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

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…

Private Provence Tours when you are more than a tourist…

Private Provence Tours with Lily

When you come on one of my Private Provence Tours you get the chance to experience how living in the south of France really feels like and the opportunity to be more than a simple tourist and meet with french people. Taste the sweetness of life in the south of France and make friends…

French markets. Aix en Provence

French markets. Aix en Provence

I have a large network of friends in Provence so if you are interested in beekeeping, organic farming, wine making, retail, real estate, food, art and antiques, music, french markets, history… I will find people you can visit and communicate with.

It is also my goal is to provide you with the best lodging in the heart of Provence, not another one of the cookie cutter type of hotel but a real house with a real kitchen in case you are inspired by the beautiful french markets of Provence.  

Provence lodging

Lodging with Private Provence Tours


Check my About Page to see what motivates me.

And if you want to know more about spending one week this winter in Provence Click Here