Greetings from a very sunny / springy south of France. We’ve really been spoiled this week with incredible weather, and I’ve spotted the first tourists making their way around town. As they say in French, “Les beaux jours sont arrivés” – the beautiful days have arrived.
This week’s installment of My Provence is a very exciting one… combining two of the things that are always very high on our travel to-do list – eating & exploring… & usually more eating. And what a city to do it in (!). We’ve only had the opportunity to visit Avignon once, but what a trip… I think I could spend the whole day in the indoor market, Les Halles – simply fabuleux. And today’s interview from Aurelie Gilabert of Avignon Gourmet Tours gives us even a deeper look into the many pleasure of living in, and touring around, Provence.
1. What is your connection to Provence, and how long have you been living in or traveling to the region?
I was born in Avignon and raised in a small village close to it. Like many other people in Provence, I am the grand-daughter of Italian and Spanish grand-fathers so we were never a traditional Provençal family. I only started to realize how wonderful my homeland was when I was abroad. I left France for 7 years and did not decide to come back until last year. Now I get amazed at every new village I visit or every new market I discover. I totally get why so many visitors come here every year or even decide to move to Provence! We are so lucky to live in this beautiful area, with such a variety of landscapes, colours and historical sites.
As I fell in love with Provence again, I decided to create my own company to share my passion with the visitors.
2. Where is your favorite place to visit? (a tough one!)
That’s a tough one … Every place has its own little thing … I am going to choose one city and one natural site ! Can’t make up my mind !
Avignon is my favourite of all time. Laid back atmosphere, easy to walk around and yet very lively. It’s the perfect balance for a city. Besides, we have nature on our doorstep since the Barthelasse Island is just on the other side of the Rhône river and is the perfect spot for walks along the river or a bicycle ride through the orchards.
For a day in the outdoors I recommend the Mont Ventoux, with its charming villages, beautiful landscapes, lavender and truffle smells.
3. Do you have a “best travel memory” for the region?
The first time I went to the beach on the Côte Varoise. And believe it or not, it was only last year ! We left Avignon early in the morning as it is not too close to here. We had decided to leave the highway earlier than needed to take the smaller roads. I remember driving through the Massif des Maures, the gorgeous mountain range. The drive offers breathtaking viewpoints over the Mediterranean ! Nowhere else in Europe had I seen such a beautiful landscape as I drove down the coast. The crystal clear Mediterranean sea against the green pine trees offers a unique sight. And after a scenic drive, once we were on the gorgeous beach, we got a chilled bottle of Côtes de Provence rosé wine : Provence at its best !
4. Can you think of one piece of advice or recommendation for travelers to Provence?
Explore, don’t plan it all in advance, follow the locals, look, listen, smell, taste, drink. Don’t be afraid to go off the beaten tracks. Provence is a place to feel with all of your senses.
And to discover Provence like never before, join our tour : )
5. Finally, can you give us one sentence which you feel describes Provence?
I will choose 1 word : UNIQUE.
A very big “merci” to Aurelie for sharing with us her visions of Provence (especially well-written for a native French-speaker!) and you can find out more about her services at the Avignon Gourmet Tours website or catch-up with her gourmet adventures on her Facebook page.