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Provence and the Mistral Wind a Powerful Force

The relief palatable, the calm almost surreal, something is missing – the wind has stopped!

Mistral Wind

In France, the mistral is a strong wind that typically blows from the north or northwest. Mistral, the name for this wind, means “masterly,” and it certainly lives up to that reputation. The mistral typically blows hard, with gusts up to 100 km/hour as it accelerates down the Rhône River towards the Mediterranean. The mistral almost always changes the weather, which is typically dry and cooler. This can be a relief in the hot days of spring and early summer or a curse in the later days of the fall as it brings glacial temperatures.

There are two French expressions when it comes to the mistral “le vent qui rend fou” (the wind which makes you crazy) and “le vent des voleurs” (the wind of robbers). Depending on your perspective, both sayings are accurate. The mistral can blow for a few days or even a week. A strong mistral typically sends cafe patrons indoors, making golf games virtually unplayable. The beautiful plane trees of Provence, with their noisy, leafy canopies, provide excellent cover for robbers, as even dogs cannot hear their approach.

Bories Stone Provence Gordes

Village des Bories

Like any wind, the mistral cannot be seen by the naked eye. However, the mistral’s presence is felt by the chilly gusts, its’ crazed supremacy and the changing forces. Strangely, you can almost see the rocky outcrops formed by this unseen phenomenon’s sheer power.

Understanding Provencal Olive Oil

The olive trees in Provence are typically trimmed to keep them small in size, making them easier to pick in the fall. It also allows the trees to hold on tight to their tiny buds as the wind tries to shake them loose.

Olive Harvest Provence Fall

The mistral has impacted architecture in the region for centuries. The typical farmhouse or Mas was built to face south with its’ back to the wind. Church bell towers have openings to allow the wind to pass through. Stone walls and interior courtyards are built for some minor relief.

Eygalieres Saint Sixte

Chapelle Saint Sixte

The first mistral that we experienced in Provence was in October. That mistral was almost strong enough to knock over a bike and its’ rider. It certainly was cold enough to warrant jackets. Often the wind can relieve a hot, humid spell of weather. However, that brief respite is quickly forgotten as sleep becomes almost impossible for days. Then suddenly, there is a sense of calm, and the wind is gone leaving behind a perfect blue sky.

This article was initially published on Ginger and Nutmeg.

Rachel Cobb’s first monograph: Mistral: The Legendary Wind of Provence (Damiani, November 2018). With over a decade of photographs capturing the “devil mistral,” I was honoured and excited to see this book. However, I found myself repeating the question, how on earth do you photograph the wind?

Mistral Wind Rachel Cobb Review Rachel Cobb Cover Jacket

Rachel Cobb has figured it out. This book is visually beautiful and was a thought-provoking experience for me. Seeing through Rachel’s eye, the invisible phenomenon called mistral made me appreciate her ability to express herself from her point of view.


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Carolyne Kauser-Abbott

With her camera and laptop close at hand, Carolyne has traded in her business suits for the world of freelance writing and blogging. Her first airplane ride at six months of age was her introduction to the exciting world of travel.

While in Provence, Carolyne can be found hiking with friends, riding the hills around the Alpilles or tackling Mont Ventoux. Her attachment to the region resonates in Perfectly Provence this digital magazine that she launched in 2014. This website is an opportunity to explore the best of the Mediterranean lifestyle (food & wine, places to stay, expat stories, books on the region, travel tips, real estate tips and more), through our contributors' articles.

Carolyne writes a food and travel blog Ginger and Nutmeg. Carolyne’s freelance articles can be found in Global Living Magazine, Avenue Magazine and City Palate (Published Travel Articles).

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