Vibrant color, abundant sunlight, enticing aromas, open air markets, and a friendly, easy-going local culture – there is much to explain why travelers, exiles and artists have flocked to Provence for centuries. The Romans left magnificent reminders of their empire: the Pont du Gard, the Arena in Arles, the Coliseum in Nimes and the Amphitheatre in Orange – the setting for a renowned opera festival each summer.
To the north, Mont Ventoux soars high over the landscape, while the Dentelles de Montmirail rise above the renowned vineyards of the Rhone Valley – Gigondas, Beaumes-de-Venise, and Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Further south, the sculpted crags of the Alpilles hills frame Les Baux and St.Remy, where you can visit the actual scenes portrayed in Vincent Van Gogh’s masterpieces. Nearby, Arles, Avignon, and Aix-en-Provence have outstanding museums and galleries, excellent restaurants, and important landmarks, not least of which is teh Papal Palace in Avignon, home to the Popes during the 14th Century.
The Luberon Valley, to the east, was made famous in Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence, and is noted for its picturesque hilltop villages such as Gordes, Menerbes, and Roussillon. A lively market can be found in one village or another each day of the week, while the Sunday market at Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is a mecca for antiques collectors. Whether it is apricot blossoms in April, lavender in July, sweet figs in September, boules and pastis in the shade of platane trees, or a lazy summer day observing village life from a favorite cafe, Provence is a year-round feast for the senses.
For your enjoyment this evening, a light arrival buffet will be laid out for you by your Local Host composed of regional favorites and delicacies that have been chosen with you and your guests’ tastes in mind. Enjoy this buffet of food while you settle into your home away from home and start to fall into life in France!
This morning you will delve right into French life with a visit to the local Isle-sur-la-Sorgue market. Stop by a local cafe for a coffee first and enjoy the sights and sounds of French life as you explore this charming village.
We suggest you do a quick tour of the market before buying anything; get your bearings then go around again to buy the best of what you’ve seen. Don’t be afraid to ask vendors how to prepare an unfamiliar vegetable, of if you can sample the olives, or strawberries. Ask to taste the cheese or the saucisson before you buy; most vendors will be happy to oblige. There are lots of nice places to enjoy a leisurely lunch before heading back to the villa.
After a long day of travel on Saturday and exploring the town all morning, many guests are interested in heading back to the villa for the remainder of the afternoon for a refreshing swim or a nap in the garden before dinner.
Enjoy cocktails on the patio and then enjoy dinner, either in or out. Your Local Host will recommend a few of their favourite local restaurants to try.
Today you will discover some of France’s most beautiful landscapes with a guided bike tour. There is truly nothing like road riding in Europe, especially in France. The roads are quiet and scenic, and the drivers are respectful. And every few miles there is a shop, cafe or restaurant where you can get supplies or a bite to eat.
Escorted by the sounds of the cicadas through the garrigues and guarded by olive trees, our professional guide will take you on a ride into the heart of Les Alpilles, the area surrounding the villa renowned for its olive groves and vineyards. Enjoy a picnic at Domaine de Lauzières.
Truffle Hunting (see our story: A Truffle Guide)
If you prefer to hunt and not cycle, try Truffle Hunting! With the aid of a professional Trufficulteur and his truffle dog, search through the caves and truffle patches. Stop at the Maison de la Truffe et du Vin in Menerbes for a Truffle infused lunch and wine tasting.
After a busy morning of biking, make your way back to the villa to relax and unwind with a restorative massage. France has long been associated with a healthy way of life and what better way to appreciate this lifestyle than to have a masseur relieve any tension you may have brought with you!
Then take the night off and have a private chef prepare an authentic French meal for you! Relax on the terraces with an aperitif as the scene of the chef’s delicious creations waft through your villa.
Home to rocky mountain racing roads, lavender and olive trees, Provence has also been making wine for over 2600 years, making it the oldest wine-producing region in France.
Today you will visit the vineyards and cellars of four leading wine estates in each of the four Rhône cru wine villages of Gigondas, Rasteau, Vacqueyras and Chateauneuf du Pape with an expert.
The tour includes the tasting of a few different wines per estate during which the guide explains the tasting characteristics of the Rhône grape varieties, the ageing potential of the wines and the varying influences of the terroir and cellar methods on the wines that we taste. At most of the wine estates you will indulge a small selection of cheese with which to taste and appreciate the wines.
