Seven Perfect Days in Provence!
A French Food and Wine Adventure
Day 1- Avignon
Arrive in Avignon where we will meet and transfer to our hotel, the luxurious 16th Century Hotel Europe, conveniently located in the heart of Avignon’s historic Old City. Enjoy the hotel’s luxurious amenities as well as the fine period furnishings. The Hotel Europe boasts an elegant and celebrated restaurant. The city of Avignon has a long and fascinating history. In the 14th century it was the capital of Christendom - the popes lived here during what the Romans called the “Babylonian Captivity”. The legacy left by the court of splendor and magnificence makes Avignon one of the most interesting and beautiful of Europe’s medieval cities. This afternoon we are privileged to a private guided walking tour of our home town of Avignon. Our charming guide, Pierre, will point out highlights, architectural gems, historic points of interest, and beautiful views of Avignon and the Rhone River. Tonight’s dinner is to be enjoyed in a charming brasserie tucked away in a quiet cobble-stoned side street in the Old Avignon. Locals go for the ambiance and the Assiette Epicerie, a culmination of twelve of the favorite specialties of Provence that are simply but deliciously prepared.
Day 2- Tavel – Châteauneuf-du-Pape
The Southern Côtes du Rhône produces many prestigious wine appellations such as Lirac, Tavel, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas, Côtes du Ventoux, and Côtes du Luberon just to name a few. Our first stop is the Tavel region, producing one of the most popular French wines sold abroad – a smooth crystalline rosé often described as “sunlight trapped in a bottle”. We visit the Château d’Aqueria in the famed village of Tavel for a tasting of the delightful Rosé wine. Tavel is voted consistently as the best rosé in the world. Enjoy! Lunch will be a delightful stop along the way, enjoying wonderful local food, wines and views of this, one of the most beautiful wine regions in France. As we are very near the Côtes du Rhône village of international wine fame, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, this afternoon we stop in for an exclusive visit and tasting, at one of the most characteristic wineries in the area. The more famous reds are characterized by a dark robe as well as spicy, woody and peppery aromas. Tonight discover dinner on your own among this colorful city’s wide assortment of restaurants and cafes.
Day 3- Provençal Cooking - Avignon
This morning we get out of the heat and directly into the kitchen. First we visit the Les Halles produce market in Avignon with the one and only Madame Manguin! We will then join Madame Manguin in her beautiful home on the island of Barthelasse situated two kilometers from Avignon on the Rhône River for a hands-on cooking instruction. Madame Manguin, owner of an idyllic countryside bed and breakfast, is author, cooking school teacher, and femme extraordinaire. She guides us through the market as we make our purchases for our cooking session and lunch in her home. Late afternoon is spent back in Avignon where you are free to enjoy this fine city at your own pace: visiting the Popes’ Palace, enjoying the hotel, or shopping the stores and boutiques on the fashionable Rue de la République, Avignon’s main thoroughfare.
Tonight we will enjoy a sumptuous dinner at one of Avignon’s finest tables.
Day 4 St. Rémy–Arles
Early this morning we enjoy the scenic drive to St-Rémy-de-Provence to enjoy its city center and wonderful outdoor market place. St-Rémy symbolizes beautifully the essence of Provence, whether it be through its decor of boulevards shaded by plane trees, fountains splashing in the squares, charming old town alley ways, or the atmosphere which reigns especially during traditional fairs and on market day. Wednesday is the weekly market morning in St-Rémy where we will shop for ornate lace curtains, taste the freshest produce just hand-picked from private gardens that morning, smell the yards of saucissons and admire the green and black olive tapenade and the savory local cheeses. The market offers a great shopping experience for souvenirs to bring home. The 18th century Mas des Barres has a long and fascinating history. This morning we will be welcomed to visit the mill, witness the olive oil production, taste the olives, olive oil, and tapenade. The olive oil from Mas des Barres consistently wins France’s top honors for taste and quality. Lunch and our appetites lead us to the village of Le Paradou. Here we will savor one of the best-loved restaurants by locals, discovering their secrets of Provençal home cooking at Le Bistrot de Paradou. Author Peter Mayle highlights this bistro as a favorite in his book “A Year in Provence.”
