Transcript for Episode 465: Preparing a Visit to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence

Category: Provence

Discussed in this Episode

  • What you need to know about visiting on market day
  • Do not buy nougat at the Provençal market
  • Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum where Van Gogh was hospitalized

[00:00:00] Annie Sargent: This is Join Us in France, episode 465, quatre cent soixante-cinq.

[00:00:22] Bonjour, I’m Annie Sargent and Join Us in France is the podcast where we talk about France, everyday life in France, great places to visit in France, French culture, history, gastronomy, and news related to travel to France.

Today on the podcast

[00:00:36] Annie Sargent: Today, I bring you a conversation with Elyse Rivin of Toulouse Guided Walks about Saint Rémy de Provence and Glanum.

[00:00:45] Saint Rémy is one of the most popular cities to visit in Provence, I’m sure many of you have either been there or are considering visiting. Stay tuned, we discuss the historical significance of this beautiful city and the reasons why you might want to put it on your must-see list.

Podcast supporters

[00:01:04] Annie Sargent: This podcast is supported by donors and listeners who buy my tours and services, including my Itinerary Consult Service, my GPS self-guided tours of Paris on the VoiceMap app, or take a day trip drive with me around the Southwest in my electric car. You can browse all of that on my boutique

Should I rent an electric car when visiting France?

[00:01:26] Annie Sargent: For the magazine part of the podcast, after my chat with Elyse today, I’ll discuss the feasibility of renting an electric car next time you visit France. Things are changing fast.

Annie and Elyse

[00:01:50] Annie Sargent: Bonjour Elyse.

[00:01:51] Elyse Rivin: Bonjour Annie.

[00:01:52] Annie Sargent: We are going to talk about Saint Rémy de Provence today and the Glanum.

[00:01:59] Elyse Rivin: The Glanum, The Glanum, I am glad to talk about The Glanum today.

[00:02:04] Annie Sargent: We’re going to be glanuming.

[00:02:06] Elyse Rivin: We’re going to be glanuming. People out there, we are not crazy. No, really not.

Saint Rémy de Provence

[00:02:11] Annie Sargent: Saint Rémy de Provence is this beautiful town, very, very famous. Did you look up how many people live there?

[00:02:17] About 10000.

[00:02:19] Okay, so it’s a big village.

[00:02:21] Elyse Rivin: It’s a big village.

[00:02:22] Annie Sargent: Small town. Actually, technically, it’s not even a village. It’s a town.

[00:02:26] Elyse Rivin: It’s a town. Yeah. I think technically it’s considered to be a small city, but for us, I think it’s what we call a town, you know.

[00:02:33] Annie Sargent: Yes, and it is very popular. The market in Saint Rémy de Provence is very big. I was there on market day once.

[00:02:42] Elyse Rivin: Saint Rémy is interesting because it’s very, very, very famous. And unlike most of the other Provence villages, provençal villages that we talk about or people have visited that are perched up on a hill, this is in the bottom of the valley.

[00:02:56] Annie Sargent: Right.

[00:02:57] Elyse Rivin: It’s flat. It’s the beginning of, it’s going into some southern mountains that are called the Alpilles mountains.

Provençal life good and bad

[00:03:04] Elyse Rivin: But it is very, very, very provençal. And I think the fun thing is to try and explain what does that really mean, you know?

[00:03:11] Annie Sargent: It means crickets.

[00:03:13] Elyse Rivin: It means crickets. Yes. It means crickets going… Tch tch tch tch tch.

[00:03:18] Annie Sargent: Crick, crick, crick, crick, crick, crick, crick, crick, crick, crick. Very loud. Constantly. That is the one reason why I could not live in Provence. They would drive me insane.

[00:03:29] Elyse Rivin: Yeah, you see, and I lived in a part of France for a while that had them and I actually loved it. But the reason I wouldn’t live in Saint Rémy is because there is the Mistral 100 days a year.

[00:03:40] Annie Sargent: That’s a good reason.

[00:03:43] Elyse Rivin: I looked up the statistics, average, the Mistral is a very strange wind,it’s a wind that comes down the Rhone Valley.

[00:03:50] I was wondering, I didn’t really notice, I didn’t look up why it’s called that. I don’t even know, it must come from a word in provençal, I have no idea …

[00:03:57] Annie Sargent: Probably, it probably means wind in provençal.

[00:04:00] Elyse Rivin: It probably means wind. It probably means nasty wind or something like that, you know,

[00:04:04] Annie Sargent: Wind nobody wants.

[00:04:05] Elyse Rivin: Wind nobody wants, but you live with. And of course the whole, that whole region is known for having this wind called The Mistral. But it turns out that Saint Rémy, probably because it is down below, apparently gets a good 100 days a year of wind. So you have to be someone who can live in wind that’s hot and then wind that’s cold because it’s both hot and cold, you know.

[00:04:27] Annie Sargent: Right, so we get windy days around Toulouse as well. We had a fairly windy few days last week, but it’s like three, four days in a row and then nothing for months.

[00:04:40] Elyse Rivin: Right. Right. It’s not the same. I mean, we know that one of the things about Provence, which is very folkloric but is true, is that they do have these winds and one of them is the famous Mistral.

[00:04:51] But besides that, making it very provençal, you’re talking about the crickets, my day in Saint Rémy, one of the things that struck me besides the market, which I’d love to have you talk more about, is the, you know, the plane trees everywhere that give shade, the little squares everywhere with the outdoor tables that, I mean, you see this in other places, but for some reason, to me this was the essence of provençal.

[00:05:14] Annie Sargent: Right, so the plane trees that you mentioned, they are sycamore trees.

[00:05:18] That’s the common name in the US. And sycamore trees, Napoleon had a whole program for planting sycamore trees everywhere. And that’s why we have them along our roads so much. And that’s why we have them in cities and villages.

[00:05:39] And many of the older ones were planted under Napoleon. So they are by now very, very large trees and they’re part of the life of the community. They’re massive, they’re massive trees, their roots go hundreds of meters deep and they have to, because there’s not that much water around the surface in Provence.

[00:05:59] So yes, these are very old trees that define the area, they provide a lot of shade and character to the area. Also the light in Provence is absolutely fabulous. It’s bright around noon, but at sunrise and sunset, it’s really really pleasant.

Tourism in Saint Rémy

[00:06:17] Elyse Rivin: It’s very beautiful. The Saint Rémy, of course, is well, I shouldn’t say of course, it’s famous. It’s famous. It is actually very, very touristy. There are enormous number of, per capita, hotels, Airbnbs, places like that, because people have been coming to Saint Rémy for a very long time. And part of that is thanks to various writers and artists who started going there starting in the 19th century.

[00:06:42] And of course, people might remember that Van Gogh, the famous painter spent a certain amount of time in the psychiatric hospital there, where he did some very wonderful paintings, paintings of the olive trees and things like that. There’s a very folkloric quality about Saint Rémy. I think that’s one of the things I found so charming.

[00:07:01] I found it charming, let’s put it that way, that was the word I found to use for it.

[00:07:05] Annie Sargent: Yes, and it also has this very nice stone that they use to build all the main houses in the city center. It has this kind of… stone, sycamore, the sound, it’s the whole package that makes it so nice. But I have to admit, the crickets would drive me bonkers.

