A picnic conjures up all sorts of evocative images, as well as sounding healthy and wholesome and just a little hearty. It suggests an indulgent spread laid out on a soft blanket, pleasant scenery and good company.
Add Provence to the ingredients and you turbo-charge the image into something that could sear itself on the memory. Think rows of richly coloured purple lavender, wild herbs crushed underfoot and releasing heady fragrance that fills the air, and perhaps a side order of some ancient Roman remains.
This most hedonistic of regions is bathed in sunshine from early spring to late autumn, surrounded by stunning scenery of wild untamed carrigue, craggy hills, timeless olive groves and crumbling ruins. It’s ideal walking country, as we at Belle France have known for some time.
Walking through the Provençal countryside is an antidote to everyday life. As you pass through sleepy villages, ancient woods, rolling vineyards and orchards it’s easy to forget the everyday routines of life back home. Pausing for a leisurely picnic, you lose yourself in its charms and the beguiling nature of the French way of life. All demand a peaceful moment of contemplation before you move on.
Provence is a large area, stretching from the magical beauty of the Camargue at the mouth of the river Rhône, to the romance and glamour of the French Riviera, next to the Italian border.
Whether you have a pre-planned picnic stop or prefer to be more opportunistic, it could not be easier. Pick up your picnic as you hike – enticing little shops and markets are ideal, or ask your hotel to make one up for you to take with you. It’s something they are very used to doing for walkers and cyclists.
Then all you need to do, as you pass through this most evocative of landscapes, is decide where to stop for lunch – what a way to discover France.
1. The Hilltop Village
Famously, this iconic village was the setting for Peter Mayle’s ‘Year in Provence’ (not to mention Mr Bean’s ‘Holiday’ and Ridley Scott’s ‘A Good Year’, starring Russell Crowe). Perched on top of a hill, it features in many a travel brochure and is surrounded by vineyards, olive groves, and some almond trees, ideal for snoozing under.
You can visit Gordes on our Luxury Walking in the Luberon tour.
2. The Vineyards
Officially designated one the ‘most beautiful villages of France’ Séguret, in the heart of the Vaucluse near Mont Ventoux, is a treasure trove of ancient medieval charm. It oozes history, with mellow stone buildings, narrow streets and stone archways. The square in front of the church has wonderful views. If feeling energetic, the walk to the ruined château is 20 minutes or so but - top tip - halfway up is a viewpoint with better views.
Our Provence Wine Trails - Châteauneuf du Pape tour visits Séguret.
3. The Roman Remains
If you like a UNESCO World Heritage Site to accompany your picnic, the famous Roman aqueduct with arches on three tiers makes a fabulous backdrop. Dating from 19 BC, today it has its own café and eating facilities but stroll around and find your perfect spot from which to admire this extraordinary feat of engineering.
Explore the Pont du Gard on our Provence Prestige à Pied tour.
4. The (Officially) Beautiful Village
In the heart of the Alpilles this is a spectacular setting on a rocky outcrop crowned with a ruined castle commanding sweeping views towards Arles, the Camargue and the southern plains. Officially classified as another of the ‘most beautiful villages of France’, it has craft shops, and some perfect picnic spots.
After you've finished exploring the Pont du Gard, how about a visit to the most beautiful village in France? Check out our Provence Prestige à Pied tour.
5. The Beach
The Plage de l’Estagnol is just perfect. Shallow, turquoise waters lapping the white sand, backed by shady pines and with little boats bobbing in the bay. Settle down and indulge. You might find ex-President Sarkozy eyeing up your baguette, he sometimes holidays here apparently, but otherwise this is a classic Provençal beach.
Visit Estagnol beach on our Golden Islands tour.
Pukka Picnic Spots in Provence
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