The beautiful French countryside
I am just back from an amazing trip around Provence. This was a dream come true for me as it has been on my bucket list for ages. I would admire the quaint villages on Pinterest and long to go and see them. I loved every minute of the trip and I will share where we stayed, how we travelled around and some of the cute villages we passed through. We travelled through some amazing villages like Valensole, Gordes and Forcalquier and explored the largers towns like Avignon and Aix en Provence. You will find all the detaila and lots of pictures below for you to enjoy.
We flew from Dublin to Nice with Ryanair, if you can I would suggest flying to Marseille or Lyon. There was no flight to Marseille for the dates we wanted so we flew to Nice instead. You could fly to Nice and spend some time exploring the coast before making your way inland to Provence. We rented a car and collected it from Nice airport. We then drove for around and an hour and a half to our village Cotignac. I would highly recommend renting a car, otherwise, you will miss a lot of what the countryside has to offer. Just driving from village to village is a treat for the senses, from lavender fields to vineyards there is so much beauty to take in. The roads are narrow but they are clean, smooth and in good condition. Not like the Irish countryside roads! So you will be fine driving on them.
We set up base in the charming village of Cotignac. This was an adorable village, each of the French townhouses had different coloured shutters and doors. There were markets and entertainment on each evening as well. It just had a lovely energy about the place. From driving around we saw a few more places that you could set up base in. Valensole looked like a large village that was lively and when driving back to the airport we drove through Forcalquier which was on a hill and looked to have lots of restaurants and shops. We also stopped for lunch in Banon which had lots of Lavender fields around it, however, some had been harvested and they had started to lose their vibrant colour but the smell was still amazing!
We rented a little house through Air BnB, I didn’t see many hotels but I am sure if you look online you will find some. Our Air BnB was perfect for what we needed. We spent most of the day rambling and only touched base in the evenings. There are some really charming homes in the countryside so you will definitely find a cute one to stay in.
The lavender fields
When travelling to see the lavender fields you need to time it carefully. From mid-June to mid-July is the best time to see them before they are harvested. We were there the last week of July and although we got to see the Lavender fields they were starting to lose their vibrant colour and some fields had been harvested. Also, depending on the weather in Provence they might harvest fields earlier, so to avoid disappointment I would go the last week of June. Valensole is an area that has a lot of Lavender fields. This is where we found the field that one side was lavender and the other side had sunflowers. If you head to Banon and around that area, you will also find lots of Lavender, this Lavender is slightly different and this is where L’Occitance purchase their lavender from.
I read that Sunflowers won’t be planted in the same field twice, so if you go back to the same field the following year the Sunflowers won’t have been planted there. They are really easy to find from driving around.
Make sure when visiting Provence to visit the town of Gordes. This has a breathtaking view and the town itself is quaint and charming. Lots of cobbled side streets and cute French townhouses. We had our lunch here and had some Pizza in one of the cute cafes. There was also a market on in the morning. There are some really cute shops here and I was able to get my hands on a little handmade french house. I just love these and try and collect them from each place I visit. If you visit Gordes then head on further for around ten minutes and you will find the Abbey that has some Lavender in front of it. You can also do a tour of this Abbey.
If you head to Manosque you will find the L’Occitane factory. You can do a tour of the factory for free and you just need to book a place on the tour. The shop also sells L’Occitane products 10% cheaper than the high street. On our trip to Provence, separate we stayed in the L’Occitane hotel which was amazing! I will have a separate post sharing how we got on in the L’Occitance hotel.
Aix en Provence and Avignon
If you fancy some shopping and a city vibe then Aix en Provence and Avignon are the places for you. These felt like Paris and had the charming buildings but with a more city vibe. You can spend an afternoon rambling around whilst doing some shopping. Both of these places have lots of history to take in, you could do a walking tour to learn more about the towns. Personally, I prefer the cute villages but these places are worth stopping in to break up a long drive.
When googling, researching and looking for places to visit online before we left there was so much to see. My best advice is to have a few stops in mind and drive. You see so many cute villages on the drive and you can stop at each one. Also, ask fellow tourists or locals for places they would recommend. We found out about Banon and Mane from Lucille at the L’Occitance factory. Provence is a large place and is somewhere you could travel to each year and find more places to enjoy. Do try and take in as much as you can but enjoy the journey too!
Thanks for reading, I hope you found this post useful. You can also have a look at my Youtube video below and see all the prettiness Provence has to offer. Please subscribe to my channel for weekly videos and you can also catch me over on Instagram too.