Provence brings to mind sunflowers, lavender fields, rose wine, outdoor markets and the bluest of skies. During our visit in July, I found Provence was just as beautiful as I had imagined. We thought it was a fantastic destination for a variety of family activities from Roman aqueducts to exploring markets. But on our first day I wanted to visit the lavender fields of Provence.
Visit the Lavender Fields of Provence
A visit to Provence in the summer, particular in July, is an opportunity to see the lavender fields in all their vibrant purple bloom. There are all sorts of tours that can be taken and large distilleries to visit. We decided to try and avoid the busiest crowds and visit the smaller, family owned and run, Distillerie Vallon des Lavandes, just below the village of Sault. The younger members of Backpacks and Sunhats were not convinced about the appeal of looking at flowers, but they ended up really enjoying the day, visiting the lavender fields of Provence. I loved how they talked a lot during the day about how much their Grans and Aunties would enjoy this day out too. We shared lots of photos that day.
Distillerie Vallon des Lavandes
We arrived as the car park was filling up, and for awhile we were a little lost in a crowd of people speaking rapid French. It was the Friday before a long weekend, many French couples were enjoying a holiday in the South of France. Once it was established that we would like a tour conducted in English, we were asked to wait a short while until a guide became available. Full of apologies, a young French women arrived within 10 minutes to start our tour. We were quite happy sitting in their lovely garden while we waited. Tour groups always provide excellent people watching opportunities.
The tour is free, there was no pressure to purchase anything. The family were so welcoming despite it being a very busy time for them. There is a small shop on site.
Many large factory shops sell everything and anything to do with lavender and lavadin. Also stuff that has nothing to do with lavender really but is just coloured purple! At Vallon they keep it simple and sell quality oils and a small selection of soaps etc.
Worldschool Science Lesson – Distilling Essential Lavender Oil
In our canny way we were lucky to be get another private tour. The French speaking groups were very large but we were the only English speaking group there at the time. The tour was a fascinating lesson in the process of distilling lavender oil. What a great science class for worldschool. Later that day L and S wrote up a page in their notebooks and drew diagrams of the distillery.
The guide answered all our questions and let us touch and smell throughout the process. We talked about sustainability and how each by-product of the process is reused, to ensure nothing is wasted. The leftover lavender stalks are dried into bales and used to fuel the fire in the distillery. The lavender water, left after the oil has been separated, can be used as a room fragrance or to lightly scent laundry and linen.
The property is very authentic using traditional processes and has been family run since 1947. We were introduced to the grandfather of the farm during our tour.
If you wanted to compare processes you could visit both a larger modern distillery and a traditional one but for us one visit was perfect. We were ready to explore the surrounding countryside and villages and get into the lavender fields.
After your tour head into the town of Sault. Here you can buy lavender themed items of every kind. Lavender souvenirs, oils, soaps, postcards and also bunches of dried lavender.
Lavender is also used in a variety of tasty treats. You shouldn’t leave without tasting a lavender nougat, meringue, ice cream or macaron from Nougat André Boyer.
Sault is a fairly small village, walk away from the tourist streets and you’ll find crumbling stone cottages and more fantastic views.
Self-drive Lavender Tours
From Sault drive the back roads to Ferrassières, just a 15 minute drive but a world away from the more touristy Sault. Here is where we got some of our best pictures and uninterrupted views of the fields. You can simply park on the side of the road and take it all in. Watch out for bees if you approach the fields, they are everywhere. And of course be respectful of private property and taking care not to damage the plants.
Alternatively explore the area between Sault and Mont Ventoux for a patchwork view of lavender fields.
This day out was just part of a week spent in the South of France. We based ourselves in Avignon for 5 nights and Canne for 2 nights on our way across to Italy. Lots more South of France posts to come including an incredible Roman Aqueduct and Roman Museum.