Combine a chef, a food expert, a sommelier, trips to local markets, a cooking class and a wine tasting in one of the world's great wine regions – and what follows is a mouth-watering portrait of Provence.
Food and art are passions in Southern France and key ingredients for the culturally curious. Paint in idyllic walks down lanes that inspired Cézanne in Aix, contemporary art on the grounds of a classic Provençal château, an insider tour with a van Gogh art scholar in St. Rémy, a picnic in a lavender meadow, exploring the Roman ruins of Glanum, soft landscapes changing hues in the waning sun, and a farewell at a private, family-owned winery in Châteauneuf-du-Pape... and the palette of our Provence tours becomes richer still.
Aix. Art. A Mansion Hotel
Tour begins: 3:00 PM, Le Pigonnet, Aix-en-Provence. A transfer is included from Marseille Provence Airport to Le Pigonnet in Aix-en-Provence. As it has millions of wayfarers before you – and not a few sailors from all corners of the globe – the old "port" of Marseille welcomes you to the south of France. And so commences a sensual journey through Provence… past lavender fields and ancient stone walls… a true feast for the senses. To the locals, Aix-en-Provence is simply “Aix.” Strolling its boulevards with a local guide, you’re taking in the same views that inspired Cézanne… Gauguin… van Gogh… Zola… no doubt ready to share your own – um – impressions of this charming old university town with the world. Aix’s grandest boulevard, the Cours Mirabeau, dates back to the 17th century. Lined with plane trees, elaborate fountains and opulent mansions, it invites a leisurely bike ride, a brisk walk, or a cognac in one of its many popular cafés. So what will it be… a drawing? A painting? A novel? Take your time to decide; there's no hurry. But first, join us for cocktails, canapés, and a sumptuous dinner in your 18th-century mansion hotel as we begin the ultimate Provence tour.
A Provençal Palette
Follow the footsteps of post-Impressionist painter Paul Cézanne through his hometown, Aix-en-Provence, today. See the landscapes he painted, the fields where local residents became his subjects, the views of Mont Sainte-Victoire that so inspired him, and the studio where he worked. Garner a few handy phrases en francais from your Tauck Director as you explore. Head just north of "Aix" to Château La Coste, a classic Provençal château, vineyard and estate whose heart – a 17th-century Venetian-style villa – is surrounded by olive groves, hilltops covered by oaks and almond trees, and hundreds of acres of lovingly tended vines. Discover works by some of Europe's greatest living artists on a walk through the château's expanding sculpture gardens, or visit its working organic winery, and enjoy lunch al fresco (weather permitting). Then return to Aix for a free afternoon and evening with dinner on your own in this inspiring city... and perhaps become inspired yourself to create a masterwork of your own...
A Feast for the Senses in Gordes
This morning, discover Luberon, part of France's "Golden Triangle" and indulge in a visual feast of fairy tale villages, meadows and moorlands that surround this magnificent region. Head off to Gordes late this morning for a stroll through the town’s arcaded medieval lanes before stopping by a market to pick up the makings of a traditional picnic lunch – perhaps a baguette, fruits and meats, cheese, olives and, naturellement, wine… whatever tempts your palate! Rich with color, chalk and red ochre cliffs, cedar forests and river-hewn gorges surround. Enjoy your picnic lunch in a Provençal meadow, then continue to your hotel in Gordes, overlooking the lovely village and the valley beyond. Dine this evening at the hotel, which sports a restaurant by a Michelin Star chef.
An Abbey, Ménerbes & Roussillon
Enjoy a morning hike to the medieval Abbaye de Sénanque; founded in the 12th century, it is still tended by a small community of Cistercian monks. Next, visit Ménerbes, which author Peter Mayle made world-famous in A Year in Provence; enjoy a delicious lunch of typical French fare, then follow it with an easy hike through the quarries of Roussillon, where the deep ochre used in the town's architecture harmoniously blends into the warmth of the natural surroundings. Return to your hotel in Gordes, where the evening is yours to spend as you wish.
Vaucluse and Van Gogh's Asylum
Deep beneath the hills of Provence, the most powerful spring in France bursts forth at nearly 20,000 gallons per second to feed the Sorgue River, emerging in Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, once the home of the Italian poet, Petrarch. Visit St-Rémy-de-Provence, home to the asylum of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole, where legendary Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh went to heal and hide out... and where he created over 150 works, including Starry Night. After time to explore and enjoy lunch on your own in St-Rémy, you'll glimpse inside the artist’s troubled mind as van Gogh scholar Mathilde Duvilliers shares insights on his complicated life, and reads from his letters, while you walk in his footsteps at the asylum and its grounds. The ancients roamed here too; explore the ruins of the Roman city of Glanum, one of the largest and oldest archaeological sites in France. Arrive late afternoon at Auberge de Cassagne & Spa in Le Pontet-Avignon for a three-night stay. In addition to its lovely gardens, the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant, where you'll enjoy dinner tonight, is a real treat!
A Taste of Medieval Avignon
On market day in Avignon, partake in the process of bringing great Provençal food from the market to the plate. Join a chef on a buying trip to an Avignon market – smelling, tasting, and feeling your way through the fresh produce, breads, meats and cheeses. Learn the chef’s kitchen secrets firsthand as you help prepare a traditional meal in a hands-on cooking lesson. And after a professional sommelier guides you through a tasting of fine Rhône wines, it’s time to eat… drink… and be very merry. You'll have free time this afternoon to spend as you wish. A bicycle ride? A walk? A long afternoon drink in a café? Tonight is yours to explore and dine on your own in Avignon; our shuttle can take you back from town to the hotel.
Pont du Gard, Avignon & Châteauneuf-du-Pape
A three-level, 2,000-year-old aqueduct spanning the River Gardon, the Pont du Gard stands as testimony to the Romans' amazing engineering skills and love of baths. Learn more about it as you walk the “pont” – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – and visit its new museum. Enjoy lunch on your own in Avignon and then take some free time to explore this history-rich town as you wish. This evening, travel to nearby Châteauneuf-du-Pape – one of the country's premier wine-growing regions – for a Tauck Exclusive at a private, family-owned winery. Celebrate the flavors of Provence with cocktails, canapés and local wine, followed by a spectacular dinner of Provençal specialties... a perfect finis to a marvelous Provençal journey!
Tour ends: Avignon. The warm, inviting colors… sun-kissed meadows… those amazing Provençal flavors… intangible sensory imagery that linger not only on the return to Marseille and on your flight home… but far beyond… A transfer is included from Auberge de Cassagne & Spa to Marseille Provence Airport; allow three hours for check-in... au revoir!