Welcome aboard the Pretti5 Express!
On our last tour, we paid Japan’s Wakayama Prefecture a visit, exploring hidden island coves and admiring the plum blossoms. This time, we’re globetrotting to the European Union, where seas of French lavender sway hypnotizingly and medieval castles tower over cobblestone villages. Join us on a day trip around Provence, southern France: take in the sights and scents & let the full sun and sea breeze wash away your worries.
It’s home to fragrant lavender fields and the lavender plant, which can be found in your Hydro-Rescue Repairing Night Mask!
A historical primer on Provence
Image retrieved from Map of France.
Provence, located in the south of France, is a historically and culturally rich part of France and its history. While the region has been ruled by various nations, including ancient Greece and Rome, Provence was ruled by nobility of various lineage throughout the Middle Ages.
These nobles, known as the Counts of Provence, ruled the region from Aix-en-Provence. They eventually passed their jurisdiction to King Louis XI of France in 1481, and Provence became an official part of France in 1486.
Provence’s thousand-year existence as a largely independent region meant it never really quite assimilated into France as a nation. This proved difficult for the royal court, especially in the early 19th century as generations of discontent bubbled over into the French Revolution.
The city of a thousand fountains
Start your visit in the south with a flaky pain au chocolat and fresh coffee at a small cafe along the Cours Mirabeau, a main street in the historic capital of Aix-en-Provence. Soak in the slant of the morning sun as you take in the sights: the wide, tree-lined pavements bridging rows of terraced houses, staccatoed by stone fountains lush with moss…
Image retrieved from The National Gallery
Art lovers can head to the Musée Granet, where many of Provence-born artist Paul Cézanne’s works hang. His studio, just a short trek from the Cours Mirabeau, provides a window into the painter’s mind.
From a small hill above the city, it’s easy to see why Cézanne painted so many landscapes in his time. You might even be inspired to paint en plein air yourself!
The city of the Popes
The city of Avignon is perhaps best known for the Palais des Papes, or the Palace of the Popes. Dating back to the 14th century, this former fortress is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a rich history—and a spectacular view of the river Rhône to boot.
Once the official residence of the pope, the Palais des Papes was the seat of Western Christianity for much of the Middle Ages. As late morning sunlight illuminates the bright frescoes, wonder at the interior architecture of the largest Gothic palace in Europe.
For a riverside picnic, take the ferry to the Île de la Barthelasse, an island on the Rhône. With shaded grassy banks and wide cycling paths, the island of Barthelasse is an ideal spot to relax and enjoy the scenic river views that inspired one of Vincent Van Gogh’s most iconic pieces.
The city of La Marseillaise
The birthplace of the French anthem that we recently heard at the Tokyo Olympics, Marseille is the nation’s largest port city and one of its most significant. Across the sandy beaches and the Mediterranean lies Spain and, on the other side, the island of Corsica—where Napoleon Bonaparte was born.
Stop by Le Vieux Port to gaze at the majestic Hotel Dieu, which used to be Marseille’s main hospital, or sail across choppy waters for your own prison break scenario at the Château d’If, from which the innocent Edouard Dantès escaped in Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo.
Marseille is famously hot and sunny: duck into the Palais Longchamp for some shade! Visit the ensconced Musée des beaux-arts and Muséum d'histoire naturelle de Marseille to absorb the fine arts and natural history that the city has to offer.
Natural scenery is also abound in the Palais, where you can wander the Parc Longchamp for some of the most gorgeous greenery in all of France. Alternatively, cool down in the turquoise waters of the Gorges du Verdon, just a three-hour drive away.
Fields of green, gold...and lavender
The region of Valensole might not be as well known as twinkling Paris or the azure coasts along the French Riviera, but there’s nowhere better to be to admire the sprawling lavender farms in the summer.
The southeast of France has long been fertile ground for growing lavender, and the lush hectares that bloom every June and July are the breathtaking results of generations of cultivation.
The lavender flower is perhaps best-known for its calming essential oils and fragrant scent. However, it’s an incredibly versatile plant: it’s used in decorations and floral arrangements, culinary dishes, traditional herbal medicines—and skincare, of course!
Hydro-Rescue Repairing Night Mask (HKD 820)
In skincare, lavender is a gentle, effective antioxidant that soothes inflammation, wrinkles and dark circles. Rich in vitamin A, its essential oil is also a natural anti-aging superhero. Not only does it protect our skin, lavender’s also been shown to have neuroprotective activity that keeps our brain healthy.
Emblematic of France and French culture, the elegant lavender flower symbolizes purity, serenity and grace. As you gently pat on the lavender-infused Hydro-Rescue Repairing Night Mask and slip into slumber, dream of the rolling purple hills of Valensole and feel your youth bloom from within.
Written by Fion Tse