I hope you enjoyed traveling with me through Provence in Part One of my design tour with Decor Tours. After focusing on the holidays, and dealing with technical issues, I am sharing Part Two. So many more experiences to be had on days four through seven, so let’s get started…
Words can’t describe waking up on your birthday to a beautiful morning, surrounded by the gorgeous landscape of Provence. Our fourth day had us close to home with a tour of Les Olivades in the morning. Printing was once a bustling industry in Provence. After the Industrial Revolution, Les Olivades is the only manufacturer to remain. You may recognize their classic Provençal prints, or those they have printed for the interior design industry’s well-known fabric houses. Stay tuned for a dedicated post on how these fabrics are made. After everyone had their shopping fix, we headed to Les Baux-de-Provence.
On a rocky plateau atop the Alpilles, you’ll find the quaint little village of Les Baux (see picture above). Les Baux’s medieval history, and architectural ruins are only accessible by foot, but well worth the exercise. After meandering the sights, we made our way back down to flat land for wine and olive tasting. Our first stop was to Mas de la Dame, a picturesque winery once captured in a painting by Van Gogh. Then, the tasting rooms of two award-winning olive oil producers.
In nearby Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, we perused the Wednesday morning market. So many vendors with great products – market bags, soaps, and linens. St. Rémy also has many great independent retailers, including our next stop for antique textiles, Impressions d’Antan. I left with some great Le Manach fabric samples. Le Manach is one of the last French fabric houses that manufactures on Jacquard looms (learn more on day six).
After a full morning of shopping, we returned to the house for an afternoon of sketching and painting en plein air. Our painting expert, Kups, brought in easels and supplies to guide us in still-life oil painting. We painted cloves of garlic, and made use of the figs we had picked the day before. Each stroke of brush to canvas reminded me of how much I enjoy painting, and made me question why I don’t do it more often.
Up early, we made the road trip to Lyon, the third-largest city in France by population, known for its history in the silk industry and the weaving trade. Our first stop was to Ateliers Jouffre, a workroom that creates some of the most exquisite upholstery pieces and window treatments available. The detail and craftsmanship found in their work is amazing.
We then toured the Le Maison des Canuts and the Museum of Textiles (The Musée des Tissus et des Arts Décoratifs) to learn about Jacquard weaving. Photographs were not allowed in the Museum of Textiles, but the displayed tapestries and textiles are exquisite. It was impressive to see the beauty created on Jacquard Looms — brocades and damasks — as demonstrated at Le Maison des Canuts. I will share the process on Jacquard Looms in a future post.
We revisited ancient French crafts on our last full day in Provence. We started out dying everything we could get our hands on a regal French blue. Our dye expert, Denise, explained the multi-step process that extracts the color from the leaves of the woad plant, and then we got to dying. Woad is an interesting dye; items come out of the vat a yellowish-green, turning blue as they dry in the sun. We experimented with many different techniques and got some very interesting results.
After a morning of dying, we tried our hand at making Fuseaux de Lavande (Lavender Wands). Fresh stems of lavandin are tied together and woven with ribbon. These wands smell amazing, make a great gift, and look lovely gathered together.
On Saturday, I said my goodbyes. The time I spent in Provence was amazing, and will remain a cherished experience. I highly recommend Decor Tours for the interior designer or design/travel enthusiast. Visit Deb’s website to view their upcoming tours for this year, and check-out my Instagram to see more of my adventures in France.