Try to avoid the Mistral...
One of the few "bummers" to avoid in Arles/Provence... the dreaded mistral...
The mistral, a cold, dry, northwesterly wind that howls through southern France, sometimes continuously for DAYS is created when air from an inland high-pressure zone passes through the Alps-Pyrenees gap and funnels down the Rhone Valley toward the Mediterranean.
The wind velocity, amplified by funneling effect, at monsoon strength can (at its worst) reach a consistent peak of (ugh!) 100 km/hr (60 mph).
The mistral can be so vicious and irritating after a few days it has been known to make people crazy with irritation (it certainly did not do Van Gogh's mental health any good).
Mistral is strongest and most frequent in the winter and spring, though my mere mention of it in October 2001 to the concierge at my hotel ("Does the mistral blow here often?) made her literally shriek at me: "Monsieur, please do not even say the word mistral!"
.. which tells me it could possibly pop up in the fall as well. http://www.esys.org/wetter/mistrale.html has lots more information.
I've been lucky enough (knock wood) to never experience it, and given my limited time I get to spend enjoying Provence in September/Oct. I hope neither you nor I ever do.
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For what it is worth
I will try to put this as discretely and fairly as possible, so as not to offend or stereotype anyone.
I have good friends that I care for very much from all different faiths and parts of the world. I am merely sharing a true story.
There are a couple of local cafes/"salons" on Blvd Des Lices I would be cautious about entering late (after midnight) in the evening.
Late in the evening Oct. 2001 I unluckily encountered (about 1a.m.), a group of decidedly unfriendly, drunk-or-"high" young males at the bar of "Salon. "
They harrassed me and first asked me sarcastically if I was "taliban," then seriously and more aggressively if I was "american."
I responded quickly in French, and they gave me a "deer-in-the-headlights" stare,
(probably because they were so loaded and my french, like theirs, was so terrible...)
but that was the end of the confrontation.
Please no comments, positive or negative, etc. or doe-eyed naive / arrogant & sanctimonious "ricknic" lectures/flames on how "safe" Europe is. Everyone knows that. But every once in a great while, bad things can happen.
I am not trying to cast any negative stereotype or aspersions. This is just an unfortunately sad but true story, probably the only negative experience I ever had in France.
I am sure it could happen anywhere, and most of all I hope it never happens to you.
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We had a distressing event in July. While in Arles, we noted 4 young men watching us park the car and get ready for our adventure. Feeling very suspicious, we left and went to a public parking lot in the center of town. To our surprise we passed them while going to a cafe. Feeling nervous, we went back to the cars where they were on the cell phones,a van pulled up and parked by our car. Long story short, we were followed outside of town, the van pulling along side us. We were told that in the tourist season the gypsies come into town and rob the tourists. Be very careful and aware !!
Mistral is tough even on the hardy locals..
Artist Luc Devouassoux . The shepherd leans and holds on for dear life. Handcrafted in Provence, France.
Artisan: Devouassoux Santons
To further muddy the waters, a statue of Frederic Mistral, the poet and Nobel prize winner, stands in the middle of the Arles old forum square, in recognition of his contribution to Arles in the creation of the Museum Arlatan.
Depending on what source you read and who you talk to, he took the name Mistral, or.... the mistral was named for him... etc. etc.
Whatever the facts and arguments are the mistral is a significant force of nature and fact of life in Arles/-Marseilles / central Provence.
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