Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Lavender fields of Sault, France

The area of Mont Ventoux, including the town of Sault, (northeast of Avignon and Carpentras), looks strait out of a fairy tail, especially in July when the fragrant lavender fields are in full bloom. The word Lavender comes from the Latin “lavare” which means to wash or purify. Lavender first came to Provence with the arrival of the Romans around 2000 years ago; never leaving and withstanding drought and storms, the resilient flowering plant spread easily to hillsides and plateaus. At the onset of the Middle Ages, the local Provencal populace gathered wild lavender flowers to treat wounds. Toward the end of the 19th century inhabitants of Provence began to care for and maintain the wild lavender patches, particularly those on hillsides between 600 and 1800 meters (roughly 2,000-6,000 ft) in altitude to encourage development of the plant – hence its production. In this way lavender entered the 20th century: from family farming to intensive cultivation. 

You can enjoy the lavender fields by car, by bike or on foot. Wheat fields and lavender fields are found in the same areas, and often side-by-side. The wheat ripens just before the lavender season; so lavender fields are often bordered by golden bands of grain, backlit by the sun. If you want to see sunflowers and lavender together, sunflowers are in full color in July-August (end June is too early for the sunflowers). On the way to Sault you will pass the village of Simiane la Rotonde, which is a picture-perfect, perched village with fields of lavender at its base – an ideal spot for taking photos set against a backdrop of blue and purple.
"Lavender is the soul of Provence"Jean Giono
Lavender is harvested from July to September. This blue gold and purple has been used for a long time to make soap and cosmetics; it is also used in some Provençal dishes! Lavender is said to heal insect bites and burns as well as repel insects. It is used to soothe headaches if you apply it to the temples. The flower can also be placed by your pillow to aid you into a restful sleep. Dried lavender is used to repel moths in clothes closets. Lavender oil is also said to cure acne. The essential oil has antiseptic properties; it was used in hospitals in the 1st world war to disinfect wards. And of course it’s quite nice in the bath, for aromatherapy, and can be found in household products like room fresheners. 

Plateau looking over the lavender fields, town and valley of Sault.
A magical plain in a a very special part of the world. 
One can follow the lavender roads in Provence from the fields to the many distilleries along its route. One can even visit the many farms along the way. There are also festivals dedicated to the legendary plant as well as a museum in its honor (Lavender Museum in Coustellet). 


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