Provence is rightly famous for its enchanting villages and lavender fields. But there’s a secret side to Provence. A side that is known mostly only to the locals. We asked local Emily Durand, who lives in the area and runs fabulous tours of Provence and southern France, to tell us about some of her favourite hidden gems. She invited us to discover Brantes, Provence…
When people think of Provence they consider the Mediterranean climate. The sight of Aleppo pine trees opening up like lush green umbrellas, scrubland abundantly filled with aromatic rosemary and thyme, vast limestone cliffs falling to the valleys or to the turquoise coloured water of the Mediterranean Sea…
However, Provence has so much more to enchant. If you visit the highest mountain in Provence, Mont Ventoux at 1912 m (6269 ft), the climate is a bit cooler and the flora has reflects the alpine influence.
On the north side there sits a tiny village called Brantes. With no more than 83 inhabitants, it’s far removed from the popular tourist destinations that receive daily tour buses through the tourist season. Clinging to the side of a mountain, Brantes seems suspended. From here, you have impressive views over the north side of Mont Ventoux. And this side of the mountain is nothing like the south side that most people see. There are no roads, just a few trails crisscrossing its slopes – irresistible to keen hikers. Here the peaks often stay snowy until early spring.
The village that time forgot
Brantes is a medieval village with houses built into the rocky slopes. It’s a serene place, it’s mountain location and the river valley below leave a lasting impression on all who visit. There’s been a village here for at least 1000 years, and at the top are remains of a Medieval castle which once belonged to the powerful Les Baux family. Yes, the same family from the village Les Baux de Provence – one of some 70 fortress castles they owned in the south of France
Brantes like like a village that time forgot. The residents only got running water in their homes in 1958. Before that they used they did their washing at the community wash basin!
What I love most about Brantes is the way everything melts together in truly beautiful harmony. The cobblestone lanes seem to reach out to the horizon, the jagged rooftops float up to the sky. The flowers that clamber over the facades of ancient buildings and the breath-taking backdrop of the north Ventoux ridge, a valley away, but it feels as though you could reach your arm out to touch it.
I love to take visitors here to discover the botanical paths and forage for herbs to have with lunch…
Top things to do in Brantes
Wander in the village, where you’ll find a warren of streets filled with artist and craft shops. There are several fountains, ancient chapels and the village wash house.
Cross the 13th century “Roman Bridge” over the Toulourenc River for pretty views.
Visit a lavender distillery – Aroma Plantes Distillerie is close by.
Explore Mont Ventoux which is not far away, by bike or hike. Dramatic landscapes and wonderful views await.
Discover the Gorges du Toulourenc. Great for swimming or relaxing and cooling down.
Tourist office website: vaison-ventoux-tourisme.com
Emily Durand run tours of Provence from day trips to week long lavender, photography and other truly special tours where you’ll feel like a local and discover real Provence – including the most beautiful off the beaten track villages. Find out more at YourPrivateProvence.com