[00:07:29] Elyse Rivin: Saint Rémy is actually very easy to get to, and it’s not far from Avignon, it’s not far from Arles, it’s not far from Cavaillon, it’s on the road going south to the Alpi and a very, very famous medieval village that’s perched all the way up on top called Les Baux de Provence.

[00:07:49] Which is talking about stone, we are really in white, white, white limestone country. I mean, this is one of the reasons it’s so dry and there isn’t such a deep level of water. But it also gives it some of its character. It is, of course, very hot in the summer, but it is a place that people go to, to see the crafts that are built to get a feel for it.

[00:08:08] It’s famous for having some very, very posh hotels, and some very nice restaurants. And this is one of those pieces of pure people information that probably most people couldn’t care about.

Prince Albert of Monaco is the senior of Saint Rémy

[00:08:19] Elyse Rivin: But in the 1700s, Saint Rémy became the Fife of the Princes of Monaco, the Grimaldi family. And so technically, Prince Albert of Monaco is the senior of Saint Rémy. Did you know that?

[00:08:33] Annie Sargent: Oh, I did not know that. How did I live without this important piece of information?

[00:08:40] Elyse Rivin: But Saint Rémy is really, very, very historically important and it was for a very long time, one of the most important cities in Provence when Provence was a separate kingdom. It was actually the counts of Provence that were very rich and very powerful. And that ruled the area for centuries, and centuries, and centuries.

[00:08:58] And it wasn’t until this part of what, of course is now France, became an annex to France, which was actually in the 1500s, no 1481, the end of the 15th century, that people really started thinking of Provence as being part of France, but people spoke Provençal there for a very, very long time.

[00:09:18] Annie Sargent: Hmm. Perhaps some still do.

[00:09:19] Elyse Rivin: I would bet that some still do.

Arrive Early for Market Day

[00:09:21] Annie Sargent: Yeah. So it’s, to be really, really practical, if you go to Saint Rémy on market day, which is…

[00:09:27] Elyse Rivin: Wednesday

[00:09:28] Annie Sargent: Wednesdays, okay. Not Saturdays?

[00:09:30] Elyse Rivin: Saturday, but the biggest one is on Wednesday.

[00:09:32] Annie Sargent: Okay. So if you go on market day, you have to get, and if you go buy car, you have to get there between eight and nine, because after that, you will park two miles away.

[00:09:46] It’s very, very, very busy for market day. If you’re staying in the city, then it’s not a problem, you’ll just be able to get up and go. There are, the market sprawls all over the city center. So, it really takes up, I don’t know, some, some of these Provençal markets have like 30, 40 vendors.

[00:10:08] This one probably has 200-300 vendors. It’s a big one. Everybody comes to it, and so you have a variety of items. In that regard, it’s kind of like the Sunday market at Lille sur la Sorgue, which draws a lot of vendors. Some of them are much smaller.

[00:10:29] If you go to the Gordes market, it’s much smaller. I mean, it’s, it’s proportional to the size of the city center, really, because they couldn’t fit more people than they already have. So, if you’re going to go on market day, do not show up at 11 and think you’re going to park your car because you’re not.

[00:10:48] You’re just not, you’re going to have to walk a long way to find a parking spot.

[00:10:52] Also on market days, the restaurants fill up really quickly. So if you want to sit down and eat somewhere, start talking to the restaurateurs at 11:30.

[00:11:04] And just say, okay, save me a table because by 12:30, everything is full and you’ll be eating a sandwich and walking around.

[00:11:13] Elyse Rivin: And this is in a town that has lots and lots of restaurants.

[00:11:17] Lots, lots of very, you have restaurants in Saint Rémy that go from just your local little snacky thing to starred restaurants. It’s really known for the quality of the food there.Actually, to be honest, when we were there, which was exactly pretty much a year ago, we could not get into one of the restaurants we wanted to, because we kind of did this at the last minute.

[00:11:36] It was kind of like, okay, let’s go to Saint Rémy and Glanum. And we wound up eating in an Italian place having actually some nice, very good Italian food. But then I had to get my hit of what I thought would be Provencal. So we found this place that did homemade ice cream.

[00:11:52] Annie Sargent: Oh, nice. Yeah.

[00:11:54] Elyse Rivin: And then sat under one of these hickory trees and had coffee and very, very, very good homemade, had big, big dish of ice cream to make up for it. Walking around looking at the ceramics, walking through the narrow streets…

[00:12:07] Annie Sargent: So they sell, much like all these markets in Provence, you will have at least 10 hat vendors, at least 10, perhaps more. You will have people that sell ceramics. You will have people that sell nougat.

Buying nougat from the market

[00:12:23] Annie Sargent: Okay, this is an official announcement about about the nougat.

[00:12:28] Elyse Rivin: This is from Annie who loves nougat, okay?

[00:12:30] Annie Sargent: I love all things sweets, but you were just talking about ice cream, so don’t look at me like that. So, nougat, it’s a provençal treat. You’ve probably heard about the nougat de… Montélimar. Montélimar, yes. So, it’s something that they do all over Provence. And it’s very good. The problem with it is that they sell it, they bring to market these massive wheels of nougat.

[00:12:57] And they sell it as a slice. And the price, if it’s posted at all, is going to be per kilo. Well, I defy anybody to buy less than a hundred euros of nougat. Because the way they cut those slices, they’re going to cut you a full slice. They’re not going to cut it that thin. You’re going to have a kilo or more of nougat right there and it’s always really, really expensive.

[00:13:27] Elyse Rivin: It’s very expensive. I happen to know, not in Saint Rémy, but in another provençal village, that this was the trap that my sisters fell into last year when we were all together.

[00:13:37] Annie Sargent: Everybody falls into, everybody falls for it. Except for the French people.

[00:13:41] Elyse Rivin: Except for the French people. And I kept saying, they kept looking at me like, you’re really a killjoy, you know, because I kept saying, don’t, don’t, don’t, you know, I mean, buy yourself a piece wrapped up already, pre-packaged and you’ll be much better off, you know, and they kept saying mmm you know, and so.

[00:13:54] When she saw how much it would cost her, of course by that time it was already cut and that was the end of it. I think it was 80 Euros. And then in the end we didn’t even finish eating all of it because there was… whatever, it’s just too much.

[00:14:05] Annie Sargent: It’s very heavy. So one day, my husband went to the market by himself, he’s a good guy, right? He decided to bring home some nougat too, because he knows I like this stuff, but he didn’t want to get just one. So he told the guy. Can I have a little piece of this, and a little piece of this, and a little piece of this?

[00:14:22] He got three kinds. He walked out of there with 120 Euros worth of nougat.

[00:14:28] Elyse Rivin: I hope you enjoyed it, Annie.

[00:14:30] Annie Sargent: It was very good, but we ate nougat for several days. By the end, it was dry. And do not buy from those vendors. Just don’t, don’t. Just go to a candy store or a grocery store, and buy it pre-wrapped. Then you’ll pay 3-4 Euros, you’ll have your hit of nougat when you would like a little piece of it.

[00:14:54] Do not buy these big thick slices. Public service announcement over.

