Spring in Provence is all about ‘waking up’, there is the sensation of new life and new light, this spectacular swathe of France is shaking off the sleepy hibernation of winter and enjoying the delights of warmer weather, sunshine for longer and the welcome blossoming of wild flowers and fruit trees. The villages are becoming hustly and bustly again, opening up for the on-coming summer and locals are making the most of quieter times in the sunshine before the surge of tourists. Provence holds a plethora of reasons to visit in the springtime, below are what we consider to be the top five!
1. The weather
The much-anticipated change in temperature brings a buzz to Provence, there’s even Saints de Glace (Ice Saints): a saint’s day celebrating the final days that frost could damage the crops. Head to Provence in the spring to enjoy warm sunny days, particularly as the outdoor café culture returns to the wide leafy boulevards; enjoy a glass of rosé, or a cappuccino and croissant, and soak up the Provencal lifestyle. As a starting point head to Les 2 Garcons, Aix’s most famous bistro, to sample their famous coffee and tread the footsteps of the likes of Picasso, Cezanne and Piaf. Of course the balmy weather also calls for beach wanderings where you’ll likely find the beach to yourselves and perhaps the weather even pleasant enough for a refreshing dip in the turquoise waters?
2. Easter traditions
The French Easter celebrations are a wonderful spectacle, with many traditions and of course the fantastic selection of sumptuous French Easter Eggs that begin to flood into the boulangeries and markets in the build up to the religious festival, all wrapped in gloriously decadent cellophane and ribbons. During Palm Sunday you’ll find palm or bay-tree branches hung up to protect the household over the following year which must be either burned or buried the following Easter. On Easter Sunday expect to eat lamb, preferably from Sisteron in the Alpes de Haute Provence, served with haricot beans and new vegetables, enjoyed amongst family and friends. However if you need an early fix of the best French chocolate and you simply can’t wait until your spring holiday to Provence the wonderful chocolatier Jeff de Bruges deliver online!
3. Great time for foodies
There’s an abundance of fresh produce heaped up on all market stalls in Provence’s springtime, particular delicacies include asparagus, artichokes and strawberries. If you’re there late March you’ll even get to enjoy the black truffle harvest, traded on Friday mornings in Carpentras. Whilst in the region sample the local Rosé emanating inklings of narcissus, iris, green apples and citrus- gloriously spring like! For Michelin starred food spend the evening (or stay in the hotel too!) in the charming village of La Cadière d’Azur at Hostellerie Bérard for chef Jean-Francois Bérard’s exquisite Provencal cuisine.
4. Wild flowers
Although the quintessential lavender fields are not quite in bloom there is an abundance of other beautiful blossoms and herbs that bring with them a delicate fresh aroma that summons in sunshine and warmth. In spring the garrigue (moor or scrubland) along the coast is heavy with the scents of rosemary, wild thyme and Mediterranean pine. The bright colours of purple-pink centranthus, red poppies and yellow broom give hillsides a vibrancy that will take your breath away. Since the fierce Mediterranean sun will burn away these stunning blooms during the hotter months it is the spring that beckons long walks through this rich and beautiful countryside of Provence. Enjoy too the cherry and almond trees that are in full bloom, boulevards awash with carpets of blossom petals underfoot. C’est magnifique!
5. Festivals in Provence
There’s plenty to satisfy the cultural seeking holiday maker during spring in Provence, headed up by the Festival de Pâques in Aix en Provence, fast becoming a well known classical music festival. In 2017 it runs from 10th-23rd April, opening with Claudi Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, performed by the Monteverdi Choir and the English Baroque Soloists, also featuring the New York-based enigmatic ensemble The Knights partnering with Bertrand Chamayou for the final concert. Or for browsing through paintings, sculptures and photographs Aix en Provence also hosts SM’ART which is a huge market to showcase the arts, drawing some 20,000 visitors to the festival. Or for something totally different watch the Fête de la Transhumance in Saint Rémy de Provence, where the locals re-enact the original departure of the flocks of sheep from the lower pastures to the lush grass of the high mountains led by the shepherds and sheep dogs. It is a fantastic sight to see, particularly if you’re travelling with small children! Other activities include the Monte Carlo Tennis Open in April and the Monaco Grand Prix for a faster pace of life!
Su Stephens is Owner of Olives & Vines.