close up of friends with wine celebrate christmasclose up of friends with wine celebrate christmas
©close up of friends with wine celebrate christmas|lev dolgachov

Be the life of the party with our 10 fun facts about the Région Sud!

Christmas is your time to shine and after reading this article, you’re sure to be the life of the party from the aperitif all the way through to after-dinner liqueurs. Geography, art, football and literature… Become an awesome expert on the Région Sud this year. Like a boss!

Arles

Is France’s largest town

Surprised? It’s true though. The capital of Camargue, Arles spans 760 km2, i.e. approximately seven times the area of Paris (105 km2). Of course, Arles has less inhabitants than the French capital, with 52,000 Arlesians versus 2,200,000 Parisians. But if you include the Camargue Regional Nature Reserve’s horses, bulls, pink flamingos and ducks in the population count, they could well tip the scales. We’ll let you do the maths…

Picasso

What a mouthful

Everyone knows Picasso, the illustrious founder of the Cubist movement and fervent fan of Provence and the Côte d’Azur. But how many people can say his full name without getting tongue-tied? Take a deep breath and go for it: Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Mártir Patricio Ruiz y Picasso. It has to be said, you’ll need a good memory and a bit of practise for this one. But you have to admit, if you drop this little nugget between the turkey and the Thirteen Desserts, it’s bound to cause a stir.

Marcel Pagnol et Albert Cohen

Went to school together

Here’s a little trick for cutting short any awkward political discussions that are threatening to spoil your meal. You’re welcome! Are things heating up between the liberal Adam Smith fan on your right and the militant Marxist on your left? Simply adopt a knowledgeable tone and slip this in: “Actually, on that subject, did you know Marcel Pagnol and Albert Cohen went to the Lycée Thiers in Marseille together? They were 9 years old.” You might think that has nothing to do with the discussion and you’d be right – absolutely nothing! It’s simply a diversion that makes you look good. And if you’ve never had the courage to read Albert Cohen’s 1,100-page flagship work “Belle du Seigneur”, no stress, you’ll find an excellent summary on Wikipedia. Another great way to monopolize the conversation for a few more minutes…

Every day at noon

A cannon shot is fired in Nice

Here’s a little historical anecdote that’s sure to sanctify your new scholarly status. A cannon shot is fired in Nice every day at noon. The story began in 1862… At the time, Scottish-born Sir Thomas Coventry had his lunch at home every day in the company of his officers. His wife was in charge of preparing the meal. But the wife in question had no notion of punctuality, so Sir Coventry decided to get out the big guns: every day at noon, he fired a cannon shot to tell her it was time to get cooking. Sir Coventry might not have gone down in the history of feminism, but he definitely marked Nice. When he left the town, he paid the town council to ensure the tradition was maintained. Until 1992, the cannon was fired by the police. After that, a private individual took up the gauntlet, replacing the shot with a firework bomb.

The painter Fragonard

Lent his name to the famous perfumery

Did your low-down on Picasso’s name create the desired effect? Perfect. Carry on pretending you’re an expert in the arts. This time, you won’t even need to practise. Simply remember this: the world-famed Côte d’Azur perfumery Fragonard opened its doors in Grasse in 1782. The brand was founded by Eugène Fuchs in 1926, surfing on the wave of direct perfume sales to visitors to the vogueish new Riviera holiday destination. Eugène Fuchs decided to name the company Fragonard as a tribute to the rococo painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard, born in Grasse in 1732. A great artist, a famous perfumery and a single name. Easy peasy!

The “Olympique de Marseille”

Is the only French football club to have won the Champions League

It’s time for a change of tune and time for you to make a dazzling entrance on the field of sporting knowledge. Yes, your expertise truly has no bounds. Between mouthfuls, you’re about to become a fountain of footie science and we’re here to give you a helping hand: “The Olympique de Marseille is the only French football club to have won the Champions League. It was in Munich in 1993, when the OM won 1-0 against Milan AC, thanks to a goal by Basile Boli at the 43rd minute”. CAUTION: for your safety and that of your fellow guests, please ensure there are NO Paris supporters at the table. After all, you’re here to impress, not start a riot…

The expression “Cretins of the Alps”

Doesn’t mean people who live in the Alps are cretins

Quite the contrary. Just like the people of Provence and the Côte d’Azur, the Alpine people are highly intelligent. “Cretinism” actually refers to a disease observed in the mountain regions in the 19th century caused by a lack of iodine, which led to thyroid issues. The poor “cretins” were thought of as “stupid”, “childish” or “lazy” and became a hot topic among doctors at the time. In the early 20th century, iodized salt was introduced and the debate was closed. The moral of the story? Alpine people are no more cretinous than people who think they are… Get my meaning?

Vaucluse is the world’s most “it” destination

The proof: Obama vacationed there in 2019

Christmas is a great time to talk about future holidays too. Bernard dreams of climbing Machu Picchu, while Luke is more of an Ibiza type: he definitely sees himself spending an evening or two at Space or Amnesia… Pounce on the opportunity and impose your style like an ultra-trendy Instagram influencer: “Peru and the Canary Islands are a bit overrated aren’t they? Nope – THE place to be is Vaucluse. Barack was there a while back.” (Because yes indeed, “Barack” is a friend of yours). He even told you all about his stay: his stop-off at Mas des Poiriers in Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, tour of the Popes’ Palace, dinner at La Mirande in Avignon and stroll around the market in Isle-sur-la Sorgue. It’s simple: he ADOOORED it!

Serre-Chevalier

Is a benchmark eco-friendly resort

Ecology: now there’s a hype subject that’s bound to crop up during Christmas dinner. Between a fiery debate about compost and an in-depth dive into zero waste bins this is – yet again – your time to shine: tell everyone you’ve decided to go skiing in Serre-Chevalier this year. If you’re met with blank stares of the “So what?” kind, hammer your point home: “Well, Serre-Chevalier is on point when it comes to environmental commitment. It’s the first ski resort to produce its own power using a combination of hydroelectricity, solar panels and micro wind turbines. In fact, they want to halve their carbon footprint by 2030”. Is everyone duly convinced? Excellent. Now you can get down to booking next year’s eco-aware holiday with all the family… Long live the magic of Christmas!

 

The Verdon

Is Europe’s biggest canyon

All good things must come to an end, but here’s a final tidbit to ensure you win the Christmas crown this year: the Verdon is Europe’s biggest canyon. It measures almost 50 km in length and is lined with cliffs of up to 700 metres. It’s an ode to natural beauty, wonderment and contemplation (and all sorts of other fancy words). Or how about this if you’re more of an Alpine sort of person: set at 2,042 metres, Saint-Véran in the Hautes-Alpes Alpes is Europe’s highest village. Bonus gift: Lac d’Allos in the Alpes de Haute Provence is Europe’s largest high-altitude natural lake. Boom!

Just finished this article? Congratulations! Now let’s see if you’ve learnt your lessons properly (no cheating allowed). What is Picasso’s full name? If you nailed it, you’ve won the right to share this article with a friend… And see you soon in the Région Sud!😊

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