One of the reasons I chose July for my trip to Provence was to see the lavender. During the summer, endless fields take on a purple hue as their neat rows of lavender burst into full bloom.
We got off to a good start, as our apartment was only a 10-minute drive from Senanque Abbey, home to one of the most famous lavender fields in Provence. Guided tours of the abbey start at 9.45am, so we pitched up at 9am to beat the crowds.
There’s a huge field of lavender next to the car park, but the money shot is the field directly in front of the abbey.
A guidebook front cover if ever I saw one!
I’d definitely recommend heading here early – by the time we left at 9.30am, a school trip had arrived and there was a steady stream of cars leading into the car park.
A couple of days later, it was time for my full-day lavender itinerary, courtesy of one Mr Stu Dudley. You might not have heard have Stu, but he is basically the king of the Fodors forums. He answers practically every Provence-related question, has been to practically every inch of the region, and – most importantly – has put together the most in-depth itinerary for exploring Provence that you’ve ever seen. It covers off the Cote d’Azur first, but then has a dozen or so glorious pages on Provence; which villages to visit, which days to visit them, which routes to take between them. It was actually better than my Lonely Planet guidebook for planning the trip!
One of his suggested day-trip itineraries was a route up to Sault and Mount Ventoux, taking in a handful of pretty villages and a ton of lavender fields along the way – perfect. We set off along the D2 out of Gordes, travelling through huge vineyards as we made our way past the villages of Jucas and Lioux.
Our first pit stop was at Chateau Parrotier, which had a lovely lavender field right outside.
We then took a fantastically windy road through the mountains, which had the most amazing views. Luckily Mr ST was driving, so I was able to fully enjoy them rather than worrying about accidentally steering us off the road and into a deep ravine.
Soon after we’d crossed the mountains, we hit our first big lavender fields of the day, on either side of the road. Getting out the car, the first thing you notice is the sound – the air hums with the sound of bees – followed by the delicious scent of lavender.
The route took us up towards Sault, but turned off just before we got to the town, instead heading south-east to the town of Simiane la Rotonde. Along the way we passed probably the best lavender field of the trip, at the junction of the D30 and D166 roads. The field didn’t have the most scenic of backdrops (a slightly ugly warehouse), but the lavender was so much more vibrant than anything we’d seen.
I was dying for a photo of me twirling away among the lavender, but the thought of bee attacks, snake encounters and angry farmers shouting at me for trespassing meant I only took a tentative few steps in. (And the embarrassment and awkwardness of posing for photos put paid to the twirling idea.) But this was good enough for me…
From there, it was only another 10 minutes to Simiane la Rotonde, a charming, unspoilt village perched on a hill.
We only saw a handful of other tourists as we wandered around, and when we stopped for a coffee on the best (and only) terrace in the village, we were the only ones there.
Our next stop was Sault, one of the most famous lavender towns in Provence. We’d picked up some food at Gordes market earlier that day, so we found a bench with a view and tucked into our Provencal picnic.
The town is up on a hill, so you get wide-angle views over the valley, which is patchworked with fields of wheat and lavender. It was also where we were headed next, to drive the Chemin des Lavandes, a little road that weaves past a dozen or so of Sault’s best lavender fields.
It’s short enough to walk or cycle, which would probably be better than driving as you don’t have the hassle of trying to find somewhere suitable to pull in every time you want to stop and take a photo (which for me was at practically every field).
At this point we were pretty much lavender-ed out, so instead of following the route north to Mount Ventoux we journeyed back to our little apartment in Gordes, tired but happy to have seen some of the prettiest (and best smelling) countryside Provence has to offer.