Provence in Pictures
If the Provençal cuisine alone weren’t enough to entice you to this region of France, then perhaps the soft, buttery light, the scent of jasmine carried through towns on delicate breezes, the glistening blue sea, and fairy dust pinks of the local Rosé wines, might just tempt you.
Provence is a place to relax, surround yourself with serene, timeless beauty and experience clear, clean light unencumbered. The light that has inspired and captivated artists past and present.
Food as art plays no small part in Provence. Thick bundles of pungent herbs; rosemary, basil, marjoram and thyme all synonymous with the voluptuous Provençal plate, grow wildly all over the region, releasing their aromatic perfume which only this kind of climate can allow. Dishes such as Daube – a beef stew slowly cooked with oranges, herbs and juniper berries; Bouillabaisse – a famed seafood stew from Marseille made with fish from the Mediterranean sea, simmered in a broth of onions, tomatoes, garlic, saffron and herbs. Even the most simple dishes taste more sumptuous here. An omelette with chèvre or black truffles dance on your palate sending your taste buds on an exotic odyssey of their own, washed down, of course, with a refreshing glass of Absinthe-like Provençal Pastis.
Sunkissed, salty sea breezes, and aromatic fragrances from herbs and flowers wafting through the air, the local terroir seems almost too spoilt for inspiration. Lesser known than other wine producing regions of France, Provence produces some very respectable wines. Rosé, of course, is more widely associated with this region. A glass or two of peaches and cream Rosé is a must for sipping on balmy afternoons whilst partaking in some serious scenery gazing.
Because of its close proximity to the Mediterranean sea, the crisp white wines of the Cassis area contain a smooth, subtle saltiness making it a beautiful pairing with local seafood. The reds too. Try a glass of Provence Rouge from one of the dozens of producers in the small wine region of Bandol. Bold, fruity and intense and definitely worth exploring.
Our five-day driving tour takes us from our starting point Aix to the Alps through the countryside and along coasts soaking in the sun-drenched scenery seemingly unchanged by time.
Aix – Grand and gracious tree-lined boulevards and plazas are dotted with multiple fountains and home to many elegant cafés for a spot of sophisticated people watching. One of the finest Provençal markets is held in Aix on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. And among Aix’s many attractions is the Atelier de Cézanne, the last studio of the great artist.
Cassis – The quaint little fishing port of Cassis was once a hidden gem; but no longer. Tourists now flock here to escape the larger cities looking for unspoilt charm and a bit nostalgia. Take a boat cruise through the blue waters of the Mediterranean and absorb the stunning scenery, pausing to view the creeks and hidden bays along the jagged white coastline. Once ashore, the pastel coloured buildings surrounding the port will give you ample photo opportunities. And when you are ready for a little replenishment head to Le Patio bistro a few steps away from the busy port area for fine local cuisine.
Gorde – Ambling through the hillside town of Gorde is like stepping back in time. Sandstone buildings flank the small but elegant town square (remember the movie A Good Year with Russel Crow, some scenes were filmed here) and narrow streets casting warm, luminous light. Head to the edge of town to where the tiered buildings give way to the most amazing vistas of the surrounding countryside.
Abbaye de Sénanque – A short drive from Gorde is the instantly recognisable Abbaye de Sénanque. Monks are said to still produce local liqueurs here, and, of course, it is home to some of the best lavender fields and products in the region. After touring the beautiful grounds, enter the large shop where you can buy every Provençal lavender product you’ve ever dreamed of.
Roussillon – The town of Roussillon, unlike most others in Provence, has its own unique colour palette. The beautiful warm orange town glows vibrantly during sunset, alongside the Ocres canyon from which the clay for the buildings comes from. The quarrying of the clay in the Sentier des Ocres took place for two centuries. Walk through the stunning canyon and you’ll see how the vibrant clay changes from shades of yellow and orange into red. The greens of the trees also seem to take on more dazzling shades.
Gorge du Verdon–Lac de Sainte-Croix is more stunning than you could ever imagine. The water of the lake changes from fresh aqua to deep turquoise blue depending on the time of day. Surrounding the shoreline is a cluster of the quaintest little sandstone towns. Les Salles sur Verdon is where we stayed, a small town with an abundance of small hotels and top-notch restaurants. Activities on and around the lake are abundant too; paddle up the lake, hike the gorge, swim, fish or take a siesta on the lake-side beaches and bask in the glorious sunshine.
Puinoisson – This is where you will find miles of the most famous and painterly lavender, sunflower, poppy and clary sage fields immortalised in the works of the worlds most esteemed artists. There is nothing more to say. Just gaze and take it all in.
And all of this is only the beginning of Provence’s gentle intoxication. There is so much more to see, experience, taste and smell in this ancient, dreamingly beautiful region of France. Provence is chic, serene, relaxed and timeless. Our drive from Aix to the Alps through countryside dotted with pastel coloured farmhouses with shuttered windows the colour of the surrounding flora and fauna; olive green, poppy red and lavender. Whether you go for an extended weekend, a week or a month Provence leaves you yearning for more.
Where to Eat
Cassis – Le Patio
Marseille – Bistrot L’Horloge
Mezel – Le Pressoir Gourmand
What to See