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Journey to Provence's Lavender Fields

by Emilie Johnson

Lavender: the emblem of Provence. A trip to the Plateau de Valensole is an all-senses journey. The whir of bees buzzing intensely fills the air. The sharp, clean perfume of the lavender is intoxicating. The rows of lavender stretch out further than the horizon, belying belief. The light on the Valensole Plateau at sunrise or sunset is extraordinary - a rich plum color, as if the lavender itself were bleeding into the sky. A late evening dance mid the successions of lavender leaves one full of wonder, in a haze.

Provence’s lavender fields start to bloom in June and, by the end of that month, most of the region’s lavender is in full bloom. The fields in Valensole peak in early to mid-July. Lavender here is harvested mid-to-late July, depending on the year and growing conditions.

The higher altitude fields near Sault and Banon bloom and are harvested slightly later - into mid-August. Sault celebrates the harvest with a popular lavender festival on August 15 each year.

There are two main varieties of lavender grown in Provence: lavender and lavandin. Lavandin is the more common and easily-grown hybrid variety that you find covering the hills of Valensole.

True lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is grown at higher altitudes in Haute-Provence - near Sault. This type of lavender gives the highest quality essential oil and is certified AOC when used.

Lavender is a show that is on for only a short window of time every year. When planning a trip to Provence that includes the lavender fields, the surest week is the last week in June or the first week in July. To find the best routes, the tourism bureau of the region has put together a guide for exploration: “Routes de la lavande.” For more information, here is the link: www.routes-lavande.com/en/

 

 

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