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Inspired Travel: Provence by Horseback

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Inspired Travel: Provence by Horseback

This column, Inspired Travel, seeks to highlight some of the most beautiful places on the planet through the eyes of some of the most forward-thinking tourism companies, which promote responsibility, sustainability and authenticity to its clients.

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Provence, France, is a region for the senses. Travelers visit to see lavender fields and taste local wines and cheeses. Escape the well-worn tourist road by exchanging four wheels for four legs to more fully experience all the land offers. Horseback riding from inn to inn through the countryside is a return to slow travel; a chance to savor the surrounding landscape. Take in the fields and historic architecture, and taste the products of each town while talking with locals in each destination.

Based on the Emmy-winning “Equitrekking” travel show, the Equitrekking travel operator tailors trips to include experiential equestrian vacations in favorite destinations. Equitrekking’s travel team seeks out the best horseback riding ranches and stables to provide travelers with a variety of riding and cultural options and experiences in each destination. The equine outfitter aims for guests to “get the most out of your vacation and feel more like a local than a tourist.”

A Taste of Provence

From eating and shopping to riding, embrace the Provençal lifestyle and even learn un petit peu of the language while in the saddle. A climb up the white oak-laden Luberon Mountain range eases new visitors into the week’s agenda with time to bond with the horses. Upon returning to the farmhouse, sip an aperitif by the fire and watch classic French movies filmed in the countryside nearby. A morning in Cezanne’s most painted scenes brightens the route to visit his studio.

After the excursion, look for local products at the Aix-en-Provence street market. As the trip continues, ride into the hills along an ancient trade route for a picnic of local wines, cheeses, pies and salad along side the Durance River bank. Spend an evening of relaxation with new friends around a fire while tasting olives, honey and grilled chestnuts. Take home a new skill by joining in the preparation of a traditional Provence meal.

As the days of riding and experiential travel come to a close, take a last jaunt to see plunging limestone cliffs and cedar forests from the crests of Luberon. A week in France could only end with a Cotes du Luberon wine tasting at a local cellar. Drink responsibly. Safety nets not included on the return ride to the stable.

Perched Villages

Sweeping views from limestone cliffs offer a glimpse of the Luberon region studded with stone villages. From Lauris, ride through forests filled with green and white oaks toward Bonnieux. With homes dating to the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, this once wealthy perched village is full of impressive history and architecture. After a steep descent down the Valley of the Aiguebrun River, rest easy in an auberge next to the river. Rolling hills of cherry orchards and vineyards unfold in the Calavon valley. With a snort and the sound of hooves brushing through tall grass, the hilltop levels and the next destination, Rustrel, appears between two pointed ears. As the ground rises beneath riders’ saddles, the scent of rosemary and thyme linger in the air. Breathe in the herbal air before arriving in the Doa River bed. The ride leads equestrians to revel in colorful cliffs and hills before venturing to Viens village. Tour local markets in Cereste before mounting for a day among fruit trees and crossing into Auribeau. Stay in a stone-built guesthouse in the heart of Luberon mountain, at the base of the Aiguebrun river canyon.

The last day in the saddle brings equestrians to the top of the Luberon crests for views encompassing both the Alps and the Mediterranean. A final picnic at Lourmarin’s 12th century castle with views of the Sainte Victorie Mountain, otherwise known as “Cezanne’s mountain,” before reaching the final farmhouse brings an active week to an end.

Lavender Trails

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Photo: EmDee

Embark on a fragrant-filled and colorful journey along lavender trails for five days of walking, trotting and cantering from inn to inn. Begin on the south side of Luberon with views of Mount Ventoux, the “giant of Provence,” and the Lure Mountain before setting off into an oak forest to find the Plateau of Claparèdes, best known for its lavender production. Follow lavender fields, stone walls and shepherd’s pens to Saignon for a break at the fountain. Set off again for the Valley of Apt, above Rustrel and Gignac orchards, through a dense white oak forest and up the Vaucluse Mountains. Get a view of Simiane la Rotonde village and its lavender fields before settling in for the night.

Discover Simiane’s donjon, narrow streets and local shops with the products from the village such as “chestnut beer.” Ride on to Revest du Bion where equines and equestrians alike will stop for a drink before the last stretch of the journey. End the day with a swim and dinner at the host’s farm table near St. Trinit. While the horses relax on a morning off, travelers visit Sault, Provence’s lavender capital. Surrounded by green hills and plains of perfumed lavenders, the ride begins again toward Montbrun-les-Bains after spending the day visiting Aurel, the medieval village at the foot of the “giant of Provence.” The Toulourenc gives off steam as riders cross Savoillan, Brantes and Plaisians villages to enter Provence Drome. As the trail ends in Buis-les-Baronies, a truck and bus await for a transfer back to Lauris.

Top Image: hosynth

Molly Harris is a freelance writer based in Athens, Georgia.

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