The great Voltaire, never a man to mince his words, once remarked:

«Paradise is where I am

I like to think he was in Provence when he said that. Nowhere else on earth – or at least those parts of the earth that I’ve seen – is there such a happy mixture of elements that make everyday life a pleasure. First, there is the sun, which shines for three hundred days a year. Then there is the light, so clear and brilliant that it adds a particular sheen to the landscape. (And what a landscape: mountains, regiments of vines, oceans of lavender, all punctuated by cypresses and plane trees – almost as if it had been laid out by an artist planning his next painting.)

But the landscape has been made to work for its living. It produces, among other delights, world-class asparagus from Villelaure, melons from Cavaillon, lamb pre-seasoned with wild thyme from the Sisteron hills, jewel-like salt from the Camargue, cheeses from the talented goats of Banon, sublime truffles, excellent wines, and olive oil that would make an Italian jealous; not to mention a coastline swimming with every variety of Mediterranean fish. There is no need to go hungry or thirsty.

So, one way and another, it is no surprise to find that the inhabitants of Provence appreciate their luck, and they show their appreciation with a good humour that I find charming and contagious. Of course, they will suck their teeth and shake their heads when the mistral threatens to blow the tiles from the roof. And there is usually a certain amount of muttering when they have to endure more than two rainy days in a row. But on the whole, I have never lived among such a cheerful group of people. This, like the sun and the scenery, adds enormously to the enjoyment of just being alive. In this dossier, you will see a glimpse of the industrious side of the Provençal nature, whether it has been applied to wine or perfume, glass or fine cuisine. We invite you to come and see the best of Provence for yourself. Or, to use a phrase more appropriate to this brief postcard:

Wish you were here.

Peter Mayle