Last September we headed to Provence to do some walking and to explore the acclaimed countryside, so lauded in art and literature. Naturally we hoped that we would see endless fields of lavender in full flower, resonating in the sun alongside luminescent fields of golden sunflowers, their faces turned upwards to the brilliance of the sky. In other words, we wanted to see Van Gogh’s canvas in the flesh.
Unfortunately, we were too late for the lavender which had been harvested over a month before, leaving neat rows of stubble drying in the sun. Too late also for the sunflowers whose spent and blackened heads were bowed against the orb that had given them life and glory.
But in the still warmth of late summer, below a cobalt sky, Provence did not disappoint. She may have lost her lavender and sunflowers for another year but all that served to do was to focus the attention on the beauty that lies beyond her seasonal glories.
Pastel-faced houses in the village of Banon where we bought some superb cheeses and ate them with our hands and a still-warm loaf of bread.
Vins Elies wine bistro in Forcalquier had a heady selection of local wines and featured a cool Jazz trio on weekend nights. It was the sort of place that was extremely difficult to walk past, these simple tables and chairs just yearning to be sat at with a bottle of red.
Late summer grasses provide a vibrant foreground for the ridiculously picturesque setting of Banon from this roadside vantage point.
Fresh Piments Oiseaux chillies stealing the harvest limelight at Forcalquier farmer’s market in the town square.
These sunflowers obliged us with their late display in the garden of the lovely Campagne de Berne just outside Pierrerue.
Medieval stone streets find a unique pallor from the hundreds of thousands of feet that have worn them smooth over the centuries. These particular beauties are in Mane.
Sunset over red tiles and the spent lavender fields of Reillane.
In the absence of lavender, the lilac shutters of Le Bleuet provide that essential colour of Provence. Condidered one of the best book shops in Europe, the accounts of how many books Le Bleuet stocks range from 200,000 to a million but whatever the number, in a world of digital and Kindle, it’s a beacon to the enduring nature of book lovers.
On a perfect summer’s evening as the light begins to turn the landscape to burnished gold, a hot air balloon silently floats overhead. The tranquillity is palpable.
Andrea (Andy) Montgomery is a freelance travel writer and co-owner of Buzz Trips and The Real Tenerife series of travel websites. Published in The Telegraph, The Independent, Wexas Traveller, Thomas Cook Travel Magazine, EasyJet Traveller Magazine, you can read her latest content on Google+