Mother-daughter road trip through the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region
Every year my mom and I go on a trip together and this time we spent a few days traveling through the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in France. I’ve been obsessed with lavender and sunflower fields probably my whole life and last July I finally got to do a road trip around this beautiful part of France. The lavender aroma reminds me of my beloved grandma, who used to fill little bags with lavender flowers and give them as gifts to put into drawers and closets.
After spending a couple of days in a little village called Vars in the French Alps, where I met my American host family from when I was an au pair in California (I’ll tell all about this experience in another post), my mom and I finally drove towards Provence.
They say the lavender fields are at their best between the end of June and the first two weeks of July, so before getting there I was a little worried I would not find any.
But before getting to the lavender fields, I can’t even find the words to describe my excitement when I saw a huge and beautiful sunflower field right next to the freeway exit to get to our Airbnb place in Manosque. The sun was starting to set and the light was just perfect, so we stopped to take pictures and I couldn’t have been happier!
The bed&breakfast we stayed at is just a few minutes away from the town center and it is just everything you can expect a b&b in the South of France to be: lovely, quiet, with a super cute backyard, a delicious breakfast and even a library! Plus the host Francette and her husband were wonderful and very helpful!
My happiness was even bigger when we got to Plateau de Valensole, where we found the most beautiful lavender field ever. The sun was almost gone, but the colors, the lavender smell and the silence made it one of the most magical and peaceful places I’ve ever been to. Everything was so still, but beware of the bees flying around you!
Some bushes had already been harvested, but we could still find fields full of lavender while driving around the countryside, especially in the areas of Salt and Banon, two cute little old villages not far from Manosque, where the view of the fields is absolutely breathtaking.
A must see in the area is Simiane-la-Rotonde, the most gorgeous little Medieval village, with its tower dated back to the XII century, its cute houses and the most beautiful view from the terrace of one of its only two restaurants, so beautiful it looked like a painting! Wandering around these narrow alleys felt like being teleported to the Middle Ages!
You can’t go to Provence without stopping in Roussillon, one of the most impressive villages in France, famous for being surrounded by one of the biggest ochre deposits in the world. I couldn’t believe my own eyes when I saw those red, yellow and brown cliffs: the scenery was unique and I guess it’s not for nothing that Roussillon is known as the “Grand Canyon of France”! The atmosphere here was almost surreal, it felt like being in a fairytale where everything is a shade of red. After eating a delish crepe in one of the many restaurants in the village, my mom and I headed to the Sentier des Ochre, a nice walk through trees and a former ochre quarry. It was SO hot and I think I had never sweated that much, but believe me, it was worth it!
Our next stop was Gordes, another beautiful village perched on the hilltop in the Vaucluse département. A short drive away from its center, there’s the Sénanque Abbey. Unfortunately it was already closed when we got there and we couldn’t visit the inside, but we could admire the outside, with the long rows of incredible lavender bushes that lead to it.
Our last stop for the day was L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, where we stayed for 2 nights at a little apartment booked on Airbnb that had everything we needed. The little town is famous for its many antique shops , that you can find at every corner, and hosts antique markets most Sundays. We had dinner at one of the many restaurants and cafés on the waterside of the Sorgue river and then walked around the town center, with its canals and cute water wheels still working.
The next day we took the bus and went to Avignon, a lively city full of history and art. Without even knowing it, we ended up there during the Festival d’Avignon that takes place every year in July. It is the oldest extant festival in France and one of the world’s greatest. Unfortunately we couldn’t assist to any show because we didn’t have much time, but there were artists all over the city performing and giving sneak peeks of their shows to promote them. There are hundreds of shows every day at every time of the day, for every taste.
We visited the Palais des Papes, one of the largest and most important medieval Gothic buildings in Europe. There would be so much to say about this huge beautiful palace that was the papal residence and the seat of Western Christianity during the 14th century. If you want to know more about it visit the official website. I’ll just tell you that the view of the city from one of the towers is simply AMAZING.
We spent the rest of the day wandering around the streets of the city, stopping here and there because I had my very first allergic reaction to I still don’t know what and my arms and legs were itching so much it was unbearable! I finally had to buy and take an antihistamine to make it better.
Aside from that and the scorching heat, we had a really great time in Avignon, among its busy streets, parks, little cute shops (they sell lavender EVERYTHING) and restaurants and then took the bus back to L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue.
The next day my mom and I were up early ready to finally head to Port Grimaud, a little town on the Côte d’Azur, the very famous French Riviera. After almost a week of wandering we were pretty exhausted and could really use some lazing around. We spent the last 2 nights of our trip in a room of a beautiful villa called Villa les Mésanges located between Port Grimaud and Saint Maxime. We were the only guests for most of our time there so we could enjoy the wonderful backyard and had the pool all to ourselves.
Before the total relax at the pool and at the beach though, we went to visit Grimaud, one of the most beautiful villages we had seen on the trip. Ok, let’s face it… they were all so pretty and unique that it’s too hard to pick a fav!
Then we drove down to Port Grimaud, known as the “Venice of France”. In fact, it was built by the architect François Spoerry who got inspiration by the famous Italian city canals structure, that here are surrounded by the cutest colorful Provençal-style houses. Each of them has its own berth and bridges connect the different parts of the town, which is full of restaurants, ice cream places and little shops. You can easily explore Port Grimaud by foot or by boat. It’s a real gem you can’t miss if you’re planning on visiting the French Riviera!
The next day we spent the morning chilling at the beach in Saint Maxime, the afternoon relaxing at the pool and the evening in Saint Tropez, where we had dinner even though it wasn’t easy to find an affordable restaurant that wasn’t already packed! In the end, we settled for an Italian restaurant called Café Milano, funny enough since we live in Milan, and we were not disappointed. After a week of French food we were craving some Italian food!
Needless to say, Saint Tropez is a very glamorous town, with expensive stores, elegant and chic parties at every corner and on every yacht “parked” at the harbor that kinda made me feel out of place. But everything felt right the moment I saw the most beautiful violet sunset I’ve ever seen!
And then unfortunately it came the last day of our mother & daughter road trip. We still had a few hours of relax by the pool before hitting the road and coming back home to Milan.
Every time I come back from a trip with my mom I feel so happy and grateful for being able to go and explore with her. We have a great relationship and this kind of trips definitely help to make it even stronger and create so many precious new memories to hold on and look back to. So I can’t help but encourage all of you to appreciate your amazing mothers and go on a trip together every now and then. You deserve to spend time together and you won’t regret it!