Itinerary for today: lavender, lavender, and lavender fields! That was the reason we came to Provence in the first place – lavender fields! In the past few days, we visited many Luberon villages and there were patches for lavender fields here and there but not the ones that looked like in screen savers – endless field of lavender. But I know exactly where those endless fields are – Valensole! We woke up around 7 am and walked out to the nearby bakery and bought some croissants for breakfast. The croissants weren’t as good as the homemade one we had from our B&B host in Avignon! After breakfast, we left Aix-en-Provence at 8 am and filled 30 euros of gas on the highway to make sure we have a full tank for the day trip. This time I was smarter, I wrote down on paper “Station #”, “Diesel”, “€30” haha can’t go wrong with it! And yes, it did the job, the cashier inside the station knows exactly what I mean – yay! Just before the highway exit, I saw a L’Occitane en Provence Outlet (French beauty product brand) but I figured it has not open yet since we were early….maybe we’ll stop by on our way back! After the exit, we were on route D6, famous for lavender fields but after 5 minutes of driving, we still haven’t see any purple, instead, we were surrounded by trees like in a forest. And then all suddenly it felt like driving out of a forest and then in front of our eyes an ocean of purple lavender!!! That moment I couldn’t believe my eyes and said to hubby “OMGGGGG pull over!” We pulled over on a little unpaved area and a few cars were already there. We grabbed our tripod from the trunk and crossed the road to the lavender field. The air smelled so great! The field literally looked endless, it was so huge that it wasn’t an issue for us to find an open spot without other tourists plus we were early! I was extra careful when walking through the rows of lavender making sure no snakes or scary creatures!
Me moving the tripod here and there for the different angles, you can see our car parked over that little empty space across the road.
Time for photos, I think words can’t describe how beautiful it really is so I’ll let my photos to speak for themselves!
Animated haha 🙂
It was getting hot (don’t underestimate the power of the morning sun) and then more people arrived so we decided time to move along to the next field! Driving down route D6, within minutes, another field! There was a little parking area unpaved as well and we parked our car there, apply sunscreen, and drink water! We crossed the road to the field and more pictures!
There were a few more tourists in this field than the previous one so we had to wait a little for them to walk out of the way!
I think those two locations we already spent an hour and we were on the start of route D6 LOL! We continued our drive and passed many fields on both sides of the road, we didn’t stop at every single one, I started to get picky for picture perfect ones! But it wasn’t hard, within few minutes again, we pulled over and there was an empty spot that fit our car haha. This field can fit the word “endless”!
We had this field entirely to ourselves, it was like a dream came true, unbelievable!
A closure look at the lavender, there were snail shells, hum…how they get up there?
The busy bees and butterflies were already hard at work early in the morning….it didn’t bother us at all…they did their thing, we did our own thing 🙂
The 11 miles of route D6 into Valensole village took us a good 2 hours haha! We lost track of time with the purple landscape until our tummy reminded us! We drove to the village and it was quite quiet but the parking lot was almost full! We parked our car all the way at the end of the village and walked back (free parking too)!
There were some souvenir shops here but I was surprised to find things are more expensive here than the previous villages we visited! I expected it to have more lavender products and cheaper since the abundant of lavender fields in this area but no!!! We walked around to the back road of the village for photos of charming little village houses!
A cute small church!
The roads were super clean!
Many cats in Provence!
We were back to the main square where the fountain is.
On the back of the fountain, this area we have no clue what is this for, any clue?
Time for lunch, there wasn’t many choices in Valensole – either some sandwich stands, cafe, or this restaurant called “Le Petite” right in front of the courtyard of the Hotel de Ville:
The “tourist trap” menu…
The waitress barely speaks English but with pointing to the menu it works! After we placed the order, hubby asked me to take pictures of the beautiful flowers in back of us:
The restaurant started to get busy and we waited a long time for our food which we ordered – an overpriced burger and a shrimp plate:
The food was just okay but cost a total of 30.5 euros!!! I even have to walk in to pay our bill because it took them so long to come over oh yikes our precious time! I use the restroom inside the restaurant and it was at least clean! Before we left the village, we walked in the visitor center which located on the back of the fountain with sign pointed to it. Inside, we grabbed a map of the area and asked the person in there for the best driving route to see Gordes Du Verdon. She highlighted the route to Moustiers-Sainte-Marie then to Castellane. On the walk back to the parking lot, we stopped in the grocery store and bought cold drinks! Every day in Provence is around 40 degrees Celsius, over 100 degree Fahrenheit!!!!
Around half an hour or so we saw Moustiers-Sainte-Marie up on the hill so we pulled over for photos of it!
