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A South of France Itinerary: 2 amazing days in Provence

I’m sure that most of us have a travel bucket list – meaning those places we dream about visiting. I can say that I’ve already checked some places from my list – like visiting Paris – but of course, my list includes other places. Visiting the lavender fields in Provence was one of them. I could get a “sneak peek” some years ago when I visited a lavender farm in Long Island – but I really wanted to see the original ones. Since my sister lives in Paris – and France included the USA on their green list – I’ve decided to visit her and included a short trip to the South in order to see the lavender fields. But, I have to tell you: there is so much more to see and do! In this post, I will share everything we did in just two days! So, I hope you like this 2-day itinerary in Provence!

Where is Provence?

Provence is a region in southeastern France bordering Italy and the Mediterranean Sea. The area is known for its diverse landscapes, from the Southern Alps to vineyards, olive groves, pine forests, and, of course, the lavender fields, plus cute towns.

How to get to Provence

You can easily include Provence on your itinerary when visiting Paris (if you have time, of course!). The company Ouigo, a French low-cost high-speed train service, offers long-distance services, including cities in Provence. In Paris, trains depart from Gare de Lyon station (accessible through RER train). We took a train from there to Aix-en-Provence. The trip takes around 3 hours and although Ouigo is a low-cost train, I must say the trip was very decent and the train was comfortable. Trains have bathrooms and you need to pay an extra fee if you need storage for your luggage. Our tickets were around 75€ (round-trip) per person, which was very reasonable in my opinion! Of course, prices vary depending on the day and time!

In Aix-en-Provence, we picked up a car – we reserved it in advance. Renting a car is a must to explore the area! There are some rental car companies and all of them are located next to the train station – just follow the signs. As you probably know, the prices vary as well. We spent around 170€ plus gas and tolls.

Where to stay in Provence

Provence has a lot of small towns and I would say that you should choose where to stay based on your itinerary. You are gonna find hotels and also apartments on Airbnb and Booking. We rented an apartment on Booking located in Apt and it was perfect for us (me, my sister, and her husband). This apartment has 2 bedrooms, a rooftop, kitchen and it is located in a great area in the Apt town, with grocery stores, bakeries, restaurants, and parking nearby. The only thing we didn’t like about it is the fact that the second bedroom is in the “attic” and there was no air conditioning in the room, so it was really hot. So, if you are only a couple, that’s fine, because you can use the main bedroom, with air conditioning. Summer in the South of France can be really hot and the last thing you want is melting while sleeping, right?

All the places we visited during our trip were no more than one hour away from the place where we stayed! Now, I’m gonna list all the towns and places we’ve visited!

For your reference: we left Paris on a Monday, around 2:30 pm, and we arrived at your apartment in Apt around 7:30pm. We got back to Paris on Wednesday, our train departed at 5:30 pm.

Gordes

Gordes is one of the most beautiful hilltop villages in Provence, with stunning views. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a lot of time to explore the town – our idea was to walking around during sunset and then heading to dinner (we had a reservation), but the check-in in Apt took a little longer than we expected. So, we went straight to the restaurant – but we stopped at an overlooking to see the town and the views were breathtaking! If you visit Gordes, make sure to go there during sunset (and remember that summer sunsets happen around 9:30pm!). To get to the spot, just type “Town View Point Gordes” on Google Maps. There are parking spots around.

After the sunset, we had dinner at La Bastide de Pierres, an Italian restaurant in Gordes. Located in in the heart of the village, facing the Castle, this restaurant is an institution since 1820. Along with pastas and napolitan pizzas you will also taste the Chef’s favourites such as Vitello alla Milanese and Scialatielli with Lobster. The staff was really friendly and the food was good – it was not the best in the world, but it was tasty! You can check the menu and the prices online – and I always recommend making a reservation.

Moustiers-Sainte-Marie

Moustiers-Sainte-Marie was probably my favorite town on this trip. It was our first stop next day (Tuesday). This place is considered one of the most beautiful villages in France! The area features an exceptional geographic position and culminates at 630 meters altitude, and it was built between two rocky slopes. Also, this town is known for the legend of the star that shines above the village. Reinterpreted by the poet Frédéric Mistral, the legend recounts that during one of the crusades, a knight of Blacas, a prisoner of the Saracens, made a wish: if the future permitted him to return to his village, he promised to hang a star and its chain high above in honor of Saint Mary. The true history of this star remains a mystery and there are many different versions yet none of ever been authenticated. The star that today hangs over the town is the eleventh in its history. (with information from Avignon-et-Provence).

