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.
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.
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.