In the early hours of a summer morning I visited the Cistercian Abbey of Sénanque in Provence near the crumbling hill town of Gordes. It was completely silent, with not a soul about. A purple swathe of lavender cut a dash as it graced the old stone wall in front of the abbey, the lavender still blooming in spite of the lateness of the season, the air filled with its heady fragrance. I imagined the monks at their silent prayers, in shuffling procession through candlelit corridors or enveloped in the undulating drones of gregorian chant. I was too early for the guided tour, and don't know if I'd have taken it if I weren't. It was enough to stand there in the purple air with the sun coming up over the horizon, illuminating its ancient walls in pale light, my brain engulfed in lavender.