Tuesday 9 July 2013

Lavender Season 2013 - Plateau d'Albion

This year the season got off to a bad start. It rained. And rained. And rained. And then it rained a bit more. At my home we turned off the heating at the start of May!
Provence was not a sunny paradise.
Then the sun did come out and dried the ground and thanks to all the rain Provence turned into a lush, green paradise. The poppy fields that normally appear at the end of May and run into June were two weeks late. The cherry harvest, normally over by now, is still ongoing.
Poppies in early June 2013 
And the lavender is running at least ten days behind schedule maybe more and that is not so great for the lavender producers but for the tourists who want to admire Provence's blue gold it is fantastic, there should be lavender fields in flower to the end of July.

Today I went for a drive up onto the Plateau d'Albion where you can find fields of true lavender. To make things simple there are two main types of lavender grown in Provence:

  1. True Lavender. This is used in cosmetic production, perfume industry and aromatherapy. Its yield of essential oil is about 15kg per hectare (2.5 acres). Lavande Fine or True Lavender grows above 800m in order to obtain the AOP (designate origin label). The colours can vary within the same field from plant to plant as each one is genetically unique. 
  2. Lavandin. Used for industrial purposes mainly, soaps, washing powders, interior fragrances etc. One hectare of lavandin produces 100kg of essential oil! Lavandin is a natural hybrid from True lavender and  Aspic Lavender. It has a higher level of camphor (8% as opposed to 1% for True Lavender) which makes it unsuitable for using on skin or in aromatherapy.
So now you know what is what when it comes to lavender, here are the photos that I took today. 

The village of Aurel , near Sault. In another two years when the lavender is big this will be THE photo op... 

Close up shot of true lavender in bloom complete with the photo bomber bee

True lavender in the foreground and Lavandin behind. Note how green the trees and fields are in the background.

Field of Lavandin 

A typical dry stone hut (Borie) in a young lavender field

A luscious field of True Lavender 

Spot the difference! Lavandin and True Lavender.
If you would like to visit the lavender fields of Provence I will personally be guiding private tours this coming month. Contact me using the link on the right.

Also take a look at my other lavender posts from last year :

In the Footsteps of the Lavender pickers. A bit of history, and how to distil lavender.
New Lavender Photos. Also with some information on the threat that lavender is facing. 

...and several photo posts as well. 

Monday 8 July 2013

Summer in Provence 2013

A Few Pictures of Summer in Provence...

I'm afraid I haven't had an awful lot of time to post new articles. The subject matter is there, but our services for made to measure travel in Provence have become rather sought after. 
But I always have my camera with me when I am on the move so here are a few pictures taken over the last couple of weeks so you can see what I have been up to and which may well explain why Provence is so very popular.

14th June, Marseille, the MuCem with Notre Dame de La Major behind, or, When Old meets New
Marseille is the big subject this year, you can see my post Marseille 2013 - Getting Ready to see why. As European Capital of the year the city has indeed undergone a transformation and I can recommend a stroll arround the Old Port past the Fort St Jean and to the J 4 the name given to the area where the MuCem (Museum of Civilizations From Europe and the Mediterranean) is to be found. There is a man with a trolley who sells cold drinks and peanuts salted (a lot) by him. Everything is a Euro or at least was when I last saw him! 

21st June, The Papal Palace of Avignon
When in Provence there are certain monuments and sights that cannot be missed, despite the crowds and the Papal Palace of Avignon is one. It's a bit like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower. A very good audioguide is available in most languages so you can visit at you own rhythm. 

27th June The Abbey of Sénanque near Gordes
Another site difficult to avoid is the 12th Century Abbey of Senanque near Gordes. Here the visits are guided and in French. However many come to see the Abbey from the outside and the lavender fields that grow there. The produce from these fields can be purchased in the Abbey shop.

28th June, Market in Lourmarin
The Provençal market! need I say more. Why markets seem more colourful in Provence than elsewhere in France I don't know. I'm not convinced that they do really... The Lourmarin market is great and is on every Friday.

28th June, Opening of the new Pitch and Put at Niozelles
 Here is a new project that is already gaining in popularity. If the idea of 18 holes on some of the regions most prestigious courses appeals then give me a call! But if you would like to spend an afternoon on a 9 hole Pitch and Put course set in a very pretty valley then come to Niozelles near Forcalquier. Warning! Most of the buildings are still being finished so it looks like a bit of a building site when you arrive but don't let that put you off, the course is fantastic.

3rd July, A Lavender field in Marseille
Ok, in the photo it could be anywhere, but I couldn't resist this close up of a very happy sparrow finding his lunch in the 4000 lavender plants on the port of Marseille.

3rd July, Soggy watches in Marseille...must be Dali
As I said earlier in this post, Marseille is the place to be this year! At the moment a series of slulptures based on Salvador Dali's work can be found all over the Old Port. 

5th July, Lavender field at Saint Martin de Castillon 
 Driving home I thought I would take a peek at the state of the lavender in the Luberon valley. I particularly liked the view in this photo taken close to the village of St Martin de Castillon on the noth side of the valley. Opposite is the Luberon mountain and the village of Castellet.

Ballooning in Provence, at the landing...
Last Saturday I piloted the small L'Occitane en Provence balloon for a film. I particularly enjoyed the flight, the weather was perfect, and the wind carried us on one of the best routes in the region for balloons. The closer balloon is the one that I talk about in  my last post Hot Air Ballooning in Provence

So there you have it my ramblings for the last few weeks, I will try and sit down and get something a bit more topical on paper as soon as possible.