From Annecy, we need to head down south to the French Riviera – Menton so instead of going back via Italy (luckily we didn’t have to go through that expensive toll tunnel again), we chose the west route via Nice. When I was looking at the possible routes in Google Maps, I noticed that we’ll be very close to lavender fields in Provence and it was the right time of the year so why not? That’ll be a more interesting route and more photo opportunities…aka….another excuse for me to go back to the beautiful lavender fields ;)!
I decided to stay a night in the area to break up our 6 hours journey to Menton into two; it was hard and not good to be in the car for a long ride during pregnancy. Provence is a large area, last time we stayed at Aix-en-Provence as a base for the lavender fields around the Luberon villages and the famous Valensole. We wanted to try something different and closer to the fields. After more research, I decided to stay in Sault, the higher altitude plateau which the lavenders bloom later (we were there on July 11th). The landscape, from online photos, looked different as well with more mountains.
The road to Sault was okay until the last half an hour or so where it was the most challenging with a super narrow lane that barely fit two cars (when a car traveling in the opposite direction) and hairpin curves with no safety mirrors! We made it to Sault safely just at around noon and I was super starving. The restaurant I planned to go – Le Provencal was fully booked…..urg even for lunch! I looked up the map and found a nearby restaurant – Le Petit Jardin that has good reviews so we walked there.
Being in France, Jason ordered foie gras as an appetizer but I can’t even take a bite as it’s one of those no-no food during pregnancy! I was so sad looking at Jason enjoying the foie gras all by himself and he made it look like it was super yummy, how evil 🙁
For the main course, we both picked the duck breast, you can’t go wrong with duck in France! It was tasty but just the portion was small. The total for lunch was €47.
After lunch, we didn’t spend much time in the town as it’s very small, you can look at here….doesn’t look that interesting compared to the Luberon villages.
There are many shops selling lavender products and I went into one to get a batch of dried lavenders as photo prop 🙂 They smell great and only cost €3-4.
Of we go to explore the “Lavender Trail” in Sault. We plugin “Lavender Trail” and Google Maps has it….it’s located not too far from town but definitely need to drive or bike to get there. There were limited parking spaces and I saw people parked by pulling over the road which we ended up doing the same as there was no space left.
The purple areas are patches of lavender fields:
After we parked, we walked down the road to the fields of lavender. The first lavender field we walked to:
The smell of lavender in the air just make people happier! We set up the tripod and start taking pics of us and of course the dried lavender prop I just purchased 😀
This field looked much better with more dense in purple flower and grow in straight rows!
We spotted a house far away and it could be a great backdrop so despite the distance, we walked there under the hot sun and baking soil.
There was another house too at a different angle.
Once again, we set up the tripod and took photos of us.
After a few lavender fields, the differences between Sault and Valensole:
- The size of the lavender plant; they are much smaller than the ones I have seen in Valensole. They are a different family of lavender which grows in higher altitude.
- A lot of those fields looked not well maintained as wild grasses stick out all over and some were not planted in nice straight rows like Valensole.
- The fields are surrounded by trees and mountains and much smaller field than the “endless” looking lavender fields in Valensole.
- One positive note, we barely see other people in the lavender fields in Sault other than a few families walking by on the trail. There is no need to photoshop people out of the pictures we have taken in Sault!
A not maintained at all lavender field and it was rough to walk on those uneven soil with some spiky wild plants:
After having been to the lavender fields of Valensole, I was quite disappointed in the lavender fields in Sault. They just can’t compare to the endless looking rows of purple lavender 🙁 I looked at Jason and asked, can we go to Valensole?
My lovely husband immediately said yes! We hopped back in the car, drove to the hotel to check-in (more on that later), dropped off our luggage, and made the 1.5 hours drive to Valensole through narrow and windy roads. We even drove through small villages like this one, Aurel.
One beautiful lavender field we drove by, the owner took really good care of it:
As soon as we made the turn onto the popular lavender route – road D6 from Manosque to Valensole, we saw tour buses and boat-loads of tourists. I was looking for the restroom so we pulled into the parking lot to check out and surely enough there is a mini snack bar upstairs with restrooms for the bus crowds.
This is the location to get the lavender plus the sunflower that you can’t miss, it’s right on D6. See all those people in the lavender field and a few in the sunflower field?
We waited a little bit for people to finish their selfies and moved to a spot with fewer people and eventually got the pics without them.
Next, we continued on D6 to the “lone tree” spot (actually two trees). This is just before you reach Lavendes Angelvin, a lavender products shop. A lot more photographers were there to photograph these endless rows of lavender with a tree in the background, the postcard perfect spot!
Some Photoshop is required to remove a few people and electricity poles in the far background, which is very easy to do, as we don’t have time to wait for them to move out of the frame.
The postcard-perfect shot 😀
Looking to the left, there’s also a tree close-by but at this angle, you can’t get the rows.
