Today we will have breakfast at the hotel and then we are off to explore Avignon on a private walking tour with our local guide. As we wander through town we will see the Pope’s Palace- a UNESCO world heritage site, Saint Benezet bridge (the legendary Pont d’Avignon), The Jardin des Doms and more until we end up in Les Halles, the fabulous food market. After the tour, this is a great place to hang out, sniff and taste your way around, grab a few things and sit down for lunch. You are free the rest of the day to explore or relax as you please. Meanwhile, in the app you will find a list of some of the locally recommended delicious restaurants in Avignon for dinner on your own this evening – bon appetite!
Sunday, Avignon – Isle sur la Sorgues-Coustellet-Chateauneuf du PapeThis morning we’ll have breakfast in the hotel and then we will load up our bags into our coach and head off to one of the best markets in Provence and maybe even in France! The Sunday market at L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, “The Venice of Provence”, has it all – a food market, “brocante”(flea market) and antique market all in one so you can buy everything from artisanal cheese to an antique wardrobe! Stroll along the streets lined with vendors and flower-filled riverside cafés. Check out the waterwheels, do some great people watching and take a peek into the local church. Taste your way along the vendors sampling tapanade, olive oil and cheese! When you have totally whet your appetite, find a waterside or garden café and relax with a cool glass of some local rose and a nice lunch. If you are looking for a reservation at somewhere a little out of the crowded market, then check out our app for suggestions. Some of the smaller restaurants fill up fast on market day, so make sure to reserve in advance.
Afterwards, since one cannot visit Provence without seeing some of the gorgeous lavender that paints the valleys in myriad shades of purple during mid-summer, we’ll head to nearby Coustellet to visit the Musée de Lavande (Lavender Museum) where we will learn about the different types and uses of lavender and see how it is processed, from growing to distillation. (Yes, of course we had to include something with distillation!)
Then we head to our Chateau, located just outside of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.This evening, you are invited to join us for “Ruth and Mike’s Favorite Provence Vacation Dinner”: a casual picnic al fresco, weather permitting, of local meats and cheeses, fresh bread, fruit, wine and beer. If you prefer to dine out, taxi and local restaurant info can be found in your BBV app.Breakfast, Optional Picnic Dinner
Monday- Roussillon and Gordes
After we fuel up at breakfast this morning we’ll head to the stunning town of Roussillon, where the quarries which once supplied ochre for products such as dye and paints in fabulous hues from crimson to gold now stand like a mini Grand Canyon. We’ll descend into Les Sentiers des Ocres for a magnificent but easy walk through the dazzling red and yellow sand cliffs. (The short version is only ½ hour or you can opt for a longer trail of about 45min to an hour.) Afterwards, you will have free time to stroll around the town, explore the shops and galleries and climb to the top of the viewing area beside the church for a superb panoramic view.
From here, we will head to nearby Gordes, stopping for photos of the breathtaking view of this popular village perched on the top of a steep hill. The narrow and sometimes arcaded medieval lanes invite you to explore and see what is around each corner of this charming village. Take some time to explore and then soak in the atmosphere over lunch on a shaded patio in one of the local restaurants.
Next, Provence in the summer demands a good rosé to drink poolside in the afternoon or anytime, really. So, we are off to a local winery that we discovered just last year for a visit and tasting of their amazing rosés and other local styles.
This evening, we will dine at the château or nearby.
This morning we are heading out a bit later than usual so you can indulge in a second croissant or maybe even sleep in a bit, why not? You are on vacation after all! Our plan today is to head into nearby Châteauneuf-du-Papefor a tasting of some of the best from this famous region. After you’ve had a chance to whet your appetites, you’ll have some free time to wander around the town; maybe do a few more tastings and have lunch at one of the local restaurants.