[00:14:59] Elyse Rivin:

Saint Rémy is the Birth place of Nostradamus

[00:14:59] Elyse Rivin: Now. Saint Rémy has a small medieval section. It’s not that big. I mean, the old city center of Saint Rémy is not that enormous, but it is very, really very pretty and very charming. But one of the things that Saint Rémy is famous for, and this is really for those of you who like erudite and obscure kinds of things, is that it is the birthplace of Nostradamus.

[00:15:23] Annie Sargent: Oh, don’t call him erudite though, he made shit up.

[00:15:27] Elyse Rivin: Well. I’ve never read his stuff, but for those of you out there who have no idea who we’re talking about, there was a man named Michel de Nostredame, who was born in Saint Rémy. He lived in the 16th century. He was actually born in 1503. And it’s very interesting because I was reading a lot about him yesterday.

[00:15:43] This is a real con man. He came from a, you know, a bourgeois, an upper middle class family with a certain amount of wealth and prestige. And he, apparently he wanted to be a doctor, but for various reasons that apparently are not exactly known, he first studied medicine in Montpellier, but didn’t finish.

[00:16:00] I don’t know if he was kicked out or what. And then he went to a couple of other places, and then he went to Agen, which is on the other side of Toulouse. That’s where he actually got married for the first time. And he started working as an apothecary, which is basically the old fashioned way of saying a pharmacist. And at the same time, he was very, very interested in astrology. And so all the while he was working as a pharmacist and then apparently decided to declare himself a doctor, even though he never got a full doctor’s degree. And this is even back in the 16th century. He was writing these pieces and these articles about astrology.

[00:16:35] And in the end, he wrote this book called The Prophecies, which I have never read, but in which he claimed that he could foretell the future.

[00:16:46] Annie Sargent: Mm hmm, as one does.

[00:16:48] Elyse Rivin: As one does. And the strange thing is, you know, I mean, I know a lot of people will still look at the astrology column in a newspaper. I mean, it, you know, this is something we do sometimes, just…

[00:16:59] Annie Sargent: French people still do that, yes. Yeah, yeah. No, Americans don’t do that. It’s a French thing.

[00:17:05] Elyse Rivin: You think it’s only a French thing?

[00:17:06] Annie Sargent: Oh, it’s a French thing. They still print the horoscope in the newspapers in France.

[00:17:11] Elyse Rivin: Yeah, yeah.

[00:17:11] Annie Sargent: Because people want to see that.

[00:17:13] Elyse Rivin: But he became famous. And then of course, very controversial afterwards for a long time, because this is a man who lived 500 years ago, for supposedly being able to predict major events in both France and in the world. And believe it or not, I can remember in the year 2000, 31st of December in 1999, going into the year 2000, there were actually people talking about Nostradamus and his predictions about the future. It’s interesting to know that he had this strange lingering influence that he’s talked about in a lot of things, you know.

[00:17:49] Annie Sargent: So the thing is, he wrote in a very convoluted way, nothing is straightforward, none of the terms are ever defined, so he could be saying anything at all, and you can make it fit, like, you know, cause I’ve actually read Nostradamus in French, because, you know, curious, and it’s like, it’s like word soup.

[00:18:11] It’s like never ending words. And of course you can take any snippet of these words and make them mean whatever the hell you want, because, you know, he doesn’t name things. He doesn’t say in the town of X, Y will happen. He says in the town far away, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, whatever town you want, just apply whatever town.

[00:18:36] And then something terrible will happen. And, but he doesn’t say what terrible, he just says something terrible will happen. Well, of course, if you put it like that in a town somewhere, something terrible will happen. That’s pretty sure.

[00:18:47] Elyse Rivin: Yeah, sounds like to me, what astrologers usually do.

[00:18:51] Annie Sargent: Yes. Yes. They make very vague predictions and then they’re so, you know, happy when somebody says, Oh yes, that’s what you were predicting, right? They’re like, yes, that’s exactly what I had in mind. Yes.

[00:19:03] Elyse Rivin: But actually, I have to say that without having read it, I just know that he existed and that he was one of these people. So it was kind of fun to walk around these narrow little medieval streets and suddenly discover this was where he was born.

[00:19:18] You know, it’s one of those kinds of things. And it’s very uninteresting as a little house.

[00:19:22] Annie Sargent: Yeah, he was just a regular guy.

[00:19:24] Elyse Rivin: Actually, what really is strange is that, because the building is one of these attached houses in an old medieval street, it’s covered with stucco. And I kept thinking, wow, this is a house that’s 500 years old, you know?

[00:19:36] But there’s a fountain named after him. There’s a square named after him.

[00:19:40] Annie Sargent: Well, they’re going to milk it for all it’s worth because the name is famous. I mean, you know, people want, I think it’s reassuring to think that someone can tell the future, but, I mean, if you study everything you can extrapolate, you can, the numbers don’t lie typically, you know. But he was doing it with word soup.

[00:20:04] So it has no value whatsoever, but he is very famous.

[00:20:07] Very, very famous, yes.

Saint Rémy the place stop before going South into the Alpilles

[00:20:09] Elyse Rivin: And all in all, I think Saint Rémy is a wonderful place to stop. And of course, for me, one of the big important things about it was that it’s the place to stop, spend the night if you want to, before you go South into the Alpilles, which are these magnificent white, very white limestone, small mountains, cliffs, small mountains, and the two kilometers outside of the city center, it’s really not very far, you can really almost do it by foot.

[00:20:39] Annie Sargent: Yeah, we walked it, it’s about a mile.

[00:20:41] Elyse Rivin: I looked it up, it’s 2.3 kilometers, so that’s…

[00:20:44] Annie Sargent: Okay, so perhaps closer to two miles.

[00:20:46] Elyse Rivin: We went by car, but I actually, it was partly because we went to the beginning, then we went back into Saint Rémy, had lunch, and then we went back and spent the rest of the afternoon.

[00:20:55] Annie Sargent: Right. But I had such a hard time finding a parking spot. I didn’t want to move the car. I was like we’re walking.

[00:21:00] Elyse Rivin: Okay.

[00:21:00] Annie Sargent: Not moving the car.

[00:21:01] Elyse Rivin: But we went on a midday.

[00:21:03] Annie Sargent: If you move your car to the Glanum area, there’s a lot more parking in the Glanum area than in the city. So actually, if you moved your car, if you do it last, then you can move on to wherever else you’re going. Yeah.

[00:21:14] Elyse Rivin: So, one of the reasons, to be very honest, that I wanted to spend the day in Saint Rémy is because I am absolutely enthralled with all of these antique Roman sites, and I’ve been to a lot of them. I haven’t been to all of them, but I knew that there was this very special place called Glanum, and it’s actually, the reason Saint Rémy exists is almost because of Glanum.

[00:21:37] It goes in that direction. And I was curious. I really wanted to see what it was.

[00:21:41] Annie Sargent:

Should I base myself out of Saint Rémy de Provence to visit Provence?

[00:21:41] Annie Sargent: Sorry to interrupt, but before we get to Glanum, I would like talk about something that people ask a lot is, should I base myself out of Saint Rémy de Provence to visit Provence? It’s not a bad idea. It’s not as central, it’s quite far south.

