When I started my year of vanlife around Europe, my sister Lisa asked if Provence was on my itinerary. Provence was on her list of “must-see in my lifetime” and became one of mine too. So we made it a vanlife mission to explore this colorful region together in or around July time, to catch the lavender fields (before they’re harvested) and have a whale of a sister’s time!
After happily roaming through the Western Balkan countries of Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Croatia, and Slovenia, my next target was going to be exactly that: Provence (via a quick stop at my family home in Northern Italy, Fonte (Treviso)).
MEET UP: GENOVA – ALASSIO (LIGURIA)
Lisa lives in a beautiful Tuscan village called Lajatico (province of Pisa), and we made plans to meet in Genova and travel on from there. She hopped on a couple of trains while I crossed the Italian Po Valley once again. It was a pretty long drive and just as I reached Genova, I also reached my 10k miles on the road!
All went really smoothly until I got to 1km from the Genova train station. Google maps went wild and I struggled to get to the station, due to various road restrictions and narrow streets. I parked up by the port, near the Aquarium and Lisa joined me by foot.
Woohoo. The adventure could now truly begin!
We typed “area sosta camper near me” on a web search and drove on. We ended up on the seaside town of Alassio for a nice evening walk and a bite to eat, right on the beach, then pitched up at a reasonable campers’ stop in nearby Andora. I was too tired to drive any further, having already conquered over 450km.
FRANCE: EXPLORING OFF-MOTORWAY
Attention France: watch out for the Dal Bello Sisters!
Lisa is a better planner than me. She had researched what areas to visit to witness the infamous, scented purple fields. We had less than 3 days together hence we narrowed them down to two places: Valensole and Gordes.
We realized very soon that the road tolls were adding up quite quickly and decided to venture off the motorways, to also get a better feel for the countryside we were traveling through. Not the best idea when still in Nice, where we got stuck on narrow, steep roads.
We were forced to return to the A8 but we came off it again around Muy. We explored the Natural Parc of Verdon where we got our first glimpse of the lavender and discovered the beautiful Lake Saint-Croix-du-Verdon. As tempted as we were to stop here, we prioritized our original destinations and carried on with our plan.
PROVENCE IS SO Instagramable !
As suggested by various travel guides, we found plenty of beautiful, instagramable fields of sunflowers and lavender around the town of Valensole.
People scattered around the fields to catch the most romantic photographs. Some places were more popular than others, but we found a few quieter fields where my sister and I had the whole purple settings to ourselves!
As you approach them, the lavender fields welcome you with a strong, soothing perfume and the buzzing of trillions of bees and bumblebees. They seem to be used to visitors and didn’t bother us at all.
On our way to Gordes, we got a bonus surprise: Roussillon. I never heard of it before but when I saw the sign for it and Lisa mentioned something about Ochre quarries, I made a spontaneous turn for it. I’m so glad I did, it is now one of the top places I’d recommend visiting when traveling in this area.
The village is super cute and colorful, perched on top of bright orange and red ochre cliffs. There are a couple of short to medium trails you can hike to truly immerse yourself in the amazing natural colors, which I strongly suggest you do.
Gordes & Abbaye Notre-Dame de Senanque
Near the village of Gordes, you find the 12th century, Romantique Abbey of Notre-Dame de Senanque. Home to the cisternian Monks of Senanque and a very popular spot. We didn’t visit it inside but we walked right up to it and enjoyed a browse through their beautiful gift shop, before driving to Gordes for lunch.
Gordes is a lovely hill-top village that offers great panoramic views of its surroundings. We had a light lunch in the piazza and I treated myself to a big pot of lavender honey. Delicious!
To be sure to catch more lavender in full bloom, visit Provence by mid-July because in many places the flowers had already been cut. That said, it was nice to witness the harvest and find bouquets resting on the fields.
Special Sisters Time!
Provence was a perfect setting for a perfect sisters’ weekend.
Lisa and I have lived in different countries for well over two decades now and rarely spend time away alone. Camping made it extra special, giving us tons of opportunities to enjoy each other’s company while driving or chilling under the awning for breakfast and dinner. Lisa loved hanging out with Peter and found it very comfortable too.
The great outdoors and the starry skies are also known for prompting great connections and sharing stories. We dug up so many childhood memories.
Thanks for joining me, Lisa. I love you, SIS!