The mountain on the back looked like a curtain! Driving up to the village:
We parked our car on the back parking lot of a supermarket and then walked back up to the town…it was burning hot!
We should’ve saved our lunch and eaten here instead, many more choices and I bet better food for the value!
Looking from a distance, is there a church on the top of the hill?
We walked the main road and saw many shops and restaurants! Hand painted porcelain? They looked expensive!
The sun was so strong that I decided to wrap around with the beautiful wrap that I bought from Fontaine de Vacluse to protect my arms and shoulders from burning!
Continued on the main road, we crossed a stone bridge to another section of the village; this village is quite big!
It looked so tranquil! We didn’t even realized this until we got home and searched about Moustiers-Sainte-Marie that one of the famous thing about this village is the star that hang in the middle suspended by a chain on the two cliffs (no one knows the origin of how the star was first hung there but they kept the tradition and rehang the star each time the chain broke, the current star is around 50 years old according to wiki!) ….we zoomed in our photos and saw it, OMG we took hundreds of photos and didn’t even realized it was there!
Zoomed in to see the star:
The other section of the village has more restaurants and shops too!
We looked back to the main road we came in from:
It was like a “U” shape village separated by a river in between. Each village has at least a church…one down here and one up the hill!
Drinkable water but I don’t like the strong mineral taste so need to purchase water 🙁
After debating, we decided to hike up the church…what a crazy idea! I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t have the wrap to block some of the UV rays from the sun! Before we started our hike, we bought two bottles of iced cold water from a cafe to bring along with us, we definitely need them! We walked back to the other side of the road where we started with and there marked the trail to get up to the chapel:
Am I reading this wrong….does that mean to the chapel is only a 15 minutes walk? It looked so high up there how can it be reached in 15 minutes???
The view walking up was spectacular however pay attention to the steps, they are very slippery!
The church on the other section of the village that we saw!
This is the stone bridge we saw looking up from the bottom of the village:
And the church is up there, getting close, so the sign didn’t lie!!
More stairs though on the burning hot day!
Every 10 steps or so, we stopped for water to keep us hydrated!
More jaw-dropping views of the village!
The stairs are very slippery…..I need to emphasis on this especially in the middle of each step! Please hold on to the rail when coming down!
It is steep too!
We finally reached the entrance to the chapel…just few more stairs left urg!
Here it is!
At that point, I took a rest while hubby went ahead to see if there are more views along the trail…from hubby:
Looked like less maintained path and hubby turned back!
The walk down to the village as I warned before….very slippery!
Hold on to the rail!!!!
We made it down safely and finished our two small bottles of water!
We walked back to the parking lot and I was sure there is a super market there, yep I was right, I went in and bought a BIG bottle of water for around 1 euro; I was so happy for cold water!
Hubby said that Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is his favorite village so far! We left the village and heading to Castellane via route D952.
Within a short drive, we saw the turquoise lake “Lac de Sainte Croix” – Lake of Sainte-Croix!
The afternoon light angle from this side facing the lake is not the best for its color!
There are some “look out” spots where you can safely pull over for photos!
The road is narrow, barely can fit two cars and very windy! You really can’t drive fast on this road, although we saw some crazy Mercedes drivers pass by cars like they are in a 4-lane highway! Views of the famous Gorge of Verdon along the way!
A pass through a few very small villages:
We have no idea what is this but we saw many cars parked there so we followed and walked in……urg….I don’t think it’s worth it!
Continued on driving and stopped by for a few pics of a popular family swimming spot!
Hubby had the courage to climb down to the rocks!
We even spotted a few goats…so cute with a bell collar!
We just zoom in and stayed inside our car within a distance to be safe and respectful to the animal! We finally arrived Castellane after more than an hour drive!
There was paid parking in the center but we chose to park further out for free! We parked in the lot near the way down to the river where it is another popular family swimming spot!
Cross the road to walk to the center of the village and oh wow another church built on top of the hill! That looked like 2x higher than the one in Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, I warned hubby, we are not hiking up to that one!!!!
Hotel de Ville of Castellane:
The pharmacy is closed….it’s so hard to know the hours that the pharmacy is open!!!
I think this is the sign for the trail up to the church LOL!
Castellane is a nice village with many shops and restaurants…it feels like a town.
Outdoor markets on a Monday:
It was already 4 pm and we need to head back!
Just to show you how windy and narrow the road is!
In my opinion, if you have limited time like us, I don’t think it’s worth the 2 hours drive especially in the afternoon, the views along the way weren’t as great as I hoped for to justify the long drive! In the late afternoon, the gorge is mostly in shadow – not good for photos!
Our last stop of the day: Saint Croix Du Verdon; the drive was challenging; it felt like we were zigzagging up the mountain with our low horsepower automatic car! But it was well worth it! First, we passed by this golden field of wheat?
