The southern regions of France have always attracted visitors from all over the world. The amazing landscapes, superb cuisine, delicious wines and seemingly endless summer sunshine are just a few reasons why we all like to spend a little quality time in Provence and I for one love the hilltop towns that are dotted around the area. With the splendid vistas overlooking huge areas, it is no wonder that many people enjoy driving through Provence exploring and discovering little French treasures as they do.
Some years ago we spent a few weeks doing just this and discovered lots of places to visit and many beautiful restaurants to eat at. One of these beautiful villages is Séguret in the northern region of the Vaucluse. Séguret is officially one of the ‘most beautiful villages’ in all of France.
Another lovely village is Gorde and of course the Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque, famous for the gorgeous aromatic lavender fields that surround the magnificent structure of the monastery. It dominates the view as you drive down the steep hill into the valley and it is like travelling back in time when you do. The medieval Cistern abbey is open for people to visit and provides overnight retreats for those who wish to stay in this beautifully peaceful setting.
I particularly fell in love with Gorde, an amazing village set high on the façade of the cliffs overlooking the large valleys below. We had lunch here on a couple of occasions at a lovely restaurant which served fabulous Provenҫale cuisine, Les Cuisine du Château although small, is worth booking a table at. During the summer months there are two terraces which offer additional seating but you may still have to wait for your table because this is a very busy restaurant that people love to eat at.
I adore finding new places and often we just go off without really having a set route. This is when we find the real treasures of Provence. We always stay in Avignon and we rent a small apartment from a lovely lady, Madame Manguin who has a wonderful distillery that produces ‘eau de vie’ among other alcohols. Her lands are full of fruit orchards which are so very typical of Provence and we enjoy the peaceful setting when we are staying there. The town of Avignon is delightful, with the Palais de Papes jutting proudly out of the sheer rock overlooking it. There is a lovely atmosphere in the town itself with many great restaurants and cafés as well as traditional shops and bars.
Roussillon is another delightful village that sits so elegantly on top of a hill, it is renowned for its’ ochre quarries. The colours around this beautiful village are really quite amazing and artists for decades have been drawn to the area because of this. There is a wonderful market every Thursday where you can find excellent local produce as well as many other traditional Provenҫale items such as their amazing fabrics.
The famous book ‘A Year in Provence’ for me says it all, to really get to know the area and discover all of its treasures you would need at least 12 months or maybe even longer.