WEATHER IN PROVENCE
"In Provence, weather, like life, is more often than not theatrical. When it rains it really rains, when it is hot it scorches, and when it is dry it bakes." Vicki Archer 2006, My French Life, Penguin, Camberwell, Victoria.
Le Mistral is portrayed in some travel books as a charming Provencal weather quirk. But make no mistake, Le Mistral in Provence is a weather phenomen that can affect your trip.
Le Mistral is a fierce wind that originates above the Alps and tears down the Rhone Valley to the Mediterranean. There's no predicting it - it occurs year-round, and when it hits, it sticks around for days (the lore is that it lasts 3, 6 or 9 days). Le Mistral in the winter brings bitter cold with its wind. In the warmer months, the air is considerably unseasonably cold, but the bigger factor is the strength of the gusts. The gusts will cause the Provencal towns, particularly those in the Cote du Rhone Valley (Orange, Avignon or down to Arles) to shutter themselves in order to withstand the damaging winds. Morning markets are skeletal, outdoor cafes are dismantled. Driving, particularly of light vehicles, is hazardous.
From Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence (Penguin, 1989) as he describes his first experience of the sâcré vent.....The temperature dropped 20 degrees in 24 hours. It went to zero, then six below. Readings taken in Marseille showed a wind speed of 180 kilometres an hour.
What to do about it? Prepare for it by being sure you have some adaptable clothing. Other than that, simply learn about it, and be prepared to be flexible with your travels through the area.