Then we’ll head back to our Chateau where you can relax by the pool or learn how to play Pétanque; you may have seen groups of French residents enjoying this relaxed game of boules in some of the village squares or park “boulodromes”; It is an institution in the South of France and is quite fun, especially while enjoying an aperitif!
This evening, those who are feeling inspired will join in on a cooking class and help prepare tonight’s fabulous dinner, the rest of the group is free to relax until dinner is served!
Wednesday – Day to Relax at the Château
Today is yours to spend as you please. Relax poolside with a good book and a glass of wine, or perhaps a run through the vineyards to work off some of last nights dinner? There are numerous options for touring on your own in the surrounding areas, and taxis and suggestions for both activities and dining will be included in your trip app and from your tour directors. Picnic makings for a light lunch will be available if you are spending the day at the chateau.
Thursday – Le Baux-Paradou
Today we will spoil your senses with amazing sights, tastes and experiences. We’ll start by touring the vestiges of Château des Baux, an 11th century fortress, perched high on a rocky outcropping. The views from up here seem endless, as if you are at the top of the world. If we are lucky, we may even be there during a demonstration of the giant catapult! Afterwards we’ll have some free time to explore the town which dates back to the 10th century.
Then we head to one of our favorite restaurants in Provence, Le Bistro du Paradou, which we “discovered” years ago, thanks to cookbook author and James Beard award recipient, Patricia Wells. Their plate du jour and amazing cheese selection will likely put you into a food coma, but if you can’t indulge while you are on vacation, then what’s the point?
Once we have finished our dessert, wine and cafes at Paradou, we will head back to Le Baux for the Carrières de Lumières. This extraordinary multimedia experience is held in the chalk quarries. Upon entering the cool caverns, we become surrounded by music accompanying images from the works of famous artists, which are projected larger than life onto all the surfaces of the rock, from ceiling to floor. It is a total immersion, as if you are walking into the paintings!
This evening, dinner is on your own. Taxi and local restaurant info can be found in your BBV app.
Friday | Secret Truffle Hunting Location – Menerbes
Put on your hunting togs today! After breakfast, we are off to do some truffle hunting! On our truffle hunting excursion, we will go behind the scenes of Provence’s most secretive business to learn how truffles are cultivated and truffle dogs are trained. We’ll go on a hunt for France’s elusive “black gold” with professional truffle hunters who will share the tricks of the trade with us. Finally, we’ll finish up with a sampling of fresh truffle hors d’oeuvres and Champagne. En route back to our chateau, we’ll make a stop at one of the neaby picturesque villages mentioned in Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence, where you’ll have time to explore, enjoy some lunch at one of the cafes and maybe even indulge in a bit of souvenir shopping.
This evening, we will enjoy freshly prepared Provencal cuisine at a local restaurant.
Saturday – Vaison la Romaine
We will spend today in one of Provence’s most magical cities. Vaison la Romaine. Vaison la Romaine is a unique and interesting town in that it is divided into 3 areas, each representing different time periods. The Roman ruins and the modern town are down in the valley; then, as you cross over a bridge from the 1st century AD, you will be led into the medieval town which winds its way up a rocky cliff.
We will start our visit today with a guided tour of the ruins and some time to explore the museum housed there. Then we will head up to the medieval part of town for a casual lunch at a local café. As with many towns that are so picturesque and historic, there are a number of talented artists living here. We are happy to point you in the direction of some of their galleries before you head off to explore a bit on your own. The upper town is a wonderful place to wander, with cobblestone pathways and staircases that lead towards the ruins of a castle at the top of the hill. If you are feeling ambitious enough, you might decide to climb all the way to the top. But don’t worry if this is not your thing; wandering leisurely through the ancient town is magical in itself and will provide for some great photo ops.
This evening, we’ll enjoy a farewell dinner accompanied by local wine.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Sunday – Sorgues- Avignon TGV
Time for a final breakfast at the Chateau before our transfer to the Avignon TGV station then on to wherever your travels will bring you.
Au revoir until next time!