Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Even before I was planning for our summer road trip in France, I was dreaming of the rolling Provençal hilltops swathed in lovely shades of lavender.

I blame all those hours on Pinterest for those dreams!

Perhaps one of the most famous lavender fields in Provence lies in front of the 12th-century Notre-Dame de Sénanque Abbey (French: Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque), still home to a small group of Cistercian monks. The abbey, located near the hilltop village of Gordes, is one of those iconic images of Provence and we planned to see it in person.

After spending a few hours at the Sunday market in L’Isle sur la Sorgue, we arrived at the abbey with the hot mid-day sun radiating off the weathered gray stones and surrounding fields. What I first thought was blooming lavender in front of the abbey was actually a field of blueish-purple statice, which usually is used as a dried flower for arrangements. I couldn’t figure out why the monks would use the statice as well. Any ideas?
Well, unfortunately, we were a bit too early in the season to see the infamous lavender in full bloom. I later learned the lavender usually starts blooming at the end of June and continues through August, when the flowers are harvested. We tried our best to plan our trip with the grandparents, knowing that July and August would have been too hot for them for much sightseeing.
Still, we enjoyed walking around the grounds of the Sénanque monastery, which was first established in 1148. Tours inside the abbey and its cloisters are possible, but must be reserved in advance. It’s also possible to stay at the abbey for a spiritual retreat.
Inside the abbey’s store, you can buy lavender oil, lavender honey, lavender soaps, lavender photos and French olive oil as well as religious objects and musical CDs. The monks who live at Sénanque grow the lavender and tend honey bees for their livelihood. Grandma and I both bought a few things before we continued on our way.

We followed the winding road north of the abbey back to Mazan. The roads were lined with heavily laden cherry trees. We may have stopped to pluck a few cherries before we made an unplanned stop at a nearby winery.
Even though we missed seeing the true lavender season, the historical abbey is well worth a stop on your trip in Provence.
As you can see here, the lavender is almost ready to bloom!

Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque 
Near Gordes, France

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jaz@octoberfarm said...

i would have loved this trip! it's so nice that you get to share this with your grandparents.

BacktoBodrum said...

Strolling through a French field of lavender is the image I keep in my mind for the last 10 minutes of relaxation time after yoga.

Joy said...

@Joyce, It was a wonderful trip with them. Thank you!
@Annie, Sounds lovely! If only I could focus myself that long at the end of yoga! :)