Holy moly, we had a wonderful summer filled with exploring and visits from family…but how is it already the end of September?! I feel like this summer just flew by and we were so busy enjoying it that I didn’t have a spare second to document our adventures. So here we are, back to school and regular routines and I finally have some time to share some of our favorite trips from the summer (and I still owe you some info on that 12 day Balkans trip we took in the spring, but that’s for another day! 😉 ).
Visiting the lavender fields was without a doubt my favorite adventure this summer and one that has been on my bucket list since before we moved to Europe! It turns out there is actually a pretty short window of lavender field viewing opportunity as the flowers bloom from the end of June until they are harvested anywhere from mid-July to early August. The harvest depends on the year’s weather, so there is no way to know in advance exactly when to visit for peak lavender blooms. We visited in mid-July and already the fields at lower elevations were a bit past prime and some were already being harvested. I would say that if you are really after seeing the lavender and not just spending time in Provence, try to visit in early July if possible.
We based ourselves in Joucas at the Jas de Joucas, a small hotel in a gorgeous setting. While the location was idyllic, I wouldn’t really recommend this hotel to be honest. We felt a bit “nickle and dimed” at this place, which was not super cheap to start out with…i.e. charging both kids including the 3 year old full price for breakfast, charging 3 Euro for an in-room coffee pod, not allowing us to eat our own breakfast in our room or on our patio as it might dissuade the other guests from taking the hotel breakfast, etc. While we still enjoyed our stay, there are tons of options for accommodation in the region and I’m sure many other good choices.
We arrived on a Thursday afternoon and after a swim we went out to explore the nearby town of Saint-Saturnin-lés-Apt. This tiny town is full of charm and although there was not much to it, it was gorgeous to wander through and admire. We also had a look at the ruins of the medieval chateau just on the edge of the village. Without kids (and with the proper shoes 😉 ) you can take a hike up to the ruins for stunning views of the village and the Luberon region.
After exploring and a delicious dinner, we couldn’t resist going in search of a lavender field. We were staying very close to the Abbaye de Senanque, featured prominently on many Provence postcards, and I’d read that it gets swarmed with tour buses during the day. If you could go at sunrise, I’m sure the light is stunning, but we went in the evening around 8 pm and enjoyed a relatively empty and very beautiful visit.
On Friday we headed to the town of Rousillon, known for its colorful buildings covered in ochre from the nearby quarry. Ochre is a natural pigment that comes from iron oxide deposits in the soil, in this case from millions of years ago. The ochre quarry is no longer in use and instead has been repurposed as a lovely walking trail, Le Sentier des Ocres. The trail has two walking paths, one is 35 minutes and one is 50 but the times were quite generous. We did the longer trail with our 6 and 3 year old and it was great. If you visit, definitely don’t wear light colored clothes as it is dusty and the ochre can stain. Dogs are allowed and admission is 2.50 Euros for adults and free for kids 10 and under.
After our walk, we went to explore the picturesque town of Roussillon, which might just be my favorite village in Provence. The buildings are all colored in shades of ochre and it’s filled with shops and restaurants, making for a really nice place to stroll through.
After an afternoon swim and rest, we set out for dinner in the village of Gordes. We were surprised that neither Gordes nor Roussillon, known for being some of the most popular towns in the Luberon region of Provence, were that busy. We felt like some of the hilltop towns of Tuscany were far more swamped with people at that time of year, so it was a pleasant surprise to be able to wander and not feel overwhelmed by crowds.
I found a restaurant in Gordes that got great reviews and other reviewers had mentioned that they provide options for kids, which I was surprised by because generally in France kids eat the same food as the grown ups. The service at the restaurant was not great (maybe tired of too many tourists?), and as for the kids they did in fact only serve smaller portions of the adult meals (which were fairly gourmet). Our waitress recommended guinea fowl and mashed potatoes and I was doubtful that our two, particularly the younger picky one, would eat much. But surprisingly enough, they wound up polishing it off and our food was fantastic too! Maybe they will grow up to be foodies after all? 😉
We had a great first couple of days in Provence, but the highlight was on Saturday when we drove along the lavender route to the village of Sault, the unofficial capital of lavender. Seeing the fields of blossoms along the way, stopping for pictures, and of course the incredible smell made for a day that I will never forget!
Just look at all those gorgeous purple fields! ❤
The town of Sault was also nice to stroll around in and of course there were lots of shops selling all things lavender. I had to have a couple of those fresh lavender bouquets to come home with! And there is a lovely look out spot where you can see all the lavender fields below and Mount Ventoux in the background. Just beautiful and the perfect place for an ice cream!
After a busy day, the boys were happy to have some pool time and take out pizza!
On Sunday before our drive home, we spent the day in L’Isle Sur la Sorgue, the capital of antiques in Provence. There is a big Sunday morning market where the antique dealers set up stands as well as a food and produce market. The town itself is lovely with lots of canals and winding streets, but as much as we had avoided the crowds all week, we found them here! It was packed and at times difficult to get through the crowds, but we still managed to find some great treasures including an antique cutting board, the best plums and cantaloupe I’ve ever tasted, and a giant container of local olive oil.
After exploring the market, we had one more wonderful Provencal meal at Le Carre d’Herbes and then it was time for us to head home. Every time we visit Provence, I fall in love a little more and I can only hope this visit won’t be our last! Before visiting Provence this time, I read the book A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle and it was a great way to get excited for the trip while learning more about the region.
Want to visit? Pin this later for reference!