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Wander past the canopied café terraces, wizened olive groves, and austere cypresses of Provence and you’ll start to realize you can’t shake off a sense of déjà vu. If you’re feeling as though you’ve been here before, it’s because you’re wandering through the inspirations for the paintings of Van Gogh, Picasso, Cezanne, and Matisse. The post-impressionists were captivated by Provence for the very same reasons we still are today. The appeal of the crumbling farmhouses with terracotta roof tiles, infinite lavender fields and hazy cobalt mountains rolling down to pastures where cicadas chirp is timeless.

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footsteps of the artists: contemplate the café terraces in the town of Arles, immortalized by Van Gogh; wander the fortified medieval settlement of St-Paul-de-Vence that enchanted Bonnard, Signac, and Modigliani; or explore the bucolic scenery in and around Aix-en-Provence, celebrated by Cezanne.

To get into the spirit of the artists, maybe sip one of their favorite aperitifs such as pastis or if you’re really feeling the bohemian vibe, "chase the green fairy" with some real absinthe in the numerous wine cellars (just don’t go losing an ear over it).

Provence is a dream for epicures. The foundation of most Provencal dishes typically includes herbs that grow wild here such as rosemary and thyme and simple, seasonal ingredients like olive oil, peppers, anchovies, tomatoes, basil, and garlic. From these basic ingredients, the "peasant food" of Provence has blossomed into world-famous exports such as ratatouille, hearty daube stew, and heavenly bouillabaisse.

Of course, you need to wash this delicious cuisine down with the local specialty: a chilled glass of dry, crisp Provencal rosé. Wine-lovers will find caves and vineyards almost everywhere, and if you prefer red wine, a detour to the beautiful village and weather-beaten terroir of Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a must.

Catch the iconic lavender fields at their most vibrant in June and July—the Romanesque abbey of Senanque is one of the best-known locations. While winters can be blustery, in early spring, follow the yellow blossoms of the Route du Mimosa from Bormes-les-Mimosas to Grasse. Grasse is the world capital of perfume, where you can inhale the scents of Provencal wildflowers at the perfumeries and soak up the sights of the picturesque town, including the 12th-century cathedral, which contains works by Reubens.

Explore the historic highlights of Provence too, like the well-preserved Roman aqueduct of Pont du Gard, Avignon’s imposing 14th-century Palais des Papes, and the 12th-century pont and the Roman amphitheaters at Arles and Orange.

Grasse, St-Paul-de-Vence, and Gordes are some of the most hyped hilltop communes in the region but despite what many guidebooks would lead you to believe, Provence is up to its eyeballs in quaint fortified villages. So you don’t actually need to fight your way through the crowds of tourists and crafts stalls to find a quintessential Provençal hilltop village that’ll make your heart skip a beat…But you will need a car to find one.

Take off under your own steam and discover intriguing villages or Roman remains, follow maze-like Medieval streets, watch pensioners play pétanque, browse local honey and artichoke flowers at farmers markets, or maybe even join a truffle-hunting excursion to find "black gold."

Whether you decide to go off-piste or not, hiring a vehicle is essential because even the most quintessential attractions are geographically isolated. However, if you’d like to leave your wheels behind for a day, there are (limited) bus and train connections including Eurostar/TGV connections at Aix-en-Provence and Avignon and the stunning scenic Train des Pignes between Nice and Dignes-les-Baines. Just don’t count on public transport as your primary mode of transportation because rural services are patchy and slow (although long-distance carpooling with BlaBlaCar can work for one-offs).

If you’re a gearhead, check out the endless hairpins and dizzying 2,000-ft drops of "one of the most challenging roads in Europe" (according to TopGear) in the Gorges du Verdon.

On that note, while the rosemary-scented landscapes of the Luberon and Var are what people typically imagine when they think of Provence, the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region is much larger than you’d think and has plenty more to offer adrenaline junkies and culture aficionados alike. Go canyoning or kayaking on the sublime turquoise waters of the Verdon, scuba dive in the pristine Îles de Lérins, hang-glide or ski over the southernmost tip of the Alps at Auron, party at the glamorous beach clubs of the Cote d’Azur, discover street art in Marseille, hike the stunning coastal trail in Antibes, plunge into the crystal-clear calanques around Cassis, and watch wild horses gallop across the wetlands of the Camargue.

Provence remains a timeless region, but you can paint a multitude of experiences on its alluring canvas.

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Spring and fall are the best months to experience the dazzling light, rugged rocky countryside, and fruited vineyards of Provence. Though the...Read More

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