Lay of the Land
“The effect of the weather on the inhabitants of Provence is immediate and obvious. They expect every day to be sunny, and their disposition suffers when it isn't. Rain they take as a personal affront, shaking their heads and commiserating with each other in the cafes, looking with profound suspicion at the sky as though a plague of locusts is about to descend, and picking their way with distaste through the puddles on the pavement.”~Peter Mayle
What we call Provence is a massive region of southern France, basically expending from western Arles all the way to the French Riviera. Here are the departments most important to a traveler:
Bouches-du-Rhône: The largest city of this department is Marseilles, where a lot of people arrive by train. Its most famous scenic towns are Aix-En-Provence, Arles, St. Rémy de Provence and Salon de Provence.
Vaucluse/Luberon: This department starts around Avignon and expands east. It includes the Luberon, the region made famous in Peter Mayle’s book A Year in Provence. Most of the scenic, small towns that epitomize Provencal living are located here: L’Isle sur Sorgue, Apt, Bonnieux, Ménerbes and Gordes.
Var: The Var runs along the coast east of Cassis and includes the summer resort of St. Tropez. Stretching into the hillside, it also encompasses such famous hilltop towns as Fayence, Callian, Seillans and Tourrettes. It’s also famous for its wine region around Bandol.