Welcome to part "deux" of my adventures in France. Summer was calling in Provence!
I was planning this return to Provence ever since my last visit, which you can see here.
Provence left an imprint on my heart, and in a way that I want to experience it over and over again.
When I knew last year I needed to make the time to step back Provence was the only place I dreamt of being.
I could not wait to uncover more sleepy hilltop villages!
After departing Nice, I took the high speed SNCF train offered from Nice Ville direct to Aix en Provence TGV.
In less than 3 hours I arrived to the opposite side of the coast. I arranged a wonderful female driver to pick me up and in roughly 45 minutes I arrived in Bonnieux, where I would be staying for two weeks.
Being that I had experienced the Luberon region previously, I knew this is exactly where I wanted to be again.
The Luberon valley is the heart of Provence.
When you imagine Provence you are most likely seeing the Luberon: spectacular landscapes, perched hill-top villages, daily markets, natural produce all bathed in pure light of Van Gogh and Cezanne.
Bonnieux is a small village we had dinner in one evening on our previous trip and when doing my research I felt like it was the perfect place to stay. A real working village with natives from the area, Frenchies that have purchased summer properties and minimal tourists.
I found the most quintessential Provencal style studio to rent during my time, that you can see here.
I would look out my window in awe. The vistas of fields of lavender in the distance in bloom were incredible, and the sunsets perfectly hued. I would leave my curtains drawn back every evening so I could fall asleep to the light of the moon and stars and wake to the rising sun.
I captured this video on the first evening I arrived. It really was the warmest welcome!
The village is split into two- with a Roman/Gothic church from the 12th century at the top and the base holds a newer church dated 1870. A village still small with only one butcher, one bakery, a small grocer, a few antique shops, and a market every Friday in the square. A wonderful selection of restaurants do flood the village and a beautiful luxury hotel Capelongue, a Beaumier property at the very top.
Everything felt a little slower and my days feel longer in the best possible way.
I felt as though I didn't have a sense of time and truthfully that was so refreshing because I felt exhausted from how fast pace life had been. I longed to experience what slow living really meant. I intuitively gave myself space to paint, write, cook, sleep and wander, with no schedule, just what felt good. Reminding myself that the present moment was enough.
I spent my days wandering around Bonnieux and neighbouring villages, taking in the views and really meeting myself where I was in that moment. The studio I rented was on the top of the hill and required a good amount of steps, I loved trekking up and down the village daily, especially sitting at the very top with a pain au chocolat in the day and my camera at sunset trying to capture the feeling of the magic I felt.
I stayed in and cooked most evenings followed by painting with a small watercolour kit I travelled with.
I definitely found comfort in the discomfort of working with a different medium and felt inspired to just paint!
My favourite markets in the Luberon
Tuesdays in Gordes
Friday in Lourmarin and Bonnieux
Saturday in Apt
Where to eat in Bonnieux
I love how unassuming the food is in France, Provence especially.
You sit at the smallest little restaurant in a village and when the food comes it is on the level of fine dining.
So beautifully curated. Flavours layered so precisely and balanced.
Some items to indulge in while in the Luberon would definitely be, nougat, callisons, olive tapenade, lavender ice cream, Soupe au Pistou, Ratatouille, and Daube Provencale.
L'Arome- A family run business serving a full course menu, casual but elevated experience
The Bastide- At the beautiful Capelongue Hotel
Maison Baumo- Bar and Tapas
Glacier Crêperie Le Tinel-
My favourite spot for ice cream in town. Everything from the lavender to violet is amazing.
I loved sitting on the little patio with a cappuccino and a pain au chocolat noisette.
Wine Shop in Bonnieux
Racines carries lovely local wines
Antique Shop in Bonnieux
At the Bend of a Walk (Au Détour d'une Promenade)
I purchased some small pieces from Corinne
There are endless villages to explore!
Here are some that I visited during my stay:
Apt is a town in the middle of the Luberon without obvious tourist attractions, instead it is a real place where people live and work. On Saturday mornings the centre of town plays host to the biggest market in the Luberon, with 300+ stands in the summer. This is the place to be! I took the bus each Saturday to and from Bonnieux. The views of vineyards along the way are a sight to see. I purchased everything from produce, to cheese, charcuterie, soaps and fabric.
