While lavender blooms all over France’s southern region, two hours north of Bandol are field upon field of the iconic herb. You have until early July to visit the fields in Provence. From mid-July, you can see the harvest in the Valensole plateau. However, if you what to see the most delicate lavender in bloom just before harvest, you will need to travel to Chateau du Bois before the 15th of June (though their products are available online all year round).
Just as the world is reopening from its gloom, this healing flower will show its colours. It feels like an open invitation to come to see its beauty and breathe its soothing scent. Now is the time to start planning your trip if you want to enjoy the spectacle.
Here we offer a guide to lavender and Provence, two words that are considered almost synonymous.
Why are we so in love with lavender?
There is something visceral about the strips of bright colours that adorn Provence’s fields from June through to August. Artists will tell you there is something vital and warming about the Provence light. When the sun shines, the sky is that vibrant cobalt, and the flowers bloom, you will feel the spiritual connection that all natives to the region cherish.
It is the calming and delicate fragrance that has enchanted most. People use lavender as an aid to sleep, as its aroma has a relaxing effect on our bodies. Since the Middle Ages, lavender has been used as both a sedative and an anti-bacterial agent. Lavender was the go for injuries and those pesky aches and pains. It was It is also used for its taste, incorporated into oils, sorbets, and honey. You can buy cordials, cakes, and ice creams. Local chefs play with this ingredient as a means of encapsulating Provence on your plate. Check out the Parfait a la Lavande at the Restaurant Les Lavandes in Monieux for a real delicacy.
For Provence, lavender is an industry. It may supplement the tourist sector, but there is the production of essential oils and fragrant water or dried for scented objects. No matter where you travel, even in the quiet beachside streets of Bandol, stores will stock all things lavender, from soap to tea. But make sure you check the label, as a lot of the products are mass-produced outside of France. Look for that artisanal label that tells you that you are supporting the field workers of Provence.
Before you believe that lavender is just lavender, there are three types to look out for. There is the fine lavender that is the most delicate and most expensive. It is this lavender that will soothe your anxious mind and allow for restful relaxation. If you are not ready to invest in this fine lavender, then you will love lavender aspic and lavandin.
Closest to Bandol is the Luberon Valley, which is the epitome of Provence’s rolling hills, blanketed in lavender fields. While you would take a day trip to the Luberon Valley for the winding streets and idyllic village scenes, the lavender is still spectacular. Even though it is not the sprawling mass of lavender fields, the mix of idiosyncratic villages and delicate farmlands is a treat.
A place where you really want to go is the Senaque Abbey. This is a working monastery and accepts visitors if these tourists are respectful. You can take a tour of the chateau by appointment, taking an organised tour with a knowledgeable guide. Yet, the unique rows of purple lavender will be a holiday memory for those who want to gather experiences in their back pocket.
As the fields are high in the hills, the elevation allows for the fragrance to linger more finely in the air.
The Valensole Plateau
A little further away, another 10-to-20-minute drive further north, is the Valensole Plateau. It is here you will find the most famous and photographed lavender fields in the world. There are fields upon fields of lavender as well as sunflowers. It is a spectacle worthy of exploration – and a little more time on your car journey. The crop fields are interrupted by scattered deep blue lakes and the most idyllic villages.
If we had to commit to one of our favourite sights in the world in Provence, it is the lavender field framed by sunflowers – it is spectacular and will move even the most practical curmudgeon’s soul.
The one must photograph moment is at Lavandes Angevin. Here you will find uninterrupted views of lavender in full panorama. The lavender is only dotted with the most perfectly planted trees – as if placed to offer layers to your composition. Here your car will be your best friend, as you will want to trundle through the lanes and immerse yourself in the beauty.
Why bother travelling a little further?
You will find lavender fields and lavender products close to the coast too. If you want to see the colour and smell the fragrance, you can enjoy this near Bandol.
Why are we suggesting you make a day trip north to the expanses of lavender fields harvested in June and July?
For some, it is a romantic moment and a chance to be somewhere where great poets and painters have been inspired. There is nothing more moving than a trip with your lover to the fields at sunset to see the golden light cast over the fields.
For others, it is the smell of holidays from childhood in the south of France. It is skipping down the lanes and exploring – sometimes jumping on bikes with your family in the rich sunshine – stopping beside one of the beautiful lakes for a picnic.
In short, it is a journey you take because it will add your store of memories, captured in stunning technicolour.
A final note
If you make this day trip, do so with respect. The fields of lavender are a business for locals in the region. Tread carefully and leave only your love behind.
Su Stephens is Owner of Olives & Vines. Olives & Vines is a luxury holiday company based in the South of France offering stays at their beautifully designed holiday house and boutique hotel in Le Castellet.
Source: A Luxury Travel Blog