On this week’s travel crush, we head to the lavender fields of France’s Provence region for a lesson in aromatherapy.
When I chose to quarantine alone at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, I knew that keeping myself mentally healthy would be just as important as staying physically well. Under normal circumstances, I thrive with ample alone time—but weeks of solitude have been an entirely different beast, requiring frequent self-check-ins and dedicated mental maintenance.
Now on month two, the initial period of shock and adjustment has passed, and as I settle into the new normal, I’m shifting gears to keep myself as cozy as possible at home for the long haul. I’ve found that aromatherapy helps with near-instant anxiety reduction—and lavender, one of the world’s favorite scents for relaxation, keeps my mind at ease. (Not to mention that it reminds me of my grandma—in a warm, comforting way!)
In Provence, the green fields turn a pastel purple as lavender plants burst to life during the annual spring and summer bloom. The flowers stretch on for acres at a time, just as graceful as the small, historic villages (like Gordes) that surround the farmlands where they grow—and here, travelers go to escape the rush of major cities and bask in the quiet beauty of Mother Nature.
It may be some time before I get to dramatically run through pastures in the French countryside like I’m Belle in Beauty and the Beast. But for now, I’m content to surround myself with lavender-scented candles, close my eyes, breathe deep, and imagine my next adventure in the great, wide somewhere.
French Villa for One, Please
One of the things that draw me to the French countryside is that intimate villas often take the place of major hotels. In Gordes, one of the most picturesque villages in the region, Le Mas de la Tannerie bed and breakfast places you in the middle of the fantasy with olive and lavender trees, a stylish pool, modern design, and just five rooms for maximum privacy.
Engage the Senses
Our sense of taste wouldn’t exist without our sense of smell, and lavender makes just as good a flavor as it does a scent. The flower makes a distinct and deeply aromatic addition to the cuisine, which you can learn all about during a crash course on Provençal food with local chefs Jean-Marc and Alice Villard in their home cooking school. For a heartier meal, I’m enjoying farm-fresh food just outside Gordes at Restaurant Le Mas, a 19th-century farmhouse with a seasonal menu and regional French wines.
Get to Know Mother Nature
Lavender, beyond being a world-class remedy for a variety of ailments, is a major part of the culture in this region—and the friendly staff at the Musée de la Lavande, just a ten-minute drive from the center of Gordes, are happy to teach others why. Seven days a week, they offer tours and workshops surrounding the plant, from history sessions to monthly themed events.