Ahh Provence, the much romanticized region of France, home to lavender fields, small picaresque villages and rose. It couldn’t possibly live up to the hype or can it? The answer is yes it can and then some. Provence will not disappoint and depending on what you love to do, Provence is varied enough to meet almost any need (though if you like snow, head slightly north to Savoie). Like hiking? Well good for you, the Luberon will provide many opportunities for you. Like wine? Provence’s underrated wine region, which is more than rose has just about everything. Like history? Head to Orange and see one of the best preserved Roman theaters or continue north to Vaison la Romaine. Like Glamour? Head to the Cote d’Azur for a beautiful tropical feel and plenty of glamour and wealth to spare. Like Food? Well you are in Provence so…. Which brings me to the question. I am in in Provence, now what? Well use my handy dandy but by no means expert guide to help figure out what to do. Provence is large. From Marseilles to the Italian border, the Mediterranean to just north of Avignon on the west, though the Northeastern border is closer to Grenoble. So Provence offers a lot and start with…
- Visiting villages. Peter Mayle famed author and Provencal resident has highlighted the allure of a Provence village and they are worth the visit. Especially for those wishing to escape the more tourist heavy settlement along the Mediterranean. Not to say these villages don’t have tourists, they do but they have a quieter more serene appeal. Lourmarin, Chateuneuf du Pape, Gordes,
Orange, Manosque are all good starting points for a visit to Provence. Lourmarin is stunning with lovely sidewalk restaurants and home to the Chateau du Lourmarin. http://www.chateau-de-lourmarin.com/home/ Chateauneuf du Pape is a small village in the heart of the famed Chateaunef du Pape wine region (which is technically a Rhone wine AOC) So when you are there…drink wine. Seriously, you can’t go wrong. Chateauneuf du Pape wine is famous for a reason.
The soils and climate give rise to some very interesting and very varied wines. A tasting visit to Chateau de Nerthe is recommended for its delicious wines, hospitable service, and affordability. The last time we were in Chateauneuf du Pape, @benton8tor decided it was touristy and was in a bit of a mood. Waiting to be seated for lunch, he looked around and remarked ” Well I guess I just have to be ok with touristy food” he sighed as a large tour group walked by. I ignored him after all we were in Chateauneuf du Pape. After we were seated, @benton8tor asks the English family next to us ” How is that burger?” The man replies “It is the best burger I ever ate!” @benton8tor ordered the burger still skeptical, as burgers aren’t very French. But It ended up being one of the best burgers he ever ate. His good mood and my smugness at being right were restored!
But as I said also visit Other villages, Lancon De Provence along with St Remy De Provence are beautiful, Orange is full of history and Gordes is literally stunning. Cadanet is underrated. There are so many more to visit. I probably should go again soon. http://www.chateaulanerthe.fr/
- Visit whatever is in season. If you are there in the summer, go see the lavender fields. They are quite stunning and the scent is intoxicating. In the spring see the almond trees, Fall is grape harvest!, mushroom picking and saffron. Late fall and winter is for truffles.
Either way Provence has lots to offer and check out any market for local in season specialties. I recommend L’isle Sur La Sourge’s market and it is a great place to grab a drink by the river when you are finished! https://www.tripadvisor.ca/Attraction_Review-g608811-d486621-Reviews-L_Isle_sur_la_Sorgue_Market-L_Isle_sur_la_Sorgue_Vaucluse_Provence_Alpes_Cote_d_Az.html
- Enjoy the local specialties. Provence is influenced by it Mediterranean neighbours and from the climate which is hospitable to olives, grapes ect…. Tapenade an olive paste meant for baguettes is a Provencal specialty and absolutely delicious as Provence olives have a distinct flavor. Bouillabaisse is specialty of Marseille and this seafood soup/stew is a tomato based, saffron infused must try. As well the Pissaladière a Provence pizza with onions, olives and anchovies that is delicious. Aoli is a Provencal classic, and this garlic/mayonnaise combo pairs beautifully with fish. Ask for recommendations but Provence is a foodie haven and much lighter fare than that of its Northern neighbours.
- Try the wine, not just the rose. Provence is famous for its roses for a reason but this means its whites and reds are actually underrated. Despite having the Luberon and Chateauneuf du Pape, in its departments, Provence wine region does not include these heavyweights, they belong to the Rhone so Provence’s whites and reds can be overshadowed. The reds of Bandol and Baux du Provence are bold, structured, and delicious. But delicate reds, easy drinking are also present. You can find wines suitable for a hot day and wines that will stand up to the spicier dishes. Provencal whites are also fresh and crisp, especially in Cassis. Provence wines are much more than rose.
Try Domaine Le Galantin in Bandol for all 3. http://www.le-galantin.com/vins-bandol.php
- Try Roses. Despite the absolute crime that white zinfandel has committed against roses, roses are not sickly sweet juice masquerading as wine. I know white zinfandel has its fans, but I am not one. Roses from Provence are dry, light, aromatic and unique. Made mainly by the direct press methods which ensures a lightness in colour but not flavour, these roses are aromatic, floral and beautiful. @benton8tor swears there is nothing more calming that sitting outside in a beautiful Provencal setting with Provencal bread and cheese and enjoying a rose. He is right. Provencal roses are like no other and come with their own unique bottle (called the skittle) though not all producers use it. Suffice it to say, the wine in unique so try it.
Provence is beautiful, friendly, can cover any budget and offer much to do but when visiting Provence, I just want to pour glass of wine, smell the lavender and watch the world go by.