[00:21:58] If you’re going to, I think a little further north Avignon or just the east of Avignon might be better. It depends on what you want to see.

[00:22:08] Elyse Rivin: I think it depends on what you want to see. You’re right, it is south, but it depends if you can stay there because it’s a very lovely place and you can do a lot of things that are non city things in the area. It’s very close to Arles, so you can visit Arles without having to actually stay in Arles.

[00:22:25] It’s very, very close to some of the other places. It depends on what, as you say, it depends on what you want to do, because otherwise, Aix is a very good place to stop as a city, if you want to go into a city, rather than going into one of the small villages that we were both in recently in a certain part of Provence, you know, the villages that are perched up on the hills.

[00:22:43] So I think you’re right, it really depends on what it is you want to do.

[00:22:48] Annie Sargent: Yes, Saint Rémy has the advantage that it has a lot of restaurants.

[00:22:52] Elyse Rivin: And a lot of hotels.

[00:22:53] Annie Sargent: A lot of hotels. So if you want to stay there, you could eat at a different restaurant every night, and possibly not get bored. That’s just something to consider. It is a fair decision, but it’s really, it really depends on what else you’re going to do and how long to stay.

[00:23:10] Well, to visit Saint Rémy and Glanum, really, you need a day, you know?

[00:23:15] But if you wanted to go do other things, then yeah, you could base yourself out of there and go to Arles, go to Nîmes, go to the Pont du Gard.

[00:23:24] Elyse Rivin: Go up to the Beau de Provence.

[00:23:26] Annie Sargent: Baux de Provence, you know, it’s pretty handy dandy.

[00:23:29] Elyse Rivin: Yeah.

Antique Roman Site – Glanum

[00:23:30] Annie Sargent: So, now let’s get to Glanum. Sorry.

[00:23:33] Elyse Rivin: Let’s get to Glanum. So, Glanum is a site that is actually one of the very few places in all of France, and of course we’re still only, I can’t speak for any place else in Europe, that is the, what is basically the vestige of an entire city.

[00:23:53] Unlike the Colosseum in Orange, or what you see in Nîmes, you have places that have the Pont des Gars, you have the temples, you have a Colosseum, you have places, a lot of places, especially in the Provence area and in the South of France, with one or two incredibly wonderful structures to see, which of course is partly what the Romans are famous for.

[00:24:14] But the remarkable thing about Glanum is that it’s an entire city. And the story of it is really quite amazing because, it turns out, and this is what I didn’t know until actually visiting it, it is a national monument. It’s a site that is a national monument. It covers approximately three to four acres that is actually open and you go through the entrance way and you go and you walk, you can go with a guide, you can go with an audio guide, you can just walk around and look at this with a little map in your hands and look at the, everything is very well indicated. But I would strongly recommend if you’re interested in understanding what you’re looking at, because of course, you know, I know a lot of people who are not necessarily like me, really enthralled with this, will go oh, it’s just a lot of pile of rocks, you know?

[00:25:02] Annie Sargent: Yes, a bunch of old stones.

[00:25:04] Elyse Rivin: But the audio guide is really excellent. Or you have a little bit of a kind of a booklet that you can take with you to help you explain. Because one of the things that makes this place unique is not only its size, but that is one of only two places actually that is known in France, where you can see the levels of structure that go back beyond and before the Romans. I don’t know, the Romans really, basically created what we know of in, especially in the southern half of France.

Named after a Celtic God

[00:25:35] Elyse Rivin: But this site, what I love about it, is that it’s named after a Celtic god. It’s named after a Celtic god, the god of Glan, G L A N, and the god of Glan was the god of the depths. Because it was a place that became a city under the Celtic populations that were there for centuries before the Romans, because there is a spring that has water that comes out of the bottom of the cliffs there, of the limestone cliffs.

[00:26:02] That’s excellent, pure water. And that spring is still there. It still exists. The water still comes out. And it was thanks to that, the God of the depths that the Celtics called Glan, that they named the site after it and they created their first city. So the very first city was actually created by the Celts, a particular tribe, but it goes back way, way, way back. It goes back to, you know, early times, like 600 BC, it’s amazing.

Then came the Greeks

[00:26:29] Elyse Rivin: And then what happened was, this was a site that was basically taken over by the Greeks. You know, the Greeks were the first ones to colonize what is now Marseille, and they were traders, they were basically very good business people.

[00:26:42] They weren’t doing military stuff, but what happened was it turns out that there were minerals, and there was a silver in this area that they were mining. And so eventually what happened was that the Greeks, I think, started out by trading with the local populations and eventually took it over and made it into a Greek city.

[00:27:01] And so, there are actually still a couple of places with Greek inscriptions on some of the stone that’s left because in this massive, enormous, enormous area that you actually have some structures that are from Greek times, which is extremely unusual in France. You don’t usually have that.

[00:27:17] Apparently what happened was, I didn’t know this, but the Celtic tribes, who I don’t think had a writing system of their own, what they did in this area was that they simply translated their language into Greek letters.

[00:27:31] So, the inscriptions are actually Celtic words written in Greek.

[00:27:34] Annie Sargent: Oh, that’s interesting.

[00:27:35] Elyse Rivin: Which is really kind of interesting.

[00:27:37] I mean, I would not know what I was looking at anyway.

[00:27:39] Annie Sargent: Me neither.

[00:27:40] Elyse Rivin: It turns out that that’s what happened. And so it became this really rich, Greek or hellenized, what they would call hellenized town, built up against the cliffs of the beginning of these Alpilles mountains with the source, with this famous god of the depths being the sacred source.

The Romans take over

[00:27:57] Elyse Rivin: And so they built the structure around it and people would come, and they would get their water from it. And then, of course, what happened was, we skip time periods, the Romans come. The Romans who, of course, want to create a new empire and make, of course, what we now know as Gaul. And they come, and they wiped out most of what the Greeks had built.

[00:28:18] But interestingly enough, leaving a few vestiges, which is why the archeologists are so excited about this, because you can actually see places that, and they know because of the different style of the way they built with the different kinds of stone. And then the Romans turned it into an extremely wealthy city under Rome.

[00:28:35] And the name went from Glan, to Glanon, to Glanum, and it’s the Roman name, Glanum, that has stuck ever since.

Arc de Triomphe and Cenotaphe you can see from the road

[00:28:44] Elyse Rivin: And one of the things that is really amazing is when you drive, if you come from Saint Rémy, you just go south, due south, it’s just literally, you know, just not even quite two miles, before you actually enter into the historic monument site where you do have to, you know, go through an entrance way and pay and all of that. On the road, across the street from there are these two structures that the Romans built. One of them is an arc de triomphe, and the other is what is called a Cenotaph. And a cenotaph basically is like a mausoleum but without the bodies. In other words, it’s a huge tower built in honor of a family. These two structures have been there for 2,000 years and they’re unbelievably gorgeous and they’re in perfect condition.

[00:29:27] Annie Sargent: And you can see them from the road.

[00:29:28] Elyse Rivin: And you can see them from the road, you don’t even have to pay to go into site. And they have this relief carving around them, like the things you can see in Rome, scenes from battles. And there’s inscriptions, so they know what family it was dedicated to, and there are lots of signs.

