One thing is certain, Provence definitely knows how to charm its visitors. During my week-long trip in Provence, my senses were constantly stimulated by the smell of lavender wafting in the air, the gentle swing of olive branches, the picturesque villages with stone buildings, the mouthwatering local cuisine, and the bustling markets selling fresh farmers’ produce.
LAVENDER - AS FAR AS THE EYE CAN SEE
In my opinion, the best time to visit Provence is between mid-June and early July. Not only is the weather in its most favourable condition with often cloudless days and mild temperatures, but also it is the best time to witness lavender blooms. In June, the lavender starts to flower and by early July, the fields start to peak. Around mid-July, the farmers start the harvesting. By the middle of August, most of the lavender fields will have been harvested.
For the most-impressive lavender spotting, I would suggest the Valensole Plateau. There is no doubt that this area is the most popular lavender region of the entire Provence. Some of the most amazing lavender farms can be found here among the fields of golden wheat, full-bloomed sunflowers, and deep turquoise lakes. Most of the iconic pictures of the lavender of Provence were taken here. Next is Notre-Dame de Senanque. Just a short 15-minute drive from Gordes, Notre-Dame de Senanque is a 12th-century abbey, wrapped in rows and rows of purple lavender. It is the postcard-perfect kind of place for your lavender viewing.
A WORLD OF ITS OWN
When choosing where to stay, a place that is beautiful, comfortable, and luxury in an understated way, close to the charming towns, lavender fields, vineyards, and investing sights in Provence, and that offers an authentic Provençal experience, I believe Le Mas de Chabran just ticks all the boxes. Located in the idyllic village of Maussane-les-Alpilles, the existence of Mas de Chabran dates back to 1738 when it was home to a working oil mill. Now it is an 8-bedroom grand Provencal house that has been carefully restored and updated by Swiss architect Alain Meylan and interior designer Liliana Atilova from Geneva.
Once inside the estate, I realised that Mas de Chabran is a world of its own. I can’t help but be in awe with design details of bedrooms and bathrooms. Not to mention that each room has its own unique design details with antique furniture and earthy colors. There is also a large heated pool at the foot of olive trees. Although listed as a house rental, what I have actually experienced was a five-star hotel service at Mas de Chabran. Every day I was served with fabulous breakfasts made from produce from the vegetable garden and hen house. I enjoyed refreshed bedrooms and bathrooms which made my stay all the more enjoyable.
a. Le Mas de Chabran in Maussane-les-Alpilles
b. Enjoying Provence with the Portugieser Chronograph (Ref. IW371604)
IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF THE ROMANS
When in Provence, it is impossible not to notice the influence that the ancient Romans had on the region. It was after the Romans who gave this region the name by which it has been known for much of the time. Roman civilization flourished in this part of southern France and the prosperity of such civilization can still be witnessed today through many breath-taking Roman remains, such as amphitheatre at Orange, the Pont du Gard Aqueduct, the arena at Arles, the Roman ruins in Nimes, and many more.
One of the highlights of my trip in Provence was to visit the Pont Du Gard, which is just a brief 25-minute drive from my stay, Mas de Chabran. This 2,000-year-old Roman aqueduct, standing over 48 metres high, is one of the wonders of France. Standing at its feet, looking up to this three-story arched bridge, I was in awe of the Romans who built it without mortar, only with stone blocks each weighing up to six tons.
IMMERSE YOURSELF IN ART
Another must-experience activity is Les Carrières de Lumières, which is just a quick 7-minute drive from was our stay in Alpilles. It is an extraordinary multimedia art exhibition at the monumental “Carrieres de Lumieres”, a previous limestone quarry. During the show, I was completely immersed in colourful images projected onto all the surfaces of the rock accompanied by amazing music. The ground was covered too, like a vast carpet of images and colours. It really makes you see and feel the artwork in a whole different and astonishing way.
a. Madeline Lu taking pictures at a lavender field with the Portugieser Automatic 40 (Ref. IW358306)
b. Sunrise in Saint-Paul de Vence
THE OLD FASHIONED WAY
A further important aspect of Provençal life is, of course, the food. The region has one of the finest wine regions in France - Châteauneuf-du-Pape. A wine tasting tour among the châteaus is definitely highly recommended.
As for the best restaurants in Provence, it can be a guide on its own. One restaurant that is worth mentioning here is Bistrot du Paradou (57 Ave. de la Vallée des Baux, Maussane-les-Alpilles). It is the kind of place that serious food lovers dream to discover in Provence. The exterior of the building looks inviting with its brightly white painted walls with typical Provencal pale blue shutters. Two giant oak trees shaded the crushed limestone terrace. It is an unpretentious, no-frills eatery without even a written menu. All you get is whatever the chef decided to cook for that day and that’s all.
There is no fancy linen, no imposing sommeliers with an extensive wine list. Every table is given a bottle of house wine. What you really get here is a solid authentic Provençal meal. The foie-gras terrine with toast, the beef fillet, a plateau of cheeses and homemade ice cream are something you will remember for quite some time. In fact, the Bistro is so popular that there is no need for a silly little web site. Get old fashioned, give them a call to book your reservation if you want to secure a table.
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