Pyrennees and la Cite
La Cité, with the Pyrénées behind. Get your umbrella ready.

You might be familiar with the mistral, the famous winter wind of Provence. Here in the other South of France we have other names for the wind. Or winds.

Because there are many, each with its own personality.

IMG_0271 (1)
Can you see how the wind shaped these trees? They are leaning toward the southeast, bent by Cers

Cers comes out of the northwest. It’s dry and usually signals good weather. In the winter it blows cold; in the summer it can be hot. It’s the dominant wind in the region, blowing three days out of four across the plain between the Massif Central and the Pyrénées. It chases away the clouds and rain. And it can be forceful, sometimes more than 60 mph (100 kph). Still, everybody loves Cers. It’s called le vent sain—the healthy wind. It brings sun. It makes the air “breathable” in summer. It generates clean electricity. Go Cers!

Le marin is the opposite. It comes out of the southeast, from the Mediterranean, and brings rain. The marin starts out fine—a little humid, but amazingly fine days with not a cloud in the sky and picture-postcard views of the Pyrénées. But if you can see the Pyrenees, you can count on rain within three days. Usually the marin is a here-and-gone kind of wind, not staying long. But this winter, the marin has settled in for a spell, hence the above-normal temps and below-normal sunshine. In summer, everybody curses the marin: it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity. Usually the heat here is dry and quite bearable. Air conditioning is mostly unknown, and, frankly, unneeded. You adapt to the heat and it just doesn’t bother you. Most buildings are made of stone and stay cool even in the middle of summer.

View of Pyrennees
The Pyrénées, shot yesterday, when the temp hit 70….today it rained. Thanks, marin.

Le sirocco comes from the south, i.e., from Africa. It’s hot hot hot and dry and carries very fine sand (from the Sahara!), leaving a yellowish dusting on everything.

Le vent d’Autan blows around Toulouse, to the west, but sometimes hits Aude, with its gusts of up to 50 mph (80 kph). It’s the wind that can drive you crazy, the locals say. It supposedly brings on labor in pregnant women.

Le tramontane comes out of the north, which here means the Black Mountains at the bottom of the Massif Central. Hence, it’s cold. Some people say tramontane and Cers are the same thing. It’s clearly something to argue about.

And if that’s all there is to argue about, life is pretty darn good.


12 thoughts on “The name of the wind

  1. Very nice picture of the mountains. They’re so beautiful.
    Is “marin” pronounced with the accent on the second syllable, as in the county in California?


    1. I don’t have a fancy telephoto lens, so the photo doesn’t do justice to the view. I could have sworn I could have reached out and touched the mountains.
      Marin sounds like “mah-RAHN” without pronouncing the N. Check out this pronunciation guide (with the California county and the French wind!):
      I bet the names have the same origin–the sea.
      The feminine form is marine. Actually, Marin also is a boy’s name and Marine is a very common girl’s name.


      1. “France” as a name solo would be confusing, I think. Like being named “England” or “US”. Although I, too, have heard “Marie-France”.


    1. If you are in the garrigue, which is a cross between woods/forest and scrub brush, you smell the sweet, dry pines, mingled with all the different herbs like thyme and rosemary that grow wild there, and a kind of mineraly, earthy smell of the soil. It is heavenly. At other times, you pick up strong floral scents, which go on and on, even out in the middle of the countryside, so they are coming from some stand of flowering vegetation. Walking through a village, the smell is likely to be of soup, as people make their dinners starting hours early and most of them do in fact eat soup for supper (root of that word). The east wind tends to bring air from the Mediterranean, thus humidity; I don’t know how to put its smell into words but it is definitely different.


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