Scent of Lavender - Weekend in Provence

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Lluis Enric Mayans

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Each year, as the April period approaches, social networks are flooded with articles and photographs from Provence depicting immense lilac fields and a deep blue sky in the background. Sometimes stone houses appear that seem to be built on purpose to make those photos wonderful, other times there are people walking among the lavender blossoms with a fake straw hat on their heads and often, instead, we see the most beautiful image. famous of the abbey of Senanque that gives the impression of a representation of other times.

The year of my thirtieth birthday I decided that those images I didn't want anymore? see them only in photos but I wanted to experience them firsthand and be inebriated by that intense lavender scent. The flowering period? short, between late June and early July, perfect for my birthday (July 1st) which falls on a Saturday!

1 day

We certainly could not miss this little gem, called the "Door of Provence", where a maze of narrow streets leads to the fortification that dominates the citadel. From the walls you can see an endless landscape, the green of the hills that goes perfectly with the blue of the sky of a summer day. Squares, stairways and towers make this place suggestive and give you the feeling of being in a medieval film. Inside of ? It is possible to discover a museum dedicated to the passage of Napoleon on his return from the island of Elba, to observe an exhibition of carriages and to sit in the prison of the keep.

An hour or so from Sisteron, the much desired stop awaits us: the village of Valensole! The view is lost in the magnificent landscape, immense expanses of lilac fields and the air that smells of lavender. I look like a crazy mine with the camera in my hands, I try to immortalize the best image to testify that those photos don't exist only on the internet, that those images are not retouched as I thought !!! I run across the fields like a child to be intoxicated by that intense smell of lavender that I will bring? forever like me. This stage is worth the whole trip!
We also head towards the small village of Valensole and? a riot of small shops where you can find lavender-based products of all kinds such as soaps, spirits, honey, scented bags, candies and much more. On the main street we find a historic fountain with four mouths carved into the stone and the Church of San Biagio in Romanesque-Gothic style which dates back to 1100. You could also visit the Castle of the Great Garden, but we skipped this!

We dedicate the last hours of our day to visit Aix-en-Provence, the city? birthplace of the painter Paul C? zanne. The patrol of the city? starts from Cours Mirabeau, an avenue lined with shops and cafes? outdoors, to then find ourselves in a maze of back alleys that open onto small squares where you can always see a characteristic fountain, picturesque shops and stalls full of flowers, up to the splendid Cathedral of Saint-Sauveur that welcomes us with a wonderful Gothic style portal and where inside we find a small Romanesque cloister. Not far from the cathedral? present the atelier of the painter Paul C? zanne, remained in the original state in which the artist left it. Imagine immersing yourself in an environment with canvases, easels, kitchen items, mannequins, books and colors ... nothing short of spectacular!

2 day

Our second day with the village of Lourmarin starts. Are you greeted by a fantastic castle for half? in medieval style, as evidenced by the crenellated tower in the foreground, by the internal courtyard with the wooden balconies and by the spiral staircase that hypnotizes for its sinuosity, and for the other half? Renaissance style, with fully furnished and lush rooms. Along the way we find the kitchens, with a huge fireplace to occupy almost the entire room, copper pans and ceramic services positioned in the solid wood cupboards. We are welcomed in the fascinating music room by an exhibition of pianos, violas and lutes, and then linger in the refined bedrooms and elegant lounges that emanate the charm of a time left there. imprisoned. Finally, a magnificent view from the terrace with the Protestant church of Lourmarin in the foreground and the characteristic village in the background.
We walk towards the gates of the village for a walk, sneaking into a riot of alleys overlooked by colorful houses, artisan shops, elegant cafes? and restaurants, souvenir shops, eighteenth-century fountains until you can glimpse in the distance the bell tower with a seventeenth-century clock. After a relaxing aperitif, we leave for the next stage.

We immerse ourselves in an almost unreal atmosphere! The village ? wrapped in warm shades? of its rocks, the houses and the shops are confused thanks to the various shades that vary from reddish to ocher. We immediately headed to the Paths of the Okra, a splendid walk where you immerse yourself among the reddish rocks where you are literally fascinated ... it is absolutely worth it!

We just have the last stage before the long return home. The perched village of Gordes welcomes us, already? from the winding road, with a glance to take your breath away. The best way to enjoy the atmosphere? get lost in the network of ancient streets and lanes made up of houses made entirely of stone, with enchanting views of the surrounding valley. The main square, adorned by the large fountain,? became famous for the setting of the film An Excellent Vintage, and not far away stands the imposing castle that dominates the village.

A few kilometers from the center of Gordes? a must go to the splendid Senanque abbey with the immense expanse of lavender that precedes it. I strongly recommend not to dwell outside but to proceed with the internal visit of the complex, very suggestive! You will have the opportunity to see the dormitory, the interior of the church which is bare and essential, continue towards the cloister, then the chapter house and finally the scriptorium where once the monks came to transcribe the sacred books.

There would still be several stops to add to this itinerary, if it were not limited to a weekend. Provence encompasses a multitude of villages, from the southern Alps to the Camargue plains to the south, where we find the lush French Riviera.

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