On a regular basis, My Next Memory gives you real feedback from a French destination and tells you how it’s really like to travel there.
So buckle up, and come with us. This month, we take you to Provence!
How much time to spend in Provence?
Provence is so famous, you may wonder what is left to discover there. Well, at My Next Memory, we think that it’s all about HOW you plan your trip. If you actually avoid the peaks of summer season, take lesser-known roads and stay at smaller villages, you for sure will have an unforgettable time in this iconic region!
In terms of number of days, Provence has enough to get you busy from 3 to 15 days! So we’ve organized this post by topic….it is more a matter of how deep you want to explore the area or a subject!
As for actual planning we’ve found out that many tourist spots, workshops or activities actually still require a phone booking. So if you’re coming anytime from June to September, better get some help in making your reservations, otherwise you might be left without seats…
Provence in the artists’ eyes
In Aix, even farmers can be artists
Cézanne, the father of the famous modern painting, was born in Aix, a town where high-quality art exhibitions can be seen everywhere. In Aix, it seems that everyone is “Cézanne” and has a mad love for art. Cézanne’s footprints can be spotted from time to time as you stroll down the streets of Aix.
If you too, have a fond for fine art, My Next Memory suggest you to head down the Musee Granet in the morning, the former art school where Cézanne trained to be an artist and now the biggest museum in Provence, to enjoy the permanent collections of Paul Cézanne there.
After a lovely lunch near the quarter, satisfy your curiosity by visiting Cézanne’s studio, where he worked every morning in the last four years of his life producing masterpieces like Les Grandes Baigneuses.
Pursue the final days of Van Gogh in Arles
Impressionists were drawn to the flood of sunlight in Provence, and so was Vincent Van Gogh. Van Gogh Cafe, Langlois Bridge, Arles Hospital, Le Maison de Van Gogh… Traces of Van Gogh’s 444 days in Arles have been well preserved.
From Van Gogh’s first day in Arles when he sat in the cafe on Arles Square, to the end of his life committing suicide at Le Maison de Van Gogh, Arles kept Van Gogh’s lonely madness of genius alive. We might never know how can a man who has loved flowers and light so much manage to be so unhappy. But producing more than 200 painting, 100 drawings and watercolors and almost 200 letters, his days in Arles were definitely the zenith of his artistic life.
Flowers, perfumes and cosmetics for beauties
Provence is any beauty and health-conscious person’s paradise! Some of the world’s leading cosmetic and perfume brands get their goods produced and formulated right here, where some of the rarest, most delicate flowers and plants grow.
Many of them organize factory or laboratory visits and even some might run extremely exciting workshops where you’ll learn everything about making your own products!
Manosque area: is great to discover beautiful lavender fields and olive oil producers. You may also stop by l’Occitane to visit their factory and buy their products at a lower price.
Grasse: lower in the valleys, Grasse is the Mecca of perfume. A few weeks ago, My Next Memory took the trip to discover the perfume-makers there. And though it is pretty touristy it turns out to be an amazing experience!
You learn everything about extracting essences from delicate flowers, how is a real perfume made and how you are supposed to wear it. You also get exceptional shopping opportunities and hands-on workshops to create your own perfume ! And if you are really curious, watch-out for the handpicked jasmine fields and Chanel No.5 exclusive roses fields around town.
For perfume fans, we’ll be posting soon everything to know about Grasse, so stay tuned!
Scenic spots and breathtaking landscape
Provence will keep any nature lover and photographer fulfilled! From small cliff-hanging medieval villages to dramatic scenery under perfect weather condition and sunlight, you will be experiencing French lifestyle in its most delightful way!
While everybody has in mind the lavender fields clichés, contemplators will also enjoy the rocky scenery, elongated pine trees and rays of sun going through olive trees at dusk
Most scenic landscapes in Provence include Baux de Provence and its former cray mines, tons of small stone villages or monasteries.
But our favorite is probably the incredible, hard to believe Verdon Canyon, Europe’s deepest natural canyon! The canyon stretches over 45 kilometers and offers breathtaking views all along the road.
The fearless ones will choose to drive the “Road of the Summits” or route des Crètes, a cliff side road that is so tricky that it’s actually one-way! Still, it is well-designed with regular parking spots for you to go down the car and take pictures over the vertiginous 700 meters’ deep canyon!
And if you’re scared of heights? No worries, exploring the Verdon by water sports is safe and a lot of fun too: from quiet, sightseeing kayaking to more sportive rafting and canyoning activities, you will find the right thing for you!
A word on accommodation
We have found that accommodation in Provence is roughly organized in two categories…with surprisingly nothing much in between:
– B&Bs and homestays in a large range of typical South of France houses
– Luxury spa hotels in stunning settings and décor
For those who can, the luxury hotels will for sure provide a once-in-a-lifetime experience as they rank among France’s best!
For families, the best option to consider would be to rent and privatize your own villa, with services such as cleaning, cooking or pool maintenance included.
How about food?
Food in Provence is exceptional thanks to quality of the local products. Discover the world-famous Mediterranean style of cooking, with some French influence. The lean olive oil, the freshness of fruits and vegetables ensure healthy and tasty meals.
Provence is also famous for its fresh goat cheese that is very light in taste and accessible to people who have never taste cheese!
And for sweet teeth, you’ll be dazzled to one of the most diverse region for locally-made sweets and chocolates! Our favorites? Flower candies!
In a nutshell
Provence can be the highlight of any France trip, provided you get your organization right in order to secure your stay in a nice place, get an itinerary that allows you seeing the highlights while staying away from the crowds and book exciting activities !
You will be learning so much about French history, arts, lifestyle, food and culture. But most importantly, the reason Provence is so exceptional is its somewhat hard-to-explain, relaxed vibe and pace that will make you feel away from it all.
We hope you’ve loved our insiders’ view on Provence travel ! Feel free to like and share with your friends and give us a shout if you’d like us to organize the perfect Provence excursion for you!