Spring markets in Provence and the search for poppies
There are so many market towns in Provence, it can be overwhelming to choose which one to visit. Using Avignon as a base we spent four sun-drenched days in this region and chose two villages that we could reach easily by train or bus in less than one hour. I had a desire to visit Provence ever since watching the film 'A Good Year' in 2006 . I had visions of picture-perfect poppy fields in Spring. The dreamy landscapes turned out to be better than imagined.
We decided to take the public transport route, but looking into car rentals it was best to rent a car with from Marseille Airport. You could use a car comparison site to get the best deal such as Economybookings
Our first choice was the water-filled town of L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. The 'Venice of Provence', a town of islands with several canals that has kept it's old charm. Candy lined vintage shops with shutters fill narrow streets, every corner a new photo opportunity. There is a market on Sundays and Thursdays but I recommend you to go on Thursday to avoid the crowds and enjoy a more relaxed affair. The Sorgue river running through the centre was glistening with emeralds flecks in the midday sun. There are many cute cafes and shops to have a bite or a lavender adorned pastry. You can reach the town easily by taking a short train from Avignon.
Our second choice was St-Remy-de-Provence, a historic village in the Regional Natural Park of Alpilles. We passed many cute villages on the bus and I was keeping an eye out for those poppies! sadly I could only see them on the sides of roads. On arrival, I was surprised by how many charming shops and houses there were, adorned with roses or other flowers. We did the Van Gogh walk, it's around 1km from the centre of town to the Saint Paul de Mausole where Van Gogh spent a year and painted some of his most famous works. If you don't want to pay the entrance fee to get inside it's worth going for a walk to the surroundings to see the landscapes that inspired him. 'I heard it through the grapevine' there were poppies here but sadly we missed them and instead found lines of blooming olive trees among fields dotted with wildflowers. It's clear to see what inspired Van Gogh, after the walk I wanted to get painting myself!
The last day was spent in Aix-en-Provence, having caught an early train we were fatigued and greeted by vendors selling fresh bread, olives and decorated Chèvre (goats cheese). The smell of Poulet Rôti filled the air mixed with the perfume of lilac tied lavender bags. Further along the Cours Mirabeau, we found the clothes markets with hats galore and linen country-style clothing. We spent the rest of the day navigating the Baroque lined boulevards and glimpsing at fountains and leafy green parks.
Then it was time to leave this dreamy summer town and head to the bus for the Mediterranean blue coast, Côte d'Azur for the next adventure.