Women empowerment in Provence. Who was Mary Magdalene?

St Mary Magdalene in Marseille

St Mary Magdalene in Marseille

Who was Mary Magdalene?

She was a healer and a preacher, a mother, a wife and a disciple. She was a very powerful woman whose power is transcending time and she has become a mythical figure and an archetype. Images of her are present in the most ancient Tarot, she was “La Dame” celebrated by all the troubadours, Our Lady of The Holy Grail, Jesus wife for the Cathars  After the Inquisition she went into hiding to reappear in disguise in the symbols of the Knights Templar.

Women Empowerment is also about reclaiming the part of history where the presence of the feminine power was felt and worshiped.   In the Twelfth Century the region of Provence was known for its exceptional treatment of women. It’s location on the Mediterranee and between Italy and Spain makes it a natural melting pot of different cultures meeting for commerce since the Greek who created the port of Massilia now Marseille.

“Since the dawn of Christianity, this area had a very strong history of honoring women. During the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the women of Provence were held in especially high regard. A classic example of the “liberated woman” in the medieval world is Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1204) whose notoriety  and power plays as wife and mother of kings shook Europe for decades.”    -The Woman with The Alabaster Jar-  by Margaret Starbird.

The story of St Mary Magdalene in the south of France and what she came to represent is for anybody with a christian background a most important figure. In the Languedoc she has been worshiped for a very long time, hundreds of small and big churches have been dedicated to her. Fountains bear her name and pilgrimages are done in her name. She is the protector of harvest and of water.

Mary Magdalene was a very important disciple of Jesus, she is the only one that anoints him, the first to see him resurrected, she is also called the apostle of apostles. She is believed by many authors to be his wife and the mother of his children. She has been deemed a prostitute by a Pope because her worship was threatening the church power.

“There are several distinct possibilities regarding this heresy of Jesus’ marriage. Perhaps it was true and survived because its adherents not only believed but knew it to be true (perhaps through some proof such as the famed “treasure of the Templars,” in the form of authentic documents or artifacts); or perhaps it was promulgated in an attempt to restore the lost feminine principle to Christian dogma, which was clearly unbalanced in favor of the masculine.”       -The Woman with The Alabaster Jar-  by Margaret Starbird.

Saintes-Maries-de-la Mer Van Gogh. 1888

Saintes-Maries-de-la Mer Van Gogh. 1888


If you like stories like I do, you’ll want to listen to the story at the origin of  Les-Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer.   

The Legend of The Three Maries.

It is a very old French legend which started when in 40 AD  a boat landed in the swamp area of Camargue, the land of black bulls and white horses.

In this boat, coming from Egypt on the currents with no sails or oars, were three women, the first witnesses to the empty tomb at the resurrection of Jesus; Mary Salome, Mary Jacobe, and Mary Magdalene. Martha and Lazarus her brother, Sidoine the blind and  Joseph of Arimatie.

The place where the boat landed was an ancient roman fortress named “Ra”, like the Egyptian Sun God. Later it became “Notre Dame du Ratis” (ratis= boat)  and much later “Les Saintes Maries de la Mer”.

Gypsy Pilgrimage

Gypsy Pilgrimage

The spot of this extraordinary boat landing has become the most famous Gypsy pilgrimage.  Each May 24 and 25, Gypsies come from all over Europe to celebrate their Saint Patron, Sara. They carry her statue, one of the many black virgin statues in France, through town to the sea.

Dark-skinned Saint Sara is said to have been the Egyptian servant of the three Marys. A different version of the story is placing Sara as the first person to welcome the three Marys on shore. And still another version is Sara being the daughter of Mary Magdalene. More about Mary Magdalene.

Mary Magdalene, after converting many people from the area went on to Marseille and finished her life in a cave called La Sainte Beaume.  The skull of St Mary Magdalene.

St Mary Magdalene

St Mary Magdalene Cave

Who was Mary Magdalene?

Answers will depend on what you choose to believe in and that is what matters.

It is a very beautiful story and like all stories it stays alive as long as it is being told.


Check back here very soon for a very special package from Private Provence Tours


St Mary Magdalene in Provence

St Mary Magdalene in Provence


How to watch Le Tour de France live and Map 2014


To watch Le Tour de France live is thrilling but what about when you don’t have TV like me…  No problem, you can use this genius App called TunnelBear and if you need more explanations on how it works, click here.

Then if you want to watch Le Tour de France on french TV you click here after you choose France on the TunnelBear app.

Le Tour started in 1903 and  became very popular rapidly.  Long gone is the competitor who smokes his cigarette and drinks wine in the middle of the race.

Winner of Tour de France 1903

Winner of Tour de France 1903








You can look at the history of Le Tour and see a reflection of what is happening in Europe at the time. From the very famous and only international black woman, star of her time Josephine Baker with the athletes at the departure of the Tour de France 1933.

Josephine Baker Tour 1933

Josephine Baker Tour 1933



To the first payed Holidays, “congés payés”, voted by le Front Populaire in 1936, everybody in France is a fan of Le Tour because French people have a love story with their bicycles.

