Those of you that know me, know that I love France. I love the pace of life and focus on the local....and of course the food (and wine!). I have visited more than a dozen times and I am dreaming of seeing Provence again next month, but in a completely different way. I have been planning more river cruises in Europe and I have never experienced one (other than little day trips...). I think it is important to have first hand experience to help you plan if it is the right choice for your travel. My river cruise is booked from March 25th to April 1st on Uniworld Boutique Cruise Lines. I'm very excited and will share all of the details once I get home.
Looking at my itinerary made me reminisce about some of my previous travels. Provence is a great area to travel independently. The small towns are within easy driving distance of one another and you can reach the Mediterranean easily for a combination beach and culture (or hiking or foodie) trip.
This is a photo of Apt. It is a small town that comes alive on market day--something true for most of the Provincial towns and villages. The towns are very walkable, so you can park the car for your time in each city (thankfully as many of the streets are tiny....so narrow that one car can hardly fit...I had many nerve racking moments!). I enjoyed moving from one place to another chasing markets. Each area is known for a speciality...and the offerings are mostly local and seasonal. As such, the markets in the Summer are larger than they are in the Winter.
The Provence area is also a great place to visit wineries....maybe not as famous as the Bordeaux or Champagne regions, but there are excellent vintners. If you favor reds, Châteauneuf-du-Pape is the town to visit. These wines have a history back to the 1300's when Avignon (a nearby city) was home to a Pope....if the wine was good enough for the Pope, it is probably worth a taste :) This town isn't far from the Rhone River and is in between Avignon and Orange...two larger cities with lots to offer. That combo tour would be great for a long weekend.
Many people associate Provence with lavender. The area is one of the world's largest producers and in the summer the fields are purple. This is also the peak season and the traffic jams can reach from one city to another. Although I would love to see the lavender in bloom, that is too stressful for me. Lavender is a year long highlight in Provence....your sheets will likely be sprayed by a bit of essential oil to relax you into sleep and treats like honey and ice cream all come in lavender options in Provence.
I would happy to share some other suggestions for what to see and do in Provence. Please get in touch if you are interested in a visit (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Tracey is the owner of Unraveled Travel and has traveled to every continent except Antarctica.