From gardens to cheesemakers, there is something to suit all tastes in France’s lavender region. Note: This article is part of a bigger magazine feature called “Purple Reign: Lavender and Provence”.
There is much to do in Provence, whether you are looking to frolic through the lavender fields or really get to grips with how lavender products are made and the history of lavender production in the area. Plus, it’s the perfect opportunity to pick up gifts for your family, friends and of course, yourself from lavender bags to oils and honey. But if you want a break from lavender, there are wine estates, a candy store and a Renaissance priory to explore.
Musée de la Lavande: Displays on the history of the lavender trade, its distillation and uses and workshops for all ages include perfume-making, and tours and a marvellous boutique stocked with Château de Bois lavender skincare products. Open daily.
Château de Mille Winery: The oldest wine estate in the Luberon is also one of its most highly regarded. Recently purchased by Constance and Lawrence Slaughter, who are converting the land to organic production, this beautiful property and vineyard is a must-see.
Abbaye de Sénanque: The monks still live and worship at this 12th-century abbey, where you can have a tour and visit the irresistible shop, filled with products handmade by monks, including lavender soaps, perfumes and oils, honey, jam, nougat, candles, herbal liqueurs. The Sénanque lavender fields are some of the most picturesque anywhere.
Les Agnels: See how it’s distilled on site, then shop at the boutique for a wide range of organic essential oils, floral waters, soaps and bath products all made here.
Aroma’Plantes: Watch how their organic products are made, then pick your own lavender from the nearby fields and make your own essential-oil cosmetics. Learn all about lavender at the small museum.
Confiserie Leblanc: This charmer of a candy store is a must-see for all the local delights, from nougat to lavender candies, all 100% natural.
Musée et jardins de Salagon: This lovely ensemble offers a superb museum, a Renaissance priory and a Romanesque church (all classified historic monuments) on 15 acres of gardens classified Remarkable Garden of France. The museum walks you through 2,000 years of history surrounded by ethno-botanical gardens that assemble 1,700 plant species. A wonderful spot for a picnic.
Artemisia Museum: This beautifully designed museum, set in the 13th-century Franciscan Couvent des Cordeliers, takes visitors in the footsteps of peddlers in the nearby Lure mountains to discover the area’s remarkable biodiversity, distilleries and perfumes, encouraging adults and kids alike to use all five senses.
Biscuiterie de Forcalquier: Sample the best of Provence’s traditional biscuits made on the premises from local almonds and flavoured with orange-blossom water.
L’Occitane en Provence: The cosmetics giant needs no introduction. This is their world headquarters where it all began in 1976. Factory visits are available and you can shop till you drop in the wonderful factory store.
Plateau de Valensole
These are some of the most romantic – and photographed – lavender fields in Provence. Stop in at the tourist office for detailed maps and directions.
Durance: Founded in Grignan, these elegant perfumes, scented candles, home fragrances and skincare are prized throughout France. An excellent place to stock up on gifts.
Caveau des vignerons de Grignan-les-Adhémar: Taste a variety of local wines from many producers in the region and stock up for the journey home. Wines to seek out include the AOC Grignan-lesAdhémar, Cru Vinsobres and Coteaux des Baronnies and the sparkling blanc de blancs, Clairette and Crémant de Die. www.vins-rhone.com/visiter/activites/caveau-des-vignerons-degrignan-les-adhemar
La Bégude-de-Mazenc: These cultivators of organic lavender and makers of divine cosmetics offer tours of their lovely farm to learn everything about growing, distilling and making their range of high-quality products through workshops, outdoor massages, and gourmet picnics. Not to be missed.
Vignolis (Nyons) is the place for tasting and buying the local olives, tapenade and olive oil. Their museum reveals all about local olives and the large well-stocked boutique is the place to stock up on all the local bounty.
Distillerie Bleu Provence: Here you can watch the distillation process, visit a small museum, try a lavender-laced lemonade or local snack at the café, then shop till you drop at their marvellous boutique, replete with local essential oils, skincare, perfumes, soaps, and much more.
Thursday and Sunday market: This is hands down the best farmer’s market in the region, brimming with local products and local colour.
Among the many villages to explore, medieval Buis-les-Baronnies’ Wednesday market along the town’s winding streets attracts many small producers, and La Maison des Plantes Aromatiques provides an excellent introduction to this ancient agricultural centre. At the tourist office, you’ll find a delightful walking tour of the town.
Ho! Bouquet de lavande: Producer Nathalie Busi makes charming lavender bouquets, sachets, embroideries and other quality lavender products from her 125 acres of lavender fields.
From France Today magazine
Lead photo credit : Don’t miss the market at Nyons, which is full of fantastic local produce © La Drôme Tourisme
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