Lavender: the soul of Provence
« Lavender is the soul of Provence » is how author Jean Giono described thissweet-smelling flower, now the emblem of Provence.
From June to August, the inland countryside of Provence offers up a patchwork of tender blues and purples. The main lavender-growing area stretches from the plateau of Sault in the Vaucluse to Buech, in the foothills of the Alps. The many and varied landscapes on this wonderful lavender route offer a genuine “Tour de Provence”!
Lined with Medieval houses and Renaissance homes, the little village of Sault in the heart of lower Provence is a mecca of lavender growing. The surrounding meadows offer up a carpet of blue stretching as far as the eye can see… Don’t miss the colourful annual lavender fair held on August 14th and 15th!
From Sault, you can head down towards Apt at your own pace via Roussillon and its famous ochre quarries.
Lavender is also one of the natural riches of the Apt area, where it thrives on the local chalky soil. Take time to visit Sainte Anne’s cathedral and the Saturday morning food market – one of Provence’s largest and most typical. And of course, no visitor can leave without tasting the town’s mythical candied fruits!
Nearby, the Museum of Lavender in Coustellet near the sublime perched village of Gordes.
You will enter the homeland of author Jean Giono. the Forcalquier area, capital of the ancient county of Provence, offers a delightful show of dry stone villages and vast expanses of lavender. You can enjoy visiting the Ganagobie priory – a jewel of Romanesque architecture – before touring the fortified town of Forcalquier, now home to the European university of Fragrances and Flavours! Just a few kilometres further on lies Simiane-la-Rotonde, ranked as a “City of Character”, built around an ancient keep that continues to stand guard over the neighbouring lavender fields. This site was Provence’s lavender capital in the 19th century.
Next stop is Valensole plateau, generously irrigated by the Durance and Verdon rivers. Reputed for its lavender and almonds, the region also produces an excellent lavender honey! A visit to the world-famed ceramics makers in Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is a definite must before continuing northwards to the Digne area.
PROVENCE AS YOU LIKE IT
From disturbed sleep to anxiety, stress and breathing difficulties – opt for Provence and the secret to its healing powers: lavender! Yet be warned: a variety of counterfeits exist on the market. Make sure you experience real, authentic lavender. Provence is home to the lavender with the most delicate of scents and the variety that produces the purest of essential oils. As with the region’s great wines, Provence’s lavender has boasted AOC (controlled designation of origin) status since 1981.
Digne-les-Bains, the capital of the Alpes-de Haute-Provence department, pays tribute to lavender every year on the first weekend of August at the “Corso de la Lavande” flower parade. Digne has also been a highly-coveted spa town since Roman times!
Last but not least, you can wind up your tour with the Alpine landscapes of the Buech area. Home to bubbling streams, luscious meadows and green mountain tops, this is a lavender paradise!