The cuisine of France is rightly famous, in fact the“gastronomic meal of the French” is even UNESCO listed as part of the “intangible cultural heritage of humanity.”
In France the way to savour, to mix and match, the art of eating and drinking, everything flows together making food much more than just a time to eat. It is a cultural event, artistic and pleasurable. The word “indulgent” in France takes on new meaning, it means you partake in a harmony of senses that please more than just your palate.
For the foodie out there or even just the curious at heart, Provence is the ideal location for exploring flavours and culinary delights. It is the Garden of Eden which has supplied the locals for centuries. Treasures such as mushrooms, truffles, thyme, rosemary and wild fennel, asparagus and lavender abound here.
To fully grasp all that Provence can offer the palate, I suggest giving yourself at least nine days to enjoy the taste of this sunny southern part of France. You will have the time to go as far south as the Mediterranean, as far west as the Camargue, as far east as the Luberon and as far north as the Ventoux/Cotes-du-Rhone region. The taste of these four areas of Provence not only complete the true gourmet Provence experience but also allows travelers to immerse themselves into the different cultural and historical elements of this sunny southern region.
Start with what is known as the “cowboy culture” in Provence. White Camargue horses, bulls, flamingoes, rice fields, salt marshes are all situated where the Rhone River splits before flowing into the Mediterranean, this is the fascinating region known as Camargue.
Getting up close with the locals to discover more about the land and agricultural practices which are unique in the world is important in a foodie tour. Learning appreciation from the growers’ brings connection to the product itself. From a sea shell found only in the marshes (la telline) to the raising of bull and the salt marshes lining the Mediterranean, Camargue is one of the world’s most intriguing agricultural centers.
The “real” Provence region does not extend all the way to the French Rivera (Cannes/Nice area) but it does include Marseille and Cassis. A foodie trip to Provence would never be fully mastered unless one tries Bouillabaisse – a fish stew with a unique broth flavored with saffron. Many chefs and restaurants have the authentic recipe (“authentic” being sometimes unique to the chef cooking). I enjoy taking my guests to a small family run restaurant in in Cassis for this experience.
Welcome to my hometown, Cavaillon, the melon capital of Provence. The first melons were brought to Provence from Italy. The growing business flourished with the arrival of the PLM train line (Paris, Lyon, Mediterranean) in Cavaillon in the late 1800’s. To give you an idea of just how luxurious this fruit was considered to be, Alexandre Dumas donated 300 of his published works to the Cavaillon public library in exchange for 12 melons a year!
Perhaps you’ve heard of the Ventoux because you follow the Tour de France cycling race. The riders have wonderful views of orchards full of cherry, apricot and olive trees and vineyards along this picturesque route. Need I say more? Munching on fruit just picked from the trees is sublime (not something you should do unless you’re part of a tour and invited to do so. Exploring different olive oil mills to educate your taste buds on the different types of olive oil is a fabulous experience. Wine too should be explored in this region…
Not a region but a culinary delight on its own – Avignon
The gourmet, high-end produce, indoor market Les Halles in Avignon is the cherry on the cake. At the end of a foodie tour in Provence you will be able to synthesize all your culinary adventures at this market.
Here’s a list of some of the culinary adventures that can be experienced in Provence:
Chocolate making workshop
Herb farm tour
Artisan made crystallized fruit factory visit and tasting
Camargue salt marshes and organic rice cultures
When to do a gourmet tour in Provence?
- June for the still lush countryside and cherries, peaches, apricots, strawberries and melons at the markets (also fewer tourists and less hot than July and August)
- September to have all you have in June but also add a grape stomp and grape harvest adventure.
- Summer truffles from May until September
- Winter truffles from November to March
- Mushroom hunting in October and Novembe
by Emily Durand who knows all the best places in Provence – you can find her at Your Private Provence where she organises and runs fabulous, authentic tours of Provence…