for her gourmet tastes and proven talents in the kitchen. Paula is Cordon Bleu (Paris) trained, and she understands a thing or two about wine (completed International Sommelier Guild Wine Fundamentals). When she is not enjoying the tastes of Provence, she cycles up Mont Ventoux for fun.
What is Provencal Lifestyle?
How would you describe the lifestyle in Provence to someone who has not visited?
Provence is about soaking up life just a little more slowly. It’s a feast for the senses: the smells, the tastes, the sounds and the sights. I’m not sure there is anything specific about a Provence lifestyle that isn’t more of a cliché than anything else. I think it’s similar to living in the countryside just about anywhere, but with much better weather, views and local food and wine.
When you think of Provence what are the words that pop into your head?
Lavender, wine, food, beauty, fresh, sunshine, blue sky, biking and Mont Ventoux.
To some degree, Provence lives on its clichés in photos – scenes of lavender, sunflower fields, and boules players. Is this your Provence?
Yes and no. Yes, these are things you see all the time, and without a doubt it’s beautiful. For me, it’s more personal. I think of the calm, the sounds of the cicadas and birds, the wind in the trees. Provence for me is all the fantastic cycling and of quiet time on the terrace drinking excellent local wine and cooking with the best regional ingredients. I dream about picking figs right off the tree. My Provence is about dinners with friends and the warmth of the sun. For me, it just feels healthy and alive. All the clichés give Provence a “character”, but it’s not its real self in my opinion.
What does Mediterranean climate mean to you?
Heaven! A place where it never (or very rarely) snows is my idea of the perfect place. It means being able to grow just about anything and have it available right off the tree (olives, figs, pomegranates, peaches, lemons, tomatoes etc.). It means sunshine and warmth.
What is your favourite season in Provence?
What is your favourite activity in Provence?
I have two: cycling and cooking.
When you first return to Provence what aroma “says” I have arrived?
There is a scent that I can’t place, but I notice it as soon as I arrive at the vineyard. It’s slightly sweet and a little herbaceous. It’s nothing specific (likely a mix of many things), but it smells of home.
When you leave Provence what is the thing you miss the most and wish you could take with you?
Generally speaking, I never want to leave. I miss all of it in a way that makes my heartache, but if I had to say something, it would be the weather, food and cycling.
When you hear the term “Provence-style” what is your first thought?
Provence and the Cote d’Azur appear to evoke a decorative (home decor, restaurants, hotels) style – how might you describe this trend?
The décor feels slightly relaxed and comfortable. The decorative style in Provence is a combination of old and new. It’s warm, light and charming.
The Provence that many imagine today is relatively “new” thanks to the likes of Peter Mayle and others. What is “Authentic Provence” to you?
Authentic Provence for me is peaceful. It’s living in step with the people of Provence. Accepting the quirks, loving the idiosyncrasies. My pace changes when there, that shopping for food from local people is part of my daily life. I love that I am warm from the minute I wake up and I see a gorgeous blue sky almost every day. My Provence is riding a bike on stunning and challenging routes every day without being threatened by angry drivers.
Food in Provence
Life in Provence seems to revolve to a degree around food. How would you describe the food in the region to someone who has not visited?
When talking about the raw ingredients (the fruits, vegetables, olives and olive oil, the cheeses, bread, seafood, pastries and wine), its food perfection. Everything grows here in Provence so whatever you eat will likely be from somewhere close by. Producers take great care and have so much passion, and the products are superior to what the average person finds in North America.
If we are talking about restaurants, I would not be quite as generous. I find good restaurant food in Provence is often expensive, stuffy, and a bit old-fashioned. It’s hard to find a good quality bistro meal for a reasonable price. (Here is her article on Food Matters)
What are your favourite things to eat in Provence?
Peaches, tomatoes, figs, Carpentras strawberries, olives, olive oil, cheese, walnuts, bread, fish. And wine, of course!
Is there a food or ingredient that you wish you could find outside of Provence?
Not really. I bring a few things back, but I like that some ingredients are only for when I am in Provence. If anything, I wish I could find more wines from the Ventoux and more Provençal olive oil in Canada.
Expat Living in Provence
How would you rate your French Language skills?
How important do you feel it is to have a decent level of French comprehension and speaking skills in Provence?
In general, for a short trip I don’t think it’s necessary for the average person but, in smaller towns, it’s not as easy to find English speakers. However, I think it’s incredibly important if you want to have a better experience. Being able to communicate with locals in their language makes it much easier to make friends, have good relationships, and makes it a much richer experience.
What resources might you recommend to others to improve their language skills?
If possible, merely talking to someone that is Francophone and practising is the best. I have used Rosetta Stone and didn’t find it was beneficial, but I think for someone starting to learn French it is a good program. Although, I have heard decent things about Duolingo as well. I read a tip that reading a novel in French that you have already read in English is an excellent way to practice. Something to try it this winter!
What resources might you recommend to expats and those considering a move to Provence?
The best resource is talking to people that have done it. Personal experiences give a much better idea of what to expect.
For more stories and information, please explore Pauls’s website A Table en Provence.
More articles on Expat Living in Provence.