All year long, I dream of lavendar, bright sunshine, olive oil, and the juice of a nectarine running down my chin. Happily, my dreams came true this summer, during our vacation in Provence. What did we do?
We walked through lavender fields near Sault, strolling the 5-km “Chemin des lavandes,” each step perfumed by a lovely, clean fragrance.
We shopped the region’s famous open markets, following them to a different village each day of the week.
I fell in love again with these fresh, speckled beans, called cocos rouges in French.
We shelled a kilo for delicious soupe au pistou.
We visited our friends Kristin and Jean-Marc Espinasse, who taught us our French-word-a-Day. Their adorable pups Braise and Smokey were good teachers, too.
We lunched on tapenade made by Kristin’s adorable belle-mère, washed down with fruity rosé from Jean-Marc’s very own Domaine Rouge-Bleu…
Followed by a beautifully fresh fish, garnished with oven-roasted potatoes and tomatoes, and a gleaming thread of green olive oil. It was so fresh and lovely, the perfect summer meal.
We explored the town of Forcalquier, and caught a glimpse of the Alps looming in the distance.
In the afternoons, we’d lounge by the pool and read. (I finished Possession and three volumes of Tintin.) We spent the evenings drinking wine and cooking delicious food like these stuffed eggplant. It was a lovely holiday and I can’t wait to go back next year.
If you visit Provence, here are a few tips…
Where to go: We usually visit an area of Provence called the Luberon, and stay in the village of Bonnieux. But there are many charming and picturesque villages in the area, including Gordes, Roussillon, Lacoste, Ménerbes (made famous by Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence) and Goult, all of them hill towns. On the south side of the mountain, I love the village of Lourmarin.
What to do: Explore the different villages, each with its own personality. Visit the lavendar fields near Sault, or lunch at a goat farm near Sivergues. Discover local wine at V Comme Vin in Apt. Go antiquing in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. Take a ramble — the region is covered with walking trails that scale and descend the Luberon’s mountainous bulk.
Where to shop: My absolute, number one, favorite Provence activity is to visit the outdoor markets, which move each day from village to village. I love the beautiful produce and different smells of sausage, cheese, roasting chicken, herbs, spices and lavendar. To avoid crowds, I try to arrive early, before 10am. My favorites are:
Monday: Forcalquier (an especially huge market)
Friday: Bonnieux (my most favorite)
What to eat: I always try to make one batch of ratatouille and one of soupe au pistou, a hearty vegetable soup served with a swirl of pesto (“pistou“) and grated Gruyère cheese. I also love the petits légumes farcis, or hollowed tomatoes and courgettes stuffed with meat and baked with breadcrumbs. The region is famous for its olive oil and salty olive spread of tapenade; I also love the caviar d’aubergine, or eggplant spread, and anchoiade, a intense dip of anchovies, garlic and olive oil. Pissaladière makes an excellent snack; it’s a cross between pizza and a tart: a bread base spread with caramelized onions and dotted with black olives and anchovies.
Where to eat: Stay tuned for Here is a special post on my favorite restaurants!
Do you dream of Provence too, mes amis? What are your favorite things to see/eat/do there?