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A Repeat Performance of Lavender Fields Forever

Lavendar fields in the south of France

It was a repeat performance. One year ago, I had planned a weekend in Provence chasing down the lavender fields with my friend, Donna, who ended up home in bed with Covid-19. So Jennifer, one of my staff, joined me instead. So as not to shortchange Donna, I agreed to do it all again this year and we booked our trip right then and there.

We selected the same hotel because our experience there had been so pleasant, secured a rental car for three days, and put the reservations away until this past week in preparation for the trip to the Plateau de Valensole.

Valensole is renowned for its breathtaking lavender fields. Due to its slightly lower altitude, it experiences an earlier blooming season compared to other lavender fields. Typically, the Valensole lavender season spans from mid-June to the first half of July, however last year the lavender experts in the area told us that Global Warming has stepped up the dates even more, so we opted to go a bit earlier this year than we had last year. We hoped that they were right that this first weekend in July would be perfect to witness the enchanting lavender spectacle. Unfortunately, we will miss the annual festival that takes place there on Sunday, July 16th…but “c’est la vie.”

The truth is that the lavender on the Plateau de Valensole is actually almost all “lavandin”—a natural hybrid, but no less interesting than its parents, lavender. Lavandin is easier to produce, normally offers a very good yield, and its fragrance is much stronger than that of real lavender.

The hotel we rebooked, Lou Paradou, a nice boutique hotel in Gréoux-les-Bains, the heart of the region. Their service was better than perfect—offering to book the restaurants they recommended on our behalf for both nights. It made the planning so much easier.

Learning to pronounce the name of the town was tough in the beginning, but we learned that the inhabitants are called “Gryséliens.” (Have fun with that one!) The neighboring communes are Valensole, Saint-Martin-de-Brômes, Esparron-de-Verdon, Saint-Julien-le-Montagnier and Vinon-sur-Verdon (in the Var department), Corbières-en-Provence, Sainte-Tulle and Manosque…all part of lavender country.

To punctuate the drive over, we stopped in the town of Cotignac for lunch and a quick visit, just like we had last year. This time it was lightly raining during the entire drive from Nice and we got a bit lost along the way, in spite of GPS guiding us along. That put us on the tiniest of Provençal roads that were lined with vineyards and through beautiful forests. Some were barely wide enough for one car. It was stunning. We felt lucky to have gotten “lost” as we would have missed so much if we hadn’t.

Restaurant in Contignac

Lunch in Contignac

Cotignac is a small town of about 2,000 inhabitants that has seen a lot of growth since 1968—its budding craft industry is evident by the number of boutiques filled with local artisans’ offerings. We missed our opportunity to patronize the shops by lunching and leaving early—too soon for them to reopen after their own lunch hour.

The town’s “Centre Ville” is on a typical tree-lined road bordered by cafés and restaurants centered around a small ancient fountain. One restaurant looked inviting—La Table de Marie Alice. I had an excellent lunch of “cuisses de grenouilles” under the “platane” trees and the drizzle. We were surrounded by English speakers and a family that sounded Scandinavian, but we were never able to discern what language they were speaking.


From there it only took about an hour to get to Gréoux-les-Bains and find the hotel. Along the way, we passed our first lavender field, which was a bright color, but appeared very poorly tended. A second and more pruned field popped up even more intense in tone, but tough to fully appreciate under the gray skies. We yearned for sunshine to pop the purple…which came invitingly the next day.

First lavendar field

Upon arrival at Lou Paradou, we were surprised to discover that we had been given their “villa” in which to stay—a one-bedroom house on their grounds with a full kitchen. It had been such a long time ago that I had booked our stay, that I had forgotten. We had our own parking, our own yard, and our own private house. Outside our door and all along the lawn there were many large and active “escargots” slowly inching their way down the path and along the grass. It crossed my mind that these were kind we might prepare in butter and parsley and then down with a glass of champagne…but we didn’t.

An escargot

Wanting to get out of the car after having driven for such a long way and see some of Gréoux-les-Bains before dinner, we walked into town, shopped a bit, and explored, taking a break in a café over coffee. The other visitors to the town were mostly “The French”—unlike Cotignac which was filled with Americans and other foreign tourists.


Our first dinner in Gréoux, was at La Marmite Provencale, but we weren’t very prepared. The other diners were French and very much “in the know”—that one must pre-order their special “Marmite de la Marmite” (a stew of fish and seafood) or their “Aioli” otherwise, you would be stuck with their other choices, but not their specialties. Even so, the food was quite good and it was refreshing to be surrounded by the French who must have been regulars.



View from Gréoux-les-Bains

Lavender fields, here we came, after breakfast, and ready to roll. It was easy to find routes to take on the internet, but paper maps of the best lavender routes weren’t as easy to find as one might think. Donna scored one in Valensole, after we had already seen some of the region’s finest fields.

Lavender Route map

The fields came fast and furiously once we left Gréoux…one more beautiful than the next. We stopped at almost every single one to take photos and take-in the entire sensory experience. Donna described the fields as “oceans of lavender”—a perfect description of the expansiveness of the fields. The colors varied from field to field—some of which were powerfully purple; others more subtle. Thanks to the rains, the lavender was particularly large and brightly colored.

