Provence is now waking up from Winter: it is Spring and now the blooming of all the senses starts. Like Peter Mayle described it in his famous Best Seller “A year in Provence”, our fabulous region can be appreciated at each season of the year.
Spring is the time when the whole area is in bloom: you will see everywhere in the counstryside the beautiful white and pink almond tree flowers that inspired Van Gogh 120 years ago, also the gorgeous and odorant golden mimosas along Provencal roads, especially when driving East, purple irises all over. Soon, in May, we will have the wonderful vermilion poppies carpets growing wildly everywhere, that inspired numbers of artists until now, with, for exemple, Francoise Valenti a local painter living in Roussillon in the area of Luberon, or Jill Steenhuis in Aix-en-Provence.
June, then, will be THE time of all the Provencal clichés: endless fields of purple lavender and yellow sunflowers and wheat fields. Just enjoy summer: cool off and relax, tasting the unusual but delicious lavender ice-cream at L’art Gourmant in the hilltop village of Le Castellet. Try the almost magical lavender essential oil that cures all kind of problems at the Lavender Museum of Coustellet, or directly go to the capital of Lavender in Sault.
If you are a wine lover, fall is the best season for you: even if you can taste the AOC wines of Provence all year long, such as the Bandol, Cassis or Côtes de Provence, September is harvest time. So, why not (wine not!) visiting a winery and watch every step of the wine making process? Meeting the workers and grabbing more information from them? Smelling the special smell of wine fermenting or maturing in wooden barrels? And of course tasting the old and new vintages!
November is also harvest time for olive trees. After visiting a winery, you can visit an olive oil mill and see the whole process to make oil! It really is a great way to understand how this culinary specialty of Provence is made, following the transformation of the olives through the different machines.
December is getting cold outside, but not in our hearts in Provence: we are getting ready for Christmas going to the santon markets to buy more of those Christmas crib figures made with the local clay and painted by hand. It is a wonderful traditional art craft that you can’t miss: each village of Provence has a santon market, and each home has its own creche! It is also time to buy all the ingredients for the traditional 13 desserts :
dried fruits and nuts such as almonds, dates, raisins
fresh fruits, sweets like the famous Calissons d’Aix
the pain d’épices (kind of gingerbread)
la pompe à l’huile or fougasse (brioche made with orange flower water and olive oil)
Cities dress up with lights and sometimes the snow is falling at the right time making those days even more joyful and beautiful. Provence under the snow is also something amazing to experience.
A burst of flavors
But much more is to discover here all year long: it is a continual burst of flavors. It can be so simple and yet so exceptional to taste Provence: olive oil on a crusty slice of French baguette, an aperitif with tapenade and Pastis, some dried tomatoes and garlic, fresh goat cheese and a slice of dry sausage “saucisson“… The best way to discover the flavors of Provence is to stroll around one of the many Provencal markets that run year round in every city, and let yourself give way to the temptation, try a sample of the specialties the vendors they will offer you.
A year in Provence makes you discover the same “country” but in such different ways that it’s totally worth visiting it any time, any season. From the blooming fields to the white snowy hills, passing by the reddish leaves of autumn, there is no better place to be than Provence with your private guide.