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SUGGESTED EXCURSIONS
...our DRIVING TOURS...
All our excursions start from Avignon or Aix-en-Provence. Daily flight from the U.S. to Paris Charles de Gaulle airport
are operated by major air companies. A three days per week flight from N.Y. City JFK airport to and from Nice-Côte
d’Azur airport is operated by Delta/Air France. Transfers to and from both airports to Avignon or Aix-en-Provence can
be provided.
Provençal poppies field
  
Senanque abbey
Lavender fields
Day four: Fontaine de Vaucluse, Gordes, les Bories

Pick-up at 9 a.m. at your hotel lobby (duration: 8 hrs.)


Our day begins with a short drive (about 45 minutes) to one of the most visited villages of France (a million tourists every year), Fontaine de Vaucluse.
The name "Vaucluse", originates from the latin "Vallis clausa" (the enclosed valley).
Aside from being a charming typical Provençal village, Fontaine de Vaucluse is better known for hosting a spring: the fifth world most extensively studied spring, the deepest submerged abyss known today!
On the way to the spring, we'll be going through an old paper mill, where we will learn how paper was hand made, and still is, before your eyes, using 15th. century techniques.
We can later climb up to the Bishops of Cavaillon castle, which still offers a dramatic view over the spring.
By 11 o'clock we'll be on our way to the hill perched village
Gordes. Due to its privileged position, its exceptional charm and its typical architecture, Gordes has been listed as "one of the most beautiful villages of France". While strolling around the tiny streets which climb up between the tall houses, you will discover here and there beautiful old doorways, arcades and walls of flat stone perfectly restored, and on the other side, there is the panorama of the valley and mountains of Luberon.
Lunch at the restaurant l'Estellan, where a truly gourmet meal will be enjoyed in the terrace, while listening to the magic sound of cicadas...

Drive to the dry stone village of Bories (5-10 minutes)
The origin of the "bories" at Gordes is believed to date back to the time of the Ligurians who lived in the region several centuries before our era. Also known as "Gallic huts", these traditional dwellings are built using local dry stones without mortar. The village was restored in the seventies and looks as it did when it was abandoned at the beginning of the 19th. century (200 years ago…).
Then back to your hotel for dinner and rest, ready for the next day adventure…










Day Five: on the footsteps of Van Gogh.

Pick-up at 9 :00 a.m. at your hotel lobby (duration: 10 hrs.)

Your tour guide will unveil for you the charmes of Arles, city of arts and history leaning on the south bank of the Rhône river, rich in important traces of roman-gaulish times: the Roman Amphitheatre, the Arenas, the imperial baths of emperor Constantine who used to spend summer vacations there… All magnificent buildings which have defied time and are still nowadays used to host cultural events and...corridas!
Vincent Van Gogh came to Arles at the end of the 19th. century and produced hundreds of drawings, sketches and paintings of the most suggestive sites of this beautiful city.
Follow his footsteps in the small squares, the alleys, the still living cafes, restaurants and houses celebrated by the artist paintings.

Lunch 
We mentioned corridas a little earlier… Anybody for a Spanish lunch?
We suggest a touch of exoticism at the
Andaluz restaurant famous for his tapas bar and its unique gipsy atmosphere.

Drive to Saint Paul de Mausole monastery, Van Goghs'hospital.
The monastery was once a home for mentally ill patients. Van Gogh was admitted in May 1889, after having left Arles, hoping to find rest and cares to sooth his suffering.
During his staying there, he painted over 150 canvasses in the area around St. Rémy and the Alpilles mounts. The poppies, olive trees, wheat fields are still there to be seen, sometimes with the reproduction of Van Gogh's paintings next to them to compare…
Visit of his bedroom (a remake), the cloister, the gardens where the artist used to promenade.
This excursion is one of the longest ones, time wise. Return to the hotel by 7 p.m.

 
Day seven: the "longest day"!

Pick up at 9:00 a.m. at your hotel lobby (duration: 12 hrs.)

Driving tour to the Verdon Canyon.
Don't forget to bring your camera and be ready to carry out a splendid photo reportage!
You will in fact be introduced to one of the major tourist sights of Provence, the Verdon Canyon, where gigantic cliffs of calcareous rocks are the result of water erosion. This is the most beautiful canyons of the Old Continent and one of most grandiose in the world offering a spectacular view of protected natural spaces, rich in fauna and flora, surrounded by dramatic panoramas!

