Europe,  Travel

Travel Guide | Postcard from Provence

After 4 glorious days in Provence, it seems only right to send you a postcard.

We stayed in a lovely Airbnb in the village of Lauris, about 45 minutes north of Marseille. We knew the Petit Luberon valley a little from a previous visit to Grasse, some years ago. It’s quiet, mountainous, green and most importantly – away from the Riviera coast – which is an acquired taste in late August.

4 NIGHTS IN LAURIS

Lauris is the archetypal French village on a hill tucked away in the Vaucluse region of Provence. Our apartment is tucked away in the historic part of the town right next to the Castle and Gardens. Charlotte & Bernard converted a ruined building into their home 30 years ago and have happily lived there ever since. She is a banker and he a home-based architect, responsible for managing the building project, no doubt.

The apartment is found Rue du Barry – seemed appropriate for Mr B – is spacious and quirky. Access is through a large wooden door into a basement space and garden, up the stone steps to a walled terrace and up more steps to the apartment door. We loved the open living space with westerly sunset views across the valley. It’s 32 degrees here so you can imagine my glee when I spotted the A/C unit on the wall.

We were too late for the local restaurants on the first night and ended up with a (quite delicious handmade) pizza. Why does everything taste better in France?

For the other evenings we ate in the apartment – salads with giant tomatoes, avocados and local cured sausage – watching the sun dip low over the green valley and the Pyrenean backdrop.

A MORNING IN ROUSSILLON

If we avoided the crowds in Lauris, we found them in Roussillon. Think of Provence as the Cotswolds, and Roussillon as Stow on the Wold. It’s a magical village high in the Luberon famous for it’s ochre rocks surrounding the village with all the red, orange and red pigments. You can do a 60 minute walk to the old ochre workings and see the clay deposits up close. A less warm day perhaps?

We arrived on market day and the place was buzzing with tourists from all parts of the world. If you wanted local lavender or Luberon soap you’ve come to the right place. There’s also an artisan market of local craftsfolk next to the Church. We sipped iced lemonade to the tune of a local jazz quartet drinking in the wonderful atmosphere.

A FEW HOURS IN AIX EN PROVENCE

Who’d have thought that one minute we’re sweltering in 32 degrees and literally the next minute the heavens opened. Thankfully we were tucked under a parasol gorging on sweet crepes at the time so we happily watched the tourists dashing maniacally for cover, while the locals calmly popped out their umbrellas – because they know …..

5 minutes later we were back to “hot” and the sun is pouring through a host of pastel umbrellas creating the most delicious coloured hues.

A LITTLE VISIT TO SALON DE PROVENCE

Salon is not as pretty as Aix, but it is the capital of soap making in the region. So visit we must.

It’s only day 3 so we’re not quite adjusted to the flow of the day yet. Most shops and museums open in the morning, close for a few hours at lunchtime and reopen around 4pm into the evening.

Marius Fabre, Savonnerie Traditionelle since 1900, is on my radar but couldn’t have timed it much worse. We arrived just as they were closing for lunch, with a mere 10 minutes to grab a few goodies in the shop. It was simply too hot to wait around for the Soap Factory to open again, so perhaps we’ll visit another time.

The other famous soap maker in Salon de Provence is Rampal Latour – Artisans Savonniers since 1828. Their tour was free but only in French. You have to phone ahead to book an english tour. Still the shop was wondrous, and more goodies are purchased.

So what did I learn in Provence?

  • Brits are not designed to function about 30 degrees
  • The best cantaloupe melons come from Cavaillon
  • If you want to photograph the lavender, come in July/July.
  • All you really need is (good) soap and water
  • The slow life is better.

Have you been? Are you planning a visit? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Judith xx

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