Derrière le soleil

Winter is becoming very long, as long as the last time I updated my blog, and we are really fed up of the cold. Our region does bathe us with a lot of sunshine & grants us the bluest skies during winter but behind the sun & the blue sky, there is le mistral.

The locals in the south of France would tell you that one day you will hate the wind. And I did. Especially for the past few days when it was blowing at around 110km/h. Just imagine a signal #2 storm back home in the Philippines, only with no rain but a big bright sun. Only the mistral is a non-stop photo shoot that sometimes lasts for more than a week at the height of winter, a roaring mother earth knocking impatiently on your windows & doors.

Tramontane in the south-west of France, mistral in the Provençe & Côte d'Azur, is a cold & violent northwesterly wind along the south of France. An accumulation of air in the Alps, gushing the Rhône Valley at a speed of up to 160km/h until it reaches the Mediterranean Sea. More frequent during winter & spring, it occurs less often during summer. Mistral comes from the French Provençal word, maestral & in Latin, magister meaning "master."

The mistral is very significant in my region. Weather forecast can classify the mistral in 4 colors, red being "very violent." It is truly vicious especially during winter. It can make one irritable & often giving headaches when you stay out too long, having an impression that your head is "full of air." It is also believed that it can make people crazy since it can last for more than a week.

Marseille is particularly the mistral's main road to the sea. In our little barrio, situated right by the Blue Coast & 40km west of Marseille, you can visibly experience the power of the mistral. There is a place where the wind violently passes the most, like a principal canal, located just in the center town. You will see old people with bowed heads, bodies arched, walking hand in hand resisting the wind to get to their destination. I do exactly the same, struggling to get to the next lamp post & hold on for my dear body weight. After 4 years of living here, I have discovered new paths to avoid this evil canal. Yesterday, I had to brave the mistral to fix our cat's bridge since I didn't want to leave him out for the night. The big trash cans in the parking just beside our building flew right in the middle. I imagine them swirling around. The sea with a white surface. The mistral that makes me mumble curses in my 20 meter walk to the boulangerie.

Why the mistral occurs more in the winter is like sprinkling salt on a fresh wound. Chapped lips, red & wounded noses. It is why the south of France is abundant of sunshine & blue skies - the mistral is blowing away the rain clouds that comes from le vent de la mer, the sea breeze. During summer, we have occasional mistral winds that cools a too hot day. But cooling by swimming in the sea is out of the question. The mistral chills the sea water's temperature up to 15 degrees. I practically developed a notion of the wind's speed because of the mistral.

The mistral is part of knowing the south of France, a significant but silent role. Behind the sun, there is a violent wind. Behind the wind, there are grouchy Provençals


From Manila to Paris, then to Marseille & to the Côte d'Azur, now in Singapore, clinging to a map of three worlds, where everything becomes all relative.


  1. nice tribute to our dreaded mistral! yesterday we attempted to go rollerblading... we had to give up when we saw a carton box fly across the street!


  2. And it's good to read you again after quite a while. Funny, we posted on the same day our rants about long winter... I thought I was the only one feeling the strain of cold, cold long winter. Let's cheer up though, I can hear the happy-chirping of the birds out of our window. Spring is soon! Bisous mon amie!

  3. Makis, thanks for coming by my blog even though I have not been doing my usual rounds. I just feel like stepping back sometimes. Anyway, the trip is on and we would be leaving for Paris on March 29th and will staying there for about 3 days. It would be nice if we have a chance to get together but I'd be as equally appreciative for any inside info on places to check out such as restos or clubs. Also, what would the weather be like at that time. The "mistral" thing is worrying me. I can stand 40-60 degrees temp as long as it's not windy. We were advised to pack lightly so I don't want to bring a heavy coat if I don't have to.

  4. Hi Makis! As I have told Lynneth, konting tiis na lang at spring na. =) We had a perfect day yesterday, Ninev and i went out for a walk and took her to the playground. It really feels different kasi naka-short and t-shirt lang kaming dalawa. But then today, we're back to a cold weather and I'm a little disappointed. And about that mistral thing, parang ganyan ngayon dito, it's so windy and cold!

    take care and have a great warm week! =)

  5. Kala : A mistral like we had the past week means "run for shelter!" Even the parking lot where the big trash cans flew were empty of cars, except ours :)

    Lynn : Always so nice when you drop by my blog! I can imagine Paris & this long winter. But you're right! Birds are already chirping, only they are chirping "such a long winter." Kidding aside, mistral stopped since yesterday & it already feels like spring. Bisous à David!

    sistersalvation : A pleasant coincidence, I will be in Paris on March 28 for a couple of days! Although my hands are going to be full with my two bubbly titas, I hope we'll have a chance to meet up, and that includes you, Lynn!!! I will have to say that I am a tourist like you in Paris :) I suggested to my titas to still bring a winter coat & Paris doesn't suffer from mistral like we do here in the south.

    Ligaya : Naka shorts & t-shirt kayo ni Ninev??? Wow, you guys had a great weather! I still cannot even wear a t-shirt inside our appartment! Nice to see here again, Ligs! Kisses to Ninev!

  6. Makis, if not for the wind I will have very little to complain about Chicago weather. Just the other day the winds packed at 40-60mph it was really terrible. Plus we are suppose to get 3-6 inches of snow tonight, nothing is sadder than snow in March. So I know how you feel.

  7. im tired of winter too! patiently waiting for spring. dijon is always gray :(.

    cant stand the mistral provençal too...i just stayed inside the car when i was there, sayang.

    and hey, ill be in paris on mar 28-29 too. kaya lang it will be a tight sked for me, hope to see you too some other time.

  8. Geri : I think we have sister towns! I do know they call Chicago the "windy city." But spring has got to be just around the corner.

    ana : Everybody is really complaining that winter this year is too long! Naku, it's really like a photo shoot when there's mistral, only you end up looking like a bruha if you have long hair :)

    You'll be in Paris too??? Sayang, my titas moved their arrival date to March 31. Pero yaan mo, Dijon is not too far from Belfort, we just might be improvistes :)