4 days of provencal bliss before returning home after the wedding.
After taking one last early-morning swim in the pool of our hotel in St. Tropez, we packed up and hit the road. Taking the direct way to Gordes would have taken us less than three hours, but we decided to take the scenic route through the Luberon and make a day trip out of it.
Our route took us straight up north via Les Arcs (if you’re ever around, you MUST try the truffle menu at “Chez Bruno” in Lorgues, an absolute favorite) and towards the Verdon river. It’s a beautiful drive along the cliffs of the Verdon Canyon (Gorge du Verdon), passing cute little village and scenic viewpoints.
You want to make a stop at the “Pont du Galetas“, a bridge spanning the north-eastern corner of Lac de Sainte-Croix, providing a magnificent view into the canyon. Had we had more time, we sure would have rented one of the little paddle boats and spent an hour or two on the turquoise water.
Just a short drive up from the bridge is the cutest little village called Moustiers-Sainte-Marie. It’s beyond idyllic and yes, somewhat touristy, but well worth a stop.
After our little tour in Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, we picked up the road towards the west, which led us right through the Luberon national park and via the most charming villages. One item we were able to tick off our bucket list on the way were the vast lavender fields around Valensole. Real lavender only grows on higher altitudes, so the big big fields that you are admiring on your Insta-feed are right around here. Blooming period is from June to early August, depending on how early summer arrives, so it’s a bit of a narrow window to see the magic.
You’ll find beautiful, smaller fields of “Lavandin”, which looks the same as true lavender and simply grows in lower altitudes, all over Provence and Luberon – just not those huge fields that only exist where lavender is grown for industrial purposes.
In the early evening, we arrived at our hotel and end destination just outside of Gordes, in Joucas. We picked this spot because we wanted something very secluded, romantic, very “provencal”, but still close to some villages worth seeing and restaurants to go out for dinner nearby. For the first evening, they actually had a special dinner at the hotel, so we made reservations and enjoyed a 7-course menu with a beautiful view over the lush hills.
Since we booked a “suite piscine” (best decision if you want some more privacy), we ordered breakfast to the room and ate in our bathrobes – true vacation feeling! It was so HOT during our week in Provence (and even on our wedding), we spent our days relaxing in the pool and only got ready later in the afternoon to do some exploring and go out for dinner.
For one of our excursions, we followed the recommendation of a friend and visited “Les-Baux-de-Provence”, a charming old village set up on a rocky hill overlooking the lands around. Again, we were so happy we came in mid-June, making it a whole lot less touristy than it usually would be.
Visiting the old ruins and climbing all the way up makes for a beautiful 360° view. And after all, the glass of rosé you’ll enjoy after will feel so much better after a little exercise!
For dinner, we picked “La Cabro d’Or” at hotel Baumanière, which has a charming terrace nestled into their gardens and offers elevated but hearty cuisine – I love a chef who makes great sauces!
On one day, we decided to skip our pool-side breakfast and drive up to Gordes to grab a typical french style breakfast on-the-go. We picked the cutest local bakery called “La Boulangerie de Mamie Jane”, very close to the Chateau in the city center, and bought espressos, pains au chocolat, and crisp warm baguettes with goat cheese and honey. Yum!! Then we took those to the scenic viewpoint just outside of Gordes and enjoyed our breakfast on the cliff. Again, this kind of tourist magnet is unbearable in the months of July and August, but we were able to quietly enjoy our time there without too many interferences.
After taking a stroll through Gordes (which is much smaller than you’d think just looking at it from the viewpoint), we drove to nearby “Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque”, an old monastery beautifully built into a field of lavender – the perfect photo spot in theory. Unfortanetely, it’s no longer permitted to walk into the fields right in front and pose for pics, probably it became excessive at some point. Well, we managed to work around it for a quick snap at 42°C…
For lunch, we drove to yet another place I had always wanted to visit – l’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. It’s special because the river Sorgue literally winds through the city center, making it almost like its main street. Alongside it (and throughout town), you’ll find the largest selection of antique stores in France, outside of Paris. We weren’t looking to redecorate, but it was fun browsing nonetheless. We did stock up on tea, though – at “Florel en Provence“, a gorgeous tea shop with lots of provencal herbs and teas in the prettiest boxes.
