The magic of exploring France is that each region holds a different type of beauty that is translated into its food, its culture and its landscapes. To the west of Paris you’ll find the Atlantic Ocean and the beautiful sand dunes of Pyla Sur Mer, not far from the fine wines of Bordeaux. To the east of Paris are the beautiful rolling hills and German-influenced towns of Alsace, where sweet wines reign supreme. And to the southwest, past Lyon and the pinot noir grapes of Burgundy, is the stunning region of Provence.
Known for its sprawling hills and the rocky landscapes of Les Alpilles, Provence is home to some of the finest olive oils, wines and lavender products in the world. Tucked around the major cities of Provence, Aix en Provence and Avignon, are villages with medieval heritage that appear to have been untouched by time.
Villages to visit in Provence:
Les Baux de Provence
The winding routes that bring you to this charming medieval town are lined with wineries and olive plantations. As you arrive at the top of the hill where Les Baux de Provence is located, the views to the sea and across the Alps are endless. Within the tiny village are several spots to pick up handmade lavender lotions, award-winning olive oils, and fine linens. It truly is a unique town and one worth visiting.
Saint Rémy de Provence
The town that was made famous for being the home of Vincent Van Gogh during his years in the asylum of Saint Rémy, and one of the most luxurious towns in Provence, Saint Rémy is an interior decorator’s dream. Throughout the quaint town are shops that hold both rare antiquities and newer home wares that allow you to take the effortlessly chic 'Provençal' style back with you. Saint Rémy is also the spot where Vincent van Gogh painted his famous tableau, The Starry Night, while spending time in a nearby psychiatric hospital.
Maussane Les Alpilles
A village that celebrates all things Provençal and gourmet, Maussane is a gem. During the late summer months, the town celebrates the fruits of the olive trees with a festival that livens up the sleepy cobblestone streets of the village.
This quiet hilltop village is capped with the crumbling 17th century Chapelle des Pénitents, offering a view over the Alpilles. Worth a visit on the weekends when a charming market forms in the streets, offering everything from rare books to regional specialties such as olives and tapenades.
Where to eat in Provence:
Ou Ravi Provençeau
In the town, there is no better example of Provençal cuisine than at Ou Ravi Provençau. In the warm and inviting atmosphere of this restaurant, diners are invited to try dishes like rabbit sautéed with thyme, bacon and white wine, or marinated salmon with fresh olive oil from Maussane. The family atmosphere makes you feel right at home.
Ou Ravi Provençeau, 34 avenue Vallée des Baux, 13520 Maussane les Alpilles, Tel. +33 (0)4 90 543 111
L'Oustaù de Baumanière
A stunning two-star Michelin restaurant surrounded by nothing but nature, L’Oustaù de Baumanière is one of the most beautiful, rustic tables in the region. The restaurant offers lunch and dinner as a set menu, and it offers tangible proof that gastronomy and well-being are the keys to the art of Provençal living.
L'Oustaù de Baumanière, 13520 Les Baux-de-Provence, Tel. +33 (0)4 90 543 307
La Petite Table
After exploring the market of Eygalières, lunch on the terrace of La Petite Table is the perfect way to enjoy the sunshine and cuisine of Provence. Offering a generous menu of the day, depending on seasonal ingredients, the chef at this quaint restaurant reinterprets classic regional dishes.
La Petite Table, Corner of Route d'Orgon and Avenue du Général de Gaulle, 13810 Eygalières Provence
Tel. +33 (0)4 90 381 923
Where to shop:
Provence is heavenly for antique and home décor shopping, as well as finding specialty products unique to the region. Here are a couple of shops not to miss.
Mas des Anges
This idyllic boutique stocks only the finest glassware, home décor items, and candles to evoke that quintessential Provence style. It’s a great place to find gifts for loved ones or souvenirs for the home.
Mas des Anges, 3 rue Lafayette, 13210 St-Rémy-de-Provence
Domaine de la Colombe d’Or
Tucked away amongst the olive groves, is an oasis called Le Secret des Sources. This bed and breakfast was built only five years ago, but after ten years of collecting antiques from France and Italy, the Provençal house took on a luxurious charm. Impressively, the owners of the bed and breakfast have also created a certified organic olive oil, Domaine de La Colombe d’Or, that is now a favourite with Joël Robuchon and France’s finest chefs. Take an afternoon to visit their estate, where you can purchase a bottle of their golden elixir and enjoy the view of the lavender-covered hills from their property.
Domaine de la Colombe d'Or, Chemin du Pin de la Fée, 13890 Mouriès, Tel. +33 (0)6 03 914 033
Saint Michel de Frigolet Abbey
In 1858, nearly 1,000 years after the founding of the monastery in Frigolet, the monks of the Frigolet Abbey created an elixir made from rare herbs found in the region. The artisanal drink is one of the most unique after-dinner liqueurs in all of France, and it is sold in the monastery’s boutique, as well as in specialty shops around Provence.
Saint-Michel de Frigolet Abbey, 13150 Tarascon, Tel. +33 (0)4 90 95 70 07