ESSENTIALS

  • Provence is a region in the southwest of France that stretches along the Mediterranean as far as Italy and the Alps
  • June, July & August are high season so book early for accommodations & restaurants
  • Renting  a car is essential – don’t miss a drive through Provence’s Routes de la Lavande in late June through mid-July!
  • Le Mistral is a cold, dry wind that can reach up to 90 km/hr and is most common in the winter & spring
  • Known for its brilliant sunlight, many artists such as Van Gogh and Cézanne flocked here to paint the landscape
  • **This is by no means and extensive guide to Provence, but a personal experience adapted into a “best of” type of itinerary
Provence
Lourmarin - Bonnieux - Ménerbes - Gordes - Rousillon - Avignon - Les Baux de Provence - Uzés

SHORTLIST

  1. Sip on a pastis, an anise-flavored liqueur, on a café terrace
  2. Michelin Star dining
  3. Shopping in the Provençal market
  4. Sample classic dishes like soupe au pistou (vegetable soup), ratatouille (chopped and stewed tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, zucchini & aubergines) and lapin à la provençale (rabbit stew).
  5. Drive through the Lavender fields
  6. Visit the increidble Pont du Gard
  7. Rosé tasting
  8. Panorama photo-op of Gordes
  9. Grab a baguette at the local boulangerie
  10. Try your hand at pétanque, a game originating in Provence

 

STAY

Ménerbes vineyard inn
$$-$$$
Avignon elegance
$$$
Uzès modern farmhouse
$$-$$$

ITINERARY

Friday

  • Lourmarin | The best way to immerse yourself in Provençal life is a morning market in one of the many small towns in the region. Vendors line the streets selling fresh fruit and vegetables, cheeses, oils, French linens and soaps from Marseille. The most relaxing way to spend your morning and the perfect one-stop shop for souvenirs.
  • Café Gaby | Grab a café au lait on the terrace spilling out onto the street. It’s a prime spot for people watching and the best place to take a break from market shopping.
  • Bonnieux | Explore the smaller market with local crafts and produce at the bottom of the village. Look for opulent houses dating back to the 16th century where several bishops once lived when the town belonged to Popes. Stop for lunch at Le Fourn!l in this strikingly beautiful hilltop town. Set in a natural cave (also formerly the village bakery) opt for a meal on the shaded terrace or the contemporary decor inside.  The menu is seasonal and inspired by the Mediterranean.
  • Domaine de Marie | Visit the winery for a free tasting as a guest of the bastide.
  • La Bastide de Marie | A charming inn located on an idyllic vineyard in the countryside. It’s absolute paradise. Dinner here begins with an aperitif in the salon or on the terrace. The food is rustic and simple in a casually chic setting.

Saturday

  • Gordes | Gordes is a very beautiful old village, perched on the southern edge of the high Plateau de Vaucluse. It doesn’t take long to see the whole town, but the drive and views are worth the trip.
  • Le Bouquet de Basilic | Enjoy a Mediterranean lunch on the leafy terrace in the restaurant tucked away behind a souvenir shop. It’s a great retreat from the surrounding touristy options and many dishes include the owner’s house-grown basil and garlic.
  • Abbaye Notre Dame de Sénanque |  If you’re so lucky to be visiting late June-early August, the lavender fields will be in bloom. Founded in 1148 by Cistercian monks the abbey has many examples of Romanesque architecture. Do not miss this photo op!
  • Roussillon | The stunning red cliffs of this town are worth a visit. Strolling through the winding streets is like walking through a painting. One of the biggest ochre deposits in the world, the town is famous for its reds, oranges, yellows and pinks. It’s possible to explore the Colorado de Rustrel quarry on a footpath, but know that the red dust will color you shoes and clothes! 
  • Xavier Mathieu at Le Phébus | A 5 star hostellerie outside of Gordes with a Michelin awarded chef, Xavier Mathieu. Try the soupe au pistou, a regional vegetable soup with garlic and basil. A wonderful place to sample Provençal flavors in a beautiful setting.

Sunday

  • Avignon | This walled city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a lot to offer.  It’s not one of the smaller towns but chances are you’ll be arriving and departing from the train station here. Start with the indoor food market (daily except Monday) until 1:30 pm. Inside the Halles, there are vendors selling fish, meat, bread and regional produce. The Palais de Papes was built in the 14th century when the Pope left Rome for his own safety to rule in France. For centuries, successive Popes stayed in the Palace. It’s Europe’s largest medieval Gothic  building. Opposite the Palais, you’ll find La Mirande, a hotel filled with a personal collection of art & antiques by the owners.
  • 83.Vernet | So the service isn’t spectacular, however, the setting is is hard to beat. The open air courtyard is tucked away behind a historical building façade with all-white contemporary decor.
  • Les Baux de Provence | Classified as one of the most beautiful villages in France, this stone fortress offers views of Arles, la Camargue and the Alpilles on a clear day. Do not miss the Citadelle des Baux at the summit of the village with ruins, a chapel and musuem.
  • L’Oustau de Baumaniere | The hotel is nestled at the base of Les Baux and its world-renowned restaurant has 2 Michelin stars. It’s a decadent dining experience beginning with an aperitif on the terrace and ending with a cheese cart and candied fruits. The backdrop is stunning and it’s an all around luxurious experience.
  • Le Bistrot Paradou | In the nearby town of Paradou is a bistro serving up more traditional dishes in a rustic setting. It’s friendly and a favorite of American expats despite the very local crowd. Another more casual dining option is the nearby Franck et Flo (recommended by the bistro) which serves up similar fare. Purchase your bottle of wine in the adjoining shop and enjoy the lively atmosphere with red checkered tables and mismatched chairs.

Monday

  • L’Huitre et la Vigne | This is an experience not to be missed. A husband-wife team operates “The Oyster & the Vine”, a charming little restaurant and guesthouse near the infamous Pont du Gard. Be sure to make a reservation and pre-order the lobster. Anne-Sophie had just returned from the coast with fresh caught lobster in hand!
  • Pont Du Gard | A Roman architectural and engineering feat! This three-level bridge enables the aqueduct of Nimes to cross the Gard River. Built halfway through the 1st century AD, it’s hard to imagine something so complex constructed without modern technology.
  • Uzés | This feels like a hidden gem compared to the surrounding touristy towns. It won’t be a secret for long, so be sure to visit the small medieval village before it becomes the next ‘it’ destination in Provence. If you happen to be visiting on a Saturday, check out the town’s popular market.
  • Les Terroirs | Enjoy a glass of wine just off the Place Aux Herbes at this little wine shop. On a balmy summer evening, it’s the perfect spot to enjoy a pastis.
  • La Table 2 Julien | This charming little restaurant is a gem. Simple menu with local ingredients provide a perfect last meal on a trip to Provence.

PACKING LIST

ROADMAP

Includes every location mentioned above
Lauren Greenberg
Itinerary By

Founder of The Weekender

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