Conges payes 1936

Conges payes 1936

The familiar nickname of the bike is “la petite reine” or “the small queen” and famous song have been written about it, like Yves Montand A Bicyclette.


As for me I’ll be watching closely Le Tour de France and especially Saturday July 19 from Grenoble to Risoul, a small ski station in Le Queyras region where I used to work. The race is going over two mythical mountain pass Le Galibier and L’Izoard and will go down in a valley dear to my heart, see you there.

map tour de france alps 2014

map tour de france alps 2014

Best Travel Quotes

Espresso on the beach. Calanques de Cassis.

Espresso on the beach.
Calanques de Cassis.

  Grab a cup and have a read.

“I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”
Robert Louis Stevenson, Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes

“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.”
Lao Tzu

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
Ernest Hemingway

“The real voyage of discovery consists of not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”
Marcel Proust

“Travel brings power and love back into your life.”


Chez Ladurée. Paris airport.

Chez Ladurée. Paris airport.

“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.”
Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 7: 1966-1974

“The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.”
G.K. Chesterton

“In books I have traveled, not only to other worlds, but into my own.”
Anna Quindlen, How Reading Changed My Life

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emerson’s Essays

Let me know which quote feels the most inspiring to you… and which one I forgot and should include.

Here is one quote that rings strongly for me and will be the subject of another blog post… A suivre

“The first condition of understanding a foreign country is to smell it.” – Rudyard Kipling

And if after all this strong reminders on the powers of travel you can’t wait for next summer… check my special offer for this winter  Click Here

Map Provence Alpes Cote D'Azur.

Map Provence Alpes Cote D’Azur.

French culture and food. Is this a frog ?

Two things happened today which prompted me to look at my french upbringing and how it affects my relation to food and the social graces that goes on around it.

In the past week I have been invited to 3 different parties, some during the day and other at night but in all cases I was told, “it’s a potluck, bring a dish”. Now I have been living in the States long enough to know about potlucks but it still goes completely against my upbringing and the sense of hospitality around food I have been raised with.  At my grandparents farm in the southwest of France anybody dropping by would have been invited to come and share the meal and very often the village old priest would show on Sunday lunch after mass and others might drop in for dessert. My grandmother was renowned for her ratatouille, duck confit, foie gras, ile flottante and flan. All dishes were made from fresh produce right there at the farm and I realize now how lucky I have been to be raised with such fantastic fresh food.

coeur de boeuf tomatoes from my uncle's garden

coeur de boeuf tomatoes from my uncle’s garden


Check my post about famous french desserts  where I show you step by step how to make my grandmother’s flan, very easy and super good. Buy or get the best eggs you can and of course use whole milk ( skim should not even be in the picture ). Lucky you if you live next to a farm, your flan will be most delicious. Always start with the best ingredients and your dish will be unforgettable. For instance between vanilla extract and vanilla beans guess what is the best choice ?

I am going to try explaining the french point of view and warn you of a few “faux pas” you can avoid next time you are in France, if you are ever invited to share a meal with french people.

Do not and I repeat do not bring a dish with you, not even dessert.  The only exception would be if you went to a renown patisserie to get a very special dessert and even then it’s risky business. Your french host could get quite offended if you show up with food. Translation “What ? my food is not good enough”. A good bottle of wine is always welcome or a bouquet of flowers or maybe some great chocolate from the best “chocolatier”in town.

Food is very often tied with memories of places and people, food is tied to a place. The fig trees at my grandparents, melons growing in the fields, tomatoes, aubergines, zucchinis and garlic from the garden. The best peaches of my life picked up in an orchard in Ardeche. The “cadillac” of cherries  as I was told by the farmer who sold them to me at a road stand in Provence. He was very proud of his cherries and he was right, they were the best and as soon as I polished them up I regretted not having bought more.

Aix en Provence market

Aix en Provence market

You all know the french are proud of their culinary traditions and when you are in France accept graciously the invitation and really try to not refuse a dish under the pretext that you are on a special diet. And I am not talking about people being vegan or vegetarian but more about the low fat or low carb or low whatever… When you are in France relax your grip on all the rigid ideas about what you “should not” be eating and just enjoy the bounty of food this country has to offer. Let your taste buds travel with you too.

More to come on food and cultural differences very soon…

French markets in Provence

Who has’nt dreamed of visiting the french markets of Provence… ?

Next best thing to being there is following me in the videos while I walk through, listen to the music, talk to people, have lunch, drink a coffee. In brief, while I do what people do in French markets.

