Provence is as wonderful in the winter as it is in the summer. Visiting same place couple of times is great because you already have seen the popular landmarks and at this point you can explore less known spots and feel like local. The disadvantage is the specific provencal wind – the Mistral, that blows almost all of the time during the winter. This cold wind makes you feel like you are in some Northern country.
It is not necessary to tell you that Provence is famous mostly for its divine wines. There are literary wineries on every corner, where you can taste and buy local wines. I had the chance to visit almost all of the villages among the wine route, twisting and turning through the valley of Rhone river – magnificent area which is worldwide famous. Here are some of the best regions whose wines you should definitely try:
Vacqueyras – famous for its delightful red wines
Gigondas – another wonderful producer of red wines
Cairanne – in this village there are more wineries than habitants (it’s not a joke!)
Beaumes de Venise – famous for its desert wines – muscat wine
Châteauneuf-du-Pape – this is probably the most popular region, no words needed for its wines
Sainte-Cécile-les-Vignes – most of the wines I’ve tried come from the wineries of this area because this is the village we stay in every time we visit Provence
As I said before, we had the opportunity to live like locals, because we didn’t chase after lavender fields or ancient castles. So we take it easy this time and sink in the atmosphere – strolling around the shops and the markets, finding out some amazing local products.
If you ever find yourself in Sainte-Cécile-les-Vignes, have a cappuccino in Le p’tit Grain Salon du Thé or have a dinner in some local restaurant – no matter which one you choose you won’t be disappointed – they all offer excellent food. Also, you should definitely try deserts made by one of the Pâtisseries – my favorites are made with apricots and rosemary – typical Provençal flavor.
You can never get bored in this area, there are so many places you can visit:
La ferme aux crocodilles in Pierrelatte – there live over 400 animals and 600 exotic plants, which makes it the biggest tropical conservatory in France. Just across the farm there is a perfume factory where you can have a look for free and you can also buy some local production.
Château de Grignan – you can read more about it here.
Château de Suze-la-Rousse – there is a Wine University in the castle! Imagine studying in a real castle and learning all about the wine! How incredible is this? If I ever decide to study something again, it should definitely be in this university! Last summer when we were there, we attended to a wine degustation organized inside the castle in honor of Bastille day. A nice restaurant near the castle (you will need a car to get there or around 15 -20 min by foot) is La table du Moulin.
Avignon – a must-see town! The incredible building of the Popes’ Palace is one of the largest medieval Gothic buildings in Europe! Take a walk onto the bridge over Rhone (Pont d’Avignon) famous thanks to the popular children’ song – Sur le pont d’Avignon on y dnace, on y dance….. if you ever have learned French you’ll know what I mean. When we were in Avignon back in 2015 they were still renovating the place, but now it’s done and is even more fascinating.
Orange and Vaison-la-Romaigne – nice small towns where you can visit ancient roman remains.
Mont Ventoux – mountain top (1912m), accessible by car – you can go up there to enjoy the view. But be careful – the name of this top speaks for itself (venteux is windy in French) – it can get very windy there especially with the mistral in the winter – most of the time the road is closed due to the high speed of the wind ( sometimes over 100 km/h)!
L’isle-sur-la-Sorgue – charming small town, known as the “small Venice” because of the canals of river Sorgue. Also there are many antique shops and water wheels which are still working. You can have a coffee in Café de France – the spirit of the place is very 20’s. Buy some Savon du Marseille from one of the many shops in the city center or chocolate and some typical provencal products from Le Comptior de Mathilde. An interesting thing about the city was the fact that there were Christmas songs playing around the streets thanks to speakers. This made the atmosphere even more magical!
Lavender souvenirs are on every corner in every city. If you happen to be in Provence in mid-july/ mid-august the blooming lavender fields are a must-see. Le Plateau de Valensole and Sault are the most famous destinations to enjoy the purple magic!
Aix-en-Provence – you can read more about it here. Try also Le calisson – typical dessert from Aix-en-Provence since XV century.
If I have to say something about the Côte d’Azur, it should be in a separate post – there is a lot to talk about! Until then, here are some pictures of Nice in winter…..