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Photos: Raina StinsonProvence is rightly famous for its enchanting villages and lavender fields.But there’s a secret side to Provence. A side that is known mostly only tothe locals.We asked local Emily Durand, who lives in and runs fabulous tours ofProvence, to tell us about some of her favourite hidden gems.
However, Provence has so much more toenchant. If you visit the highest mountain inProvence, Mont Ventoux at 1912 m (6269ft), the climate is a bit cooler and the florahas reflects the alpine influence.On the north side there sits a tiny villagecalled Brantes. With no more than 83inhabitants and far removed from thepopular tourist destinations that receive dailytour buses through the tourist season,Brantes seems suspended from its mountainperch. From here, you have impressive viewsover the north side of Mont Ventoux. Andthis side of the mountain is nothing like thesouth side that most people see. There areno roads, just a few trails crisscrossing itsslopes – irresistible to keen hikers. Here thepeaks often stay snowy until early spring.Brantes is a Medieval village with housesbuilt into the rocky slopes. It’s a serene place,it’s mountain location and the river valleybelow leave a lasting impression on all whovisit. There’s been a village here for at least1000 years, and at the top are remains of aMedieval castle which once belonged to thepowerful Les Baux family. Yes, the samefamily from the village Les Baux deProvence – one of some 70 fortress castlesthey owned in the south of FranceBrantes was a village that time forgot. Theresidents only got running water in theirhomes in 1958. Before that they used theydid their washing at the community washbasin!Beautiful BrantesWhen people think of Provence theyconsider the Mediterranean climate. Thesight of Aleppo pine trees opening up likelush green umbrellas, scrubland abundantlyfilled with aromatic rosemary and thyme,vast limestone cliffs falling to the valleys orto the turquoise coloured water of theMediterranean Sea…What I love most about Brantes is the wayeverything melts together in truly beautifulharmony. The cobblestone lanes seem toreach out to the horizon, the jagged rooftopsfloat up to the sky. The flowers that clamberover the facades of ancient buildings and thebreath-taking backdrop of the north Ventouxridge, a valley away, but it feels as thoughyou could reach your arm out to touch it. Ilove to take visitors here to discover thebotanical paths and forage for herbs to havewith lunch…
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