In Pursuit of Provence, France—Hilltop Towns and Fields of Lavender
|The allure of Provence, France, beckons with the sweet fragrance of lavender and historic sites of medieval towns. All photography in this article is the copyrighted works of Brian Jannsen unless noted. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
|Throughout Provence, you'll motor along meandering tree-lined roadways such as this one near Saint-Remy-de-Provence. Photo: ©Brian Jannsen. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
|Map of Provence, France. Image: Wikimedia.org.|
If you’ve never visited Provence, it’s a region of France located in the southeast corner of the country and is comprised of many “departments” or counties including Var, Vaucluse, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Alpes-Maritimes and parts of Hautes-Alpes. Our tour takes us through most of these regions starting with Vaucluse and Alpes-de-Haute-Provence in the north and ending with Bouches-du-Rhône and Alpes-Maritimes including Côte d’Azur in the south. At the end of this pictorial tour of Provence, find out how you learn to capture images like these on one of Brian’s photography tours planned for the upcoming year. And, Provence is on the list! Buckle up my friends and enjoy the ride through Provence, France. May it ignite the wanderlust from within as it did me!
Alpes-de-Haute-Provence—medieval towns and goat cheese?
|The medieval village of Banon rises above the fields of lavender below. Photo: ©Brian Jannsen. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
Renowned for producing one of France’s best goat cheeses, Banon’s medieval town dates back to the 11th century. Its ancient architecture beautifully preserves its historic past and as you stroll along the cobblestoned streets, you certainly feel like you’ve stepped back in time. At the top this historic citadel stands the 17th-century Saint-Marc Church, just one of many churches in the village, others dating back to the 13th century. Collectively, they provide for a fascinating journey back in time. Make sure you find your way to the original ramparts from the ancient wall that fortified Banon for the most exhilarating view of the surrounding lavender plateau.
|The Valensole lavender fields fill the air with an intoxicating fragrance of sweet perfume! Photo: ©Brian Jannsen. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
We now head to the hilltop town of Valensole, another medieval citadel that sits upon its perch above the sprawling lavender fields alive with vivid hues of color inducing perhaps the most intoxicating fragrance in all of Provence. The town itself winds up the hillside with its medieval streets lined with beautifully restored Provencal houses, shops and cafés, not to mention the bouleangerie! Dominating its skyline is the Church of Saint Denis with origins dating back to the 11th century but most of what we see today is the result of additions and renovations between the 13th and 18th centuries. There’s also a beautiful fountain in the Place Thiers.
Villages of Vaucluse—Popes and monks.
|Gordes in the Luberon is home to the magnificent Abbaye de Sénanque. Photo: ©Brian Jannsen. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
|Avignon aka 'City of Popes' is home to one of the most magnificent and largest Gothic palaces in the world—Palais des Papes or the Papal Palace. Photo: ©Brian Jannsen. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
Western Provence is home to the “City of Popes” also known as Avignon. Upon its hills, they built one of the most magnificent, let alone largest Gothic palaces in the world— Palais des Papes or the Papal Palace. The palace served as the seat of the Papacy during the 14th and early 15th centuries after Pope Clement V fled Rome’s San Giovanni de Lateran in 1305 due to the prevailing chaos after his election. In 1348, the Papal State purchased Avignon and retained control of the city until 1791 when it was reintegrated back into France after the French Revolution. The palace is a must-see on any Provencal itinerary!
Bouches-du-Rhône—bustling markets, lavender and art!
|Later in the summer, fields of sunflowers bathed in golden light seem to disappear into the horizon. Photo: ©Brian Jannsen. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
|Pigeons frolicking in the fountain at Place d'Albertas in Aix en-Provence. Photo: ©Brian Jannsen. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
|Fresh from the harvest, delicious olives are sold in the Saint-Remy-de-Provence market—perhaps one of the best in all of Provence. Photo: ©Brian Jannsen. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
Saint-Remy-de-Provence, approximately 13 miles south of Avignon, boasts one of the best local markets in all of Provence and its village is bustling with shoppers converging upon its stalls brimming with farm-fresh produce, meats and fresh-baked goods. Definitely worth a stop here! Saint-Remy was also home Princess Caroline of Monaco after a tragic boating accident claimed the life of her husband, and Vincent Van Gogh who spent his final years in an asylum in St. Paul-de-Mausole. It was here that he produced a vast collection of masterpieces most notably “Starry Night,” inspired by the view outside his window. More ancient Roman ruins lie just to the south of Saint-Remy in Glanum.
Alpes-Maritimes—the French Riviera
Located along the beautiful coastline of Côte d’Azur about five miles east of Nice and a few miles west of Monaco, the medieval village of Èze sits upon its perch overlooking the French Riviera and the Mediterranean Sea. Inside, you’ll find cobblestoned streets, quaint cafés, and don’t miss the oldest building in town dating back to 1306—Chapelle de la Sainte Croix. But it’s the dazzling views from its hilltop location that draw tourists and residents alike.
|The sun sets over the lavender plateau in Provence, France. Photo: ©Brian Jannsen. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
And so the sun sets upon Provence, France, and our journey as well. I hope you enjoyed this tour through majestic valleys and hilltop towns, mosaics of lavender and gold, and muted blues of the sea and sky—a magical land imbued with dazzling light!
If you love to travel and enjoy taking photographs or want to learn how to take photographs like these, Brian Jannsen—renowned photographer whose award-winning work has been published in books, calendars and magazines including National Geographic, Lonely Planet and Frommers—facilitates photo tours throughout Europe and the U.S. These are not photography workshops per se, but photography tours through some of the world's most picturesque setting. Be sure to check out Brian's photography tours and his online gallery of prints you can purchase in print, on cards and phone cases too! Brian-Jannsen.ArtistWebsites.com.