Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Two Big Lavender Festivals Coming Up

Provence produces nearly 80% of the world’s lavender and the famously alluring flower blankets the countryside every  June and July. That’s when lavender perfumes the breeze…lush rows stripe the countryside in soft-violet-to-inky-blue hues...and traffic slows to an escargot’s pace as travelers leap from rented Renaults trying to snap the perfect photo.  Harvesting continues through September and is mostly mechanized although, in some areas, lavender is still cut by hand and collected in cloth sacks slung over the back. Today, about 20,000 acres of lavender flourishes here annually although most of it is reserved for the making of cosmetics and perfumes (the name comes from the Latin lavare: to wash). It’s hard to find a farmhouse in Provence without at least one lavender bush...and if it weren’t for good old Lavandula, many Provencal painters (and postcard makers!) might go broke. Toodling round the South of France you'll find lavender lurking everywhere: in sachets, in digestifs, in dishes savory and sweet.

The best way to experience the purple reign is out in the shimmering fields…but alas you’re too late for that this year. Still, there are plenty of ways to experience lavender this month, such as a visit to the Lavender Museum (Musée de la Lavande) in the Luberon town of Coustellet. They do a great job of explaining the process of lavender production with interesting exhibits and good English info. It’s popular with tour groups, smells great inside, and offers the ultimate “if they made it with lavender, we sell it” gift shop (€6, daily 9 to 7, thelavendermuseum.com, 04 90 76 91 23). It’s just off D-900 toward Gordes.

You can also visit lavender farms and distilleries both during the growing season and afterwards; more on that appears below.

The main commercial lavender-growing area is the triangle between Sault, Banon and Sederon, and another prominent area spreads out on the other side of Mont Ventoux, north of Nyons. The Tourist Offices in those areas will have info on which distilleries and farms you can visit when...and they’ll give you a “Lavender Route” map.

But a really great way to celebrate lavender at harvest time is at a lavender festival. The one in the village of Valreas has already come and gone but two biggies are coming up, in the villages of Sault and Digne les Bains. The village fathers graciously planned them a week apart, so you can hit both. Here’s all the info.

SAULT LAVENDER FESTIVAL

The 29th annual Fete de la Lavande is August 15, 2014. Most activities happen at the Hippodrome du Defends and there’s shuttle service from the village center. 

The day begins with mass at 9:30 at l'Eglise Notre Dame de la Tour and the festival opens officially at 10 am. Ongoing all day are a book fair, art exhibit and sale, arts-and-crafts crafts show, pony rides, a lavender field in Centre Ville, lavender ice cream and much more.  Here’s the rest of the schedule:

10:30 & 3:00 pm: Folkloric parade and exhibition of agricultural equipment.

11:45: Award ceremony for lavender championships.

12:30: Picnic. Open to the public; more info is here. Tickets are 21 euro per person and you can book ahead(04 90 64 01 21) or, if there’s space, join in the day of. 

2 pm:  Workshops and demos on everything you can do with lavender such as essential oils, bouquets, etc.

3 pm: Presentation of the parade groups.

3:30 pm: Lavender games.

5:00 pm: Sault choir concert.

To see the schedule in a PDF, click here.

For more info : 04 90 64 02 30,  contact@fetedelalavande.fr, fetedelalavande.fr.

For general info about the village: saultenprovence.com.

LAVENDER FAIR IN DIGNE LES BAINS

The 93rd annual Foire de la Lavande,  runs from August 21 to 25, 2014. There will be 200 exhibitors, food and local products, performances, an art exhibit, demos of the distilling process, a golf tournament, a guided distillery visit, guided lavender walks, evening entertainment and much more.  All events are free and virtually all take place in the village center, on the Place du General de Gaulle.  The hours are 10 am to 8:30 pm daily. Local restaurants will b offering special menus for the duration of the fest. For more info :  04, 92 31 05 20, foire-lavande@wanadoo.fr, foire-lavande.com

CAN'T MAKE IT TO THE FESTIVALS?

Sault is considered the epicenter of commercial lavender farming in Provence and their Tourist Office can provide great lavender info. Some farms and distilleries around Sault that welcome the public, depending on the day and the season, are:

*Les Lavandes du Gaec Champelle. A large farm with a pretty little shop ; they’ll happily offer you a tour if you reserve ahead, a couple days in advance if possible. They don’t speak much English but they’ll do their best. They have roughly 80 hectares of lavender/lavandin and cereals (primarily wheat or épautre), which they wholesale throughout the region. The farm as been organic for six-plus years.  You’ll see huge hangers of lavender and old machinery that’s still in use. (Located on the Route du Ventoux outside Sault, 04 90 64 01 50, 06 82 53 95 34, champelle2@wanadoo.fr).

*Les Vallons de Lavandes. A farm and distillery (with pretty chickens!) Here you’ll meet Sylvie Barjot, who runs the show with her mother, father and daughter. The do distillery demos during harvest time, on a set schedule, and guided 20-minute visits are sometimes available by appointment.   Or just drop in, smile nice and maybe someone will show you around. My friend Angela wrote a very nice story about them here. (04 90 64 14 83,  vallon-des-lavandes@wanadoo.fr).

*La Ferme aux Lavandes offers tours of their lavender farm and nursery in summer and also has a "conservatory lavender garden’’ open from mid April to mid October. They have tables and chairs if you want to bring a picnic...and a boutique selling lavender-related products. (On the Route du Mont Ventoux outside Sault,  04 90 64 00 24,  06 82 93 52 09, contact@la-ferme-aux-lavandes.com).

*Distillery Aroma'plantes is a traditional lavender distillery in Sault (Ferme La Parente, Route du Mont Ventoux, Sault, 04 90 64 04 02, info@aromaplantes.com,  distillerie-aromaplantes.com).

1 comment:

  1. Olá! sou brasileira e vou todos os anos à Provence...adorei seu blog com todas estas informações, que não conhecia. Sempre vou no início de julho, para ver as flores, mas estou vendo que nesta época tem outras coisas interessantes...já estou te seguindo e vou colocar seu blog na minha lista dos preferidos...abraços do Brasil

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