I even found a few antique shops worth visiting:
My favourite baguette made from grains and buds of lavender was from Au Pierrot Blanc
Inevitably, Gordes is officially one of the most beautiful villages in France.
Not only are the views beautiful from Gordes but rather the view when arriving.
Now having seen it in the fall and the summer, it truly is one of the most breathtaking.
Gordes is definitely one of the most touristy villages but a pleasure to explore from within, along its tight alleyways and arcades. There are many restaurants and cafes, from simple to refined; bakery and food stores.
Tuesday is market day in Gordes and is filled with great textiles, food items and kitchen tools.
I enjoyed a spa treatment at Airelles de Gordes, one of the most impressive properties in the Luberon.
The views from the lounge space was so tranquil and the massage equally impeccable.
I followed with lunch at Clover Gordes, also on the property.
This was my first time visiting the village of Menerbes.
When I stayed previously at La Bastide de Marie, we didn't make it to see and I was glad I went back this time.
It's definitely quaint with very few shops but offers a lovely view and a wonderful restaurant known to the area.
Dining at Café du Progrès is a feast for the palette!
La Vie est Belle rue de la Fontaine is also a wonderful antique shop
Lourmarin is not a typical perched, hill-top village, but it is lovely.
There must be 15 restaurants and cafes to choose from, from simple to Michelin-starred.
I took the bus here on a late Sunday afternoon and enjoyed time walking around, shopping, having a glass of wine and an ice cream before heading back.
Some stops I enjoyed were:
Le Moulin- I enjoyed rosé and nibbles on the patio
Glaces RAVI- Delicious ice cream
La Boutique de l'Antiquaire- a lovely shop filled with beautiful pieces
De la Cuisine au 20-I picked up patés and herbs here
The land of ochre!
As you approach Roussillon you notice that the fields have turned reddish orange.
The ochre this land is made of is a natural pigment that was used in paints. Roussillon's ochre quarry was one of the most significant ochre deposits in the world. Now days ochre is no longer in use which means you can explore the quarry which is best described as other-worldly. The quarry is a starting point for a footpath that continues for 15km, it is great walk (but bear in mind that the red dust will colour your shoes!)
The village is petit but worth wandering.
Additionally, I found a small boutique with wonderful quilts that I had to buy and pack up! It was no easy task.
On the way back to my little abode, we stopped at Pont Julien,
a Roman stone arch bridge over the Calavon river dating from 3 BC
The Biggest Highlight
Wandering though lavender fields in Provence has been on my list for a long time.It has never felt possible though because it is generally our busiest time of year. The fields were even better than I imagined. I felt so much energy in these moments. The bees buzzing, the cicadas singing, the church bell ringing in the distance, and the wind blowing through my body. Feeling so alive & supported, yet there was a sense of calm and stillness that washed over me.
This feeling I’ll cherish.
I was excited to learn more about this plant and flower I so adore.
I decided to visit a local distillery, Les Agnels. They started distilling lavender in 1895, and since then 5 generations have followed developing the business, innovating harvesting and distillation processes to constantly improve products. They are farmers, distillers, traders and live a story of passion for lavender. It was truly inspiring to hear there story.
A little more about lavender...
So did you know the blue lavender we all know and love is not the true French lavender?
It is actually a hybrid called Lavandin. Most commonly grown and distilled for oils, cleaning products and cosmetics. It is the hybrid between true French lavender and the aspic variety which grows on the Mediterranean used mostly for medicinal purpose. Lavandin grows three floral spikes per stem vs one of the fine variety hence why it is so valuable.
It also grows at lower altitudes.
So I took a drive to Saignon to meet the true French lavender!
The colour is completely is different, more purple vs blue. It grows at a higher altitude and it can withstand without water temperatures as low as 12 Celsiuis to as high as 45 Celsius.
The real lavender is the only variety you should consume and produces the highest quality oil which is used in perfumes and aromatherapies.
Isn't it just magnificent?
I still cannot get over how Provence makes me feel.
Like being in a storybook, it really does feel like a fairytale.
Stripped away from so much glamour and busy of the big cities, filled with old world splendour.
To say being there for an extended period of time felt like a dream would be an understatement.
There is something so invigorating to really walk in a different space and time.
Everything from my little studio, to the light, to the butterflies—my goodness I’ve never seen so many butterflies, and the food! Exquisite in every way.