I realize that this might be an incredibly bold statement, but I’m just going to go with it – Provence is my favorite place in the entire world. Honestly. I fell one hundred percent in love with the area, especially the hotel where we stayed, and started researching ways to return while I was poolside on the terrace, glass of rosé in my hand, looking at Mount Ventoux. ‘Magical’ was a word I used over and over again throughout our short time in Provence, but honestly, it’s the single best way I could possibly describe the region that completely stole my heart.
As a photographer, I’m always taking note of the light around me, and in Provence, it seems as though near-perfect light is never too far away. Open shade in the Provençal towns absorb just the right amount of light from the surrounding bright walls, that everything seems beautifully lit even when it’s shaded. It might have been some magical illusion, but the famed ‘golden hour’ that we experience just before sunset seems to last much longer than an hour in Provence – a photographer’s paradise, indeed. As if I haven’t come across as melodramatic (borderline crazy) enough already, the pastel colors of Provence absolutely transfixed me, and since returning home, I’ve found myself drawn to those same hues in an attempt to recreate my beloved Provençal villages and countryside.
Having a rental car let us experience so much more of Provence, and overall we were so grateful to have the flexibility to explore various towns of the Luberon. There were times, however, that Michael’s manual-driving inexperience (and the temper that followed) showed on the small hilly streets and I found myself wishing we were just on some sort of hot and cramped tour bus.
Although we missed the peak of the lavender season by mere days, we were lucky to experience many bits & pieces of Provençal culture that we now attempt to incorporate into everything we do. Rosé, as we noted to our Instagram followers, really is cheaper than water… and obviously much more delicious. My greatest sadness will come in a few short weeks when summer is over and it is no longer as acceptable for me to order a glass of rosé at dinner, or it’s too chilly to enjoy some Pastis with friends on the patio. For now though, we’ll take full advantage of the warm weeks we have remaining!
The food in Provence was outstanding, and returning home to Maine during the height of tomato season with roasted Provençal tomates fresh in our minds, has had a serious effect on our evening meals. In fact, the first weekend after we returned, we prepared a spaghetti & mussels dish featured in a recent Martha Stewart Living, and tried to create the tomates dish we had for lunch one day in Crillon le Brave (of course a bottle of Rosé made an appearance). We’ve even made plans to turn a neglected side garden of ours into a boules court for next summer (we just happened to pick up an issue of the British publication, House & Garden, during our trip that lays out the steps for such a project – fate is obviously on our side with this one).
Attempts to recreate our experiences in Provence will obviously pale in comparison to the time we spent there, but hopefully it won’t be long before we have the opportunity to return to revisit old memories and make new ones.
Visiting L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue on the Sunday market day couldn’t have set a better tone for our Provençal adventure. Meandering through the streets along both sides of the Sorgue river, popping into various antique shops, and picking up a few items here and there from visiting street vendors, really was the perfect way to start the second half of our trip to France. Of course, we were already as happy as could be after finishing what was quite literally the best lunch of our lives, but this charming little village, bustling with Sunday vendors and shoppers, completely topped the cake. My heart broke a little more each time we visited an antique shop and I was forced to part with an item that simply wouldn’t fit into a suitcase. It was during our short time in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue that I selected no less than 17 bistro style chair variations that we just had to have for our home. I can only imagine how dangerous a town with the offerings of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue would be if we actually lived in France!
I’m a fairly upbeat, glass-half-full kind of person, but I remember walking out of Le Jardin du Quai, our very first stop in Provence, as happy as I’d been in a long, long time. View pictures and read more about Le Jardin du Quai.
When I think of the tiny Provençal towns of the Luberon, the hilltop village of Gordes is precisely what comes to my mind. It was our next stop after lunching and antiquing in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, and the first glimpse we saw of the village was just as awe-inspiring as I’d imagined. With stunning views of both Les Monts de Vaucluse and the Calavon valley, the stone houses and buildings of Gordes seemingly grow out of the Plateau de Vaucluse. After visiting villages like Gordes, I can now see why the Luberon has served as inspiration to artists for centuries – being there for just a short time myself has had an impact on me as a photographer and how I see certain colors. I look forward to returning to as many Provençal towns throughout my life as I possibly can!
If we absolutely had to choose, Roussillon might have been our very favorite excursion during our drive through the Luberon. The village, known for its colorful ochre-stained buildings, can be spotted from miles away. Not only were we drawn to the rich, warm colors of the building, but also the contrast that was created with various pastel-colored shutters & doors. Not photographing every new and inspiring facade was quite the challenge! We could have walked the winding, hilly streets of Roussillon for hours, taking in the colors and beautiful views from the hills, but we were too excited to get to our final destination – Crillon le Brave!
If Meredith’s constant exclamation of “Magical!” wasn’t enough of a sign of how much we enjoyed ourselves at Hotel Crillon le Brave, the severe cloud of gloominess that settled on our car as we drove away from the town surely made us realize how important it was to return one day soon. View pictures and read more about Crillon le Brave.