The South of France ~ Provence Itinerary

10 Days in The South of France ~ Provence

September 11 – 21, 2019 (2 openings)

September 28 – October 8, 2019 (Full)

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Daily Itinerary Description

Day 1:  Welcome to the Mediterranean Sea and “Provincia Romana.”   Preceded by the Greeks, the area known today as Provence was conquered by Rome at the end of the 2nd century BC and became the first Roman province beyond the Alps, its name derived from Provincia Romana. Whether you arrive in Marseille by train or plane, you will be greeted personally upon arrival. Head into the département of the Var nestled between vineyards and the Mediterranean Sea for a 3-night’s stay in seaside Cassis at a beautiful bed & breakfast, located just a 10-minute walk from the town center, port, and beach.  Hostess Francesca will show you to your room in her contemporary villa, offering impressive views of the Cap Canaille and promising poolside and/or garden relaxation.  Wind down this evening, and partake in wine & French conversation with linguist Elise, our niece who is native to Nice.  Dine in a top notch restaurant in the heart of the village.  Overnight Cassis (D)

Day 2: Calanques & Cassis. Discover the breathtaking Calanques, the series of wild fjords and rocky limestone cliffs following the coastline, during a 1.5-hour private boat excursion along the coast of Cassis. Savor a light lunch on board while anchored in one of the magnificent coves. Upon return to the port of Cassis, you have the option to take the 45-minute ‘petit train’ tour for a breathtaking tour around the village and out to the Port Miou peninsula with English commentary on the historical vestiges; includes a 10-minute stop to witness the Calanque de Port Miou from above, truly magnificent vista, and the quaint Chapelle de Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Voyage.  This afternoon, take the picturesque drive along the Route de la Gineste to Marseille to hit the high points before dinner. Witness a spectacular bird’s eye view of the city and sea from the Notre Dame de la Garde Basilica, followed by a scenic drive around the Old Port and coastal route. Dine with our French family at a beautiful, seaside restaurant perched between the jetty and a fishing village cove along the Marseille coast, praised for its Michelin star and refined rendition of bouillabaisse Marseillaise.  Overnight Cassis. (B, D)

Day 3: Vineyards & villages of the Var. Explore the picturesque villages of the Var; take the scenic coastal drive along the Route des Cretes to lunch on the seaside port of La Ciotat, a small village dedicated to ship building; visit hilltop La Cadière d’Azur overlooking vineyards, located on the ramparts of medieval Le Castellet, a lovely little village perched above the plains of the Var. Relish a privately guided visit at a breathtakingly beautiful winery, owned and operated by friends, within the Côtes de Provence AOC and Bandol appellations. Stroll amid the vines, and then delight in a tour of the cellars, followed by a tasting of “Trois Couleurs,” a taste of each color ~ white, rosé, and red. Free evening. Overnight Cassis (B, L)

Day 4: Olive Orchards & Mill, Les Baux de Provence, “In the Footsteps of Van Gogh”. Savor one last homemade breakfast before saying “Au Revoir” to Cassis and the Mediterranean Sea, as we head inland to the Alpilles, the small mountain range near Les Baux de Provence.  Delight in a private tour at an award winning olive oil orchard & mill, to learn how olive oil is produced “from the tree to the bottle” as the owner explains the process of growing, producing & pressing olive oil; complete the visit with a tasting of different oils, olives, and tapenade. Enjoy a 1.5-hour privately guided walking tour of the village and medieval citadel of Les Baux, followed by lunch on the terrace of an authentic restaurant with our guide.  Before heading north to the Haute-Vaucluse, we will stop in St. Rémy de Provence to walk “In the Footsteps of Van Gogh” at the St. Paul de Mausole, the asylum in  where Van Gogh lived after he famously cut off his ear lobe. Witness the surrounding grounds that reflect the beautiful places painted by Vincent van Gogh a century ago (he painted The Starry Night while here) as our guide explains the life and struggles of the artist.  Tuck in for a 7-night’s stay in the medieval-Roman town of Vaison-La-Romaine ~ the largest archaeological site in France with Gallo-Roman vestiges spread over several sites. Stay at the foot of the medieval “haute village” in a traditional Provençal rental house. Nestling at the base of the majestic rock, upon which sits the medieval high town, crowned with the impressive 13th-century castle of the Counts of Toulouse, are two Provençal houses, each with their own swimming pool, surrounded by vineyards, and offering a lovely countryside setting while being just 200 meters from the medieval town and 1-kilometer from the town center, Roman vestiges, and the outdoor market.  Enjoy a casual meal together this evening in the medieval town.  Overnight Vaison-la-Romaine (B, L, D)

Day 5: Terrace breakfast & Game of Pétanque. Get acquainted with your travel mates during a traditional French breakfast on the beautiful terrace of House #2 overlooking vineyards and the medieval chateau. Afterwards, you have the option to join me for a 4-mile power walk along the crest of Serre Long, a paved country road coddled by rolling vineyards, sweeping views of the Ventoux valley, and the wooded hills of Serre Long; this scenic paved loop is accessible from our houses and should take about 1-hour 40-minutes at a brisk pace. Enjoy a free day to soak up the village at your own pace, or wander the cobblestone alleys of the medieval high town. Late afternoon, enjoy a game of pétanque in the Boulodrome of Vaison ~ learn the history of the game with a lesson in how to play. To complete the picture, sip a pastis from the bar next door while playing. We have the option to dine at an authentic brasserie in the heart of Vaison near the town square. Free full day.  Overnight Vaison-la-Romaine (B)

