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While I’d been to France before, I’d never had the chance to spend any time in the Provence region - an area in the South of France dotted with adorable towns, fantastic wine, and fields upon fields of lavender. Our trip began at the very end of July and beginning of August, which meant that temperatures were in the 80s (Fahrenheit) and we had just narrowly missed peak tourist season. However, since Provence is a sleepier area of France, things never felt very crowded or tourist-filled. We stayed for four days in a tiny, central town and rented a car - which was an absolute must, in my book. Each day we would grab local bread and pastries from the little bakery near us, cook breakfast, and then hop in the car to explore a new neighboring town. We’d wrap up our days with wine tastings and either head to a local supermarket to grab food to cook for dinner or check out a new restaurant. I honestly could have stayed for an entire month.
WHERE I STAYED:
The small town of Mormoiron (about an hour-long drive from Marseille airport) was our home base for this trip. We rented a beautiful, spacious Airbnb (highly recommend!) that had an outdoor patio, laundry, about 5 different coffee machines, convenient parking, and was right around the corner from a small bakery and supermarket. There’s not a lot going on in the town itself, but it has beautiful views of Mont Ventoux and is a great, centralized location for exploring other parts of Provence.
WHERE TO GO:
Gordes: This was the first town we visited and it did not disappoint! The view of the town (which sits on top of a hill) as we drove into it was gorgeous, and after grabbing some food on the outdoor patio of a restaurant, we walked around the cute cobblestone streets, got ice cream, people watched, and took in the view of the valleys below.
Carpentras: We came into Carpentras after finding a restaurant online that we wanted to check out. Much to our surprise, a lot of local restaurants only take reservations (and not walk-ins!), so we were excited when we called Chez Serge and they were not only open, but had space for us. They had some wonderful truffled items on their menu and friendly staff. In fact, the restaurant owner came out to chat with us near the end of our dinner and brought each of us a small bottle of their truffle oil to take home.
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Roussillon: This was the town I had bookmarked the second we started planning this trip. It’s the pink/red/orange-hued town of my DREAMS. The buildings in this area of Provence boast these colors due to the natural ochre in the area. An ideal day in Roussillon includes: wandering the colorful streets and snapping photos of your favorite buildings, making your way to the top of the hill next to the town for a stunning view of the entire pink city, stopping to get an ice cream cone on your way back down (I chose Nutella, but Lavender is a local favorite!), popping into some of the shops to pick up local souvenirs, and taking one of the ochre trails, which take you through regions where you can see the natural pigment in the land.
Langes: Langes was on out list thanks to a single destination: Domaine Tourbillon. This winery has a sleek, modern tasting room where you can find refreshing Provençal rosés, beloved Chateauneuf-de-Pape reds, and an incredibly knowledgeable and friendly staff.
Sault: We had just missed peak lavender bloom season, but I had done my research on the lavender harvest (ha!) and discovered that the town of Sault tends to have a later harvest in preparation for the town’s Lavender Festival in mid-August. Crossing our fingers, we made the short drive to Sault- and when the town came into view, so did dozens of purple fields dotting the landscape. We pulled over at one field right by the road and it was absolute heaven. Of course, it smells incredible - but what I wasn’t expecting were the bees! The field hummed with all the buzzing of bees around the plants. Luckily, the lavender kept them busy and they didn’t bother us at all. Afterwards, we drove into the town center and walked around Sault, stepping into shops to discover all the different ways they incorporate lavender into products - everything from honeys and jams to soaps and perfumes.
Chateauneuf-de-Pape: More wine is made in this one area of southern Rhône than in the entirety of the northern Rhône region! We came into town expecting to do a tasting or two - but what we didn’t expect was to come into town on the exact day of the town’s wine festival, when they celebrate the grapes turning from green to red. The town was alive with festivities (including street performances, live music, and even a petting zoo complete with baby goats!). For 5 euro, you could buy a wine glass that would then allow you to go wine tasting at any of the tasting rooms in town. We had some incredible wines (and bought quite a few bottles!), walked all the way to the top of the castle, and then stopped for dinner on our way back down. I still can’t believe we managed to visit the town on the exact day of their celebration!
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Apt: Most of the major towns in Provence have a weekly market (“grand marché”), where you can get everything from fresh produce and flowers to local souvenirs, clothes, bags, and more. I had read that Apt was supposed to have one of the largest (and best) markets, so we decided to make theirs a priority on our final day in Provence. The Apt grand marchés are on Saturdays, but be sure to check other towns for their market days, since they happen throughout the week (and different towns have different market days!). I highly recommend going to at least one of the markets if you’re in the area. Apt’s market took over most of Apt’s town center and was so much fun. If you go, keep in mind that these markets will be very busy, so I suggest arriving on the earlier side (most start at around 8 or 9am and end at around 12:30pm).
Avignon: Our final stop before leaving Provence! Avignon stood out from the rest of the towns we visited due to its architecture (it definitely reminded me of Parisian architecture) and a slightly more metropolitan feel. We didn’t get to spend more than a few hours in Avignon, but we spent our time checking out the beautiful town square and cathedral. Afterwards, we walked around the neighboring park and then through the town’s main shopping street, which was lovely. I’m hoping to go back someday, because I really loved the vibe of this town.