Lou Mistrau en Provençal

…or le Mistral en Français (Mistral in English).

At this point I should mention that it wasn’t just a little windy when we got off the train in Avignon. It was VERY windy. It was stop-you-in-your-tracks wind. Gale force wind. Strong, constant, gusting wind like I’ve never experienced before in my life. Plus it was cold. And the air was full of dust and pollen.

When I come to a new place, especially a foreign country, I like to wander around and explore, without really any purpose. Unfortunately this was wind that pretty much all but prevented the simple act of walking. I saw a woman on a bike get pushed backwards. It cut through the narrow streets with a howling, hurricane-like noise. Small cracks in windows and doors became constant whistles. Just opening doors against the wind took concerted effort. I’m surprised anything in these towns stayed bolted down for very long, let alone the centuries people have lived here.

I was surprised I hadn’t heard (or wasn’t warned) about this until experiencing it myself. You’d think I would have heard stories about the time the wind ruined so-and-so’s third birthday, or the urban legend about washing clothes during the mistral on a full moon. But no. Not until we were in it did it become a constant source of conversation (due to its constant presence). At the pizzeria, for instance, Stephanie asked the waiter how many days the wind had been blowing. He said it was the third day of the Mistral, and apparently it comes in threes. So if it continued blowing Wednesday, that would mean three more days of unyielding wind. Joy.

So Tuesday night we took a break from eating and hurrying and just camped out in our hotel room, discussing whether Provençal was an French accent, a French dialect, or a language. Turns out it’s a dialect, but not of French, of Occitan, though Provençal is often used to refer to Occitan. And accent is synonymous with dialect.

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