Provence is everything the guidebooks say it is – picturesque villages, views over vineyards, olives, lavender and hilltops. And nestled into the middle of it are arguably 2 of the most lovely of them all. Less than 20 minutes drive from each other, they make for a perfect day in Provence.

Roussillon is noteworthy and unusual for the ochre quarries that surround it. While  most Provencal villages are known for their grey stone buildings and cool blue and purple accents, Roussillon radiates warm oranges and reds, which surround you in the rock quarries themselves and the buildings which clearly drew from their environment for supplies and inspiration.

Since we had the kids with us, including Roo in a stroller, we opted not to go into the quarry, especially since the views from the lookout spots were lovely in themselves. A wander through Roussillon, while eating the obligatory ice cream, took us up the hill to a beautiful church.

Roussillon was definitely a highlight of Provence for me – the warm ochre tones against the bright blue sky make the village truly unique.

But if it’s quintessential Provencal colouring you are looking for, continue down the road to possibly the most breath-taking of the villages we visited, and certainly one of the best views as you approach the village. The vantage point to get the quintessential photo can get rather crowded.

Gordes Provence

Gordes epitomises the Provencal hilltop village. The village centers on its castle and cascades from there down the hill. White and grey stone give this a more classical Provencal look than Roussillon, and it’s a wonderful place for exploring cobbled alleyways.

We visited on market day – every village in Provence has its own weekly market and they’re a great place to pick up your food for the day and often great souvenir treats.

My mom had been to Gordes a few years before us, and had happened upon a church with an incredible interior. Just as well she told me about it, as I don’t know that would have gone inside the rather hidden away church entrance if she hadn’t – and we would have seriously missed out! How amazing is this church!!

Roussillon and Gordes are certainly two of the more note-worthy Provencal villages – but also the more popular and sometimes crowded. Often the treasured memories and unique experiences are found in the smaller, less visited villages, so don’t be afraid to wander off the guidebook suggestions. Provence is chock-ful of villages waiting to be explored.

If you’ve been to Provence, let me know your favorite village or attraction.