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THINGS TO DO IN THE FRENCH RIVIERA FROM  HAUTE VUE  VILLA MONTAUROUX

  • Writer's pictureDavid Viney

Lavender Festival in Valensole

Just outside the Var in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence department - and near to the famous Gorges du Verdon - Valensole is right in the heart of Lavender growing country. Valensole takes its name from the Latin words ‘Vallis’ and ‘Solis’, which mean valley of the sun. And as you take in the gorgeous stone houses bathed in the golden rays, you will see why! Held on the third Sunday in July every year, to celebrate the beginning of the harvest, the Valensole Lavender Festival is one of the largest of its kind in the world.


Fields of Lavender. Photo © Aryaanni
Fields of Lavender. Photo © Aryaanni

Numerous activities are organized throughout the day. You can visit the lavender fields, interact with local producers, and can learn about the distillation process using a 19th-century still. Later, you can browse the producer’s market stalls, check out the photo exhibits, watch films, and enjoy the musical and folk dancing show.


All about Lavandula


Lavandula (common name lavender) is a genus of 47 known species of perennial flowering plants in the mints family, Lamiaceae. It is native to Eurasia, and particularly thrives along the Mediterranean coastline. Cultivated as as ornamental plants for garden and landscape use, it is also used in traditional medicine, as an ingredient in perfumes, and to extract the fabulous lavender oils.



There are mainly 3 varieties of lavender grown in France: fine (or 'true') lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), aspic lavender (Lavandula latifolia), and lavandin (Lavandula × intermedia) which is a hybrid of the previous two and the mainstay of the Valensole crop. Lavender loves altitude and flourishes between 600 and 1500m. The higher it is grown, the better its "essence" and therefore the better the essential oil extracted.

Throughout the village - and particularly in the market - you can find products and souvenirs featuring lavender in every possible form; including essential oils, pillows, soaps. and culinary products. Here's a great intro video from Riviera Bar Crawl & Tours:



The 30ème Fête de la Lavande à Valensole - 2024


The festival will be held on Sunday the 21st July 2024. Whilst the exact programme has yet to be announced, this video from the 2022 edition will give you some idea of what to expect from a visit:



Review of the 2023 Valensole Lavender Festival


In 2006, the Chinese romantic TV Series 帘幽梦 - "Dreams behind a crystal curtain” - was filmed in the Valensole region. Ever since, Provence in general, and Valensole in particular, became a must-visit destination for many tourists from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Fete du Mimosa Festival Poster 2024

This was the programme for the 2023 event:


All day

  • Free tours of lavender and sunflower fields and distilleries, meetings with producers of village products.

  • Traditional distillation of the lavender flower at the heart of the celebration, with an old still from the 19th century.

  • Exhibition of discovery of ancient and modern agricultural equipment used for harvesting lavender.

  • Exhibition, sale of quality artisanal products, based on lavender only. There were more than 140 professionals attending the festival, in the village and plateau.

  • Traveling exhibition “History(s) of lavender”. (Texts: Magali Amir I & Watercolors: Maud Briand at the MIJC)

  • Guided tours according to your mood and desires with the shuttles set up by the organization. Departure: The post office.

  • Visit supervised by professional farmers of the traditional old and modern distilleries of the little blue flower.

  • Fun visit to the Valensole lavender museum.

  • First flight by helicopter and discovery of the palette of lavender fields on the Valensole plateau (€50 per person. From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.)

Exhibition & discovery

  • From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.: Free visit to the Cluniac site of the Saint Mayeul Chapel and the Saint Blaise church

  • Screening of the film “The Magic of the Plateau de Valensole” by Régis Nicolas, duration 1 hour, Cinema Hall (lavender tunnel) . Sessions in French at 10 a.m., 11:15 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:15 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 5 p.m., session in Italian at 2:30 p.m.

  • Permanent literary exhibition and meeting with authors and poets from the “Poètes des Hautes Terres” association.

  • Folkloric and musical shows

  • Artists musicians singers strolling: good humor displayed with the Rosalie Orkestra

  • Clay modeling around lavender (Lavender space)

  • Balloon sculptures on demand with Roudoudoo (Lavender Space 1 & 2)

  • Depending on their mood, a walk of 4 saddled donkeys from “Sabots de Provence”


The Traditional Dancers at the Valensole Lavender Festival
The Traditional Dancers at the Valensole Lavender Festival

Entertainment

  • 10:00 a.m. - “Les Lavandières de Valensole” sing about lavender and their village. (Fountain, Lavender space 1 & 2)

  • 10:30 a.m. - Folk group “L’Escolo Dou Trelus” from Pernes les Fontaines and les Cagouillards from Charentes Maritimes (Lavender Space 1)

  • 11:30 a.m. - Induction of the Knights (Tourist Office)

  • 11:30 a.m. - Folk group “L’Escolo Dou Trelus” (Lavender Space 2)

  • 3:30 p.m. - Folk group “L’Escolo Dou Trelus” (Espace lavande 1 & 2)

  • 7:00 p.m. - Closing of the lavender festival

  • 9:00 p.m. - Place de la Mairie DJ ball with ASL MUSIC

Refreshment bar, on-site catering, and “lavender meals” in the village restaurants.


How to Get there


  • By car: Valensole is in the middle of the countryside, so public transportation is limited in the area. If coming from the south, leave the A8 at exit 34 (Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume), then take the D560, D35, D554, D35 and RD 8 to Pl. du Marché in Valensole.

  • By train/bus: The nearest railway station is in Manosque - Gréoux-les-Bains (accessible by TER trains from the Riviera). You can then take the 30 mins ride on the 133 bus from there to the village. It's quite a jaunt though!

  • By tour: If you are without a car, perhaps the best way to reach the festival would be to book (well in advance!) one of the organised tours to the village.

Resources


Accommodation


With stunning views, private pool, super-fast WiFi and modern air-conditioning, Haute Vue is a large holiday home with private pool in Montauroux; right in the middle of Mimosa country and a short drive from Tanneron and Mandelieu. Sleeping 10/12 in 5/6 bedrooms, it is the perfect central base for a holiday in the South of France; close to the beautiful perched villages of Provence and in easy reach of the beaches and sights of the sparkling Côte d'Azur.

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