The Lavender Route
26 May, 2017
We are poised on the cusp of June when lavender, Provence’s most iconic plant, starts coming into blossom. Scattered all about the region, from June to August the fields become awash with an unmistakeable purple hue which will linger in your mind for some time after a sojourn in this land. Indeed, embarking on the lavender route is one of the best ways of touring this priceless French region, dotted with charming villages which exude that je ne sais quoi you will find absolutely captivating, beckoning you back year after year. Not for nothing were artists of the calibre of Van Gogh, Cézanne and Picasso fascinated by the light – that light ! – as well as by the charm emanating from the landscapes of Provence, which they set about immortalising in their works.
Picture Postcard Villages
The Vaucluse is the area of Provence with the highest concentration of lavender farms. There you will encounter vast fields filled with this aromatic plant, ideal for taking the snap that will earn your Instagram post a host of “likes”. You will also come across myriad charming villages which you are advised to venture into and stroll around. Gordes,which clings to a hillside, has become something of a magnet for the well-heeled of late, featuring upscale restaurants and hotels that contrast starkly with the rural calling of the surrounding area. Another village just waiting to be framed is Roussillon, where house fronts are painted in all possible shades of ochre, forming a harmonious ensemble. Bonnieux, which is one of our favourites, boasts large stone houses and a church at the top of the village commanding stunning views of the surroundings. Les Baux de Provence is another classic in the area. Its major landmark is its ruined castle, while the village is renowned as a venue for a troubadour song festival.
Apart from picturesque villages, a tour of Provence will reveal such gems as the 12th-century Sénanque Abbey, whose monks grow lavender – could it be otherwise? The idyllic image of the abbey features in practically all guides of the area. An interesting visit near Gordes is Village des Bories, an open-air area with around twenty restored bories, a unique type of stone hut made of limestone. If you’re a nature lover, be sure to head for the environs of Rustrel where, in a spot known as the French Colorado, erosion has carved out an unusual landscape dominated by ochre tones.
Provençal Markets – Tastes of Proximity
Find out in advance which days of the week markets are scheduled for in the various towns and villages you are likely to pass through, as they are the perfect excuse for getting to taste the flavours of each area, in addition to being the days on which the atmosphere is liveliest. Be sure to stock up on delicious craft cheeses and a fresh baguette, and seek out a pleasant spot to savour them. Wash it all down with a fine wine from the region – Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a great option – and a hearty tuck-in is guaranteed.
De Luxe Cuisine
Gastronomy is one of the fortes of this route. We can assure you that, wherever you go in Provence, you will find good food, although prices are a little on the dear side. We can also guarantee you will always be able to eat your fill, as helpings tend to be generous. Suffice to behold the size of their delicious, expertly dressed salads to realise that you’ll end up feeling anything but peckish. Bear in mind that the region does attract lots of tourists in the high season, so it’s worth booking a table in advance, particularly for dinner. Black truffle devotees should drop in on Chez Serge, located in Carpentras, where you can go to town on their dishes based on that aromatic fungus. And, among the unusual delicacies you can get to savour in Provence is homemade lavender ice-cream, occasionally served up for dinner at Château de la Gabelle.
A Lavender Souvenir
One thing that catches one’s attention when visiting Provence is the sheer number of products incorporating this pretty flower with its unmistakeable scent. No wonder, then, that Provence accounts for 80% of the world’s lavender production. You are sure to end up buying some lavender souvenir, from the classic ornamental bouquet to sachets for keeping in wardrobes, honey, sweets, soaps and all kinds of toiletries.
Book your Vueling to Marseille and strike out on a tour of Provence at its moment of maximum splendour.
Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS
26 May, 2017