Day 6: Historical Walking Tour & Dinner in the Home of Locals. Meet at the post office down in the “new” town for a privately guided 3-hour intriguing Historical Walking Tour of Vaison with Janet, our enthusiastic guide. Janet’s animated and captivating delivery brings to life 3,000 years of history, spanning from the first tribal people who came to settle in Vaison to the Greeks to the Romans and on to the Middle Ages up to the French Revolution. Relax over lunch in the medieval town following our tour. Delight in a free afternoon to rest, further explore the town on your own, explore the quaint boutiques, or have a swim in your pool. History buffs may want to visit the Archaeological Museum, the Roman sites of Puymin and Villasse, and the Roman theatre, all located in the new town. Savor an early dinner in the home of Sabine & Alex, a couple who is the embodiment of food & wine. Sabine teaches cooking classes in her home, and Alex tends their vineyards and the winemaking. Relax in their rustic country home, and if desired, assist Sabine with some finishing touches on our meal. Free half day.  Overnight Vaison-la-Romaine (D)

Day 7: Outdoor Market Tour, Terrace Picnic, Dinner Party with Chef Karen. Meet at the post office for an escorted tour of one of the most comprehensive outdoor markets in Provence; become immersed in the colors & smells of a vibrant, bustling market. Together we’ll witness ~ and occasionally taste ~ the abundance of fruits and vegetables, meats, poultry, fish, cheese, olives, charcuterie, as well as French pottery, linens, kitchen items, and more. After the tour, you may explore the market and shop on your own before meeting back at House #2 to savor a picnic lunch on the terrace with delicacies from market. Delight in a dinner party in House #1 tonight as we put the finishing touches on our traditional Provençal three-course meal. Please note: Dinner includes a 3-course menu with two glasses of wine per person. If you wish to have more wine or other drinks, you are welcome to BYOB. Free afternoon.  Overnight Vaison-la-Romaine (L, D)

Day 8: Villages & Vineyards of the Côtes du Rhône & Châteauneuf du Pape, Private Wine Tour. Set out on a lovely drive to experience the beautiful Côtes du Rhône villages. Mosey through the small stone village of Séguret, classified as “One of the Most Beautiful Villages of France”, and visit picturesque Gigondas, home to the wine appellation Gigondas AOC. Enjoy an elegant lunch at a restaurant set amidst vineyards to savor a locally sourced market-fresh menu. Following lunch, relish a 3-hour privately guided outing, “A Stroll from the Vine to the Bottle,” with wine expert Olivier Hickman. Delight in tastings at wineries within both the Côtes du Rhône and Châteauneuf du Pape appellations. Understand the concept of appellation, as well as terroir and how it determines the character of a wine. Learn to detect the different notes and aromas in various wines. Remainder of afternoon and evening are at your leisure. Overnight Vaison-la-Romaine (L)

Day 9: Avignon and the Popes’ Palace, Pont du Gard Aqueduct. Enjoy a 2.5-hour privately guided tour of Historic Avignon and Palace of the Popes. Once the tour concludes, enter the 19th-century kitchen, originally a 14th-century Cardinal’s mansion, of a luxury hotel for a personal and animated lunch experience at the private “Guest Table”. Following a wine tasting from their extension wine collection, a traditional Provençal meal will be prepared in front of you, utilizing the antique wood-fired stove, and stories about life in Provence and her love of authentic cuisine will be shared. Later in the afternoon, pay tribute to the astonishing Pont du Gard, the Roman Aqueduct that is the second tallest Roman structure standing today (Rome’s Colosseum is just 6 feet taller).  Free evening. Overnight Vaison-la-Romaine (L)

Day 10: Villages of the Mount Ventoux, Herb & Lavender Distillery; Lunch with Locals. Take a scenic drive to visit the postcard villages of the Drôme and Mount Ventoux region. Crestet with its ruined medieval castle and charming 11th-century St. Saveur church; Entrechaux with its beautiful surrounding countryside and unique rocky outcrop topped with a feudal castle; Pierrelongue is one of the oddest and most striking villages with its rocky spur where there once stood a fortress, later demolished during the French revolution and replaced with a 19th-century church; and Faucon, a charming hilltop town with unrivaled views of the Mount Ventoux and the pre-Alps. Savor lunch in Nyons, famous for its olives, followed by a visit at a family-owned distillery specializing in aromatic herbs (thyme, rosemary, mint, lavender) and plants (rose, orange blossom). Discover the secret of these ancestral plants, the stages of distillation, and the essential oils that have been extracted. Free time to visit the boutique of locally made items, as well as those produced on-site; you will find lovely gift ideas. Conclude the visit with a snack at the on-site tea salon specializing in artisanal treats infused with herbs and lavender. Delight in lunch at the home of our hosts, Gérard and Chantal Monin, to enjoy a game of pétanque and a farewell feast.  Overnight Vaison-la-Romaine (L)

Day 11: Nougat & Provençal confections. Bid adieu to Vaison-la-Romaine.  En route to the Avignon train station, we’ll take a short detour to discover a workshop and boutique specializing in artisanal nougats and other Provençal confections. Delight in a tasting of the house specialties, including both kinds of nougat, pâtes de fruits of various fruits (cherry, apricot, strawberry, fig, peach, plum and quince), Polissons ~ “Calissons du Terroir”, the almond-paste candy of Provence originally made in Aix-en-Provence.  You will be personally accompanied to the Avignon TGV train station to catch your late afternoon train bound for Paris. “Bon retour & MERCI!” Safe return, and many thanks!

10 Days in The South of France ~ Provence