The 25 residents of this village, under the leadership of patriarch, 82 year old M. Yves, grow, harvest and distill the essential oils from the lavender. It is a very low-tech operation and we all joined in taking turns getting into the large vat and tramping down the lavender with our feet.
Michel from Aveda's supplier, Plantes Aromatiques, in nearby Vercheny explained the distilling process after which we all sat around a huge rectangle of tables for a lunch "en plein aire." The meal, to die for, included regional vegetables, fois gras, pates, grilled lamb chops and, of course French bread and lots of wine. Rose wines are very popular in France now, especially in the summer and we enjoyed our share. The mayor of The Drome region joined us for lunch and M. Yves (who with his large mustache, jaunty cap and cane is a French gentleman straight out of central casting) presided at the head of the table.
We all got on a large hay wagon for the trip into the hills where the lavender makes a purple carpet.
We joined the harvest, which involves using a scythe, so it requires great care to cut the lavender and not take off a limb. Even the children know how to wield this instrument. The beauty of the place is indescribable and I felt like I was starring in a French film because the experience was truly magical and unreal. The fragrance and beauty of the lavender is beyond belief and the warmth of the people was an experience that I can truly say will stay with me forever. They could not have been more welcoming, generous and eager to share their pride and passion for growing this incredible plant. I will never light an Aveda Light the Way candle again without being transported back to Lesches-en-Diois.