France: Provence

 

Walking Romantic Provence


 

There is something magical about the light in Provence - a region of contrasts and colorful luminescence.  Van Gogh, Cézanne and Gauguin found inspiration here for works which were to alter the course of art forever.  Our route takes us along cypress-lined country roads with medieval villages rising in the distance. The sights and scents of lavender, rosemary, sunflower and olive orchards become lasting memories for visitors to this beautiful region.

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Day 1 Gordes, Abbaye de Senanques - 8 to 16 kms/4.5 to 10 miles  fairly hilly .

Your guides will meet you as you get off the train in Avignon and then transfer to the to the Lubéron region made famous by Peter Mayle.  Our route will start in the hilltop village of Gordes.

            Gordes is one of the most spectacular hilltop villages in Provence, with its tiered houses leading up to the village center along the calades. These picturesque cobblestone paths switch back up the hill, passing under archways and past ancient fountains until it reaches the highest point upon which the town’s Renaissance castle stands, where we can take some time to explore its enticing maze of passageways and absorb the views its elevated position offers before starting off on our itinerary for today. Our route will lead us to the Abbaye de Sénanque where the Cistercian monks continue to cultivate the rows of lavender extending out from the harmonious cluster of 11th Century buildings.

      Our dinner tonight will be at La Gacholle in Gordes  with it’s breathtaking view over the Luberon Valley.

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Day 2  Dentelles de Montmirail- 8 to 19 kms/4.5 to 11.5 miles  Both options fairly hilly.

Our transfer will take us to  the most beautiful villages of the Vaucluse region - Vaison-La-Romaine and Seguret.  As the name implies, Vaison was originally a Roman city, and the extraordinary ruins found here are fascinating to visit.

In the afternoon we walk along the base of the Dentelles, going through the perched village of Seguret. Like so many of the medieval villages of Provence, Seguret was built on a hill, overlooking the vineyards below.  After the fall of Pax Romana, it was an instinct for survival to build at higher elevations; in modern times these  villages create an intriguing landscape from afar and exquisite views from their terraced streets.  We then transfer and visit the town of Gigondas, which is known for the locally produced red Grenache wine.

            Dinner in Gordes.

 

Day 3  Eyguières - 10 kms/6 miles  Mostly flat.

We’ll transfer to the small village of Eyguieres for the next three nights.  With its 250 old sycamore trees providing welcome shade and keeping the rooms and terraces cool - the pool, gardens and colorful walls, you will feel that you’ve truly arrived in Provence.

            After taking time to settle into your room, we will meet for a brief orientation before heading out for a short walk into the Vallée des Glauges.  Leaving the village, the Alpilles mountains will appear ahead of us. One can easily understand how Van Gogh was inspired by these landscapes as we walk along the white cliffs, we will arrive at the Domaine des Glauges where we will learn about and appreciate the regional wine. 

            Back at the mill you will have time to freshen up before we meet again, in good French fashion, for an aperitif to welcome you properly to Provence.

            Dinner on the terrace at the mill will be a fresh mix of traditional provençal cuisine, which is light and goes so well with the local wines of surprising character.

 

 

Day 4 Site de Calès - 8 to 16 kms/4.5 to 10 miles  fairly hilly with flat sections. 

This morning we will walk to the eastern end of Les Alpilles, an area less traveled by the tourists but as just beautiful and more authentic. We will skirt the olive orchards and climb to the site of Calès, which is nestled in a large natural cirque. The site is a troglodyte ensemble overlooked by the remains of the castle and medieval chapels. The village was inhabited from the 12th to the 16th century, when the castle was finally destroyed.

            This afternoon we have an optional cooking class in Salon de Provence. Ghyslaine Martin will show us a few of her mediterranean cooking secrets. Or we can visit the second to the last remaining regional soap factory of the world famous ‘savon de Marseille,’  a turn-of-the-century wonder that continues to produce the very pure olive oil soap by traditional means.

            Dinner tonight is in Salon for those opting for the cooking lesson or at the Moulin for those who feel otherwise.

