There are very few things in this world that would see me willingly enter areas with temperatures threating to exceed 40 degrees. Seeing Provence’s lavender fields in flower is one of them. And it’s so that we found ourselves in Provence at the start of a possible record breaking week of heat…but the good news is, that the lavender is in flower, and importantly, it’s before the tourist crush is to hand. Himself has really outdone himself with the suggestion to head south.
After yesterday’s glimpse of purple, appetites are whetted. Our first stop is the 12th century Abbaye de Senanque, still a working abbey with monks in residence, but more widely known for its picturesque setting amongst lavender fields.
It’s way up in the mountains, set in a valley, on teeny weeny roads, but Fearless steers the motorhome up then down with a steady hand.
Now despite it being “not yet tourist season” the Abbey is swarming with people.
Clearly we’re not the only ones who’ve heard of its pretty setting. It’s located down from Gordes, another Les Plus Beaux Village that would do a mountain goat proud, but we’re a little villaged out. It’s lavender that’s today’s focus.
The Abbey is indeed lovely, with its light grey stone offsetting the lavender perfectly. Inside, the main activity is the gift shop, doing a roaring trade in all things scented, a number of which are made on the premises. A few little items are tucked away to take home. At the rear of the Abbey are the monks quarters and kitchen gardens, upstairs, a library.
There are wonderfully detailed story boards about the Abbey’s history, but they, like the tours are all in French.
Our best option is to push through to our eventual destination, Valensole, reportedly the largest lavender plantation in Provence. Oh my!
But first comes the only truly terrifying bit of today’s drive, watching Fearless come down the last bit of road, blocking traffic, so he could descend into the valley to turn around and go back up again. With parked cars either side, he had mere inches to spare. I couldn’t do what he does in the motorhome, the man knows no fear.
Moving on towards Valensole is a sensible option. It’s still miles away, but all the more opportunity to stay in air-conditioning a few more hours. It’s blisteringly hot outside.
Valensole will form the most southern part of our journey, from there we’ll turn north to head towards our original destination, the Czech Republic and Poland.
Along the way, we’re teased with previews of what’s to come.
Himself patiently pulls over on roads that don’t allow for parking so I can photograph and sniff to my heart’s content. It’s very hard to do justice to the scale of plantings – who knew just how much lavender the world actually consumes. Provence is looking very green, despite the heat.
Our arrival in Valensole isn’t until very late afternoon but it’s heralded with the most glorious display of lavender fields. It’s more extensive, more beautiful than I could have imagined. There is lavender, literally as far as the eye can see.
We stop at a distillery – the scent is heavenly – to marvel at it all.
The light is against me this late in the day, so under a strict promise to bring me back in the morning, we continue into the town proper, to settle for the evening and wait the heat out.