Provence, Provence Provence. My love affair with France can be traced to one region…Provence. If you haven’t visited the region yet, you won’t be disappointed. Known for its spectacular colours, lavender, food, wine, and beautiful weather, Provence is a sensory dream. Back in 2010, we knew we wanted to visit Provence but weren’t sure where. We batted around the idea of the more well known cities (Avignon, Marseilles) discussed St Remy de Provence and Aix En Provence, the favourites of Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin respectively, but after watching an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, we settled on Salon De Provence
Salon De Provence located in the Bouches Du Rhone department of Provence is a perfect introduction to. Salon a city of roughly 43,000 people is often overlooked compared to the more well known villages of Provence ( all stunning and worth visiting n their own right) but Salon is a perfect jumping off point to discover Provence. Salon is famous for being a favorite of Catherine De Medici, Burial place of Nostradamus, and its beautiful Fountaine Mousse a limestone concretions that has had vegetation develop giving it the look of a mushroom shaped tree that is continually producing moisture.
We lucked out, staying at the family run Hotel Du Midi just a few short steps from City Centre , was perfect, A beautiful courtyard, very Provencal rooms and fresh made croissants with fresh juice every morning. And the warmest welcome and coldest coke I have ever had in Europe! It as heavenly to go back to this lovely hotel at the end of the day and enjoy some wine we had bought that day and relax in the beautiful courtyard before going to bed. https://www.logishotels.com/fr/hotel/hotel-du-midi-203070?partid=66
Our first foray in Salon de Provence happened to be during the Renaissance festival in late June. Local vendors sell soaps, treats, and amazing food ( the lavender cookies are out of this world),
Also blacksmith demonstrations and other Renaissance activities..A must do. This time we happened to be travelling with my parents. Ben, my dad, and I were relaxing at one of the many patios overlooking the festival while my mom went to buy literally everything she could fit into her suitcase (she did eventually have to buy a second one). She came back arms laden with all the new and lovely Provencal products she just bought. She then proceeded to show us each one and who she she may have planned on giving it to. She was especially proud of this beautiful smelling soap. We noted that were were surprised that she bought so much so soap made from donkeys. (Note: donkey products especially soap are quite a luxury item but my mom didn’t know that yet) ‘Donkey soap!! How do you know that?” she yelled all affronted. We pointed over to the booth with the giant picture of a donkey and the signage indicating it was indeed donkey soap. ‘Well’ she scoffs ” i guess that will be for (insert random relative name here).’ Joke was on her though as she probably gave them the more exclusive and luxurious of the products. And no we haven’t let her live it down.
Salon De Provence was also my first foray into Provencal wine. We visited local wineries in the Bouches du Rhone region an tasted some amazing red, light as air Roses, an simply Delicious olive oils. We also bought some wonderful Provencal pottery. Provencal wines, especially reds from anywhere other than Bandol are often underappreciated. The wines are really delicious, easy to drink and because they are often undervalued, very very inexpensive. Visiting local wineries, you will often find free degustation (tasting) self guided tours and often olive oils for sale as well.
Salon also offers the Château de l’Empéri a beautiful castle where Catherine de Medici consulted Nostradamus and you can view the herb gardens he started. http://www.salondeprovence.fr/index.php/emperi The views from the castle are stunning and gives an incredible glimpse into the history of Salon de Provence. It should be noted that Adam De Craponne, A french engineer responsible for bring water and canals to Salon is in directly responsible for the herb gardens. And the herbs in Provence are especially fragrant and delicious.
Finally the food in Salon De Provence is amazing. Strong Mediterranean influences with stellar local ingredients. We both had a tomato based pasta with smoked runny goats cheese, hake cooked en papillote, olives, tomatoes and prawns cooked in a giant wok like contraption. Also lavender bread, local cookies and sausage. As well the best gelato to date. It is a gastronomic dream.
Salon is a beautiful city, with lots to offer. Don’t miss out.