I am knee deep in Lavandula x intermedia as chubby bumble bees buzz around my ankles. Not one to OM and namaste, I shriek at my photographer to hurry up. An expletive is uttered and the cherubesque family down the field shoot me a look of opprobrium before continuing with their own Sylvanian-families style photoshoot. “Come on” I hiss through clenched teeth, whilst giving the camera my most demure expression.
The setting for this lilac-tinted reverie is a random field (definitely private property), somewhere outside Gordes, in the middle of rural Provence. There’s not much to say about Provence which hasn’t already been said – it’s a storybook of quotidian sensuality, herby gardens and endless fields which tint the horizon. Provence is more than a region. It’s an idea – a Cezannesque representation of the French idyll – the kind of France that should exist only in the guidebooks and the tender writings of Jacques Prevert.
Later that afternoon, we ride palominos through waist-high fields of poppies and wildflowers. Past ruined country houses and woven highlights in fields of ochre wheat and weathered dry-stone fences with wild rosemary growing through the cracks.
We toast in the shade of a tree with local wine in the garden of our host. Underfoot the grass is dry and the ground dusty. In the heat of the afternoon sun the colours shimmer and pulse. Our host’s husband ambles towards us with a plate of cheese, his hands tremble as he moves carefully, with the slow rigidity of Parkinson’s. He sits next to me and we sip our wine in comfortable silence. His wife speaks of her lifelong passion for horses and he watches her with affection.
A breeze stirs the lavender releasing its caustic apothecary fragrance, a reminder of the passing seasons and time’s onward march. We get in the car. Put on old Joe (Dassin) and listen to him croon about goodbyes and tomorrows all the way home.
Stay – La Bastide de Gordes
When – Late June-July
Eat – La Bastide de Pierres
Do – Horse Riding through the fields and a Canoe Trip along the impossibly perfect river
Avoid – Abbey Senanque
Listen – Jo Dassin, A Toi