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Discover Our Top 7 Favourite Picnic Spots in Provence

My wife Val and I live part of the year in St-Rémy-de-Provence, a little town at the base of the Alpilles Mountains. One of our favourite things is having a picnic lunch and exploring Provence’s beautiful little nooks and crannies. Over the years, we’ve discovered many lovely places to eat outside, and here are 7 of our favourite picnic spots.

Discover the Alpilles Villages

A Lake Near St-Rémy

By a Hidden Lake. About two miles from the center of St-Rémy is a shady picnic spot known only to locals. It sits along the shore of a lake the Romans created thousands of years ago and is an excellent place to escape the crowds for a few hours.

Lac du Peiroou is a small reservoir created by a dam that spans a narrow gap between two rocky outcroppings. While the current dam was built a century ago, the original dates back to the first century B.C., when the Romans built it to supply water to Glanum.

Picnics near St Remy Lac de Peiroou

©Keith Van Sickle

The lake has a wide, grassy area at one end, with trees that provide welcome shade on a sunny Provençal day. It’s the perfect place to spread a blanket and enjoy a lazy afternoon. You can stock up for your picnic at St-Rémy’s weekly market or my favourite take-out place, Chez les Frangins.

The road to the lake is narrow and twisty, and sometimes it is closed to cars due to fire danger, so check at the Tourist Office before heading there.

Barthelasse Island

Barthelasse Island sits in the middle of the Rhône River, next to Avignon. This gives it a clear line of sight to the City of the Popes, with nothing to block the view. You can see the stone cliffs that protect the city and the thick walls built in the Middle Ages. Above them all is the Papal Palace, topped by its golden statue of Mary, sparkling in the Provençal sunshine.

Picnics Near Avignon

Creative Commons License,©Jean-Marc Rosier from http://www.rosier.pro

Barthelasse Island has a broad, grassy esplanade facing Avignon, and it’s the perfect place for a picnic with a view. Enjoy a lazy afternoon with gourmet goodies at Avignon’s Les Halles market!

Getting there is easy. It’s a short walk from Avignon over the Édouard Daladier bridge, or you can take the free ferry from the Quai de la Ligne.

Les Halles d’Avignon
18 Place Pie,
84000 Avignon
Open every daily (Tuesday to Sunday) from 6 am to 2 pm.
Closed on Mondays

In the Alpilles

About a mile north of the little town of Aureille, to the side of the D25A road, is a small dirt parking lot called Parkplatz Klettern (it is a mystery why the name is in German.) Next to it is our picnic spot, olive trees surrounded by rough grass—be sure to bring something to sit on.

Spread out before you, a large grove of olive trees is slightly below. Beyond that, you have a great view of the rugged Alpilles mountains. They are particularly steep to your left, making this spot popular with mountain climbers. Look closely; you often see a few slowly moving up the massive mountain face.

Luberon Picnic in the Sky

Outside of Bonnieux is perhaps my favourite view in Provence. It’s on the road to the Fôret des Cedres (Cedar Forest), a few miles from town.

Our Top 7 Favourite Picnic Spots in Provence

©Keith Van Sickle

To get there, take the D36 east towards Lourmarin, then turn right about a mile after you leave Bonnieux onto the Chemin de la Fôret. Follow this up for about two miles until you see what looks like a wooden outhouse (it’s not actually an outhouse; I don’t know what it is.) There’s a small parking area next to it.

You’ll find that fabulous view walking through the trees from the parking area to the left. Val and I like to spread a blanket under a tree and picnic with friends. The fantastic thing is that you are looking down on Bonnieux, way down. You understand why the view is so great when you realize how high up Bonnieux is and that you are much higher.

After lunch, you can continue on the road for about another mile and a half to the Cedar Forest, which has some nice cool walks among the woods.

By a Roman Bridge

Also near Bonnieux, on the valley floor, is Pont Julien, a Roman bridge that crosses the Calavon River. It was built 2,000 years ago and is so solid it was still used for auto traffic until a few years ago! We sometimes get to it by biking on the Véloroute de Calavon, a lovely and easy route.

Roman Bridge Pont Juilen Bonnieux

©Keith Van Sickle

We like to picnic along the river bank or, if the weather is hot, we sit under a tree in the grassy field next to the bridge. It is very picturesque and amazing how long ago it was built.

Rhône Wine Counry Gigondas

If you are feeling energetic, there is a hiking path above Gigondas with fabulous views. To get there, drive to the Parking les Floréts. From there, it’s a steep but beautiful 15-minute walk to the trail. At the top, you turn right and enjoy the views as you go (this part is mostly flat).

Gigondas Hike 7 Picnic Spots Provence

©Keith Van Sickle

After a mile, you’ll see several shaded picnic tables on your right. Next to them is a stairway climbing through the trees. This is another steep climb, about 5 minutes, and it’s rocky, so you’ll want sturdy shoes. At the top is a platform with magnificent views, well worth the effort. It has a handy orientation table to identify what you see.

After enjoying the view, head down and enjoy a well-deserved picnic lunch!

Near Pont du Gard

Not far from the Pont du Gard, the famous Roman aqueduct, is a lovely little picnic spot that is always quiet and peaceful. It sits next to a 12th-century church called the Chapelle de la Clastre, perched on a rise with beautiful views of vineyards. It has been abandoned for centuries and is being restored by a local volunteer group.

12th century church called the Chapelle de la Clastre

©Keith Van Sickle

Next to the church is a big grassy area, just perfect for picnicking. It’s flat and shady, inviting you to lay out a blanket and enjoy wine and cheese. And maybe take a nap afterwards. Val and I like to go there after a stop at one of our favourite wineries, where we pick up a bottle for our picnic.

Provencal Picnic Ideas

Picnic is a universal term for creating a natural culinary experience with some of your favourite portable foods. The French take the word pique-nique to an elevated culinary level! My experiences in North America pale compared to the memorable pique-nique outings I have experienced in Provence. You start with a basket, backpack or cooler of the foods and wine you want to share with your family, friends or hiking/cycling group. The destination is often as important as the cargo you are transporting.

French Picnic Essentials

Charcuterie Cheese Board
Easy to prepare, no cooking involved and you get to choose all the ingredients. The selection below will serve 6-8 as an appetizer, or 3-4 as a meal.
Check out this recipe
Easy Entertaining Make a Charcuterie Cheese Board

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Keith Van Sickle

Keith Van Sickle

Keith and Val Van Sickle made their first trip to Provence decades ago, and it was love at first sight. After that, they came back every year until 2008, when they began a part-time life there, splitting their time between Provence and California.

Over the years, they’ve travelled all over Provence, seeing sights both well-known and obscure. Their French friends have introduced them to favourite restaurants and wineries and picnic spots and taught them funny local expressions (not all for polite company).

Keith now shares this local knowledge in his new book, An Insider’s Guide to Provence. Packed with the Van Sickles’ favourite things to see and do, it’s a must-have for anyone travelling to this glorious corner of France.

Keith previously published two books about the couple's experiences in Provence. One Sip at a Time: Learning to Live in Provence, and Are We French Yet?, both are available from Amazon.

You can see all of Keith’s blog posts at Life in Provence.

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