November 13, 2017

The Luberon: Peter Mayle's Provence

With his 1991 memoir A Year in Provence, Peter Mayle put this picturesque region in southeastern France on the radar of travellers. Once I began reading his books I too dreamed of visiting Provence, and all the beautiful photos I saw of endless rows of lavender stretching away to the horizon only reinforced my dream. So the day we journeyed into the Luberon countryside was the most anticipated day of our tour.

The Luberon Countryside

We took to the scenic roadways east of Avignon and before long I found my lavender field.

Rows of Cypress Trees

Olive Oil for Sale

Luberon Vineyard

Cyclists Share the Road

Traditional Stone Wall

Melons Grown in Cavaillon

This field of lavender wasn’t as vast as the photos in the calendar hanging on my wall back home. But on that day in June, with the hot sun beating down on my face and the air laden with perfume, the buzzing bees and chirping cicadas completed my bucket list Luberon experience.

My Luberon Lavender Field

... and the Calendar Version

Not far from the village of Gordes is Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque. This Cistercian monastery dates from 1148 and is perhaps best known as a backdrop to iconic photos of its own lavender field. We were a little too early to see these blooms at their peak so I’ll have to be content with a postcard.

The Perched Village of Gordes

No Railing - Don't Look Down!

Lavender Field Begins to Bloom

Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque

The Abbey's Lavender at its Peak

As consolation, the roadside fields were still sprinkled with springtime poppies (which the French consider weeds). Sunflowers and broom were also in full bloom.

Roadside Field of Poppies

Sunflower Field


I’ve now been to Provence twice. So when is the best time to see the lavender fields in bloom? On my first visit, I came away disappointed as many fields had been cut down early due to heavy rains and the lavender tours were cancelled. This year I was a little early to experience the full glory of the season. As with so much in life, timing is everything. Based on my two experiences, I’d recommend a date midway between those when I was there, June 16 and July 22.

To further whet your appetite for Provence, here are some books by Peter Mayle:

A Year in Provence
Toujours Provence
Provence A-Z
Hotel Pastis
Chasing Cézanne
The Vintage Caper
The Marseille Caper
The Corsican Caper
The Diamond Caper

Next: The Lavender Museum

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