[00:29:42] And when we showed up, I was, my husband and I, first went there, and then we went to Saint Rémy, had lunch, and then came back and decided we were going to spend a good part of the afternoon in the actual site, but there was a guy who showed up with a group of high school students.

[00:29:56] And so we started listening to what he had to say, because it was kind of neat because he clearly had prepared his lecture. Most of them were bored to tears, but we weren’t. It was kind of interesting to listen.

[00:30:08] Annie Sargent: They had the right ears.

[00:30:10] Elyse Rivin: And it was really kind of neat, because apparently, these two structures were so impressive, that well after the Romans had left and well after this whole area was destroyed by the invading tribes, once we get into the even the lower Middle Ages, the local rulers were so impressed by these structures that they made sure to take care of them, which is why they are in such impeccable condition, you know, because they really are.

[00:30:33] I mean, there’s absolutely nothing. They clean them up. I mean, it’s really impressive to see.

Visiting Saint-Rémy with kids

[00:30:37] Annie Sargent: So this is good when, you know, if you go with kids, for example, it’s good to stop there and just show them around and read up a little bit about them before you go or get some information about what you’re looking at, is the reality. And then move on. Because the kids are probably not going to be fascinated by the rest of the visit.

[00:30:57] Elyse Rivin: No. You’re absolutely right. One of the things about these two structures, the Arc de Triomphe and the Cenotaph, is that of course they have all these scenes, so you can talk about what they see in the carving. But what I did see on the site, and of course it wasn’t necessarily important for us, was that, because it is a National Monument site, and it is an ongoing archaeological dig at the same time, they have, a whole trail that’s designed specifically for kids.

[00:31:22] Annie Sargent: Oh, I didn’t know this.

[00:31:23] Elyse Rivin: Inside and they also have activities certain days of the week that are designed to… They have a lot of stuff which is really interesting to see, because we just spent a couple of hours and it was a very hot day, I have to admit that I was very glad when even though I didn’t use the water, I could understand, by the time we came to the part of the enormous sight where you see the spring, the water coming out.

[00:31:46] Yeah. Which still has, its like Roman structure around it with some carvings and things dedicated to it. Provence gets really hot. It was probably about 96 out or something like that. Yeah. And I thought, no wonder this is a god of water around here, but it’s impressive.

[00:32:01] And it is true that if you just go with no information, with no brochure, once you start walking around, you don’t really know what you’re looking at.

[00:32:10] Annie Sargent: Right, because these Roman sites have a lot in common, but they also have a lot of specificity that’s interesting, and the only way to get to the specificity is if you go with a guided tour, or you have at least an audio guide.

[00:32:23] And I think, even with people who go with kids, it’s important that one of the adults listen to the audio guide and then just tell the kids what you just learned in the bits that you think they’ll be interested in.

[00:32:36] Because otherwise it’s like, oh, stonewall, stonewall, stonewall. But what’s really interesting is, is if you can bring up the relevant information. It’s just like anywhere else. If you do it with an audio guide at least you’ll get a lot more out of it than if you just walk around and look around.

[00:32:55] Elyse Rivin: Yes, and and in this particular case, because it has several levels, that is, you know, there’s the basic, levels in the sense of, you know, there’s a place where there are hills where it kind of goes up a little bit. But the site is enormous. There’s a place where you see the remnants of what were the twin temples, with the columns that are still standing.

[00:33:12] There are places where you see parts of what was a meeting area. What I liked about it was that there really are signs everywhere that explain what there was there, even if much of it you can’t see.

[00:33:24] But there’s enough left that if you go up the paths that are well indicated, if you take a look down at the site, you realize how big it is and it is only apparently approximately 25% of what the entire city actually looked like. I mean, Glanum was, under the Greeks, and under the Romans, it was one of the most important Roman sites in that part of what, of course, is now France.

[00:33:48] What I found even more fascinating, and this I hadn’t realized at the time because I didn’t pay attention, I think, in the book, until I came back to the house, is that people knew that it had existed. But believe it or not, it’s only been exposed since 1920. Because after the Romans left and basically the various invading armies pretty much destroyed all. It’s funny because they destroyed a lot of stuff, you know, all these groups that came through and this, of course, is not just there, but everywhere in France, but it’s like when you see the remnants, you think, well, they started to destroy it, and then what happened? They got distracted like a cat? They didn’t finish destroying it, so they kind of left all the foundations and pieces. And then what happened is though, for the many, many centuries, this got covered, and this is hard for me to even really imagine, eight meters of earth.

[00:34:40] Annie Sargent: Right.

[00:34:40] Elyse Rivin: That’s enormous.

[00:34:41] Annie Sargent: Well, maybe there was, there were floods or something that covered things or brought…

[00:34:46] Elyse Rivin: I don’t even know. People knew that there had been something there, I mean, the name Glanum stuck to this place for all these centuries. And then it was at the beginning of the 20th century that some archaeologists and historians decided to try and find, I think, where it really was.

[00:35:02] They had a vague idea and so they started digging. That’s how they realized it was eight meters down because it was covered with an olive tree orchard.

[00:35:10] Annie Sargent: Ah!

[00:35:11] Elyse Rivin: They had to buy the land back from private owners. And I don’t know how long that took to negotiate so that they got permission to do the digging because they literally got rid of these, you know, and olive trees take a long time to grow.

[00:35:24] So they’re still slow growing tree. And so they started actually doing the digging in 1920 and it was really not until the 1940s that they uncovered enough to really start getting an idea of how big it was and how important it was.

[00:35:40] Because they didn’t realize that there would be sections that had Greek writing with Greek structure, because one of the biggest differences between the Roman structures and the Greek was the size of the stone.

[00:35:52] And this is something that’s kind of interesting. I talk about it a little bit when in Carcassonne. And so what happened was that little by little from 1920 until basically 1960s, they uncovered more and more and more. And so that’s why when it finally became a national monument, it is still at the same time an ongoing archaeological dig because they haven’t uncovered all of it.

[00:36:15] So it’s really fascinating to see, I really say.

[00:36:18] Annie Sargent: And when they dig stuff, did they find any extraordinary mosaics or anything like that?

[00:36:23] Elyse Rivin: There’s a little bit of mosaic, but what the small artifacts are in a, there’s a mansion in Saint Rémy that is the mansion of the De Sade family. The same De Sade that, you know, wrote…

[00:36:36] Annie Sargent: Marquis de Sade.

[00:36:37] Elyse Rivin: But, you know, I don’t think it was him.

[00:36:38] I think it’s another branch of the family. But they have turned that building into a museum. So if you buy the ticket to Glanum, for another two euros, you get the entrance into this museum. And that’s where they’ve put the small objects that they have found. Because on the big site, there are just a few sections with mosaic.

[00:36:57] Not that much, interestingly enough. I don’t remember seeing too much. A little bit of mosaic. I don’t know why. I mean, from the point of view of preservation, I’m not sure why some places, the mosaics…

[00:37:07] Annie Sargent: … are preserved, and others not.