On the back of it is ahhhh more lavender fields up in this area! The uniqueness of the fields up here is the mountain as the backdrop!!!
Careful though next to it are bee hives but in boxes??? Where can I purchase honey from here, must have lavender flavor to it!
A colorful beautiful butterfly!
We stayed away from those boxes 🙂
We continued driving and stopped few times between the short distances!
We have to pull over for this one…where the sunflower field next to the lavender!
Too bad the sunflowers are facing away from us and there are power lines too…not too ideal for photos! I kept turning to face the front of the sunflower and avoided the power lines 🙂
Keep marching on…..not much daylight left! Ahhh there it is Sainte-Croix-du-Verdon right there!
The road is very steep and narrow down, luckily some are one-way roads! We parked our car on the back lot and walked up to the village. What a nice view eating there?
The late afternoon light made the lake looked dull and not the turquoise color that its famous for! Come in the late morning and early afternoon for best color!
I really like the village, it’s so nice but too bad we didn’t have much time to spend here ;(
I would rather spend more time here than the 2 hours drive to get to and back from Castellane!
Many restaurants advertise for great view of the lake and I truly believe it’ll be! It’s already 6 pm and we need to leave to head back to Aix-en-Provence in time for dinner – it’s a 1.5 hours drive back!! Our GPS guided us another way back not the D6 we came and too late for L’Occitane en Provence Outlet!
We passed many villages along the way and then this one last sunflower field!
We got back to Aix-en-Provence at 8 pm, parked our car in the hotel garage, and walked out to Bangkok Restaurant, we were starving! Yay – it’s open!
We ordered a lot of food……..1st Tom Yum soup – sour and spicy soup – it tasted so good but a bit expensive though although the bowl is quite large for 10 euros! Two huge prawns in this maybe those cost 4 euros lol…I wish they can remove those and charge the soup 6 euros instead haha!
I ordered a yellow curry…but the rice is extra charge…3 euros blah!
One thing we learned in Provence is Asian restaurants charge for a small bowl of rice usual around 3 euros…..whereas a plate of fried rice is 10 euros…so it made more sense to order the fried rice instead! However, curry with fried rice? I need my white jasmine rice even though it’s 3 euros!
We ordered the spicy beef, it was tasty!
The waiter whom I believed the owner looked surprised that we could finish all the dishes haha! Our yummy dinner was 50.5 euros 🙂 We were so full LOL and the walk back to the hotel helped! It was our last night in Provence so we need to pack and finish our cherries! Ahhh refreshing juicy and sweet cherries, no problem at all finishing those although we were full!
Our flight out was at noon so we had plenty of time to get back to Marseille. We woke up at 7 again, got used to it, and walked to another bakery to buy croissants, this bakery looked more fancy and of course more expensive but they weren’t that much better yikes! After that, we stopped by the PNB Paribas ATM to get euros. Then, we checked out and drove to Marseille Airport – we hit morning traffic but we had plenty of time! We made a stop at the gas station inside the airport to refill our tank. The lady inside the station spoke decent English and she said I could fill up full and then come in to pay afterwards! To fill the tank, it was 32.54 euros. We returned the car, it was very quick and easy and walked across the street to the airport. In total of our 6 days rental, we paid 92.54 euros on gas for over 600+ miles driven hehe! The 6 days car rental was $209.52 booked via Auto Europe and the car was from Europcar plus the additional fees of 108.26 (environmental fee, airport location fee, etc that were clearly written on the rental voucher). Parking and toll charges were less than 100 euros so less than $500 total for transportation for 6 days and we visited 12 cities/villages and countless number of lavender fields! It’ll be impossible to visit those beautiful villages without a car! Please don’t ask me which village is my favorite, it’ll be impossible for me to decide!!!! Each one is uniquely beautiful! Just visit them all and you can decide which one is your favorite 🙂 Important to note about speeding camera, cruise control is our friend throughout the trip and not an issue at country side since the road is so narrow that you can’t drive fast anyways! Don’t rely all on the GPS because some sections have road construction and the speed limit is like 20 kilometer per hour lower than the speed limit displayed on the GPS! Fingers crossed, it has been over a month and no speed ticket mailed to our home yet!!! My overall impression of Luberon and Provence – more beautiful than I expected and hotter! My most memorable moments in Provence: sweet and juicy cherries, the duck breast at L’Ardoise and the refreshing desert at L’Arome, the smell of the air, the endless field of lavender, the cute houses of each village, and the difficulty of buying iced cold water haha! Originally when I plan the trip, I thought 6 days is plenty but it’s not! I underestimated the time I would spent on each village – they are so beautiful that I lost track of time!!