The Provençal lifestyle is an enviable one. Bask in it, if but for a short while, and discover vibrant cultural offerings, country life, and inspired natural landscapes.View Provence offers
I'm an American-born writer, blogger and travel planner based in St. Remy de Provence since 1999. My companies ProvencePostTravel.com and WhatToDoinProvence.com provide a wide range of services and experiences for travelers throughout the South of France. I've published the blog ProvencePost.com since 2008.
The first time I came to Provence it was for a two-week vacation and almost immediately, I could see that 14 days wouldn't be nearly enough. I returned a year later and that's when reality hit: my marriage to New York City was over and my love affair with Provence was in full bloom. I fell hard. So I quit my job and sublet my Manhattan apartment and got on a plane. I had no place to live, two friends and no French. It was the smartest stupid thing I've ever done.
Provence does that to people!
Almost 20 years on, I'm still making delicious daily discoveries. So how to soak up as much Provencal magic as possible, on a short first-time trip? Here are a couple tips:
From the unique southern lifestyle to vibrant festivals, discover the essence of the Provençal life.
Provence is guaranteed to give you lifestyle envy. Here, the living is good. From the bustling markets to the lively cafés and bars, Provençal life is laid-back, a fine balance of indulgence and activity. Sitting al fresco along charming boulevards, a refreshing rosé in hand and tapenade ready to be picked at, walking past softly-scented fields of lavender, and listening to the soft clicking sound of the pétanque game in the square. A pastis before dinner, a bottle from the cellar to accompany your evening as the sun slinks away… It’s a life worth living to its fullest, if even for a snapshot.
To really live Provençal, you need to go where the locals go. Provence is one of France’s most popular destinations and for good reason, but even here lies a host of undiscovered gems that remain relatively off-the-beaten-path. Stumble upon glorious medieval hilltop villages across the region, like Les Baux-de-Provence and Gordes, the latter known as the most beautiful village in France. They enchant at every turn, often hosting exquisite restaurants and impressive cellar bars. Wild swimming is another French favourite, with Sillans-la-Cascade being a serene hideaway beset with a waterfall for a truly picturesque cool-down under the hot sun. Spark up a conversation over a pastis to unpick your very own local’s faves.
Festivals and events are a big part of the Provençal lifestyle. They showcase the creativity and unique culture of the region, allowing any visitor to immerse themselves in the tapestry of life in Provence. MP2018 promises such immersion, with no less than six months of revelry united under the theme of love. From February 14th to September 1st, enjoy spellbinding fireworks displays, operas, concerts, circuses and much more. The events are happening across the region, offering a great excuse to explore everything Provence, and this festival, has to offer. The most convivial of all Provençal experiences has to be the Sardinades of Martigues. Hosted in a square of Provence’s ‘little Venice’, it’s a summer evening feast for locals and visitors punctuated by live music to deal with, of all things, the overabundance of sardines. For those looking for a culture fix head to Festival d’Avignon, one of the most important contemporary performing arts events in the world.
From sea to mountain, the region is blessed with inspired natural wonders set to perfect any rural getaway.
Near the stunning Mediterranean coastline lie outdoor scenes set to beguile any visitor. At the western point of the region, marked by the Rhône river delta, lies the Camargue. The wetlands host an array of bird life, along with iconic, wild white horses and flamingos basking in the sun. Bulls are herded by local cowboys setting the scene for a unique rural escape. East of the Camargue between Marseille and Cassis, you’ll find the white rocky outcrops of Les Calanques, that line the coastline here. Falling steeply into the sea, they offer up private coves and beaches, either accessible by a hike or by boat. For a serene spot on a quiet beach, discover the hidden shores of Les Calanques. For thrills, head further along the coast to Almanarre in Hyères, where a startlingly long beach is a mecca for parasailers and funboarders.
Provence is blessed with a sublime natural colour palette, a fact not lost on the artists who trailed the land in search of inspiration. The most iconic has to be the lavender fields, which grow across Luberon, Haute-Provence and Mont Ventoux. They bloom between June and August and once harvested, the villages and towns are filled with handcrafted lavender products that make perfect gifts. The Ochre Trail outside of Roussillon is of nice contrast to the deep purple of the fields. This burnt-orange trail offers stunning walking and hiking opportunities through the glorious countryside, all framed by the terracotta hue of the old ochre quarry.
Dramatic landscapes offer enthralling outdoor adventures and those in Provence are no different. Head for the white-tip peak of Mont Ventoux, which from a distance looks perpetually snow-capped. The stark white rock adds to the mystique of the mountain, known as one of the most treacherous climbs in the Tour de France. The summit views are excellent and if you can face the uphill cycle, incredibly rewarding. The Gorges du Verdon is another breathtaking spectacle; a sliver of turquoise cuts through vast cliffs, making the gorge the deepest and most beautiful in Europe. Take a canoe tour to fully appreciate the majestic scale of this natural wonder, spotting griffon vultures as you glide through the river valley…
1 pair of skis or 1 snowboard, 1 pair of ski poles, 1 pair of ski boots or 1 pair of snowboard boots travel free of charge, in addition to standard baggage allowance (excluding hand luggage only fares) and is subject to availability. Price quoted as one-way, per person including airport taxes and surcharges departing from London Heathrow to Geneva. Price correct at the time of production and is subject to change and exchange rate variations. Availability is limited and on some payment methods a charge of 1.65% may apply.