But first, food. The French usually don’t do big breakfasts (and they don’t know about avocado toast yet) – instead they opt for a small croissant & coffee and then enjoy a fixed lunch menu with a glass of wine later on. While we usually prefer a nice, hearty brunch and then only fruit or snacks until dinner (at least on vacation), we decided to follow their lead that day. Lucky for us, “Café Fleurs” (right at the Sorgue river) exceeded all expectations.
Later that day, after a swim and fresh-up at our hotel, we drove back to Gordes in the evening and started with a sundowner at the “Bastide de Gordes“, a beautiful hotel built into the hillside. When the sun turned red, we left to walk up to the town center for some food. After lots of gourmet dining, we just wanted an easy going dinner on a sweet little terrace, so we decided on “l’Artegal”. With the chateau being lit up and a guitarist playing some background music, it was casual but totally romantic.
(my earrings come in 11 different colors!)
On our last afternoon / evening before heading back to Zurich on Sunday, we relaxed by the pool until around 4pm and then drove south to one of the cutest villages in the area, Ménerbes. First things first, we got some refreshing basil-lemon sorbet at La Maison de Marie and took a walk around the hilltop. There’s actually one really really cool boutique in Ménerbes (with brands such as Valentino, Manzoni24, etc.) if you’re lusting for some shopping and didn’t get your fix at the Côte.
After Ménerbes, we drove by Bonnieux, another incredibly idyllic village that holds some dear memories because this is where we shot our lavender field engagement pictures last year. Also, we made a quick stop at “Bastide de Marie” since we heard some great things about it, but since they were booked out for dinner, we continued.
Not sure if you can tell by now, but our minimoon was mostly about food…… haha!
For our last dinner, we went to “Auberge la Fenière“, a sweet little hotel slash gourmet restaurant slash bistro near Lourmarin that my dad once dearly recommended. The bistro was closed for a wedding, so we enjoyed the surprise menu at their signature restaurant. Talking to the chef’s husband, we learned that they’re the first restaurant worldwide to earn a Michelin star while using only glutenfree (the chef and owner is intolerant to gluten) as well as local, organic ingredients. Their mission is to provide healthy, toxin-free, sustainable food at a gourmet level – and it was indeed delicious.
A week after the wedding, we finally returned home to Zurich in pure relax mode. I must admit, the first few days back at work were a bit of a challenge, but we are still feeding on all of those beautiful memories. Plus, we still have our honeymoon to look forward to!
As per usual, you can find my shortlist of places to see and visit below. Always feel free to leave questions or additions in the comment section below, or shoot me a message.
Cute hotel in the vignes: Mas de Cotignac
Lunch in Cotignac: La Table des Coquelicots (take a walk around the charming market square)
Luxury hotel & Gourmet restaurant (Alain Ducasse): L’Hostellerie de l’Abbaye de la Celle
Small family-run hotel with amazing truffle restaurant (they have their own truffle dogs!): Demeure de Fanette
Wine Tasting: Chateau Fontainebleau du Var
Hotel / gourmet restaurant / bistro: Chateau de Berne
Famous truffle restaurant: Chez Bruno
Cute hotel: Les Clos du Malvallat
Visit: Gorge de Verdon (especially Pont du Galetas – rent a paddleboat!)
Visit: Moustiers Sainte Marie
Visit: Valensole and the large lavender fields around
Villages to visit: Gordes, Ménerbes, Bonnieux, Apt, Les-Baux-du-Provence
Visit: Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque
Hotels: Mas des Herbes Blanches, Bastide de Marie, Les Clos les Eydins
–> Websites I always check for finding boutique hotels: http://www.chateauxhotels.com/ or http://www.slh.com/