I now understand why painters loved Provence.
My second day in Provence, spent briefly visiting the beautiful little villages: Gordes, Roussillon (the home of ochre pigment painters love), the castle of Lacoste (once upon a time belonging to Marquis de Sade…now, Pierre Cardin’s, go figure) and Menerbes. Notwithstanding, of course, another stop by the lavender fields.
July is the month when lavender is in full bloom. In Provence, a dreamlike landscape is on display: beautiful hills punctuated with lavender shades and the yellow sunflowers to complement the green valleys. It looks just like a painting, only alive.
I’ve wanted to come and see this for myself since my arrival in France, but had to wait for the peak season. Lavender flowers start blooming in late June, colour rural Provence, and begin to get harvested as early as the last week of July. There are a few areas famous for lavender production, Grasse and Luberon being the most notable. I have come to Avignon for the week-end, in order to explore the latter.
Surprisingly, I have yet to meet one French person who’s even entertained the thought of taking a drive through lavender fields for the pleasure of it, though they may have passed through here in their descent from Paris to the Cote d’Azur for les grandes vacances. My colleagues at work, inveterate Parisians, thought my plan to come here very odd.
Foreign tourists, however, flock in for the show every summer, to the joy of locals who hike up all prices and exploit our whims with delight. The timing of lavender displays coincides with the annual Avignon Festival, the most famous theatre festival in France. I am currently the guest of a beautiful Avignon hotel, truly unique, classy and relaxing and also outrageously priced. Let’s just say I have stayed at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York for considerably less. So, if you are ever planning this trip in July…go to Grasse!
Having said that, much as I have paid a Euro per breath, walking through the fragrant lavender fields, surrounded by colour, scent, the sound of bees, a gentle breeze and nothing else was truly a moment to be cherished for a lifetime. Thirsty for peace and relaxation as I am, however, I will be going back for more tomorrow!