Cheap yet chic: pick your own in Provence

Hilltop village of Gordes, France

To feast on free French food, visit the exquisite village of Brantes in the Vaucluse region. In this picture-book idyll, dedicated forager Jacqueline leads groups of foodies through the surrounding countryside, plucking wild, edible herbs and plants from the lush undergrowth.

Brantes overlooks the Toluene valley, with amazing views of Mont Ventoux. Its stone houses are home to weavers, basketmakers, ceramicists and even a blacksmith. Follow Jacqueline as she dips and delves all the way to Les Aventurières du Goût, a welcoming, colourful cookery school set in a traditional village house.

Foragers empty their baskets onto the kitchen table and are shown how to transform them into a feast. Nettles, elderflowers and wild broccoli are mixed with olive oil, chick peas and garlic to make dainty tarts and the tastiest salads. Everything is fresh, healthy and appetising. Dishes are garnished with wild flowers and served in the delightful garden, where guests and tutors toast nature’s bounties with Provençal wine.

Things to do

● Head south to explore the famous hilltop villages of the heavenly Luberon, such as Gordes, Roussillon, Bonnieux, Lacoste and Menerbes.
● Hire an electric bike to enjoy the dreamy scenery – it makes heading up the hills a breeze. A day’s rental costs £22 (www.luberon-biking.fr).
● Learn to make natural cosmetics from pharmacist-turned-aromatherapist Christine Cuisiniez at Les Ateliers Cosmétiques in Bonnieux. A 90-minute session costs £38 (www.oleassence.fr).

Book it

Rail fares from London to Avignon start at £119 standard-class return. Visit www.raileurope.co.uk or call 0844 848 4070. In the Luberon, stay at Residence Hoteliere Le Jas de Joucas, where rooms are fresh and inviting, the breakfast features homemade cakes, breads and jams, and the spacious pool has majestic views of the purple Provençal hills. Double rooms cost £80. Family rooms cost from £110. Visit www.lejasdejoucas.com. In the Mont Ventoux region, stay at Hostelleries du Val de Sault, where charming double rooms start at £65. Visit www.valdesault.com. Courses at Les Aventurières du Goût cost £25 (www.lesaventurieresdugout.com). For more on the Vaucluse, take a look at www.visit-southern-france.com.

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