Monday 29th of June, 8 AM. The travel bug persists, we’ve been waiting for a long time to hit the road again. This day has finally come after 3 months of uncertainty due to COVID19. We start our 6 days road trip in the South of France, Provence Alpes-Cotes d’Azur. Our first stop includes a very popular place in France, one that we’ve never visited before but have seen thousands of photos: we will spend 2 days in Provence. The region Provence is well known for having the best purple lavender fields in the world as well as a natural hidden gem named Colorado Provençal. Here we will have the opportunity to see ochres of yellow, orange and red colours. To complement our trip in nature we chose to stay at a remarkable holiday house in the middle of a rural area surrounded by mountains and valleys, Jardin de L’abbaye de Valsaintes.
Orange lands with odd rock formations. The ochre fields of this natural site remind us of its big brother in the USA. As a result, it is called Colorado Provençal and nicknamed the French Colorado. Found in Rustrel, the Vaucluse Département belonging to Région Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. A big parking lot is easily accessible and cost 5€ per car, in addition, a map of the site is provided. One cafeteria is available at the parking and another one, few miles away, as you begin walking on the trail.
The Colorado Provencal is a Geopartner, Unesco Charter Global Geopark. Ochre is born from the sea having continuously evolved, after being exposed to different climates and rainfall. Gradually the green sandstone turned into clay sand. Varying in hundreds of different colours including yellows, orange and even red clay. The site was a mining quarry for years and much of the ochre is still currently being exported and sold for its pigment use.
There are 2 trail paths available to admire the 3 different sites: the main one, Le Sahara, secondly Les Cheminées des fées and finally Le Désert blanc. A short blue trail, named Circuit Sahara offers the opportunity to visit the main attraction: Le Sahara is an impressive artwork of nature combined with its years of mining. Few rock formations stand in front of you and fill your eyes with vivid orange colour. This trail is 2.1km long and will take you around 40 minutes. The second option, the orange trail is the Circuit Belvedere that covers the whole area. It is about 1h45 minutes and 3.9km. After seeing Le Sahara, a pleasant stroll in the forest leads to 3 viewpoints. One overlooking Le Sahara in the distance, the second one, Les Cheminées des fees and the last one Le Désert blanc.
Both trails are relatively easy, offering captivating views however when exploring the vicinity make sure you wear resistant hiking shoes as the pigment of the clay can stain. Whilst walking around the French Colorado it’s easy to imagine being in a dessert. The dry sand and hilly paths along with unusually shaped rocks make for cinematic photos.
These lush fields are spotted throughout Provence in the South of France. In fact, as you drive along the highway it’s possible to view rows upon rows of lavender and wheat fields as well as charming little villages. Be sure to stop for a quick photo! We would say the best time to visit is mid June through to July as this is when the lavender fields are blooming additionally there aren’t too many people during this period. Lavender is generally used for aromatherapy and could help improve sleep not to mention the essential oils are a natural stress reliever.
This ancient village sits right above beautiful lavender fields. With its architectural treasures, the town has received the award of “Cité de Caractère” for being one of the nicest hilltop villages of the region. We went there early in the morning for the sunrise in order to capture the spectacular performance of the Provence’s specialty.
Welcome to the capital of the Lavender kingdom. Located in Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, every year, Valensole is visited by thousands of international tourists, some who even plan their wedding in the heart of the purple fields. The famous Provencal scent is in abundance here, immerse yourself within these fields taking in the aroma and fascinating views. As you skip through rows of purple and blue lavender, you will find that it’s a playground for our buzzing friends the bees. Plateau de Valensole is also the theatre of other consumable vegetation such as olives, wheat, cereals and almond trees.
To make the most of our experience during our 2 days in Provence, we decided to stay at a gite which is a furnished holiday house, usually found within a rural district in France. Gites offer you more than just an accommodation for the night. You get to live the life of the inhabitants by enjoying and tasting their local products. Unlike a hotel, you can bring your own food and share common areas with other guests. What makes Le jardin de l’Abbaye de Valsaintes so special are its garden’s and its renovated church. The place is actually better known for its garden which is one of the main touristic activities in the area. The entrance fees are 7€ per person.
The highlight of our 2 days in Provence was the spectacular scenery of the lavender fields. It was such an impressive and indescribable feeling to see all those colours, especially while driving through Plateau de Valensole. Even a few weeks later, as we reminisce on our trip to the south, the scent of the lavender still lingers. The cherry on the cake was our fabulous stay at Le jardin de l’Abbaye de Valsaintes which provided us a feeling of calm and zen.