Haute-Provence, popular for its pure air and above-average levels of sunlight that last the whole year round, is located in the northern part of Provence, adjacent to the Maritime Alps. At first glance, this area does not seem particularly appealing for tourists, with its forests and bare mountain peaks. But if they arrive at the right time of year, visitors are greeted with a very special view: the lavender in full bloom. During the summer months, the infinite vastness of Haute-Provence radiates with a powerful blue-violet hue, while an enchanting scent delights the senses.
All lavender is not made equal
Provence has been home to the powerful lavender flowers since ancient times. The scientific name for lavender is "Lavandula angustifolia". But keep your eyes peeled, because all lavender is not made equal. On the vast lavender fields of Haute-Provence, real lavender doesn't actually grow very often. The impressive scent and colour on these fields come mainly from lavandin, a cross between real lavender and spike lavender. Real lavender smells more subtle and sweet. In contrast, the scent of lavandin is harsher and stronger. Its leaves are rough and the flowers are grey-blue rather than violet. Lavandin does better than real lavender in open fields at a lower altitude of 200 to 500 metres. That's why lavendin can be found on the famous lavender fields of Haute-Provence. Lavandin is used in the production of cosmetics for external application and is also contained in medicinal products.
A journey for all the senses
You can experience lavender with all of your senses on the lavender road known as "Route de la Lavande". The most famous part of this road starts behind the old Roman town of Carpentras and runs past the holy mountain of the Celts, Mount Ventoux, through the centre of Haute-Provence and up to the Alps. As you pass sleepy villages and small rural workshops, you can completely immerse yourself in the blue-violet world of lavender. Learn more about the cultivation and use of lavender in small museums along the way. One of the main destinations is the small provincial town of Sault. A hidden gem of this town is the lavender festival, which is held each year in August. At this festival, you can show off your skills in a sickle cutting competition or enjoy the performances put on by the provincial folklore groups. The medieval town of Banon, which is known for its cheese as well as lavender, is also a worthwhile place for a stopover. Treat yourself to a piece of goat's cheese covered in flakes of chestnut and soak up the enchanting atmosphere of this beautiful location.
The healing effect of lavender
"Lavender" is derived from the Latin word for "wash", lavare. The Romans were well-aware of the healing effects of lavender. That's why they used it in soothing teas or as a bathing product. Today we continue to use lavender as a healing plant, and there are a wealth of applications for its fresh or dry leaves. Many swear by the ethereal oil contained in the lavender flowers. This oil is thought to have a calming effect on the gastrointestinal tract. Lavender is also said to have a positive effect on sleep disorders and anxiety. You can easily make a freshly brewed lavender tea too. Simply mix two teaspoons of dry lavender flowers with 200 ml of boiling water and strain the tea after 10 minutes.