Lavender Season in Aix En Provence & California
Updated: Jul 9, 2020
During our wedding we traveled around France. We began our journey in Paris and took a train two hours south to our wedding chateau near Angers (click here on how to plan a wedding in France.)
Following the wedding we officially started the honeymoon in the lavender capitol of the world- Aix En Provence.
After the ceremony and the wedding night our families started their travels back to Paris and to their respective home locations. My mother-in-law doesn’t speak French or English that proficiently and my wife wanted to make sure she would get back to Paris by train easily. Once getting to the train station in Nantes, my wife helped her mom on the train. Mom wanted to sit on the upper level of the train for the 2+ hour train ride back to the airport and my wife wanted to get her situated.
The thing about train travel in France is…it’s punctual. Mom was well situated on the upper level with her suitcase and Lewife was heading down the stairs of the train car when the train doors closed and the train took off. My wife tried to get off but “ALL ABOARD!” or “TOUS À BORD” means you’re stuck on the train my friend.
MEANWHILE, I’m sitting in the rental car waiting very patiently for my brand new bride. I wait 15 minutes, which quickly turns to 25 minutes, then 30 minutes. At this point I’m thinking there might be a runaway bride situation going on.
We don’t have any international SIM cards, this is a lesson we abruptly changed, and I decide to turn on the international carrier charges and hopefully get a connection to her. Luckily her phone is connected to a carrier also she lets me know of the situation. We start planning for a 2 hour drive to the next train station in order to pick her up in Le Mans. At this point this is when the ticketing agent enters the compartment and asks to see tickets. My wife tries to muddle her way through very poor French, and the agents poor English, to try to explain the situation. He gave up trying to understand and just asked for 15 euros for the trip. Because my wife wasn’t planning on taking any trains or paying for anything while situating her mom she didn’t have any cash, credit, or scantily clad clothes on.
She went to her mom for some euros and she only had 100’s. She offered 100 euro to the agent but he didn’t have any change. A passenger on the train helped interpret between my wife and the agent what was going on and the circumstance. The agent decided it was too complicated and that sometimes life’s too short and decided to let her ride for free both ways. My wife got off the train at the next station and returned to where I was waiting in the car. So great start to the honeymoon to say the least.
Well anyway… BACK TO AIX-EN-PROVENCE.
Fly to Marseille
From your beginning location the best way to get to Aix-en-Provence is from Marseille airport. This is the larger airport where there are plenty of rental cars (both in manual and automatic). If you haven’t seen it yet, renting a car in automatic is more expensive than manual *groan*.
We took the A7 to the Luberon area of Aix-en-Provence. The Luberon is where the lavender flowers are at. We stayed at a VBRO in Apt (it's a location not an acronym for apartment). The apartment was outstanding, amazing views of the city and a wonderful host. The interesting thing about this part of France is how dry it is. It has a similar characteristic as a desert without some of the heat. The area is surrounded by picturesque little villages that are no more than a 15 minute drive down the road. The lavender blooms starting in June and the harvest is around mid July to early August.
Apt is a great place to be centrally located for all of the lavender pictures you are wanting to take. We located the best blooms of lavender west of Apt near Montsalier.
To the east of Apt the best place to stop for a bite to eat and look at the amazing southern France villages is Gordes and Goult.
Gordes is a little medieval village nestled on top of a mountain overlooking the valley below. It has a few restaurants and local shops that are worth visiting around the centralized chateau. This is a must visit when driving around the area.
Traveling down the mountain of Gordes is the Abbaye Notre-Dame de Senanque. The abbey itself is pretty but when we went the lavender was not very abundant and there was quite a few tourists. We preferred to find the fields near Montsalier to get an unabashed photo with no one in the background.
Another small town in the area worth visiting is Goult. The town is very small and there didn’t appear to be much shopping but we went there for only one reason: Restaurant La Bartavelle (see our Eat section for more). This amazing high end French restaurant with an incredible menu at a very affordable price. Restaurant La Bartavelle is cozy with an unique atmosphere inside a terracotta tile interior. Reservations are needed for most of the restaurants in the area.
In Aix-en-Provence we needed to have a photo shoot with the lavender. We hired James Pouliot, from Nice and he came at the crack of dawn to get the best light.
From all of the photo shoots during the wedding, and Paris, we became quite accustomed to waking early for the best shots. If you are wanting to do something similar BE PREPARED.
Traveling around Aix-en-Provence is very peaceful and is a very pleasant drive. The streets are small but to see the Luberon requires putting miles on a car. I highly suggest traveling during June and July for the lavender-obviously. Just be aware that in the region, shops and restaurants do close early especially during the week (I’m talking closing the supermarkets at 7:30/8 pm) so if you are a night owl grab something to go early and bring it back to your location.
California's Lavender Appeasement
Not too many can make the journey all the way to Aix-en-Provence to take in the sights and smells of this beautiful and aromatic flower. After traveling around France we noticed that the topography is very similar to California. After living in California most of our lives we decided to check out to see if/where lavender blooms in the Bay Area and we located a few hidden gems.
Araceli Lavender Farm-Dixon,CA
Located in Dixon, California (30 minutes west of Sacramento) Aracelia Lavender Farms has one of the biggest farms dedicated around multiple types of lavender(Grosso, Provence, White Spike, Royal Velvet). The farm allows visitors by appointment only (at the time we went) and we made sure to double check before taking our trip that we were welcome. After arriving at the location we were glad there were limited visitors (both for social distancing and for better photographs).
The farm is a nice open lavender field nestled along a country road. There is a house on the property along with a barn where the owners sell lavender products- oils, soap, and dried and fresh lavender. There is a small fee to visit the field but the fee is worth the photo opportunity.
The field is large (obviously not as large as the fields in Aix-en-Provence but it is a decent size to enjoy your time among the lavender. When you walk into the lavander fields(both in Provence and California) expect some bees. The bees leave you alone as long as you don't disturb them- just in case you get nervous.
Earlier in the season they allowed visitors to harvest their own lavender directly from the plant but by the end of the season they were stopping this process.
This is definitely a good lavender fix for when the purple flower calls your name.
Lavender Bee Farm-Petaluma, CA
Located 30 minutes south of Santa Rosa, Lavender Bee Farm utilizes the entire process of growing a bloom of lavender and harvests not only the flower, but collects the honey from the pollinating bees.
With a moderate patch of up to 5,000 lavender plants, Lavender Bee farm is not a large farm by any means- but it is well cared for and well maintained.
They are only open during the lavender season and then by appointment only. The owners of the property give a tour of the property, beekeeping, and the history of the farm for $15 per person and it had included tastings of local cheese, watermelon, and lemonade all with fresh lavender honey.
Matanzas Creek Winery- Santa Rosa, CA
Located in the Bennett Valley region of Santa Rosa, Matanzas Creek Winery has a plush garden of the purple flower in the field overlooked by the tasting room.
There is no reservation needed to check out the lavender in the garden, but you need a reservation in order to sample the wine. The wine tasting starts at $30 per person.
There are options for outdoor seating, BYOPB (Bring Your Own Picnic Basket), next to the lavender field if you do decide. Check out the lavender barn on the property for all of your lavender essentials.
Monte-Bellaria Di California-Sebastopol, CA
30 minutes west of Santa Rosa in Sebastopol, Monte-Bellaria Di California is a 9 acre lavender farm that specializes in the production of lavender, honey, and olive oil.
The farm provides guided tours of the property for $10 per person and reservations are required. This farm sells out quickly during lavender season so buy your tickets way in advance.
The farm allows picnics on the property, and a big suggestion is bringing the food next to the pond on the property.