[00:37:09] Well, perhaps they got taken away. I mean, a lot of these old Roman sites were used as quarries. So people would just come and take stones whenever they needed some stones to build something or rebuild something or fix something. They could just come and help themselves.

[00:37:26] And then over the years, you know, a flood could bring a lot of sediments and things, but also just people, you know, like, oh, I’ll think I’ll put some trees here or whatever…

[00:37:37] Elyse Rivin: No, you’re absolutely right. And it is true. The site has a kind of cute little cafe.

[00:37:42] So if you need some refreshment, especially if you go there in the summertime when it does get hot and the… so there’s a little cafe, there’s a teeny little shop right there at the same time. Obviously, this is a place where you can go through the whole thing and very quickly in a half an hour, or you can take a long time and kind of just sit and try to imagine things. In a way, this is the kind of place where as much as I’m, that’s not my thing, I could just imagine sitting there with some kind ofspecial instrument where you, I don’t even know what you call them anymore, but you’re laughing at me, but I did this at, when we went to Sénanque, where you actually have these glasses you can wear and project and see what it was like at the time of the Greeks.

[00:38:23] Annie Sargent: The 4D stuff.

[00:38:25] Elyse Rivin: I would love that.

[00:38:25] Annie Sargent: Perhaps they will do a histopad or that sort of thing, but that would be such a better experience because all you have, you don’t have to prepare anything. Because this is what I was about to say is, this is the sort of site where, before you go, I mean, besides listening to this episode, you should try to find perhaps some YouTube videos, perhaps some in depth information before you go, because what ends up happening is I go to these places and when I’m there, I buy the book and I look at the book later, but it would be better to do it ahead in the other, in the opposite direction.

[00:39:03] That way, you know what to look for before you get there, but some sort of histopad would really bring it to life.

[00:39:11] Elyse Rivin: It would be wonderful, absolutely wonderful. There are a few benches along by just besides the ruin, but what I liked too was that because there are real benches set in there so you can sit and take a rest, you can contemplate.

[00:39:23] Annie Sargent: But not a lot of shade.

[00:39:24] Elyse Rivin: Not a lot of shade. No. There are a couple of places where there are trees, but I mean, we’re really talking about the part of Provence that gets a fair amount of sun in the summertime.

[00:39:33] And of course you have the reflection of the white of the stone of the limestone there, which is very, very…

Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence

[00:39:38] Annie Sargent: it can be blinding.

[00:39:40] And then not very far from there is the hospital where Van Gogh was hospitalized.

[00:39:45] Were you going to talk about that as well?

[00:39:47] Elyse Rivin: No, not really. Because I didn’t go there.

[00:39:49] Annie Sargent: Oh, I did. Oh, you did?

[00:39:50] Yeah. I think it’s called Saint-Paul-de-Mausole.

[00:39:55] And it’s interesting because you just pay a small fee and you go in and they have this room that he occupied that he painted.

[00:40:05] Elyse Rivin: It’s the room where he painted the bed and the chair.

[00:40:07] Annie Sargent: Yes, that’s the bed and the chair. And if you know much about Van Gogh, you know that he was prolific. He painted a lot. He painted everywhere he went. I like that in the garden they have some photos of his paintings where they think he made the paintings.

[00:40:28] The view he was looking at.

[00:40:29] Yes, what he was looking at. Because he was, even though he was hospitalized, I mean, honestly, he was not well at that point.

[00:40:36] He painted a fair bit.

[00:40:38] Elyse Rivin: He painted several paintings a day.

[00:40:40] He painted that quickly, that he actually painted several paintings a day. That’s just insane. Well, he was technically, they think he was basically what we would now call bipolar, you know, so when he was in his manic stage, I mean, that’s what he would do.

[00:40:53] He would produce enormous amounts, you know.

[00:40:55] Annie Sargent: Yeah, but it’s an interesting visit. You have to pay a little bit for it. I don’t think you should expect to spend more than an hour there. But it’s really very close to the entrance of Glanum, so you might as well do both together.

[00:41:09] But all in all, I think Saint Rémy plus Glanum plus the Saint Mausole, I think it’s what it’s called.

[00:41:16] Elyse Rivin: I don’t remember the name.

[00:41:17] Annie Sargent: I’ll put it in the show notes if I made a mistake, I’m just purely going by memory here.

[00:41:21] But I think a full day, you know, you need a full day to visit this part of France, and like I mentioned before, it might be a good place to base yourself out of for two, three days if you want to go look at other things.

[00:41:35] Personally, I think I would prefer to stay in Arles, because I like Arles.

[00:41:40] Elyse Rivin: Arles is very big. I mean, for me that is a different, you go to Arles and you do Arles. You can do two, three days in Arles, literally. That’s true. But one of the other things I was going to say is, besides of course, the fact that you have the Glanum, which is just south of Saint Rémy. If you stay there overnight or if you have two days in the area, it is worth taking the drive into the Alpilles and going all the way up to the Baux-de-Provence.

[00:42:05] It’s spectacular. It’s worth another podcast actually. It’s a village that’s all the way perched on top, and it’s in spite of the fact of having seen many, many, many villages that are kind of impressive and spectacular, it’s really, really one of the most spectacular I’ve ever seen.

[00:42:21] Annie Sargent: It’s very showy.

[00:42:22] Elyse Rivin: It’s very showy, it’s touristy, but the whole area is touristy.

[00:42:25] Annie Sargent: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Don’t tell me that you’re going to Saint Rémy de Provence cause you want a place that’s not touristy.

[00:42:30] Elyse Rivin: Exactly.

[00:42:32] No, no, no. But enjoy it. It’s a wonderful, wonderful part of Provence, really.

[00:42:38] Annie Sargent: Yes, it’s a beautiful part of Provence.

[00:42:39] Elyse Rivin: I should learn how to say au revoir in Latin, huh?

[00:42:42] I don’t know.

[00:42:44] Maybe. I don’t know.

[00:42:46] I don’t know either. I don’t know.

[00:42:49] Anyway, I can’t say Glanum to you, because Glanum is not a way of saying Au revoir.

[00:42:53] Annie Sargent: No. beaucoup, Elyse. Thank you.

[00:42:56] Elyse Rivin: Thank you Annie.

[00:42:57] Annie Sargent: Au revoir.

[00:42:57] Elyse Rivin: Au revoir.


Thank you Patrons

[00:43:04] Annie Sargent: Again, I want to thank my patrons for giving back and supporting the podcast.

[00:43:09] Patrons get several exclusive rewards for doing that, you can see them at Thank you all for supporting the show. Some of you have been doing it for a long time. You are fantastic.

New patrons this week

[00:43:22] Annie Sargent: And a shout out this week to new patrons: Pamela Lincoln from Australia and Nick Vipond from New Zealand, as well as Julienne Cozens from the US, I think, and welcome back as a patron, Suzanne Temple, wonderful to have you on board in the community of francophiles who make this podcast possible.

[00:43:45] Why is Patreon support so important to an independent podcaster like me?

[00:43:50] 1. Financial stability. I sell services as well, but that’s often feast or famine. Patreon brings a basic stable income.

[00:44:00] 2. Creative freedom. I don’t advertise. I don’t take travel perks. The only people I answer to are my patrons and my listeners. I think there’s great value in that.

