As many besotted artists would agree, there are few landscapes as compelling as the sun-drenched lavender fields, postcard-perfect villages and rocky outcrops of pretty Provence. With that in mind, we've asked hip hideaway experts i-escape.com for their Provencal secrets and suggestions - plus there's a chance to win a spoiling Provence getaway yourself!
Where better to start than the stunning medieval town that is often regarded as the gateway to Provence? The winding streets and famous 11th-century Romanesque Tour Fenestrelle ("Window Tower") provide ample attraction in themselves, but add a truffle festival in January, a garlic fair in June and the running bulls and horses of the fête votive in early August, and you've got a Provencal destination that it would be une folie to miss. Uzés is also close to the popular Pont du Gard - a towering Roman aqueduct and sublime feat of engineering. We particularly love the town's 2 weekly markets (some of the best in Provence), where you'll find traditional goodies such as artisan quilts and lavender soaps, plus fantastic wine.
WIN a stay at magnificent and spoiling L’Albiousse, a small and romantic guesthouse in the heart of medieval Uzés, courtesy of i-escape.com. Just visit the competition page and enter your details for your chance to win.
When it comes to esteemed neighbours, few can equal Avignon residents' accolade of sharing their city with the magnificent Papal Palace; For a short time, this was the seat of western Christianity. Now the building stands in remarkably good repair and, along with the Pont D'Avignon and the monumental cathedral, it has been designated a World Heritage Site. The city's long history of artistic and academic prowess now manifests every June in the exciting and theatrical Festival D'Avignon, when the population swells with arts enthusiasts visiting the 900+ shows put on over 3 weeks. If that all sounds a little demanding, we suggest a more gastronomic history lesson exploring the world-famous wine fields of Chateauneuf du Pape to the north of the city.
Stay at: La Mirande. Sitting opposite the majestic Papal Palace, La Mirande mirrors the grandeur in its classical interiors and shining service. It also used to be home to Napoleon III's physician. Prices from £293 per room per night.
The Luberon and lavender fields
The small cluster of Luberon villages possesses some remarkable credentials. Lacoste, as well as being the birthplace of the crocodile-logoed sportswear, was the home of dubious man-about-town the Marquis de Sade before he was consigned to the Bastille. Now it is the location of Pierre Cardin's opera, the jewel in the crown of Luberon's rich programme of cultural events. Additionally, the impossibly beautiful hilltop villages of Gordes, Roussillon, Ménerbes and Bonnieux make for a dazzling wander in the warmth of the afternoon. Of course, no trip to Provence would be complete without a few hours spent breathing in the cosseting perfume of its famous lavender fields. We suggest finding meditative calm at Sénanque Abbey near Gordes, where a functioning community of Cistercian monks tend lavender crops and honey bees for their livelihood.
Stay at: Domaine Les Roullets. This stunning 5-room B&B sits in 7 hectares of meticulous gardens, with vineyards, open terraces and a sparkling pool where you can take in the achingly beautiful scenery. Prices from £166 per room per night.
The Alpilles Hills and the Camargue
The cities and large towns of Provence are a good base for venturing into more rural destinations, but sometimes only peace, quiet and sun-drenched scenery will hit the spot. Van Gogh felt the same and shouldered his easel to the Alpilles Hills near Saint-Rémy-de-Provence to paint his iconic olive trees. Despite the bucolic isolation, it's also near the Roman amphitheatre and market of Arles, and Les Baux-de-Provence, a spectacular hilltop village with a castle and the outstanding double-Michelin-starred Oustau de Baumenièr restaurant. For a complete change of scenery, jump in the car and head south to the hauntingly serene Camargue, famous for flamingos, black bulls and elegant white horses.
Stay at: La Maison du Paradou. This luxurious B&B (with 2 pools, pretty gardens and a magnificent vaulted salon) sits in a tiny village but offers a big welcome with an eye for spoiling details. Prices from £178 per room per night.
Mont Ventoux and vineyards
As the hundreds of cyclists who pedal the gruelling Mont Ventoux every year know, Provence isn't all about lavender, wine and poolside loungers. They're here for the thrill (and the burn) of ascending one of the Tour de France's most iconic stretches which, as well as providing kudos, affords you with wonderful views stretching as far as Nice and Mont Blanc (on a good day). Luckily, you can hire bikes at the top and roll back down, before pedalling on to the exquisite wine fields of the Côtes de Rhône and Côtes du Ventoux. You can also visit Beaumes de Venise, which produces one of the most highly regarded Muscats in the world. Just make sure you can pedal back.
Stay at: Le Clos Saint Saourde. This spacious and wonderfully refurbished farmhouse, encircled by vineyards, has rooms built into the rock face and boasts a secluded treehouse complete with a private hot tub. Prices from £142 per room per night.
Author: Guest Bloggers, the lovely folks at i-escape.com, with Jess Warner of The French Bedroom Company, purveyors of French shabby chic furniture, white dressing tables, shabby chic wardrobes and beautiful French style furniture.