Second lavender field in the south of france

lavender field in the south of france

Some fields were not lavender at all, but wildflowers of a similar, but paler color. The swarms of bees make the fields come alive by sending ripples into the atmosphere like flames and the hum of the buzzing electrifies it all. Then, there is the intoxicating scent that is overwhelming.




We were by no means the only lookie-loos on the road. Everywhere we went there were tourists doing what we were doing, but be warned: one day of lavender hunting is enough. Similar to going to the Loire Valley to visit châteaux and at the end you say, “If I’ve seen one, I’ve seen them all”…the same is true of lavender fields. One full day can be perfectly satisfying.

At a few of the fields, there was a small kiosk selling lavender-based products. Even sometimes a larger producer offered up a small shop of their oils and other fare. I stocked up on soap, body wash, body lotion and oil.

The town of Valensole is the heart of the region and was jam-packed with tourists. It’s a small town of about 3,000 inhabitants, that comes alive at this time of year thanks to the lavender season. There was a sweet open-air market to peruse before lunch. Then we chose a lunch spot in front of the Hôtel de Ville with a beautiful view that we didn’t expect to be great, and ended in a disastrous experience.


Take note: La Brasserie du Plateau IS NOT where you want to dine if spending time in Valensole. The “entrecôte” I ordered rare was so tough, it couldn’t be chewed. When I asked if they would change it for something else because it was inedible, at first they said they would change it, but I’d have to pay for it. When exasperated and responding with “C’est pas vrai!?” (“That can’t be true!?”), the Maître D’ offered no remorse, but a few moments later, a waitress returned to say they would agree to change it for a “burger.”


I agreed, taking it to mean hamburger meat, but no, they meant a cheeseburger, so what was put in front of me was a big and rather grotesque-looking hamburger with everything on it that I couldn’t eat, dripping in a plastic-looking cheese and sandwiched by big, fluffy buns. My first reaction was “Oh no!” to which he said I could take it or leave it. They were simply not going to take responsibility for their bad food, or their bad service.

I took it, removed the buns, scraped off the cheese and made the most of the meal, vowing to give them this very bad review. Imagine, for the cost of their steak, they could have avoided all this bad publicity. How short-sighted is that?

Still hungry after leaving Valensole, we stopped in the town of Puimoisson at the Café des Arts (route de Riez, 04410 Puimoisson). They were no longer serving lunch—only drinks, but the Petanque players on nearby courts added to the atmosphere. Coffee there was a quick pick-me-up before landing in Moustiers-Sainte-Marie.



This town is worth a special trip, conveniently positioned at one end of the lavender fields region. Moustiers is one of France’s most beautiful and charming towns, nestled against a rocky escarpment. The town has obtained the official label “Villages et Cités de Caractère” and is a member of the associations “Les Plus Beaux Villages de France” and “Ville et Métiers d’Art.” (Be forewarned of its steep inclines and that one must park in a lot outside of town and walk in.)

It was awash with tourists licking up the artisanal ice cream and buying up Provençal products, such as local hand-made pottery and “faïence.” The faïence (pottery named after the Italian city of Faenza) from Moustiers became so famous that once upon a time every European monarch, king and ruler wanted their own workshops of ceramics. It was here we found some beautiful artisan shops with lots of goodies worth buying.


Our tour didn’t stop there. Just a few minutes further down the road you can easily have a view of the Gorges du Verdon at the Pont de Galetas to see its beauty. With their emerald waters, the five lakes and gorges form the largest canyon in Europe. We wanted to dive right in but weren’t prepared to do, so we just ogled the scene and headed back to town.

We drove back to Gréoux with our bags of goodies plus the satisfaction of having done it all in a very short time, topping it off with a beautiful dinner at Le Jardin des Lilas, the other restaurant booked by Lou Paradou. Without reservations, you’re not getting a table. and It’s not on the beaten path, so it’s a spot you need to know about. The garden is small but delightful, and the food is an excellent treat.

Restaurant Le Jardin des Lilas

Restaurant Le Jardin des Lilas

Restaurant Le Jardin des Lilas

Dessert at Le Jardin des Lilas

Sunday we took the long way home, through the winding wooded roads and tiny villages, stopping in Saint-Raphael at the port for lunch. Upon entering Nice near the airport off the A8 Autoroute, the aqua color of the water was pale and inviting. All I wanted to do was dive in…but I didn’t. I’ll have to wait three weeks when I’m back in Nice for the pleasure.

Lavender weekend? Would we do it again? In a heartbeat.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds with lavendar fields in the backgroundAdrian Leeds
The Adrian Leeds Group®

P.S. It may have taken six months and a mountain of paperwork, but my application for French citizenship has been submitted and acknowledged as received! Now, let’s see how long it takes before I get called in for my interview!

P.P.S. Fight Citizenship Based Taxation! The U.S. is one of only two countries in the world that taxes its citizens just because they happen to hold a U.S. passport, not because they live or work there. Visit this Go Fund Me site to make your donation now!


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