[00:44:13] 3. Community building. Once a month, patrons have a chance to interact with me and other francophiles on a Zoom meeting. It’s really pleasant. People seem to really like it. So you can join those as well.

[00:44:27] 4. Quality. I invest in tools and services to improve your listening experience.

[00:44:35] So merci, patrons.


[00:44:37] To join this wonderful community of francophiles, go to And to support Elyse go to

[00:44:54] And my thanks also to Theron Zacour who sent in a one time donation using the green button that says ‘Tip Your Guide’ on the Join Us in France website. Merci.

[00:45:06] This week I published a collection of photos from my favorite towns I’ve visited on my Atlantic Coast trip, plus a few tips about visiting the area yourself.

French History Brief about Nostradamus

[00:45:17] Annie Sargent: And next week I’ll publish a French history brief about Nostradamus. We talked about him on the episode today because he was born in Saint Rémy de Provence, but then I thought back on this recording and it occurred to me that perhaps I had not given him enough credit. So I did some reading and it turns out there’s a lot more to Nostradamus than I had realized, so I decided to write a French history brief about him.

Itinerary Consultation Services

[00:45:43] Annie Sargent: If you’re planning a trip to France and need some expert advice, I offer two levels of itinerary consultation services.

[00:45:50] The Bonjour service gives you an hour long conversation on Zoom to ask questions and get tailored recommendations. It’s a great choice if you need immediate answers to specific questions.

[00:46:03] For those wanting a more detailed guide, the VIP service offers the same minimum one hour consultation, and to be honest, the longer trips take longer, we’ll talk longer. But it also includes a long follow up document that outlines everything we discussed, plus a roundup of the best advice featured on the podcast.

[00:46:26] To begin, visit and follow the very straightforward email instructions. Your perfect French vacation is just a click away.

Self-guided GPS Tour on the VoiceMap app.

[00:46:37] Annie Sargent: And if you can’t schedule a one-on-one consultation, you can still experience Paris through my eyes with a self-guided GPS tour on the VoiceMap app.

[00:46:48] These tours span iconic areas like the Eiffel Tower, Le Marais, Montmartre, Saint Germain des Prés. It allows you to explore Paris at your own leisure. And I should also mention the Latin Quarter, which is, you know, one of my favorites, really.

[00:47:04] Now, for the best experience, download the tours as soon as you purchase them. Feel free to listen at home to get a preview. When you arrive in Paris, just open the VoiceMap app, go to the starting point, and I will start guiding you with my voice. These tours are more than a stroll. They include curated restaurant recommendations and practical tips, such as where to get tickets and how to find hidden gems.

[00:47:31] So… buy the tours, take a good look at the app and at all the information that is shared there’s, there’s a lot. For a special listener discount, purchase the tour codes from, but the discount may take a few hours to process. So be patient with me. If you need it immediately, you need to go through the VoiceMap app.

Review of one of the Tours

[00:47:53] Annie Sargent: An anonymous walker left this review of one of my tours this week. They said: ‘We really enjoyed this tour because the narrator added wry touches of humor and interesting tidbits we had never heard. We did it at night, which was a very interesting perspective. The buildings seemed quite majestic.’ Well, thank you. I guess I have a wry sense of humor. I’m not sure what that means, but I’ll take it.

The Travel Question of the Week

[00:48:18] Annie Sargent: All right. The travel question of the week comes from Kathy Bleakney Pawley. She asked the following. She said: ‘Hi, I’m looking for help making a decision about renting an electric car Peugeot 508. Apparently some of these are hybrid, but the one we’d rent is all electric. In any event, we haven’t driven one before, but Annie has talked about how much more prevalent charging stations are in France than in the US and we’re tempted to try one. Is there an app that helps find public chargers in France? How do you know how long a charging station will take to charge a vehicle? I’m guessing there are some that are faster than others. We’d be mostly in the country, picking up the car in Marseille, and returning it two weeks later in Limoges, where we can catch a train for Paris. Thanks in advance for any help you can give, et cetera.’

[00:49:12] Okay, this person got several comments, and so I will use those as well, because they’re interesting. Somebody says: EuropCar offers one, I’ll be renting from them next May, but we’ll be out in the boonies a lot, so we’re getting gas power. I’ll answer that in a second.

[00:49:29] One other person said, I drove one for a week in the Alsace last summer, but didn’t keep it due to concerns about charging. This was part of a longer trip heading into Germany next. Most of the hotels where I was planning to stay had an electric car parking, charging spaces available, which is the best solution since you can charge it overnight.

[00:49:52] But I had a few days planned where I would have had to stop to charge along the way, as it was explained to me, a lot of the chargers belong to networks requiring that you set up an account in advance. EuropCar gave me info on one such network, but the only payment type it accepted was a European bank account, no credit cards.

[00:50:13] From what I read at the time, chargers are gradually converting to be more like gas pumps, just pull up and pay, but that capability is nowhere near universal. The uncertainty of finding a place when I needed it, along with concerns about recharge time, made me decide that this was more stress than I wanted to deal with on my vacation.

[00:50:36] Unless you want to add in some extra challenges and possible complications, focus on having fun and getting from place to place in the car you’re used to. If you want to try one, rent one closer to home.

[00:50:48] One more person says, one of the podcast interviews in the last couple of months mentioned this.

[00:50:52] Yes, maybe it was the Josephine Baker episode. Yes, that’s what it was, I talked about it at length. I mean, If you go to the website and search, you’ll find electric car and car chargers and things like that.

[00:51:04] Somebody says, I live in California and I drive a Chevy Bolt EV that I charge at home. When we go on a trip that is farther than 175 miles round trip, we take my husband’s hybrid, the charging infrastructure in California is unreliable and inconsistent. There are loads of reports of inoperable charging stations or unattended parked vehicles hogging the few charging options. This is less and less true in France, but it can happen as well.

[00:51:32] I do not know if this is the case in France. I’m very much in favor of reducing our carbon imprint whenever possible, however, I do not recommend risking this on your vacation. I would try to find a hybrid to rent.

[00:51:45] Okay. Somebody else says: Distance, capacity and charging time can vary by car. This is very important. So do some research and also plan your charging stops. You may want to ask your questions in the Facebook group Driving Electric Cars in France. Very true.

[00:52:02] Okay. And my response was, do you drive an electric car at home? If you don’t, it’s probably not a good idea to try it in a different country because it introduces a lot of new things all at once.

[00:52:16] If you drive a Tesla at home and you want to rent a Tesla in France, it’s the exact same experience. So go right ahead, you understand the Tesla supercharger network, you understand how the Tesla runs, it’s a bit different from other cars, but you’re used to it. It’s great. If you don’t drive a Tesla, there’s uncertainties.

[00:52:40] Now, if you want to have a consult with me where we discuss all the details of the car you’re trying to rent, I can look it up, the charging curve, the how much, how long it’ll take, all of that I can figure out individually for you, but here’s what I can tell you extra to make it simple.

[00:52:58] In France, we are getting close to a tipping point where more than 50% of new cars are going to be either full electric or plug in hybrids.

