Last year I was thrilled to discover the lovely region of Provence, France. With my friend Ellen we brought 14 other women eager to see these purple little flowers and breathe in the lovely scent of lavender. Little did we know Provence was full of lavender, yes, and so much more. In a loaded bus, we headed out from Germany to provincial France where fields of green, gold and purple led us throughout the countryside.
Getting to Provence
It’s a long drive from Germany to the Provence region, almost nine hours straight (that’s in a car, we were in a bus.)
We stopped along the way in the small town of Pesmes this was one of the “prettiest” little towns of France.(According to a website.) Well, I might be jaded because I’ve seen some breathtakingly beautiful little towns of Europe, but it really wasn’t all that. We missed market day – because our bus driver could only go 100km. So that might have changed my mind, however, just so you know “learning” tour operators still don’t get every stop right.
We also missed lunch. If you are new to traveling in France, some restaurants and businesses close at 2:00 p.m. so if you’ve missed the “get your lunch” window from 12 p.m. – 2 p.m. you’ll have to hit the grocery store ~ “its no soup for you!” It was o.k., as you can see we made wine from grapes and sat on the park bench while waiting for our next part of the journey.
We also stopped in Orange. Which I can say was quite beautiful and our lunch fantastic on the square. Ellen booked us a tour at the UNESCO World Heritage Roman theatre which was fantastic.
This year on the Provence trip we will be stopping in Dijon, because I fell in love with it last week. I love to share and there is so much to see and do in this charming town. We will also be stopping in Lyon on our return, another gorgeous town that is surrounded by the Rhone river. I’ll be writing more about Lyon next week!
Our beautiful B&B ~
After our stop in Orange we continued on to Vaugines in the southern part of Provence. This little hilltop town would become our home-base for the next few days. One of the best B&B’s, I think I’ve stayed at in France, L’Elephant. Such a privilege to meet François and his staff with their exceptional hospitality and gorgeous views of the Luberon valley. In our package, François included dinner meals which was excellent for our group, because after a day of touring, sitting poolside with a “mojito” or glass of wine while snacking on little appetizers, was well…heavenly. Can’t wait to see them again this July too!
All of us were included in some of the dinner prep too, which for some of us was thrilling to learn some french cooking. You’ll find me by the pool.
French Markets in Provence
French markets are phenomenal in the summer and have everything imaginable. We were so close to the amazing towns of Bonnieux and Apt, it would be silly not to stop. With a bus full of women, I mean really?
Parking can be tricky on market day so plan accordingly, for Apt there was parking on the outskirts of town, but this could be a longer day with more steps for people. Just remember to add that in to your itinerary.
Totally not enough time in each one of these towns, we will be definitely going back to these markets again this year. Most of the vendors spoke English and those that didn’t well. We muddled through.
I became the “changing dress lady” I bought six dresses from different vendors and they all let me walk out with them. After I purchased them, of course.
More to discover in the Provence Region
So although we were there for several days we only touched of Provences’ highlights. Wanting to soak it all in ~ we did visit an olive oil factory, Bastide du Laval (YES, the FRENCH make exquisite olive oil and some wine) – who knew?
- Next we visited the lavender distillery where we took a tour and learned all about how this wonderful oil, gel, bath soaps and more were produced.
- and then we went shopping…
All of these businesses are close to Vaugines and easily accessible to Apt and Bonnieux. The Provence region is quite extensive and it would be difficult to see it all in a few quick days. This year, we will also be stopping at the famous Senanque Abbey in Gordes on our way out of Provence heading to Lyon.
If you decide to add the abbey to your Provence trip ~ remember to make reservations. Tours are only allowed with tickets, no unaccompanied visits are permitted as this is still a working monastery.
When to go to Provence
Nature is fickle, but the peak season for lavender is from the end of June to first part of August. However, we were in Provence the last week of June and it wasn’t quite ready yet. Although we saw several blossoms, you could tell it was not quite there yet. This year we are going mid-July and hoping to hit it just right!
Luberon is located in one of France’s protected natural parks it doesn’t really matter where you travel, Provence is stunning. Be sure to snap pictures as you go, (if you’re not the driver,) you’ll pass fields and fields of vibrant purple. Part of the UNESCO World Heritage preservation parks, this area of France is world-renowned for their hiking trails ~ did someone say “hiking!” Sounds like another adventure and another opportunity to explore.
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