 

           

DAY 5 Les Baux and the Alpilles - 15 kms/9 miles Mostly hilly.

Leaving Eyguières we will transfer to the medieval fortified village of Les Baux, perched on the top of jagged cliffs.  The route is a little hilly but the views along the way and the village itself make the effort worthwhile.  Les Baux was the stronghold of the so-called Lords of Baux, who for several hundred years controlled some 80 nearby towns and villages.  Today the lower village is alive and bustling, while the upper village, with its ruined fortress and free-standing walls and empty windows, seems a world away.  We will have time to visit and have lunch before continuing up along a trail leading to Mouriès. Today's stroll includes some of the most enchanting landscapes that we will come across this week.  Walking along small, quiet country roads we will pass through rustic farmland and the silvery expanses of the “immortal” olive groves.

            The Greeks originally brought the olive trees to Provence over 2500 years ago, and some of the originals might still be standing here, as they continually renew themselves.  Production of this precious fruit is a major portion of the local economy; we can attest to the variety of uses for the olive when we visit one of the local cooperative mills for a tour and tasting of their renowned oils.

            The valley that we pass through heading to Mouriès could be a scene dating from the Greek epoch,  peaceful and untouched as it is.  To complete this glorious day, let's head back to the mill in Eyguieres and take a refreshing dip in the pool.

            Dinner in nearby area restaurant.

 

Day 6  St. Rémy - 15 kms/9 miles  Mostly flat.

We will cross the Alpilles  as we transfer this morning St. Rémy de Provence, a large market town, whose history includes the birthplace of Nostradamus in 1503, and the St Paul monastery where Vincent Van Gogh spent 12 months painting some of his best-known works while on his daily walks.  Nearby is the Roman ruin of Glanum, built at the site of a pass across the Alpilles hills.  Once the barbarians overran Roman Provence in the third century, the streets and drains of Glanum were allowed to silt up with the runoff from the hills and the town gradually disappeared.  Van Gogh painted scenes from an olive grove while standing over the town, not realizing what a historical treasure was beneath his feet.

            Our walk will lead us to Château Romanin, a modern winery built on a site held to have mystical powers since ancient times. Here the wine is grown organically and stored in huge wooden casks.  These casks are placed in the aging room according to local magnetic and energy sources, a part of the method of producing wines known as ‘bio-dynamic’. We will end the day with a guided visit of Glanum, given in English by a local expert, providing us with a fascinating look at everyday life as it was 2000 years ago.  And, if there is time this afternoon, you might want to follow in the footsteps of Van Gogh, along a marked trail showing his works at the exact sites he painted from.

            Dinner tonight is at hotel

 

Day 7  Departure from Avignon

After out farewell breakfast,  we’re off to Avignon to catch the recommended train, or your guides will help with other arrangements

 

Provence Walking Tour Details 7 day/6 night :


Price:              Custom based on minimum of 4 guests

                       

Meals:                        All dinners, all breakfasts starting on Day 2, one picnic lunch
Wine/Water
  Kitty for Wine and Water with dinners will be offered and collected on night 1.

 

Visits:             Visit of Maître Cornille (Olive Oil Coop)

                        Château Romanin (wine tasting and visit)

                        Guided visit of the Roman ruins of Glanum

                        Visit of the Abbaye de Sénanque

                        Wine tastings

                        Cooking class (Optional- 95 EUROS a person)

                        Optional Balloon Ride:(200 EUROS per person)

 

Meet:              Train from Paris, Gare de Lyon: 11:24 am, arrives in Avignon: 14:20 pm
                  Check train times as trains depart directly from CDG airport.


 

Weather:      The average daytime temperatures from May to October are between 60 and 90 degrees with many sunny, clear days. 

 

Inclusions:   Complete pre-tour information kit

                        Transportation from initial rendezvous to final drop-off

                        7 nights accommodation in a charming and luxurious manor house

                        Support van and expertise of two trip leaders

                        Daily route notes and maps

                        Daily  transfers

                        Entrance fees for visits noted above

       

 

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