A leisurely drive through the beautiful Provençal countryside takes us to the captivating and winding streets of Arles, often referred to as the soul of Provence. Art lovers, archaeologists, and historians have long been attracted to this town on the Rhône River. The Greeks are said to have founded the city in the 6th century B.C. while Julius Caesar established a Roman colony here in 46 B.C. Under Roman rule, Arles prospered. It wasn’t until 1481 that Arles was incorporated into France. Today Arles is a magnificent city with first-rate museums, excellent restaurants, and exciting summer festivals. The charm of Provence is very much in evidence in Arles. Many of its scenes, painted so luminously by Van Gogh, remain to delight. Van Gogh was to paint some of his most celebrated works including The Bridge at Arles and Sunflowers. Madame Lert, a noted Van Gogh expert, will lead us through the colorful past of this great painter. We will also visit one of the world’s most pristinely preserved amphitheatres to witness where the Romans watched the gladiators fight the lions. Transfer to the luxurious, countryside 4-star hotel Le Moulin de Lourmarin in the village of its namesake. Lourmarin is picturesque and idyllic, and is included amongst the “100 most beautiful villages in France” (Les 100 Plus Beaux Villages de France). For lovers of the writer Peter Mayle and his international bestseller, A Year in Provence, Lourmarin is now his new summer home since having left Menerbes. Tonight’s dinner is an adventure to discover on our own amongst the wide array of cafés, bistros, and restaurants in Lourmarin.
Day 5- Cassis - Lourmarin
This morning we make our descent southward until we reach the colorful Mediterranean fishing village of Cassis, justly reputed for the quality of its fish, shellfish, and other seafood; the sea-urchins (oursins) with Cassis white wine are a local specialty. Lunch will be ours to enjoy at Nino, the finest restaurant on the harbor, specializing in the local seafood with wonderful water views. Cassis rests at the foot of Europe’s highest cliff and is known for its famous calanques--miniature fjords among towering white-stone cliffs. This afternoon we cruise these Mediterranean inlets with our good captain who has been sailing these waters for over thirty years. Dinner is an adventure to discover on your own in Lourmarin among the nice array of cafes, bistros, and restaurants in the village center. You may decide to make reservations in the exquisite dining room at our hotel.
Day 6- Lourmarin - Gordes – Rousillon
Today is market day in our own dear village of Lourmarin so the morning will be yours to bargain with the artisans, vendors, and farmers in the market place or to enjoy a gras matinée at the hotel in comfort and style. Lunch will be yours to discover by sampling the offerings at the market or at one of Lourmarin’s reasonably priced tasty restaurants or brasseries. This afternoon we visit two of the most pristinely preserved Provençal villages voted amongst France’s 100 most beautiful villages, Gordes and Roussillon. In Gordes, the houses rise in picturesque tiers above the Vallé d’Imergue on the edge of the Vaucluse plateau. It is pleasant to walk through this charming town along the calades - small, paved, sometimes stepped alley ways lined with gutters defined by two rows of stone - with vaulted passageways, arcades of old, tall houses and rampart ruins. The shops, craft shops and market add to the bustle. Roussillon stands on a unusual site on the highest of the hills between the Coulon valley and Vaucluse plateau. These striking hills, composed of ochre rock of 16 or 17 different shades featured in the local houses, enhance the village and the surrounding countryside. All along there will be time for charming boutique shopping including colorful local pottery. Dinner tonight will be the cherry on the cake, as we dine at one of Provence’s finest restaurants, the Michelin-starred Auberge La Feniere for a meal to remember!
Day 7- Avignon
Following breakfast we transfer to the Avignon train station to continue our journey homeward.