What is your Provence? Most of you probably have a photograph etched in your mind. A smell, a sound or a taste of how you envision Provence to be… drinking a cold bottle of rosé among the olive groves or vineyards, strolling weathered cobblestoned roads of an old medieval village perched high on a hill or walking amidst a field of blooming lavender. For me Provence is each of these things and more. Although I have been here many times before, I have never had the joy of experiencing lavender in full bloom, until this year. I am so happy to be able to cross this off my bucket list.
We had just returned from our long weekend in Paris, arriving back to the sun-drenched warmth of Provence, and decided with no plan at all to wander on a search for lavender fields. We drove a bit aimlessly, through the never-ending meadows, twisting and turning with the narrow, country roads. As we made our way into the heart of the Luberon, the beauty of Provence is undeniable. Lush green fields filled with fruit trees, olive groves and vines, dotted by small villages, all perfectly entwined together as if placed for a painting. Tints of violet began to appear, randomly positioned across the landscape, distinct parcels of land drenched in purple. The entire countryside took on a different feel. A purple carpet of stalky, swaying lavender bushes, the purple flowers in contrast to their green stems and surroundings fields, giving Provence a beautiful aura tinged with varying shades of violet.
We stopped numerous times along the route, admiring many a Farmer’s lavender fields along the way, soaking up the scenery. The sight, the scent, the color… fields and fields of perfectly aligned lavender bushes basking in the glorious sunshine. We waited, dazzled by the fragrance, only to be further entranced by the bees, buzzing all about in and out of the lavender flowers, their music filling the quiet surroundings. I am always astounded by the sound of bees. Humming in perfect unity, quiet yet surprisingly loud for such tiny creatures. The entire experience was completely captivating!
On our way home we stopped at the Abbaye Notre Dame de Sénanque, a well-known location, albeit touristy especially during the summer season for lavender peepers. A working monastery of a community of Cistercian monks, the abbey dates back to the 12th century, and is located in a beautiful valley north of the village of Gordes. Lavender has been cultivated here since the end of the 60’s and today is still farmed by the monks themselves. The monastery is a magnificent backdrop to the fields of flowers, which fill the canyon with a purple haze and a soft lavender perfume.
My first lavender season. I now better understand how Provence inspires so many. There is something really special about standing in the middle of a lavender field, smelling the flowers, listening to the murmur of bees, feeling like you are a million miles away. A magical sight and experience; perhaps lavender truly is the essence of Provence….