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More Lavender, Banon and Apt

July 24, 2022

Did I mention the heat? People say this has been the hottest summer in memory, and though Sault was supposed to be cooler than Ménerbes, you can’t prove it by me. As a result, farmers are cutting their lavender fields much earlier than usual, causing our leader and her local guide to hustle each day to find fields that are still intact. The hamlet of Aurel, about 5 km from Sault, was our destination for a sunrise shoot on Saturday, where we met up with the group but kept our distance. I have to say the sunrises have been unexceptional; by the time the sun peeks over the mountains it’s almost too bright. In the event, however, the field was intact, and once again we were surrounded by the hum of bees making their morning rounds.

The great thing about this trip is being able to walk between the rows of lavender, bathing in the rich aroma.

Once the sun was too high to continue shooting, Cheri and I took off to Banon, famous for its pungent goat cheese wrapped in chestnut leaves. We had a pleasant lunch accompanied by this nice lavender honey beer.

This small town was charming, and the center of activity seemed to be Le Bleuet, a bookstore with a unique sculpture out front.

Cobbled streets led to a cathedral at the top of the town, and every house seemed to take pride in its own floral display, including a hydrangea, which I hadn’t seen in Provence.

En route back to Sault we found a lavender field under the watchful eye of Mont Ventoux.

Rising early the next morning for another sunrise shoot, we followed the others about 30 minutes out of Sault to a farm that, alas, had already been harvested. Since Cheri and I had to vacate our hotel, we left the group to do that, then on a whim went to Apt, about 30 km away. While Apt isn’t the prettiest city in the Vaucluse, it was pleasant enough on this quiet Sunday, with a few shops open. We had no trouble finding a café for lunch, then spent a few quiet moments in the St. Anne Cathedral, which dated from the 12th century.

Our final lodging in Sault was at Le Nesk. The 18th-century building hanging off the cliffside had been renovated into a hotel primarily for cyclists; but when they modernized it they neglected to add air conditioning. However, it had a pleasant terrace overlooking the valley, where we could have a drink and enjoy the soft afternoon breeze. In the early morning we could watch the farmer cutting his lavender.

This pile of what looks like wet hay is the leavings from the cut plants, used to fertilize the fields for the next planting.

Sunset is’t till about 9:30 p.m. in the summer, so after an exceptional dinner at Le Petit Jardin, just steps from the hotel, we were treated to this fine display.

On our penultimate morning in Sault, the group was going to chase lavender again, but given our experience the day before, Cheri and I decided to stay in Sault and shop for gifts. As it happened, the field they visited was still uncut, so on our last morning we trooped out to what was probably the finest crop we had seen. Golden wheat fields interspersed the patches of lavender, making for a more interesting landscape. The marker shows that this field is part of a countrywide trail designating spots where Allied forces parachuted into France during 1943-44.

My experiment with spin panning


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