My Best of Provence itinerary
Firstly let’s talk weather, I’ve chosen the end of May and early September for my inaugural tours. The days are long and usually warm. Rain is rare and Provence is at her magnificent best. It’s the prefect time to tour.
I’ll arrange a pick up by taxi or minibus (depending on numbers) at an agreed time from either Avignon TGV or Marseille Marignane airport. You will be transferred to Chateau Constantin, located 1km outside the Luberon village of Lourmarin. The journey is an easy hour’s drive through picturesque countryside.
Upon arrival a small hamper of luxurious Provencal goodies awaits in your bedroom. The group will gather for a champagne reception followed by a gala welcome dinner.
Sunday – The Luberon
The locals call the Luberon a corner of paradise. It’s not hard to understand why: – there are countless picturesque villages; numerous vineyards producing sumptuous wines; olive groves that stretch for miles; cherry orchards which produce snow storms of blossom in Spring and rolling mountains stretching away towards the Alps.
Our village visits include: Roussillon, famed for its red soil. Local legend has it that a jilted lover threw herself from a cliff and her blood stained the soil for miles around; and Gordes, which for decades has been an ultra-chic retreat for wealthy Parisian families and French celebrities.
Early evening I will lead a rosé tasting of Provence’s finest pinks based on my three award winning books on the subject.
Monday – L’Isle sur La Sorgue and Avignon
First stop is L’Isle sur La Sorgue, a gorgeous market town nicknamed the Venice of Provence thanks to the canal system on which it sits. Waterwheels and charming antique shops make for a memorable visit.
Next up is Avignon and one of the sights of Provence – the Palais des Papes. Built in under 40 years this gothic monolith inspires awe and reverence. Adding a touch of humour to the visit I advise my groups to read Alphonse Daudet’s short story – The Pope’s Donkey, before the visit. It gives a wonderful insight into the world of the Avignon Popes.
In the evening we will taste renowned Rhone wines, including a velvety, aged, Chateauneuf du Pape. An optional drawing class is offered as an introduction to Provence’s artistic heritage
Tuesday – Aix en Provence
A highlight of the tour is our visit to Aix en Provence. Known as the Paris of the south, an enjoyable day can easily be spent people watching from the cafe terraces and indulging in a little retail therapy. I’ll share my love of the city in a brief orientation tour and then point members of the group towards the main sights including, Cezanne’s atelier and the viewpoint from which he painted Mont Sainte Victoire and the Musee Granet, a world-class painting and sculpture museum.
Wednesday – Arles
It’s history day! Arles boasts the best collection of Roman sights in Provence – a Roman Arena, a Roman Theatre, Roman baths, and even a Roman Graveyard. For those of a more artistic disposition Arles is also where Van Gogh completed many of his most famous paintings, as well as being the home to an exciting new modern art foundation – Luma Arles. On the way back to Lourmarin we will enjoy an olive oil and wine tasting at one of Les Alpilles’ finest wineries. The peppery, heat-baked red we will taste is one of my favourite wines in the region.
Thursday – Cassis and Les Calanques
We will head for the glittering Mediterranean and the charming port of Cassis. We will split up to explore the port and enjoy a lunch. Enthusiasts of seafood should not miss the opportunity to try Provence’s famed Bouillabaisse fish soup. Regrouping in the afternoon we will take a boat tour out into Les Calanques – renowned as almost the last untouched stretch of the French Mediterranean coast, these rocky coves are accessible only by boat or on foot. The Calanques are a world famous wildlife reserve and a national treasure.
Returning to the Chateau we will enjoy a special gourmet truffle evening, with delicacies such as truffle pizza, and cheese laced with truffles. Based on my book about training my dog to find truffles I will share the secrets of truffle hunting in Provence with the group.
Friday – Lourmarin market
A tour of Provence would not be complete without taking in one of the region’s famous markets. Fortunately our home village Lourmarin hosts one of the largest and best Provencal markets. It’s the perfect opportunity to pick up some gifts to take home.
The afternoon is free. Guests can choose to relax by the pool, play tennis, go for an e-bike ride or take part in a Provencal cookery course.The last evening will begin with Provencal aperitifs such as pastis, rinquinquin and of course rosé. For those feeling sporty there will be a boule competition. Afterwards we will enjoy a BBQ.
Farewell. Transfer to Avignon TGV or Marseille Marignane airport