Lunch in Provence is more than just a meal. It's a joyful celebration of what the region has to offer. And trust us, Provence's bounty—with its centuries-old heritage and devoted producers—is soul food.
Mellow and welcoming, Provence is nestled in France’s southeastern corner, bound snugly by Italy to the east, the Rhône river valley to the west and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. Fields of lavender, olive groves and lush vineyards dot the sunny landscape of the region’s interior, while along the coast, the massive calanque cliffs, picturesque portside towns and impossibly blue Mediterranean along the Côte d’Azur seduce vacationing Parisians and foreigners alike.
Any traveler worth their salt will want to stop in Aix-en-Provence while exploring the area, and this is where we chose to set up camp during our stay. The region’s historic capital and a modern-day university town, Aix boasts charming tree-lined avenues, elegant old-world architecture and—best of all—daily open-air markets overflowing with local delicacies. The best time to visit? High summer, when the fruit is ripe, the weather is fine and the markets are in full swing.
Provence’s edible treasures of soft young goat’s milk cheeses; plump and savoury thin-skinned tomatoes; sweet ripe figs; dense, soft olive-studded fougasse bread; fragrant Cavaillon melons; garlick-y saucissonsecs (dried sausage); umami-rich tapenade; and refreshing rosés, are well suited to the region’s laid-back attitude. On days when we weren’t exploring the region—and with temperatures too high to even consider turning on the oven—we’d happily head to the market to stock up on easy midday fare.
Uncorking a chilled bottle of Château La Coste rosé and digging into tangy chestnut-leaf-wrapped Banon cheese while smearing a local vendor’s home-made tapenade (secret ingredient: Cognac) on hunks of roughly torn bread was a daily event for us in Aix. And, truth be told, with the sun in our hair, lavender on the breeze and chirping crickets in the background, this might just have been the very best way to experience Provence.
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Photos by Joann Pai. Joann Pai is a food & travel photographer who splits her time between Vancouver and Paris. A combination of prolific travel and international influences has shaped her distinctive visual style. Using photography as a way to document life's intimate moments around the table, Joann continues to explore how food brings people together and keeps them connected. She has been featured in Forbes, The Telegraph, and Buzzfeed and her work can be seen in Western Living, En Route and Open Skies Magazine. Follow @sliceofpai to see snaps from her travels.