  • Friday market in Pertuis which brings a big crowd from villages around and vendors as far as the Alps.
  • Saturday market in Lourmarin with unexpected music and a great lunch.
  • The morning market in Aix en Provence where you can sit and have breakfast, watching the brouhaha (love this word).
  • Aix flower market in front of city hall- Place de la Mairie- Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, one of my favorites. When I was living in the Alps and spring was too late in my opinion, I would drive south to Aix just to be in the flower market and sit at a terrace again.
  • In the Gulf of St Tropez, the small village and market of Ramatuelle, early morning with coffee- a bit of lesson in ordering coffee- and a visit of the charming village. So many flowers and the scent is incredible, lots of jasmine.
  • Saturday market in Aix en Provence, the old town is blocked for car circulation and streets are full of people and vendors. Starting at city hall with flowers, all the way to the Cours Mirabeau. Everything from food of course- we are in France after all- clothes, antiques, soap…. and my favorite vendor with all his colorful handmade goods from Essaouira in Morocco.
French Markets. Aix en Provence

French Markets. Aix en Provence

Breaking French literary news (to know more click on link below)

Camus letter to Sartre reveals their early friendship

Albert Camus Nobel Prize, bought an old Magnanerie (silk farming place) in Lourmarin with his check from Sweden. In part because the area reminded him of his native Algeria. He died there in a car accident in 1960 but still reside in the village cemetery.

French Rosé Wine and a Calanque near Bandol.

Nothing better than a glass of cold rosé sitting at a small restaurant, watching the Mediterranee. If you go to Calanque de Port d’Alon ,by the road from Bandol or by a walk along the rocky coast, you will enjoy the same fate. One of the best rewarding walk and very romantic too, that we enjoyed with my husband on the Mediterranean coast. The next best thing to being there is Google Earth, have fun with it click on view larger map and zoom in… explore the area and click on the little guy to place him exactly where you want to go , magic.

Coastal walk to Port d'Alon

Coastal walk to Port d’Alon

A true rosé is dry with fresh fruit flavors and sometimes citrus, in Provence it is a blend of Syrah and Grenache and also Mourvedre, Cinsault, Carignan… The wonderful pink color comes from the skin of red grapes left in contact with macerating juices long enough to give it a color more or less intense.

To know more about the art of making rosé, listen to Alan Wilson, owner of Saint Estève de Néri at the foot of the Luberon. (Due to a strong Mistral that day and a poor quality microphone, the sound outside is not good:)

More fun with the soundtrack “Mediterranée” by Tino Rossi -very famous 50’s crooner from Corsica images from the movie “Marius” by Marcel Pagnol a very dear son of Provence, born in Aubagne and lived his life writing and filming about his region.

Very soon a page with recommended books and movies about Provence…

French news. Paris manual on How to treat tourists !!!

Paris Plage 2013. Medhi Chebil for France 24.

Paris Plage 2013. Medhi Chebil for France 24.

Paris, the most visited city in the world, and my birth place, does not have the best reputation for treating tourists very well….until now.

The city just launched a manual aimed at people working in the tourism industry.

A small 13-page guide, called “Do You Speak Touriste?” provides information on tourists’ expectations according to their nationalities.

The English, for example, like “Smiling, friendly staff, a warm welcome, and a playful dimension to cultural attractions” while the Americans expect “to be taken care of quickly, and a mastery of English.”

The manual also includes notes on how to say basic phrases like hello, thank you and goodbye in several languages

To read the full article and watch a video, click on France 24

Driving in Marseille.

Today we are going to Marseille in 2013 European Capital of Culture.

Exciting city with a very diverse population of different refugees from countries all around the Mediterrenean.

A little bit of history about Marseille

1,6 million people living together in and around Massalia founded by greeks 2600 years ago.
The city has always been a crossroad for all kind of minorities. In the 18th century half of its population was not from Marseille but from Italy (Genoa and Piedmont), Spain (Catalogna) and Greece. Russians in 1917, Armenians in 1915 and 1923, Spanish in 1936, Algerians and Tunisians between the two wars, Pieds noirs in 1962 (french persons living in Algeria), Africans (Comorians 50,000 in 1999).
Marseille is a vibrant city looking towards the sea, a rebel that became part of France only in the 15th century. A city
where the great architect Le Corbusier chose to do its experiment of communal living and where today you can find a modern art museum Le MOMA  on top of that same building.

Driving in Marseille can be fun if you follow my advices about driving in France and you will find them in my soon to be published travel guide book  My 10 best Zen backroads of Provence.

Click on Follow Blog I will send you an email when it is published on Kindle and you can take advantage of the short launching period to download it for free. You don’t need a Kindle device.

This is the page on Amazon where you can download a Kindle reader for any device under the sun.

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Private Provence Tours. Marseille Port

Marseille Port

Private Provence Tours. Marseille Port

Marseille Port

Related articles

Famous French Desserts, easy flan recipe.

Going through my videos on my YouTube channel, my mouth started watering when I watched the flan recipe.

It was a dessert my grandmother used to make and the fact that the eggs and milk were from her farm, certainly made it even better.There will be another post about the farm in the southwest of France, with videos of course, so stay tuned.

Try it, it’s very easy to make, refreshing summer dessert. You can add raspberries or strawberries on top or even a bit of shaved chocolate, mmmmm.