We left Aix-en-Provence by 11.00am and headed East towards the Vaucluse area. I was so looking forward to going to the Provence region, my excitement based mostly around the food and produce from there. I had visions of rolling farmland, sun-filled fields of corn and long lazy lunches with chilled rose.
As it happens we were visiting at the perfect time to see the lavender fields in bloom. They come into full flower at the end of June/beginning of July and are harvested at the end of July. Each town has a lavender festival to mark the date of harvest. It was more of a happy coincidence than a master plan but timing is everything and we were happy to have lucked out with this one.
We were headed for another France-Passion stop in Valensole. We drove almost the whole journey with no glimpse at all of lavender and I started to get a little nervous that we had misjudged how grand of an occasion this actually was.
It was only in the last ten minutes that fields of pure purple unfolded before us. It was so much more impressive than I’d imagined, with row upon row of neatly planted lavender bursting with colour and fragrance. The France Passion stop was on a lavender farm on the outskirts of town and with the hosts no where to be seen, we plumped for a perfect spot overlooking fields. We jumped straight on the bikes to retrace the route we’d just made in the van and get some pictures.
There were a few coach tours out and about but we mostly had the roads to ourselves and it was like something out of a painting. It was so picturesque to cycle from field to field and stroll through the blooms. There was a constant low-level hum from the bees that were busily working away and hives dotted along the borders.
We decided to cycle down into the town of Valensole which is tiny but beautiful.
It’s basically a shrine to lavender, with every single item on sale either fragrance, flavoured or infused with the stuff!
We wandered around the pretty streets and found a nice cat to fuss over before a hefty, up-hill cycle back to Harvey. We had dinner and then watched the sun go down on the field we overlooked, not believing that this was another freebie.
The next day we moved on to another France-Passion site a few kilometres south on the Lac du Sainte Croix. We cruised through more beautiful scenery before arriving at yet another lavender farm. This place was more commercial and our host welcomed us to our spot which was in a gorgeous field behind the farm shop amongst olive trees and a vegetable patch.
Making great use of the bikes, we cycled through more amazing fields of lavender, this time flanked by rows of sunflowers. The richness of the purple contrasting with the sunburst yellow of the sunflowers was amazing.
We spent ages marvelling at the colours and taking photos before moving on. Just at this point a bee flew up my dress and promptly stung me right on the rump. Not knowing what it was but feeling a sharp pain I dropped my bag and pulled my dress right up, revealing way too much to the drivers passing by and found the sting. Thankfully it wasn’t too painful and considering the sheer number of bees that would fly into us as we were cycling, getting just one sting seemed ok.
From a viewpoint we could see the lake in all its glory.
It’s 11km long by 2km wide and is a stunning blue green colour. We freewheeled all the way down to the town, picking up speed on the steep descent and swerving into the hairpin turns. I was clinging on for dear life, wearing the rubber on my brakes, whilst Gary hurtled off into the distance.
Unfortunately we were too late to enjoy a fancy lunch at one of the terrace restaurants overlooking the lake, so we settled for a panini on the beach.
We sunbathed, snoozed and swam in the lake which was fresh and clear.
We wanted to wait for the fierce sun to calm before mustering the energy to climb back up the hill but even at 6pm it was incredibly hot.
We definitely earned our BBQ that night and we enjoyed it with a glass of wine from the France passion stop in Uzes. It’s such a great venture and so far all the stops have really delivered. We bought some handmade soap and lavender infused biscuits from our hosts and enjoyed them with tea in the evening, watching other guests play pétanque in the light of the setting sun.