Lavender fields, mauve fairytale in the heart of Provence.
If you are travelling along France, and have already visited pretty much all popular attractions, such as: Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Notre-Dame de Paris, Louvre Museum, Champs-Élysées and so far; you might remember Ilya Ehrenburg’s famous quotation “Voir Paris, et mourir” (“See Paris and die”). But do not hurry to pass away. You still have at least one more destination to explore in France – picturesque lavender fields in Provence.
French writer, Jean Giono, said “Lavender is the soul of Provence”. And he was not wrong. One can hardly imagine the vast space of French South without marvelous lavender fields. Exotic smoky mauve carpet, stretching to the edge of horizon, arouses desire to lie down for a while and get lost in a reverie.
Etymology and Usage
Lavender has been cultivated for thousands of years. The word “lavender” comes from Latin “lavare”, which means “to wash”. In ancient Rome this plant was used to add fragrance to washed clothes. Later people managed to extract oil from lavender and began to use it in perfumery and pharmacology. Nowadays this sweet scented plant serves also as a flavoring in cookery. One can try lavender honey, cookies and even ice cream in most cafés in Provence.
Where and When
Lavender fields occupy mainly the northern part of Provence: Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Vaucluse and Hautes-Alpes departments. They lie among beautiful villages and farms. Quite often lavender fields border upon wheat and sunflower fields, which results into fascinating color combination.
The blooming season is generally from mid-June to early August, though it is much dependent on the weather and the region. The harvest time usually begins late in July. First weeks of July are considered to be most appropriate to visit lavender fields.
How to get to the destination
The best way to observe lavender fields is to rent a car, so one can plan his own route, explore every nook and take the most magnificent pictures. The other possible way is to go by bike, but it is suitable only for those, who are fit enough to endure high summer temperatures and hilly landscape of Provence. There are also many tourist agencies in most cities of Provence, which provide bus tours to lavender fields.
Fests and Fairs
Besides, tourists are welcome to numerous lavender fests and fairs, which take place every year in summer. The biggest are:
- Lavender fest in Saint André de Rosains, where you can buy oil, soap, perfume, honey, ice-cream and even cake;
- Lavender fair in Digne-les-Bains. Except for lavender fields, the city is famous for its thermal bathes, medieval churches and Butterfly Park (Le Jardin des Papillons);
- Lavender fest in Sault provides various workshops and musical performances.
Attractions in Provence
But not by lavender alone. There are still many places of interest in the neighborhood.
- Terracotta Rustrel canyon and medieval castle chateau Mane near the cities Gordes and Apt;
- Lavender Museum in Coustellet, Luberon;
- Notre-Dame de Senanque, a Cistercian abbey, Vaucluse;
- Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, one of the most beautiful villages in France. Icing on the cake is a chapel of Notre-Dame de Beauvoir;
- Gorges du Verdon or Grand Canyon du Verdon, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence;
- Gold-plated star, which hangs above the chapel of Notre-Dame de Beauvoir. Legend has it that the star appeared in the 10th During a crusade, the knight Bozon de Blacas was captured by Saracens. He promised to hang a star above his native village, if he manages to return home.
There are places in the world, where being in a rush is a crime. Provence with its lavender fields is one of those. You should take your time to feel the atmosphere of this charming region, to find out its secrets. Take your camera and set forth to explore new horizons.