We were going to see the lavender.
When I think of Provence, in southern France, I think of large waving fields of lavender, ablaze in purple glory. I imagine myself sauntering through the fields, running my hands lightly over the violet blossoms, blissfully soaking in the Provencal sunshine and the intoxicating aroma. I would be engulfed in scent. I would paint large, expressionistic paintings that bloomed all shades of violets under my brush. In short, I would be as close to heaven as you can get in this earthly realm.
This was my dream. And, armed with a gorgeous little photography book called, appropriately, “Lavender”, I convinced my husband Neil and my two step-daughters, Ashley and Danielle, that this was something we should NOT miss during our stay in Provence. So, on our last day of our time there, we asked the owner of the restaurant in our hotel if he could point us to the BEST lavender there was to be seen. When he suggested we look at the small array in the hotel parking lot, I thought it was merely a bit of wry French humor.
We found the place: Sault, a little town not far from our hotel. The reviews online were amazing – “life changing experience” – “Unforgettable”- “I laughed, I cried, I saw eternity!” Armed with our GPS and a little stick shift car (Neil drove) we set out. We were driving through Provence!!
A few, or about four hundred, traffic circles, and two and a half hours later, we found it. A little shop selling sachets and lavender honey, with a field next to it. The lavender plants were very short – they had just been harvested – and we saw more dirt and bees than purple bliss. After buying enough lavender sachets to embalm an elephant, we wandered around the shop parking lot, a bit confused. We saw a group of Japanese tourists circling a lone lavender bush with their cameras. We saw a New Age-y California couple squinting and putting their hands to their foreheads, looking into the distance. No matter, the woman in the shop said, just a little ways further there was truly a lot of lavender. Well, we’re here, so let’s keep going.
I don’t even remember the name of the next town we went to, but once we got there, it was basically the same experience. Harvest had hit, and left nothing in her wake. Seeing the field, above, I was determined to make at least one painting. So Neil, Ashley, and Danielle sat in the car (what a lovely familial sacrifice for me!) while I crouched down at the side of the road and had my lavender moment, and all the while the tour buses whizzed past, looking for that Elysian field of purple.