Le Mistral is portrayed in travel books as a charming Provencal weather quirk.  Throughout France and even in the United States, Le Mistral is the quaint name of inns and restaurants and other establishments hoping to convey a favorable impression.  But make no mistake, Le Mistral in Provence is a weather phenomen that can ruin 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.  Most disappointingly, the locals shut themselves inside, and the towns become ghost towns.

What to do about it?  Prepare for it by being sure you have some adaptable clothing.  Other than that, simply learn about it, learn about the lore, and mentally prepare yourself for the chance that you might find your travels through the area to be distinctly different than the glorious outdoor paradise you anticipate.