Along with elegant rosé wines, and rather strange-looking Cigales (Cicadas), lavender is the most recognised symbol of Provence. From June to August, rolling fields and plateaus are turned a gorgeous purple. The air buzzes with a gazillion insects collecting the precious nectar. And of course, one’s nostrils are suffused with an incredible smell.
Lavender fields in Provence are a mecca for tourists each year. Sometimes you see bus-loads of people taking the same selfies in a sea of scent, with many ladies dressed whimsically in large sun hats and flowing skirts. But this “mayhem” is forgivable. Being amidst the lavender is an incredible experience. Especially if you can find yourself a quiet spot to put the camera down, and to just sit and smell. And watch the bees, butterflies and bumble bees collecting pollen.
The best place to see lavender near Cotignac is Valensole, but there are other regions like the Luberon, Digne, Sault, Drôme and more (see map). Each field (or region) is harvested at a different time, so if one field has been harvested, you may still find another in full regalia. Last year, Marcel and I got to see how the lavender gets harvested.
The harvested flowers are mostly used to make essential oils for cosmetics and medical purposes. Lavender oil is known to be effective in soothing insect bites, burns and headaches, and bunches of lavender are used for repelling insects. Who hasn’t watched the lovely scenes in “A Good Year” with the scorpions? But my favourite product of lavender has to be the honey.
As well as white heather honey from his coastal beehives, Philip Prior has supplied us with lovely pots (500g, 250g and 125g) of lavender honey from Valensole. Take a mouthful and close your eyes. Feel the taste of Provence.