[00:53:08] You know, with technology things appear to go slowly, until one day things accelerate at high speed and there’s a tipping point. Norway has already reached that tipping point. Germany, France and The Netherlands are very close. How close? The number crunchers predict two or three years. Car rental agencies are placing large orders of full electric cars to renew their fleets.

[00:53:37] Within a few years, your basic rental car is going to be full electric, whether you like it or not, it’s happening, because we cannot continue burning oil and gas as we have been and hope to limit the scope of climate change to acceptable levels. This is not a science podcast or a political podcast, so I’ll keep it to that, but we don’t have a choice any longer.

[00:54:03] You’re going to have to learn about this.

Types of Electric Car Chargers

[00:54:05] Annie Sargent: If you’re going to rent a plug in hybrid or full electric when you visit France, you need to make sure that the place you sleep at night has a dedicated charger for your car. Preferably a borne. That’s a Level 2 charger. I only have a Level 1 charger at my house, but it’s more than enough for daily use.

[00:54:29] But if I was going to take a long road trip every day, I would need to upgrade to a Level 2 charger. Now, if this business of Level 1, Level 2 makes zero sense to you, it means that you’re not in the electric charging world, and doing it in France is really not ideal, but if you understand, great.

[00:54:48] You should email whatever accommodations you’re going to book and ask them what type of charger they have. If they tell you they can provide a domestic plug, or a green up plug, that’s Level 1 charging. Level 1 charging in France delivers maximum three kilowatt hours. So that’s three kilowatt per hour.

[00:55:09] Some of these plugs can only deliver 1.6 Kilowatt per hour safely, and you cannot rely on that if you’re taking road trips. Like I said, Level 1 is fine for everyday use, but not for road trips. Some accommodations will have Level 2 charging. That’s called a borne, and it can deliver up to 7 Kilowatt per hour. That makes road trips easier and it’s what I like to get when I’m traveling.

[00:55:38] On Booking.Com you can filter on whether or not the place has somewhere for electric cars to charge, I still email them to ask exactly what they mean, because the devil’s in the detail.

[00:55:51] It’s not the same at all, having a 7k charger, versus a 1.6k plug , right? And that’s, both of those are Level 1.

[00:55:59] Many towns and villages in France have Level 2 chargers because of the full electric Renault Zoé which launched in December 2012. We have a lot of car chargers in small towns that were really made for the Renault Zoé. And they typically deliver 22k per hour, which is still Level 2, but a fast Level 2, right?

[00:56:24] But, unlike a hotel or B&B where the charge is included in the price of your stay, or perhaps they have a little surcharge, but whatever, you can pay that with your credit card, when you charge on a public charging station, well, you’re going to have to pay for your charge and that’s where it’s still complicated.

[00:56:44] It’s getting easier and easier all the time. I’m seeing more and more contactless methods of payment. But it’s not everywhere. And it’s especially in the small villages where it gets complicated because these are old chargers. Sometimes it’s so old, you can’t even read the screen anymore.

[00:57:01] And so if you have an RFID card to launch the charge, like I have one of those, I have several of those. Well, there’s always one that will work. But if you’re not from around here, you have no reason to have all these cards with you. And so the chances of you launching an old charger that’s been there from 10 plus years for the Renault Zoé network is not great. I can get them to work almost 100% of the time, but I’m used to them.

The ChargeMap App

[00:57:26] Annie Sargent: Another thing that works very, very well, and she asked if there was an app or something. Yes, there is an app. It’s called ChargeMap. It’s an app where you can look for chargers and they will even tell you how well these chargers are working.

[00:57:40] So it has a check in system. So whenever I charge using my ChargeMap card, it will just say, oh, somebody is charging right now or somebody charged two hours ago or three hours ago. And chances are, if it worked two hours ago, it’s still working, it’s going to be working when you get there. So it’s very reassuring.

[00:57:59] I think it’s 20 euros to open the account and to get the card. The question is, are they going to send you a card outside of Europe and are they going to let you pay with a credit card rather than a direct link to your bank account, which is how we French people do it. That’s a very French thing, we use wire payments all the time. And so to us, it’s not strange, but to Americans, it’s like, you what? You give them access directly to your bank account? Well, yes, it’s better because then there are no credit card fees and we prefer that.

[00:58:33] That’s why it’s still a bit of a problem. Now, the day when all of these chargers take credit cards or even better, contactless payments, then happiness all around. And it is changing really, really quickly. So don’t worry. By the time car rental agencies are mostly offering electric cars, this will all have changed.

[00:59:00] They install new chargers and they upgrade chargers all the time. I’m going to give you a link to a map that’s kept by an enthusiast, electric car enthusiast, Denis Schoelins, and you can find it at so after STATIONSVE and VE is véhicule électrique so station véhicule électrique. And he keeps this map up to date. He does a really, really good job with it. And that one shows you all the big chargers, so your Ionity, your Electromaps, your Allégo.

[00:59:51] By now, there are charging stations everywhere in France, even tiny villages sometimes have a PowerDot station by the grocery store. And that’s really nice because these PowerDot stations are fast chargers, so DC fast chargers and you should know that electric vehicles, the battery runs on direct current, but what we have at home is alternative current, whether it’s in U.S. or in France.

[01:00:19] And so, installing a direct current charger in a supermarket parking lot is more involved than a alternative current charger. But it’s also much faster because it’s DC to DC, your card knows exactly what to do with this power.

[01:00:36] There’s nothing in between. It goes much faster. So things are changing fast. It’s going to get to the point where every supermarket in France is going to have a DC fast charger, which is wonderful because then you can just go shopping and plug in while you do your shopping. Almost every gas station on freeways has a DC fast charger in France.

[01:01:00] Not all of them work reliably though, and not all of them are easy to launch either. So, to summarize, if you’re going to get a hybrid car, then please plug it in at night. Wherever you sleep, you plug in your hybrid car. What’s the point of a hybrid if you don’t plug it in? Because they don’t charge themselves, you know?

[01:01:23] If you’re just charging the battery with gas, you’re getting a poor driving experience, it’s not worth it. So if you’re going to get a plug in hybrid, make sure whatever accommodations you select have chargers. And if you’re going to get a full electric car, make sure you understand how it works because it’s getting easier and easier.

[01:01:45] It’s changing very fast, but I’d hate for you to get stuck somewhere where like, I can’t charge.

[01:01:50] All right. So, if you drive electric in the US, all of this makes sense to you. If you don’t, then try it at home. Electric cars are fantastic, so much better than gas cars. Just try it at home.

Next week on the podcast

[01:02:04] Annie Sargent: My thanks to podcast editors Anne and Christian Cotovan who produced the transcript and make the podcast sound good. Really, search the transcripts, they are full of very good information.

[01:02:16] Next week on the podcast, an episode about relaxing on the Riviera with Michael McLaughlin.

[01:02:23] Yes, you can relax on the Riviera. Yes, you don’t have to rush from one site to the other. You can just take it easy on the beach. What a thought! Thank you so much for listening and I hope you join me next time to look around France together. Au revoir!


[01:02:41] Annie Sargent: The Join Us in France Travel Podcast is written, hosted, and produced by Annie Sargent and Copyright 2023 by Addicted to France. It is released under a Creative Commons, attribution, non-commercial, no derivatives license.


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Category: Provence