The Best of Provence
June 27, 2016 - July 04, 2016
- Day 1: (Lodging in Orange)
- Your guides will meet you at the train station in Avignon.
- Possible visit of the vineyards of Châteauneuf-du-Pape for early arrival, with a short stop at the village that produces this famous full-bodied red wine.
- After pick-up at the train station, tour of Avignon, the city of the Palace of the Popes, a magnificent setting for the 4 French popes who lived there in the 14th century.
- Drive to Orange, settle into your hotel, rest.
- Meet for apéritif and orientation.
- Day 2: (Lodging in Orange)
- Visit Orange and its immense Roman theater, a huge amphitheater built to hold 10,000 spectators, still used today for special outdoor music performances.
- Visit the wine village of Gigondas; if you want, we can take you for a gentle walk in the beautiful hills of the Dentelles de Montmirail ("Montmirail Lace") for panoramic views of the region.
- Drive through the foothills of the Dentelles de Montmirail to the the terraced village of Beaumes-de-Venise and taste the sweet apéritif wine named for the village.
- Dinner at our hotel.
- Day 3: (Lodging in Apt)
- Explore Vaison-la-Romaine, often called "the four-in-one city." It is a medieval town built on a prehistoric settlement; and a modern agricultural center built on a ancient Roman city, where excavations progressively reveal vestiges of the rich culture of the Gallo-Romans.
- For lunch, stop in the hamlet of Brantes at the foot of Mont Ventoux.
- Pass through fields of lavender and picturesque provençal villages and stop at Ferrassière to visit a small lavender production.
- Late afternoon
- Arrive in Apt, settle into your hotel, rest.
- Day 4: (Lodging in Apt)
- This is your day to discover some of the fascinating hilltop villages of Provence that Peter Mayle found so attractive.
- Start with a visit of beautiful Roussillon, where every structure features a different shade of ocher, from yellow to brown to rust to bright red. We can also walk the Ocher Trail, a fantasy walk through slopes of brilliant color.
- In late morning explore and walk in other fascinating villages in the Lubéron that Peter Mayle described so vividly: tiny Oppède-le-Vieux; Lacoste, site of the Marquis de Sade's château; Ménerbes and Bonnieux, both villages clinging to craggy hillsides.
- Lunch at the Café de la Gare in Bonnieux
- Visit Gordes. With its panoramic view of the countryside and its long history, Gordes is classified one of the "most beautiful villages of France." As we leave Gordes, we will visit the beautiful 12th-century Abbey of Sénanque, nestled among surrounding lavender fields.
- Dinner in one of the favorite sites described in "A Year in Provence."
- Day 5: (Lodging in Arles)
- On our way to Arles, short stop to visit L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue.
- Discover the hillside fortress of Les Baux-de-Provence, built into bare rock and perched on top of an outcrop of the Alpilles. It is one of the most impressive sites in France, and one whose history is the most violent. Richelieu had it destroyed in the 17th century, but it prospered again in the 19th with the discovery of bauxite, the mineral which gave the town its name.
- Nearby, we will stop by the Roman settlement of Glanum and visit St-Paul-de-Mausole, a tranquil and beautiful convalescent center that was home to Vincent Van Gogh during the last year of his life.
- En route to Arles, we will stop to discover Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, birthplace of physician-astrologer Nostradamus and of the poet Frédéric Mistral.
- Dinner in Arles, then possibly, if interest, from 9:00 PM see the "Pegoulado" -- night parade with traditional costumes in Arles' streets and arena.
- Day 6: (Lodging in Arles)
- The Saturday market in Arles is a spectacle not to be missed. Stalls featuring local wares wind along the Boulevard des Lices and up the hillside towards the Roman arena. You will delight in the assortment of Provençal specialties--spices, flowers, brightly colored fabrics in traditional patterns, fresh vegetables, olives of all kinds--and so much more.
- Guided tour of Arles, one of the oldest towns of Provence, its history dating back to the ancient Greeks. It became a metropolis of Roman Gaul and was a cultural center throughout the Middle Ages.
- Late afternoon
- Discover the Camargue, rich delta of the Rhône River, a wildlife sanctuary and home to the celebrated white horses, pink flamingos and black bulls.
- Day 7: (Lodging in Arles)
- Fête du costume: A unique opportunity to see some of Provence's most colorful and beautiful folk costumes.
- Visit the spectacular Pont-du-Gard, a Roman aqueduct dating from 19 BCE. This well-preserved structure, a key element in a 31-mile-long system to bring water to the city of Nîmes, bears witness to the engineering genius of the ancient Romans.
- Visit Nîmes, as thriving a town today as it was when the Emperor Augustus made it a showplace of the Roman Empire.
- Day 8:
- Au revoir to Provence. We will drive you to Avignon, where you can take the TGV (bullet train) to Paris or to your next destination.
Palace of the Popes
Orange Roman theater
Pink flamingos in Camargue
Lunch in Brantes
Lacoste seen from Bonnieux
The "Pegoulado" in Arles
Saturday market in Arles
Arlesians in folk costumes
Pont-du-Gard, Roman aqueduct
The Best of Provence
8 days, 7 nights