Alluring Southern France – September 2018
Visit Provence and the Cote d’Azur
Provence is filled with the views and vistas painted by dozens of renowned artists. Explore their stomping ground as well as the history and culture of the many villages of Provence. Immerse in the most famous French markets and some not so famous, filled with local produce and goods as well as the works of French artisans. You may even take home an antique … or two! And, we won’t miss the seaside.Taste the salty Mediterranean air of the Cote d’Azur in charming Cassis. We’ll take in all the alluring sights and smells of this harbor village along the southern French coast.
Our home for the week is an enchanting property in the heart of Provence. Located just on the outskirts of Gordes, one of the most beautiful villages of France, the home sits on seven acres of privacy with sweeping views of the Luberon Mountains, and includes a swimming pool, pool house and tennis court. The property is located fifteen miles east of Avignon, and forty miles from the Mediterranean Sea.
Please note that this tour assumes arrival on the afternoon of September 8th and departure on the morning of September 15th to/from the Avignon TVG train station. Private transportation will be provided to and from this station. Those who require alternative options please request and provide specific information. Additional fees may apply. Details regarding train ticket purchases will be sent to you at time of Registration. Air travel is not included.
Day 1- Arrival: Independent arrival at the Avignon TVG train station. Our private driver will bring you to our lovely Provencal villa, which will serve as home base for the week so no packing and re-packing required. Once introduced to your room, we will meet, weather permitting, outside on the terrace, overlooking the Luberon Valley and the mountains in the distance. Time to get acquainted while sipping local wine from one of the many surrounding vineyards. Our private Chef will provide dinner each night this week and always features local produce and authentic French cuisine! This is such a special time of day, when long shadows cover the lavender field and the Luberon Mountains fade to purple in the sunset. It is truly one of the most beautiful and peaceful vistas to behold. Tonight we can retire early to fend off jet lag and acclimate to the French time zone. For us, this week, that means…slow time. Adagio time. D
Day 2- Sunday: L’Isle–sur-la-Sorge and THE French Market: L’lsle-sur-la-Sorge is sometimes called “The Venice of the South” for the many canals that run through the town and are actually tributaries of the Sorge River.
Sunday is Fun Day at the Most Famous Market in all of Provence that started in the 16th century: Off to Isle-sur-la-Sorge for an experience you likely have never had before. See the real deal in French antique markets! Le marche’ is filled with local vendors from all over the south of France. Taste local cheeses and meats, see French baskets of all shapes and sizes, peruse French antiques; fruits and vegetables (almost too stunning to eat!) as well as local crafts and goods fill row after row of colorful stalls. We will spend several hours exploring the market and the side street shops. Certain to work up an appetite, we’ll have many places to grab a quick bite or enjoy a leisurely lunch at one of the many restaurants surrounding the market. Then we will head back for R&R poolside or a walk along the hillsides near our villa “home” for those who still have energy to burn.
Imbibe in French cocktails poolside and dinner at the maison, as we will do each night this week. B, D
Day 3- Monday Les Alpilles, Arles, St Remy and Les Baux de Provence: Today explore Van Gogh country and the hills known as Les Alpilles.
We’ll have about an hour in the van this morning to reach Arles, with its Roman and Greek ruins and the numerous sites where Van Gogh painted. There are so many original settings of Van Gogh’s paintings that remain in Arles and the city itself, perched above the Rhone River, is lovely with the flower-filled window boxes and colorful cafes.
View the medieval fairytale village of Les Baux along the cliffs above the Val d’Enfer (the valley cut into the rock) on our way to a spectacular lunch destination: Le Bistrot du Paradou, a locally-adored institution with a daily fixed menu of traditional French cuisine and the most divine cheese tray you have ever seen! Then on to the quintessential Provencal town of St Rémy. See the works of both local and famous artists, explore the many shops and don’t miss Le Mausole de Paul, the asylum where Van Gogh spent a prolific last year. B, L, D
Day 4- Tuesday Luberon: Take a short ride up the hill to Gordes, stopping at the most breathtaking viewpoint for the perfect photo before arriving in this hilltop village. Discover this picturesque town, with its unique local market and many restored homes. Time to meander through the back streets before heading to a hidden treasure where we will have lunch, Le Bistrot de Lagarde, This off-the-beaten path Michelin-starred restaurant is the kind of treasure that will leave a lasting impression.
In the afternoon we will visit Roussillon, the Santé Fe of Provence where your jaw will drop at the sight of the very dramatic red canyons and ochre cliffs. The village sits atop Mont Rouge and with an energetic walk we can reach the natural ochre cliffs and rock formations or just stroll the unique village and shops. The homes of Roussillon bring to mind the bold colors of Caribbean homes. B, L, D
Day 5 Wednesday Avignon and the wines of Chateauneuf du Pape:
Explore Avignon, a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its Palais des Papes. You won’t forget the panoramic views of this walled city and the famous Pont d’Avignon. Enjoy a casual lunch on your own and a bit of shopping before we depart to the wine regions of Cote de Rhone and Chateauneuf-du-Pape, for an interesting tour and wine tasting (Cave Saint Charles or similar), with our own private guide. Chateaneuf-du-Pape means “New Castle of the Pope”, as this was once the pope’s summer retreat. Vineyards were planted here in the 1300s by popes, and we are the lucky recipients so many centuries .ater. This area is known for its full-bodied red wines. B, D
Day 6 Thursday Cassis and Aix-en-Provence: We begin our day with the scenic 1.5 hour journey to Cassis, a small but quaint seaside village on the Mediterranean with beautiful architecture. To view these Mediterranean fjords we will take a boat ride around the Calanques – bizarre but beautiful narrow valleys surrounded by rugged limestone cliffs. Explore the village and stop at a perfumery where we can have our own perfume created based on our favorite scents. We’ll have lunch along the seaport at Chez Gilbert or similar, accompanied by the crisp white local wines – maybe with a splash of Cassis liqueur! The wine of Cassis is renowned, and imbibing by this Mediterranean port, referred to by some as the poor man’s St. Tropez, is one of our favorite parts of the week.
In the afternoon, discover gorgeous Aix-in-Provence. We will stroll along the stately Cours Mirabeau, the city’s main boulevard – the “Champs Elysees of the south” and visit the city where Cezanne lived and painted. Aix is a wonderful, sophisticated city sometimes referred to as Paris of the South. It is famous for its many lovely fountains and cafes, set amidst gorgeous scenery. B, L, D
Day 7 Friday Luberon: Today we will explore the smaller towns of Luberon. Our first stop will be the southern-most village, Lourmarin, site of Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence, and the home of another great writer, controversial Albert Camus. We’ll continue on to Bonnieux, a breathtaking medieval town. Watch the movie A Good Year, based on Mayle’s novel and you’ll recognize many of the scenes filmed in Bonnieux! Our mid-day meal will be at one of the Luberon’s Michelin-starred restaurants (Auberge La Fenier, or similar). If time allows we will also stop in Menerbes and visit Maison de la Truffle et du Vin to pick up your favorite wine or truffle oil to take home!
Then back to our villa to pack up for tomorrow’s departure, before relaxing into a special final dinner to celebrate our once-in-a-lifetime week in Provence. B,L,D
Day 8 depart for Avignon Train Station:
After breakfast, our driver will provide transportation to catch our trains to the next destination. B
We ask that you discuss your departure plans with us at the time of Registration to help with coordination of Day 8.
If you have a few extra days before the Provence trip, experience two nights/days in Paris and enjoy an overview of this wonderful city, a private tour of Versailles and an exclusive French shopping experience. Inquire at time of Registration. Minimum of 4 required to offer this pre-tour option.