Welcome to our compendium of very Provencal Places to help build your Best of Provence Travel Itinerary
The internet is full of 3 day, 5 day, and 7 day Provence Travel Itineraries. They are all very much alike and rehearse the same big sights: The Palais des Papes in Avignon, The Arena in Arles, The Musee Granet in Aix en Provence etc…This Provence travel itinerary is very different.
The places that merit inclusion are not museums or cultural sights. Instead they are locations that to me have a particularly Provencal feel. It may be a restaurant next to a fountain under a plane tree or it could be a vineyard with a sensational view over the Provencal countryside or an artist’s gallery or even a bar with a particularly Provencal vibe. The important thing is that if you choose to include these places in your Provence Travel Itinerary, you will really feel that you are in Provence.
Provencal Place no.1 for your Provence Travel Itinerary:
Place Saint Didier Avignon
Avignon, to the east of Rue de La Republique
Because there is nothing quite like a shady church square. Place Saint Didier is off the beaten tourist track and has recently been pedestrianised. There’s a gorgeous old plane tree, a micocoulier (hackberry tree) and the gothic Eglise Saint Didier famed for its renaissance art. No self-respecting square would be complete without a café. The Place Saint Didier boasts the Grand Café Barretta one of the best spots to stop, and watch the world go by. Several niches in the buildings of the Place Saint Didier are home to statues of the Virgin Mary. Avignon is famed for these small statuettes – there are some 250 in all, completed by the stone masons (for which the city was well known up until the 20th century).
2. The Belvedere of Courthezon
The town of Courthezon just north of Avignon.
For the amazing view of the Dentelles de Montmirail and Mont Ventoux, a little history, and a pleasing stroll through the little visited town of Courthezon. Way back in the 17th century Courthezon was part of the principality of Orange. Louis XIV claimed the territory for the French throne and knocked down the Chateau and most of the ramparts of the town. He left 600 m or so which have recently been restored. Climb up and admire the view of the Dentelles and then stroll through the public gardens next to the Marie. It’s an off the beaten track delight.
3. The Moulin de Jerusalem
At the top of the village of Goult in the Northern Luberon.
The view of the Luberon Hills from adjacent to the 17th century windmill is hard to beat. The summer sun creates a rippling heat haze within which the colours of the lavender fields, olive groves and lush vines merge in and out of each other. It’s the Luberon’s version of the Northern Lights. The Moulin is supposed to take its names from the nobility in the Goult area who headed off to the holy lands to join the Crusades. As enjoyable as the view is the gentle meander back through the village streets of Goult.
4. The village of Vaugines
5km from Lourmarin in the Southern Luberon, about 30 minutes drive north from Aix en Provence.
Vaugines is often overlooked by tourists. The main road sweeps by beneath the village and most people never even consider stopping. They don’t know what they are missing. For a truly Provencal 30 minutes, park in the parking beneath the church. A small road takes you up towards the hills. Keep the picturesque church, framed by centuries old plane trees on your right, and continue out into the countryside towards the Luberon hills. After 1km take a left turn (signposted to the center of the village) and meander through the picturesque streets, arriving at the central fountain. There stop and order a pastis from Café de La Fontaine. Drink slowly in the sleepy shade listening to the trickling waters of the fountain. Nothing could be more Provencal.
5.The table for two at La Trinquette Gordes
Rue des Tracapelles, 84220 Gordes, Tel : Tel: 04 90 72 11 62
The table with perhaps the best view in Provence, sits on a Romeo and Juliet balcony, looking out in a grand sweep from the vertiginous heights of Gordes across the Luberon. In the summer at sunset, the blazing sunshine fades to orange, to purple, to blue, to darkness. Cypress trees spear the sky, cicadas chirp in the garrigue, in short there’s no doubting you are in Provence. Oh and the food is excellent. Be warned you need to book well in advance – there’s only the one table on the terrace and its extremely popular particularly with honeymooners!
6. Domaines des Masques
Clinging to the side of a cliff half-way up Mont Saint Victoire! But for your GPS: Chemin Maurely, 13100 Saint-Antonin-sur-Bayon, Tel: 06 70 19 54 67
If you only schedule one wine tasting on your South of France vacation make it a trip to Domaine des Masques. The wine of course is great, with multiple whites, reds and rosés to sample, but the real reason to visit is the overall experience. Firstly, phone in advance to check the domaine is open. Visiting takes commitment.
First you locate the small road heading south from St Antonin Sur Bayon near Aix en Provence. The road quickly turns into a bumpy track. Ignore the signs saying access for fire fighters only and jolt out into the wild (a robust suspension is recommended).
Domaine des Masques is located on the plateau of rock which runs around the base of Mont Saint Victoire. It’s one of the most dramatic locations for a vineyard imaginable. The vines run right up to the cliff face and the vineyard buildings are framed by the immensity of the mountain behind. Add in the quality of the wines and the sensational views on the way up and down and this is a vineyard visit not to be missed. Schedule a visit in July when the lavender field in front of the vineyard is in bloom and there are great photo opportunities. What could be more Provencal – sipping rosé in a purple haze of lavender admiring the view of Mont Saint Victoire?
7. The Mange Tout Restaurant
Calanque Mejeans, 8 Chemin du Tire Cul, 13820 Ensuès-la-Redonne, approx. 25 minutes drive from Marseille Marignane airport.
Enjoy a magical Mediterranean moment a short hop from the airport. There is something delightfully ramshackle about this restaurant: plastic chairs, basic tables and a makeshift covering for the terrace. The vibe is small Greek island rather than oh so chic South of France.
The back to basics attitude extends to the food. There’s fish, fish, fish and the odd salad for those who don’t like fish. The Calamares are some of the best I have ever had. The grilled catch of the day arrives each morning in the adjacent harbour.
Then there is the view, as you can see from the photo it is absolutely sensational. This is Provence at its best, far from the crowds, a real local secret where you can truly soak up the atmosphere of a small fishing community.
An added bonus is a boule pitch a stone’s throw from the restaurant. Perfect for a pastis at sundown overlooking the Med. Build this place into any Provencal itinerary. It’s only 30 minutes drive from Marseille Marignane airport so it’s the perfect restaurant to visit at the start or end of any vacation.
8. Tuesday Morning at the Etang du Cucuron
The Southern Luberon Village of Cucuron, about 30 minutes north of Aix en Provence.
A list of Provencal places would not be complete without including at least one market. Every Tuesday the village of Cucuron hosts my favourite in Provence. The combination of the etang, the centuries old plane trees and the multicoloured parasols of the traders combine to create one of the most alluring sights in Provence.
On sunny days the reflection of the trees and the market stalls in the water is something to behold. What I like most about this market is the peaceful atmosphere. Outside the summer season there is a sense of tranquillity. Lulled by the generous shadows and the lapping water, people shop slowly and convivially. Enjoying a coffee on the terrace of the local café and watching the world pass by is a pleasure.
Check back next week for no 9 on our list of Provencal places to be included in your Best of Provence Travel Itinerary.
And meanwhile if you have any suggestions for inclusion add a comment below or email email@example.com
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