Lavender Fields in Provence, Moments Between Lavender and Lavandin

Jasmine Riadi
Akwila Romauli

Who wouldn’t love a scenic view of flower fields with its vibrant colors and blissful fragrance? Flower fields bloom around the world every year in spring and summer, each with its own charm and characteristics. Lavender fields in Southern France are one of the most beautiful flower fields in the world, it’s a dream destination for many.

The first thing you need to consider if you want to visit a seasonal flower field is the perfect time, the moment when the flowers are on its peak bloom. You certainly do not want to miss it and you don’t want to be there too early either. From the short summer period of three months, lavender is on its peak bloom only for several weeks and then it will be harvested by the farmers. The peak bloom in each region varies and it is determined by the elevation of the land. It also might shift every year because of the weather.

After some browsing, me and my husband found out that there are actually several towns in Provence known for its lavender fields. Each has its own emblematic places and its own period of peak bloom. From a week of our trip to the South, we located two days to visit the lavender fields and we booked a one-day tour for each day. With a guided tour, we hoped to see the best or even the secret spots of the town with assistance and enriching information. We actually also considered to rent a bike, but after knowing that it’s a hilly town with sharp turns, we gave up the idea.

Before long it was time to hit the road and head South. It took us approximately 3 hours by train from Paris to reach Avignon, a city in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region. It is the closest big city from our first destination of lavender field, Sault. We spent one day meandering through the city admiring the colors of the city. The pastel – colored houses dominated the city with its orange terra – cotta roofs. The Southern France is completely different with any other region in France with their surroundings and ambiance. It has its own attractiveness, its own beautiful authenticity. The people there are more relaxed and more unreserved. A heavy and uncomfortable wind accompanied our day, little did I know “Avignon” means city of violent winds

We went to Sault the very next day. The sun smote vividly, piercing through the branches of the trees. It was a perfect weather, perfect day. After approximately one hour, we stopped to admire the whole view of vibrant purple fields from a top of a hill. From the west to the east, lavender fields laid before my eyes from afar. We continued our journey downhill, awed by the rows of lavender fields I have never seen before in my life. We stopped to take pictures between the rows of flowers, lavender scent filling the air and bees buzzing around us. We were told not to pick flowers, as they belonged to the farmers. Surrounded by mountains, the hilly landscape of green and purple is the most distinctive feature of Sault.

We continued our trip to visit the traditional lavender distillery. We were introduced firstly by the existence of another plant from the same botanical family of lavender, named lavandin. Lavender and lavandin have similar appearances, but if we study closer, lavender has only one branch whereas lavandin has three branches. They also have similar scent, but lavender boasts a stronger and more delicate scent than lavandin. We pressed the lavender buds between our fingers and took relieving deep breaths to understand the difference between these two plants. Honestly, both flowers have heavenly scent that we could not differentiate. We were explained later that lavender has better qualities in terms of its benefits than lavandin. For this reason, lavender is more expensive than lavandin when sold in the market. 

The process of lavender distillation is actually a simple process. Tons of lavender are loaded into a huge distiller, pressed and steamed afterwards to produce essential oils. The extract is used in perfumery, aromatherapy and cleaning products. We were then guided into a cute little shop where we could by the products from the distillery. Falling in love with the lavender fragrance, we could not stop ourselves from buying the products.

The next day, we took a bus from Avignon to Aix-en-Provence about an hour and a half. From Aix, we were to visit our second lavender field, the Plateau of Valensole, a small village on the north–east of Aix. The Plateau of Valensole is well-known for its lavender and sunflower growing beautifully side by side in a same field. With 300 days of sunshine per year, Valensole means “Valley of sun”. Valensole is at lower altitude than Sault, therefore the peak bloom of lavender was a few weeks earlier than Sault. The perfect time to visit Valensole would be at the last week of July and first week of August. 

When we arrived, some of the fields are already harvested by the farmers with their machines. It was an unfriendly welcome. Having already visited Sault, we were honestly less impressed by Valensole, yet it was still beautiful. I gazed around, the sun shine brightly on top of my head and the air was still. The land was fairly flat while the mountains are distant. I saw cars passing by from afar.  

I walked between the rows of vibrant lilac flowers, some of them already turning brown. We were surprised after having told that what we saw was lavandin, not lavender. We took some pictures and picked some of the flowers on rows that have been harvested. I kneeled and sniffed the flowers, the fragrance never ceased to amaze me. However, I was disappointed as we stopped at the sunflower fields. The huge sunflowers are already facing down with no petals left. We arrived around two weeks late.

After stopping at several fields to take pictures, we continued our journey to visit a small shop in the area selling local products. There was a small café outside the shop and we tried the lavender ice cream. As an ice cream lover, this was not to be missed, especially knowing it’s a flavor I wouldn’t find anywhere else. The lavender ice cream was pure white, meaning it was naturally made without any artificial colors added. The one mixed with honey was a bit more yellowish. From the first spoon, I could taste the strong fragrance of lavender in my mouth. The ice cream was uniquely delicious.

My two-days visit to the lavender fields were perfect and complete. Flower fields are different than any other places, it’s a way nature reminds us that the beauty of nature is an art that can give us peace and happiness. I captured the breathtakingly romantic landscape for the last time. Maybe another time.