The Luberon – the area of inland Provence – is dotted with picturesque hilltop towns, which are loved for their small, windy, cobbled streets with ancient buildings and alleyways. The practicalities of visiting these places, however, can be difficult. When beautiful towns such as Gordes and Les Baux were cemented into the rock high above the valleys below, there weren’t any town planners thinking about future tourist requirements. Parking is a nightmare in the height of summer, as is getting a reservation in that cute restaurant with spectacular views. Visit places like the red town of Roussillon and the nearby Sénanque Abbey in Spring instead.
It goes without saying that Luberon has wonderful climate – it’s the reason why the area has such great rosé wine. But the summer can sometimes be unbearably hot when you don’t have a sea breeze and the crazy Mistral wind isn’t blowing. April, May and June still offer great skies but the rain has usually left town for the season and the daily temperatures don’t make you yearn to be near water, all day every day.
You know it’s spring in Provence when the almond trees start to bloom – they’re the first trees to do so. You can usually see it, however, when the mimosa arrives. Bright yellow in colour, the mimosa blooms are the reason to celebrate the end of winter and a cause for huge celebrations in the Luberon and primarily along the French Riviera. Mimosas were originally brought to the country by a British man who saw them in Australia and thought they would do well in the local climate.
Festivals in Provence are a special affair because the weather is (mostly) dependably warm, the skies blue, and the landscapes sublime. It’s a lovely way to spend a weekend and nowhere more so than the Festival Yeah! in Lourmarin. The town is one of the prettiest in the region and while the festival actually takes place in the castle (which harvests its own wine), the stalls and music spill over into the village streets. This is a family affair where kids are encouraged to attend – headphones are available to reduce the impact of noise on baby ears. Alternatively, head to Nimes for TINALS – This Is Not a Love Song, an indie festival held in June, which also has family-friendly spaces and camping.
The French asparagus season is short and much-heralded, lasting about 6 weeks (for local asparagus farmed in Provence). King Louis 14th reintroduced asparagus back into France after it hadn’t been eaten for centuries, first as a food for the rich and later for everyone. In Provence, you will mostly find green asparagus which is grown entirely in the open air – hence the short season and why everyone eats a ton of asparagus for a few short, wonderful weeks.
France is home to some of the most exclusive chocolate makers in the world and they take their chocolate seriously, not just at Easter, although admittedly, it’s one of the best times to window-shop chocolate. Aix-en-Provence is well-known for its chocolate shops, as are Cannes and Nice.