I’m sure you will walk around this town and you will definitely take a picture at every corner since it is so precious! We did a lot of things and here are my recommendations:

  • Restaurant Les Tables Du Cloitre – make sure to check the hours of operations, since it is common that some restaurants close between lunch and dinner. We had lunch at this restaurant because it was probably the only one that was opened for late lunch – and I definitely recommend. We all order salads and they were so delicious!
  • Ice cream / gelatto – you will see a lot of places selling authentic Italian gelattos and since it is Provence my tip is: Lavender ice cream! But, don’t worry, there are a lot of other flavors.
  • Lavender products – because why not? You will see a lot of small stores selling Lavender products such as soaps, essential oils and more! Prices are good – you can usually buy 5 soaps for 10€. Do I need to say how they smell really good?

Gorges du Verdon

Not so far from Moustiers-Sainte-Marie – around 10 minutes driving – it is Gorges du Verdon. It is the deepest gorge in France and a must-see of Provence. The water is so blue, you are not gonna believe it. I was impressed – and, with the lavender fields, it was the most beautiful spot of this short trip! You can bring a blanket or a chair and relax – like you were on a beach (yes, you can swim!) – or you can rent a pedal boat (20€ per hour) and explore the lake. We rented one for one hour and a half and OMG, it was spectacular!

Lavender Fields

Once you are in Provence, you will see a lot of lavender fields. Even when we were still on the train I could spot some fields! And when we were driving from a town to another, we passed by dozens of lavender fields. But, of course, you wanna have the best memories, right? So, here are some recommendations:

  • Seem obvious, but it is good to remember: there is a specific season to see the lavender fields and it is from mid-June to mid-July, when the flowering season is at its peak;
  • We choose our spots following some tips from this blog post. You will find the exact locations on Google Maps – spoiler: fields near Valensole are gorgeous!
  • You don’t need to pay anything to access the lavender fields – just be aware if you see some sign forbidding access, otherwise, you are good to go. It is not difficult to find a spot to park the car. And, of course, be careful and respectful;
  • If you visit the fields during the day, you will see – and listen! – a lot of bees. They are working. I know, it is scary, but just mind your business and everything will be fine. People literally walk through the fields with the bees and it is safe.
  • The best time to take photos, of course, is at the end of the day – or early in the morning. Light it terrible during mid-day!
  • Enjoy. It is really really beautiful!

Here are some of the pictures we took:

All the pictures on this post were taken by my sister, Meiry. She is an amazing photographer based in Paris! Check her work on Instagram! 

Saignon

On our last day (Wednesday) we visited two towns in Provence before heading to Aix-en-Provence to return our car and get the train back to Paris. The first one was Saigon, is very close to Apt and it is super charming. We had a reservation for lunch and before that we stop at the lavender field that you can see below. Did you notice that the town is behind me? Another amazing spot for pictures!

Saigon is very very small – but it is worth it! You should definitely walk around and visit Bellevue’s Rock (it is probably the highest point in the town and you can see the fields and other towns from there). For lunch or dinner, I definitely recommend UN JARDIN SUR LE TOIT. This restaurant is super charming, with beautiful views and a French Modern cuisine menu. If you see it on the menu, please order the Fettuccini Mamma Lucia, with truffle sauce. Thank me later. It is definitely the best truffle pasta I’ve tried – my brother in law ordered this dish and I’m regretting until this moment that I didn’t!

Roussillon

The last town we visited was Roussillon. Located in one of the biggest ochre deposits in the world, the village is famous for its magnificent red cliffs and ochre quarries. The earth has red, yellow, and brown shades – and it is known as French Colorado. We didn’t spend a lot of time there, but we walked around and explore the narrow streets, had some ice cream, and also did some shopping – I definitely recommend stopping by the 1830 store if you are a fan of oils, spreads, and spices! They have award-winning olive oils and so many other products! We didn’t have enough time to do it, but there is a nice hiking trail with great views – Le Sentier des Ocres.

Some final tips:

  • Make sure to have some cash – to pay for parking or for a bathroom (yes, you read that right!);
  • Check the weather – but remember that summer in the South is hot, so bring light clothes and comfortable shoes!
  • Make reservations for lunch and dinner, it is better to be safe than sorry!

And that’s a wrap! I don’t know if it seemed like a lot of things, but I can guarantee that we did everything without rushing and we could appreciate every single moment! Provence exceeded all my expectations and honestly? I can’t wait to go back! I hope you enjoyed my tips! Have you been to Provence? Please share more recommendations!

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