And, we’re off! Just one week after moving to Paris, I’ve already jetted out of the city and started exploring the country of France! First up? The Provence countryside. Verdict? Best choice ever!
The trip was prompted by my desire to see the poppy fields and the fact that my boyfriend’s job took him back to the US for a last-minute business meeting. Left alone in a new country barely a week after moving there, I did some quick google searches, found a set of delightful airbnbs, and booked a train ticket for the following day.
Luckily, I’ve mastered the art of planning a trip in 2 hours or less and Provence, France is the perfect playground to just go where the wind takes you. Below are the highlights from my trip. I had such a pleasant time, I’m already trying to plan another visit to relax and see the lavender and sunflowers in bloom!
Day 1 in Provence
I arrived in Marseilles and picked up my rental car from an office near the train station. Renting a car is essential in Provence because the small towns have little to no public transportation or reliable ubers. I was a bit nervous about driving in Europe (this is my first time!) since the road signs are so different. Despite booking the day before, I was able to get an automatic car and downloaded all the Google Maps offline, which was a lifesaver for navigation through tiny roads and crazy roundabouts. Despite growing up in the massive city of Houston, I ironically feel like the tiny af roads off Washington Ave have prepared me for my time driving through Provence. Check out these tips for driving in Provence.
My first stop was the adorable town of Lacoste. I had a friend living there as an au pair and we grabbed lunch at one of the town’s two cafes: Cafe du France. Seated outside, we had breath-taking views overlooking vineyards, poppy fields, and the valley below the Lacoste town. We ordered a bottle of rose (very popular in the region) and hefty salads. We wrapped up the meal with cafe gourmand aka coffee and a dessert tray with three desserts. 10/10 would recommend.
Like many towns in Provence, Lacoste is teeny tiny with a population of just over 400. What makes it unique, is the SCAD (Savannah College of Art & Design) has a campus there so during the school year the town is often filled with students, art shows, and small concerts. I personally loved strolling through the narrow, medieval cobblestone streets. Lacoste is where I learned you must say “bonjour” to everyone walking down the street or anytime you enter a shop. I felt like Belle from the opening scene of Beauty and the Beast as I climbed up and down the hillside town.
Lacoste has a weird energy source that draws all sorts of eclectic people to the town. The largest “tourist” attraction is the castle of Marquis de Sade of which sadism is named. This eroded building towers over the valley and is a useful landmark when driving through winding roads. Designer Pierre Cardin recently bought the castle (must be nice) and occasionally hosts events there. Later in the evening, we watched the sunset and drank rose at Le Sade in Lacoste. If you want to experience Provence in a very unique way, check out the French Muse for inspo and workshops.
I had book an Airbnb a few towns away in Saignon. It was a pleasant drive through the countryside, albeit “two-way” (but really one-lane) roads to get there. Climbing the hill to drive through Saignon, I literally had to pull the car over and take pictures of the view and the sunsetting over the valley. It was breathtaking!!! I may or may not have missed my turn into my Airbnb and thought it was Le Parfum des Collines–beautiful, secluded resort in Saignon. Bucket list for next time!
My actual Airbnb was named “Gloriette” and was a super cute garden home just outside the village. I cooked breakfast and dinner there and enjoyed my time in the garden overflowing with gorgeous flowers. The host was celebrating his birthday when I arrived, so together we enjoyed a glass of champagne and I played with his adorable cat, Bianca. Together we practiced our broken French and English.
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While I had arrived somewhat early in the season, all across the hills in Provence I could see rows upon rows of lavender from my porch and enjoyed reading my book outside in Saignon. Lavender usually blooms late June through July and is harvested in early August. I didn’t see any lavender blooming here, but several times during my drives I stopped to take pictures with poppy fields!
The poppy fields were all over. Some bigger than others, but relatively easy to find as each town was about 20 minutes apart. Poppies grow wild in the early summer in recently turned up soil. They’re often associated with WWII because they bloomed so profusely after the war. While they’re actually seen as weed, the exact locations of the poppy field in Provence vary based on the year and how farmers tend their land. I stopped to take pictures at the foot of Lacoste hill and just outside Rousillion. Floral dresses, floppy hat, and good sunglasses were a must! Inspired by Provence? Shop my looks here on Amazon!
Day 2 in Provence
In search of a weekly market, I headed to Rousillon the next day. While I didn’t find the market, I did wander through many adorable stores looking at local art, smelling the lavender souvenirs (they’re really proud of it!), and coaching myself to not buy anything from the clothing boutiques. The handwoven round rattan bags are everywhere and all the rage. I definitely plan on getting one at a market when I return to Paris.
The Rousillon town is a distinct orange color from the large deposits of ochre that makes up the region. I got my 10,000 steps in many times over climbing up and down those hilly streets. Lunch was a tartine and a glass of wine at a local cafe. I’ve been particularly stoked about this move to Europe, because I CAN DRINK WINE. In the US whenever I drink red or white wine, I break out in hives. It’s cute (not). So I basically haven’t had any wine since 2016. It’s been a sad existence, UNTIL NOW. So yeah, I’m now the kind of person that drinks wine at lunch. I’ve got to make up for all those lost years.
And to compensate for the wine lunch (not really #noragrets), we ended up taking a mini hike at Le Sentier des Ocres, or the Ochre Trail. It cost a few euro to get into the park, but once inside I was totally transported from Southern France to Jurassic Park. The ochre sand that fills the Luberon region is the same sand that is in Colorado, the Caribbean and parts of Africa. It’s super bizarre, but entirely beautiful. Walking around the park took about 30 minutes, and then it was off to the next town!
Gordes is where I want to stay the next time I come to Provence. Seriously, driving up to the Senaque Abbey, I had to pull over multiple times because I was so awestruck by the views of the little town. The cliffs with all the houses and buildings stacked upon one another were absolutely gorgeous. With my overhead view, I fell in love with all the vacation homes that had crystal clear cliff side pools. If that’s not heaven, I don’t know what is. Not sure what was harder, navigating through the winding roads and parallel parking, or explaining to someone who doesn’t speak English how to take my photo. I did make it to the Abbey, but since the lavender wasn’t blooming (shucks late May), I didn’t spend much time there before heading out to my next Airbnb near the Gorges du Verdon.
Inspired by Provence? Shop my looks here on Amazon! Also, for real time updates on everything that I’m up to while in France, be sure to follow my Instagram at @anastasiachansen for some hilarious stories and adventures.
Overall, I had a very relaxing time in Provence. With little agenda, I weaved my way through the many little towns stopping where I found something interesting, going off recommendations from the locations and snacking on baguettes, and making plenty of time for wine along the way. The pace of life is much slower in Provence and I completely understand why Europeans often head there during the summer to take a break from their hectic city lives. Having just exited a crazy job in management consulting, Provence was everything I was looking for.