The Luberon in Spring
and why it's the best time to visit
There isn't really a bad time to visit the Luberon, every season has its ardent fans, but the spring has a strong case for being the best time of year in the Luberon, and here's why...
1. The treasures of the markets
Gone are the root vegetables of winter, replaced by the little miracles of the spring: asparagus, artichoke, fèves (fava beans), and strawberries. They look so tempting and delicious you want to buy great armfuls, and then they go and taste even better than they look. The farmers' markets fire up again in spring, most notably the Sunday morning market in Coustellet.
2. No crowds
There are places that are very popular and hard to negotiate in summer, unless you go early or late. For example Gordes and Roussillon, being the two most obviously picture-perfect villages, are on everyone's itinerary, including all the tour companies. Go in spring and you can enjoy an outdoor cafe or restaurant table without the crush. The same applies to nearby attractions like Les Baux-de-Provence and St Tropez, where a springtime visit winds the clock back to a quieter time. Many tourist attractions open up again at Easter. Beaches are also a delight and deserted in the spring.
3. Technicolour nature
It starts with the mimosa loved by perfumiers, and the white-flowering almond trees. Then it is the turn of the yellow broom that sweeps across the land, along with the cherry blossom and other fruit trees, the varying shades of iris along the road verges, and then the magical tides of poppies. In most of the Luberon the vineyard is the dominant theme, in winter these gnarled stumps inspire no poetic feelings, but in April the first shoots of green bring life and lushness to the landscape. (Note that lavender only flowers from mid-June to beginning of August).
4. Perfect weather
OK a slight exaggeration because there will be cold snaps in spring, but the average spring day in the Luberon is going to be warm and sunny, without being hot, it's when you can start to picnic again. In spring you can do all sorts of things that in summer will be hot work, such as...
5. Hiking and biking
6. Festivals and fairs return
Here are some highlights:
Strawberry festival in Carpentras (April)
Asparagus festival in Mormoiron (April)
Cherry festival in Venasque (June)
Fete de transhumance, St Remy (June)
Thousands of sheep progress round the streets of St Remy before heading off to the Alps for the summer
Late spring is when you can get a peek at gardens that are otherwise closed to the public. It's called Rendez-vous aux Jardins ('go to the gardens') and it generally takes place the first weekend in June.
The international antiques fair at l'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, France's antiques capital (March/April)
Even wine can be cheaper! In the early autumn in France there is something called the Foire aux Vins (wine fair) which is when the supermarkets have a wine sale, with discounted prices and offers like 6 bottles for the price of 5. There is also a smaller version of this Foire aux Vins in early spring. Certainly worth investigating as you can get some really decent wines at good prices (along with wines the supermarkets need to get rid of). Supermarkets will have a wine specialist or buyer in the aisles to answer any questions, and they are not shy about sharing their opinions.
A note on public holidays in France:
Spring in France is peppered with public holidays, when supermarkets etc. will close, but not restaurants. Fixed dates are May 1 (Labour day) and May 8 (VE day). Then there are Easter Monday, Ascension day and Whit Monday, which are moveable and change every year. When a holiday falls on a Tuesday or Thursday the French will commonly make a 4-day long weekend of it, known as 'faire le pont' (making a bridge), this will make roads and travel busier on the start and end days.