see + do
Provence see + do
Sure, there is the Roman architecture, the châteaux, and the famous lavender fields. But the region is at its best where no-name architects and peasants built villages in the sweeping valleys and atop rocky precipices, especially in the area between Aix and Avignon. You don't have to follow the Van Gogh trail to Arles to appreciate towns like St. Rémy-de-Provence, where prize-winning olive oil and chocolate shops are set in a ringed medieval city. For wine aficionados, there's the world-famous town of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the appellations of Gigondas and Vacqueyras, and the Bandol region down on the coast. Then there's nature's bounty, from the massive Gorges du Verdon and the lonely salt marshes of the Camargue to the rock spurs and lush valleys of the Lubéron, which in fall turn as multichromatic as New England's forests. In high season, expect lines and tourist buses at world-famous sites like Les Baux de Provence and Pont du Gard, but rest assured that the Year in Provence crowds have long moved on to more dramatic climes (think The Da Vinci Code).
Cooking-school vacations are increasingly popular in the region, which is only natural given the renowned culinary traditions and top-quality local ingredients. Such classes are often given by top Provençal and Parisian chefs through tour companies like The International Kitchen (www.theinternationalkitchen.com/berne.htm), as well as by food writers like the American Patricia Wells (www.patriciawells.com), and are often all-inclusive, bed-and-board arrangements with settings as inspirational to the eye as to the palate.