After that spot, we had to drive back to Manosque for dinner as it was time for my baby to eat and we need to be done before sunset for sunset photos. The restaurant we went to was La Criée Manosque, a seafood restaurant. We were so craving for fresh seafood and we found them at La Criée! We ordered the garlic shrimps and it was my favorite Mediterranean shrimps that were full of flavors.
The razor clams were okay according to Jason, not as good as the ones we had in Porto, Portugal, and those weren’t fully cleaned as there was still some sand in the clams.
Best of all was the steamed mussels, OMG fresh mussels finally and not the nasty tasting ones up at the lake region. And plus, they had a special promotion for an unlimited refill. I asked the waiter who surprisingly is fluent in English and confirmed it is REAL unlimited refills!!! Remember the “reload” story from Cape Town, South Africa where the term “reload” was referring to the sauce hahaha so I had to make sure this time!
Jason had to order salmon to give our baby some amount of omega 3 and safe fish to eat.
For some reason, I had a craving for fried spring rolls; I hardly eat spring rolls at home so it was definitely a change during pregnancy! Our yummy seafood dinner was €65.40.
We refilled the mussels only once due to out of time and we hit back on the road to the sunset spot…I was showing Jason some photos that I researched and decided on the spot with the house/ruin. I found this very helpful website with the GPS coordinates to each location: https://www.bgspix.com/Photography-guides/EN/8-best-photospots-lavender-valensole-all-you-need-to-know?fbclid=IwAR1GybrXKMz2PVn5Vnd1NeHzt-A41HWqsWm5U6N-ggleC-NwnaUi5–HJdA
I made a mistake, probably copying the wrong coordinates, and ended up to the spot with “the 3 trees”. We didn’t have enough time before the sunset to get to another spot so we just settled on that. Unbelievably this spot which is very far from the main road and Valensole center has that many photographers there. It looked like they were having a photo class and they even have those two models dressed in a yellow dress to pose for them.
We walked further down the field to find our own spot so we won’t get them into our pictures and it worked out great! The lavenders in this field were planted so closely that there was no room for a walkway which made it different than other fields that we have been in Valensole.
We set up the tripod again and it took some effort to carefully get into the field without stepping on the lavender. Even though the sun was mostly covered by clouds so not much of a “sunset” but there were sunset colors that made the whole atmosphere more pink and purple which was perfect! I have been a wedding photographer on the side for 5 years now and did a few maternity photoshoots for my clients, this time, I am taking my own 🙂
After a few photos, we packed up the tripod and as we were walking back to our car, we saw this side of the sky was clearer and have more sunset golden colors with more dramatic clouds. We drove up a little and found a spot with just this one tree. It was a perfect spot and no one was there! We pulled over our car and walked into the field carefully with our tripod. Even though the angle wasn’t right to capture the rows of lavender but it was very pretty with this tree and the colors in the sky!
A funny pose, whose tummy is bigger now?
I couldn’t be happier to find this spot!
Right across the road from where we parked is also a good frame with a house and mountain as the backdrop.
I was so thankful for my husband’s hard work to drive all the way to Valensole to fulfill my wish! It was a rough 1.5 hours drive back to our hotel through not only narrow but also dark back roads! We made it back to our hotel at almost 11 PM! Poor hubby, he drove a lot today!
The hotel I booked was Hostellerie du Val de Sault, outside of Sault almost in the woods. The road to get there was unpaved and lots of potholes! I actually booked the cheaper apartment, at $112 per night, located off the hotel grounds but when we checked-in, they “upgraded” us to a room in the hotel grounds (that would’ve cost another $150 extra). Their rooms are built like a row of cabins that have two floors, one room on each floor. Our room is on the 2nd floor and boy it was very hot inside; they don’t even have AC, only a fan, because of the higher altitude in Sault, the night gets cool. We had to open the balcony doors to get cool air to get in.
Our room was clean with a large bathroom and a very modern massaging standup shower but the massaging function didn’t work! I followed the instructions and just couldn’t turn it on!!! Also, the wifi in the room didn’t work, I called the reception and they said they are looking into it….it was actually the room is too far from the router sigh!
The fancy standup shower but the massaging function couldn’t even be turned on!
The toilet is separate and it looked like inside a closet….if you are claustrophobic then beware!
The bed was comfortable but it was still hot inside our room 🙁 Those pictures were taken in the morning for more light into the room.
Our balcony with no views…
After visiting the lavender fields of Sault and Valensole, I recommend to stay in Valensole as the fields there are more photogenic, the ones that you see on the internet. However, the popular spots in Valensole can be filled with tourists so staying there give the most flexibility to be at the fields early or so much more convenient to take those sunrise, sunset, and even night photos. If I can choose again, I would definitely stay in Valensole but like Jason said if I didn’t stay in Sault, I would not know the difference to share with you all 🙂