Get high on lavender It makes you lucky, perfume-dizzy-high and euphoric. Plus sleepy: After the lavender orgies, you will sleep like a log. It’s true, that’s one of the many medical effects of lavender.
Adding to the pictoresque beauty of a lavender field in bloom, there are top world class attractions surrounding the Provencal fields. I am not only referring to all the excellent lavender producers of anything from medical, essential, oils, ice cream and honey. Around the fields, you’ll get the best nights sleep, ever, in some of the most beautiful medieval villages of the world – as well as some really neat restaurants.
So go Lavender hunting, in all shapes and forms, with my top ten list and ideas:
First, les routes de lavande, the most aboundant lavender fields and roads to find them, are to be found on the Plateu de Valensole
But there are other areas as well, check the lavender map http://www.beyond.fr/map/lav_map.html
The most famous view of a field is in front of l’Abbaye de Senanque, close to the beautiful, but equally tourist-invaded, town Gordes. Visit early, the place gets jammed.
Lavender blooms from the last two weeks of June, until the French national day 14 Juillet, when harvested. At the latest, that is, since global warming has made the blooming start earlier. The ‘lavande fine’ in the mountains above Sault is often harvested one or two weeks later.
3. Getting there and around
Most people fly to Nice or Marseille. Then a car is more or less needed. Don’t forget to specify and book an automatic car “vitesse automatique” if you don’t drive manually. Keep your payment or credit card ready, there are tolls on the main highways. Not very expensive, but a few Euros here and there.
4. Warm welcome
There is such a tremendous amount of Unesco classified villages with everything from B&B, called chambres d’hôtes, to five star palaces such as http://www.bastide-de-gordes.com and http://www.labastidedemarie.com or lovely http://www.bastide-moustiers.com
Staying in newly refurbished farms or town houses with a few rooms to let is not bad either. Look for the house of Géraldine Manivet http://www.hoteldescolonnes-riez.fr or chez Francoise http://www.lamaisondescollines.com or maybe with M er Mme Echivard, http://www.au-chant-des-sorgues.com
You just have to visit Bonnieux, where the best lavender honey is sold by http://www.masdesabeilles.com, then Oppède-le-Vieux and of course Gordes for the pictures “du village perché parfait”. Continue to Murs, Sault, Simiane-La-Rotonde, L’Isle sur la Sorgue, Lourmarin, Forcalquier, Valensole, Allemagne-en-Provence, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, Bauduen…oh it’s impossible to choose. Everywhere in Provence, there are post card pretty villages with cobbled stone streets, lime stone buildings, markets and flowers.
It’s going to be hot. Like really really hot. July and August (a month to be avoided anyhow, since all French have their holidays then) are the warmest months of the year. Temperatures may, worse case, rise close to 35°C (95°F) but it’s not humid, at least. Take precautions against the sun: wear light clothes, a hat and drink plenty of water.
I actually bought dye for fabric and coloured some cotton and silk clothes in “french lavender purple” before departure. Guaranteed success. Well, at least it made my husband laugh and call me crazy. (Fine for me, there are worse addictions than lavender in life.)
7. Lavender festivals and markets
Check out a Lavender festival, fête, or street parade with colourful floats.
These fêtes are a showcase for lavender produce such as honey, soaps, essential oils, dried bouquets and handmade lavender products. Make sure you get the right dates by double checking the local tourism office information online. You have:
•La fête de la lavande in Ferrassières (early-July)
•Lavande en fête in Barjac (14 July)
•La fête de la lavande in Apt (mid-July)
•La fête de la lavande et du miel (lavender & honey) in Riez (mid-July)
•La fête de la lavande in Barrême (late July)
•La fête de la lavande in Thorame haute (late July)
•Corso de la lavande (parade with floats) in Digne-les-Bains (early August)
•Corso, parade, de la lavande in Valrés (first weekend of August)
•Fête de la lavande in Sault (15 August)
•Fête de la lavande in Saint André de Rosans (mid August)
8. Eat it!
The best lavender ice cream I tried was a hand made, artisanal, ‘glace’ in Arles. Sarah Floris is the creator and the ice cream is sold at her Maison Soulier at Place de la Republique in Arles. Sarah also runs her own café round the corner where the ice creams are sold as well.
Some people drink lavender tea, others use the flowers as decoration on cakes and salads. Using the flowers in sugar is very popular, as well as in biscuits. A steak with garlic, thyme and lavender is not bad either.
9. Get happy-high and other medical benefits
Lavender has many medical properties, including healing properties that have been known since Roman times, i.e. already 2500 years ago. Lavender is still the most used essential oil in the world.
The Egyptians used it for mummification. The Romans for bathing, cooking and scenting the air. The most famous usage of the lavendel essential oil, is that Mary used it to anoint Jesus with her hair.
The real essential oil, check the AOP mark, benefits your body in the following ways:
• Reduces anxiety and emotional stress
• Heals burns and wounds
• Improves sleep
• Restores skin complexion and reduces acne
• Slows aging with powerful antioxidants
• Improves eczema and psoriasis
• Alleviates headaches
10. A kind and funny herbal witch
A visit to the witty, energetic and great herb farmer Paula Marty at her La ferme de Gerbaud in the countryside outside Lourmarin is a treat.
Paula knows all about the medical benefits – including the herbal aphrodisiac stronger that Viagra* – of the naturally growing Provencal herbs, including Lavender. You visit the fields and may then purchase cookbooks and essential oils in Paulas little shop. All home made, of course.
The best lavender beauty products are the ones from Chateau du Bois – they really work against both pains in joints and wrinkles, I tried! http://www.lechateaudubois.com/en/home
Or if you live in the Nordic counties, the same products may be found via http://www.organiclyx.com
*Savory for men, rosemary for women!