Dinner at the villa
After being out all day why not take it easy tonight by pairing some of the excellent wines you have purchased during the day with a take home meal — homemade lasagna, tagliatelle, or roast chicken are some of the options– from the local catering shop. Your Local Host will arrange and place the order for you to pick up upon return. Or if you are thinking that you want a full service meal, your local host can arrange for a local cook to come in and have dinner prepared for when you return from the vineyards.
Start your day off with a trip to the St. Remy market to stock up on some fine French delicacies, beautiful souvenirs (soaps, baskets and fabrics) and gourmet items. Stay a little longer and explore the village. The old town, with its winding streets, fountains, archways and intriguing mix of traditional shops and upscale boutiques, is certainly St. Rémy’s main attraction. You may also wish to discover Les Antiques (the Roman ruins of Glanum), and for art lovers, exploring the views which inspired some of Van Gogh’s most famous works when he was a patient at the clinic of the Cloître St. Paul le Mausolée is a must. We suggest bringing some delicacies home with you for a light dinner or a barbecue on your terrace.
This afternoon you will have the tasty opportunity to learn the art of French pastry-making from a patissier. Your Chef will come to your villa to teach you how to make sweet and savory treats. Make sure to bring a pen and some paper to take notes – these are great lessons to bring home as a souvenir and will surely impress your family and friends.
Today partake in a historical tour of Provence starting with the medieval town of Uzès and the Pont du Gard (a roman aqueduct built 2000 years ago). The morning will be dedicated to discovering the magnificent Pont du Gard and the town of Uzès that is very unique with plenty of charm with its medieval market squareand castle that stands supreme surrounded by 3 medieval towers. The architectural masterpiece, The Pont du Gard, is the most visited ancient monument in France and is a listed world heritage site by UNESCO. The Pont du Gard aqueduct remains a marvel of Antiquity and a true technical feat. Exploring the different paths, discover some of the site’s most beautiful nooks and crannies and find out more about the history of the place.
Secure dinner reservation at L’Oustau de Baumanière, world famous and highly demanded Michelin starred gastronomic restaurant at Les Baux de Provence. Local tip: ask your Local Host for the current menu and be sure to secure your reservation well in advance.
We kept the best for last…shopping? Yes, but when combined with historical and cultural discoveries it’s even greater! Choose from the two most characteristic cities of Provence, Avignon and Aix en Provence, both offering many shops and boutiques but also rich in history, architecture and culture.
Located in the heart of Provence, Avignon has everything needed to enchant you with its art de vivre and rich architectural heritage. The largest Gothic palace in Europe and epicenter of the city, the Palais des Papes was the residence of pontifical sovereigns during the 14th century. Towards the edges of the city, the Pont d’Avignon – celebrated across the world – is also an amazing must-see witness to the city’s history. Avignon, surrounded by its ancient ramparts, is very suitable to explore on foot.
Through its narrow streets, you can discover many old monuments: chapels, churches, buildings from the Middle Ages. Art can be found on every corner, a true open-sky museum.
Discover elegant fashion boutiques, antique dealers, regional products, Provençal gourmet cuisine and Côtes du Rhône wine. During the summer, thanks to its annual festival, the city shines with a unique atmosphere, transforming into one giant concert and theater hall. At the heart of Avignon, the Place de l’Horloge is lined with shady plane trees and filled with cafés where patrons sit, and people watch.
Aix En Provence
A slow-paced lifestyle and sultry Provençal charm make Aix-en-Provence an appealing destination. Bathed in the sunshine of its wonderful climate, the beauty of Aix-en-Provence is visible everywhere – especially in its lively streets and squares. In summer, days are easily spent strolling the shady boulevards. Aix-en-Provence has an elegance that reflects its noble heritage. Known as the “City of Counts” because the Counts of Provence once lived here, Aix-en-Provence has several impressive old aristocratic palaces. There are also hundreds of fountains; Aix-en-Provence is called the “City of a Thousand Fountains.” The city boasts two interesting historic areas: Vieil Aix and the Mazarin quarter divided by the beautiful avenue Cours Mirabeau. Other cultural attractions include the world-class Garnet Museum, Cézanne’s art studio, and a trail of sites that Cézanne frequented.
Time to pack up and say “Au Revoir” to your Local Host, the villa, and the French countryside. Your Local Host will be at your villa to see you off.