French Canyons and Lavender fields all in one day…ohh…la…la! If you want to experience some of the best French countryside in the South of France, go to the Provence region where it’s known for natural wonders. While exploring the French Riviera, we spent a day on our own motor boat rental and then saw the nearby lavender fields.
Gorges du Verdon, France’s Great Natural Wonder
The French Canyons, formally known as the Gorges du Verdon is in the heart of Provence. It’s a river canyon where both locals and tourists love to boat, kayak, and even white water raft. We were based in Nice and drove about 2 hours to the canyons.
We rented a boat from Verdon Electronautic for 3 hours. They were responsive via email and spoke English well. Aurore, one of the reps called me upon request while I was contemplating a reservation. I felt secure after the consistent communication from the French vendor and we’d be taken care of. In the Summer months, you want to be sure to make a reservation for boats or kayaks. It’s popular spot for locals too and they can easily run out of rentals.
Aurore who booked our reservation greeted us when we arrived. Our reservation was at 9am but we didn’t arrive until 10am. She was understanding and gave us a map with some info on how to explore the area.
We came across some pretty spectacular sites, and loved the weather that day. The map was also a self guided tour with recommended landmarks and interesting info about the site.
The canyons for example, were full of caves. Certain caves had a history of France most wanted criminals that harbored inside them.
Not only criminals liked the canyons, but bats too. We came across this bat cave.
In route, we came across a medieval village called Sainte-Marie. It’s known to be one of France’s “Most Beautiful Villages.” We didn’t stop to see it on foot, but in hind site wish we had. If you visit this town, expect to see provencal houses, narrow streets, and lots of pottery shops.
We enjoyed this self guided tour on our own little boat immensely. It was a more relaxed pace from the heavy walking we’ve done days prior. Here’s part of a clip of our time at the canyons.
Lavender Fields, An Almost Fail!
After spending our morning at the Gorges du Verdon, we headed to Valensole to see the Lavender Fields. It’s approximately 40 minutes North from the boat rental place. As we traveled deeper into the valleys, the roads became more narrow, windy, and dangerous.
We were so excited to see endless fields of Lavender but when we first arrived into Valensole, we saw this- flowerless bushes! The fields were harvested and usually done end of July. Here we were in mid August and had no clue at the time. My heart sank as we drove around from farm to farm to find any blooms left.
How Speaking Bad French Saved The Day
I decided we should ask the locals to see where we could find some fields with blooms. We were a little lost at this point so we stopped into a post office in a tiny town somewhere in Valensole. The older gentleman behind the counter did not speak English at all and had a very thick French accent.
At this point, I’ve only had 1 year of French lessons and my accent wasn’t great. I attempted to communicate with him asking where we could see some lavender fields that wasn’t harvested. I was like, “Monsieur, où sont les fleurs de lavande, s’il vous plait?” (Sir, where are the lavender flowers please?) He looked at me weird so I repeated myself more slowly and tried to mind the rules of pronunciation.
He said, “Saint Michael……” with a lot of words behind it that I couldn’t understand. But it occurred to me he was trying to give me directions in French to this Saint Michael place. I said, “Lentement, s’il vous plait. Je ne comprends pas.” (Slowly, please. I don’t understand) He kept trying but his accent was so think, I could not make out most of the words.
Then he tried to draw out a little map for us and but it looked like Saint Michael was another hour away!
It was at this moment a delivery guy walked in to pick up mail and saw what was happening. The older gentlemen said something to him and he looked at us and said, “Le magasin……le magasin” (store) with arm gestures pointing in certain directions. I was able to understand him a little better and he understood a little more English too. I asked him how far “le magasin” was and he said “cinque milles” and then gestured for us to go away, lol!
So taking bits of what they were saying, we headed in the direction he pointed us to and we came across an adorable store.
This place has their own lavender fields to make their own soaps, essential oils, and gifts. But their fields were harvested too and they only had a small garden of it on the side of the building. The shopkeeper spoke English and I asked her if she knew of any unharvested fields and she said no, they’re all gone at this point.
We almost gave up and I was feeling pretty defeated. As I was looking into the far distance across the empty fields, I noticed some sunflowers not too far down the road. We got into the car and headed to see the sunflowers instead. About a mile or two down the road, we saw the sunflower fields.
But guess what was next to it? A huge field of lavender in full bloom!!! I was so excited I did the happy dance. My hubby was relieved too as he hates seeing me so disappointed.
We realized the mail man was talking about the store that owned this field not the other one we stopped at. It was like a dream come true to see Lavender and Sunflower Fields in France! The store that owns this field has it grow wild which I loved. They must just keep it around all season.
If you are ever in Valensole, the Lavender Fields are in bloom from mid-June and then harvesting begins around mid-July. This is the best time to go if for sure you don’t want to miss it. If you arrive later like we did, you might have a chance by finding this store: