Fields of purple as far as the eye can see with little stone cottages dotted about: this is the quintessential postcard most people visualize of when they think of Provence. And they wouldn’t be wrong, it does exist. I never get to see it, but I know it’s here.
I have only been in Provence during the height of the lavender season once, which is June and July. By August the harvest begins, and the bright purple starts to dry and fade to a duller version of itself. On the odd year, it hasn’t all been harvested by the time I’ve arrived; I’ve seen patches of purple in the distance, few and far between. But the year I did manage to be here, it’s was stunning. I bought an armful of cut lavender that was actually so fresh and fragrant, the car smelled of it for a week. I mean, what’s not to love?
Well, tourists. Lots of them. Summer is the busiest time here, and the most expensive. Endless tour buses drive through the lavender growing region and everyone jumps out to take a selfie in the field. This has caused damage to some of the farms and does get a bit tiresome.
This year I read the harvest would carry on until the 14thof August. I was so excited I decided to make a trip to Sault quite soon after my arrival hoping to see some lavender fields still blossoming. I cycled the local “lavender route”. But alas, pretty much everything was gone. No purple in sight. Just outside Aurel, I did find one farm harvesting, but the lavender was quite dry and no longer bright purple. As I carried on, there was field upon field, already harvested. This route would be shockingly beautiful in the height of the season. I could imagine it. And then in the distance, it appeared, two small patches still fresh and bright. So, while I didn’t get to see a skyline of endless lavender, I did get to see this one little spot, just for me. Not a soul on the road or about, just me, the bees, the sunshine and the lavender.
While I keep missing the height of the season, I do not miss being part of the sea of people here to see it. And the best part of coming during harvest? The smell. The heady scent of lavender surrounds the entire region. That in itself is something so special, it might be worth waiting for.