Lunch
Reservation at the "Bastide de Moustiers" possible.
The restaurant is run by famous chef Alain Ducasse and is one of the most renowned in the region. Specialties of provençal inspired dishes seasoned with provençal herbs and freshly picked vegetables.

Driving tour to Aix en Provence: on the footsteps of Cezanne.
Following a short panoramic photo stop to the St. Victoir mount, painted under various degrees of shades and light by Paul Cezanne, you will be taken to the city where the famous painter was born.
In Aix you can visit Cezanne's studio and take a stroll down the famous Cours Mirabeau, lined with centuries old plane-trees, cafes, restaurants, and enjoy some provençal artcraft shopping (ceramics, lavender soaps, perfumes…) in the Cours street market.
Your breathtaking day has come to an end and it's time to go back to your hotel , wandering weather you're still in France or maybe…Italy…Turkey…Spain…?
The magic of Provence has worked once again!



Cezanne’s studio
Day six: a day in Camargue, cruise on the Rhône river canals, Aigues Mortes

Pick-up at 8 :30 a.m. at your hotel lobby (duration: 10 hrs.)
Today excursion consists of a drive across the Camargue delta National Parc, with stops in the town of Sainte Marie de la mer (mentioned in the best seller "the Da Vinci code…), visit of the fortified village of Aigues Mortes and finally a 2 hours cruise on a barge down the Rhône river canals to le Grau du Roi.
After leaving
Avignon, shortly past the city of Arles, you'll gradually notice a change in colors and shapes of the environment: the light of reflected marshes on the road will at times blare your eyesight. The vegetation becomes rare. The first ponds surrounded with flexible cat-tails will show up.
You will want to stop, to make sure that those white horses, black bulls and pink flamingos are real, and go for your camera, just in case…
At the town of
Saintes Maries de la Mer you will see how its Andalusian originated gipsies made their unique rather peculiar dwellings: small one storey huts with thatched roofs.
I have personally found myself reluctant to take pictures of these houses, kind of felt like an intruder…

The excursion continues to the wall surrounded town of Aigues Mortes which saw King Louis the 9th. (also known as St. Louis) sail for the 7th. crusade in the year 1248.
Lunch at les "Arcades" restaurant, located in a quiet place, close to the square Saint Louis, in a 16th. century building, it celebrates 30 years of existence. The common cuisine with its best regional products and the inventive mind of chef Jean-Marie Mercier match to the exacting standards of gastronomy of regional specialities, grilled fish, bouillabaisse (soup of fish), tellines (seafood), meticulous cooking.
Afternoon in Aigues Mortes (cruise at 3 p.m.)
In the year 1240, Saint Louis decided to build a city close to his kingdom in order to have a direct access to the Mediterranean Sea. That ought to be here in Aigues-Mortes, in an area of marshes, sand and water. Seven centuries later, the fortification still dominates the Camargue as one of the most well preserved medieval French building.                                             
After a walk around the town alleys, and visit of the ramparts and the Tour Constance, you will board on the "Bateau St. Louis" for a two hours cruise along the canals all the way down to the Grau du Roi, stopping on the way at a local ranch where you will be shown how bulls are raised and trained. Of course you'll have made sure your cam batteries are charged and you have enough space in your memory cards…
You'll be taken back to your hotel in Avignon by 6 p.m., a little tired perhaps, but happy to have discovered another face of beautiful Provence, and feel that you… have fallen in love with it!

restaurant "Les Arcades"
NEW!!!
                                    TWO DAYS IN THE FRENCH RIVIERA
                                                                   or
                                one day excursion to one of these towns by choice:
                     
St. Tropez, St. Paul de Vence, Nice, Montecarlo
  
St.Tropez
St. Tropez became "St. Trop" back in 1950, when the Parisian artistic and intellectual world, bewitched by the charm of the small port, started to move down to "St Too" to spend the summer under Mediterranean skies. There, on the little fishermen port, met for years Sagan, Picasso, Prévert and all other sort of artists . The myth was even more accentuated with the arrival of Brigitte Bardot in the Sixties. She hasn't moved away ever since…
St. Tropez is best appreciated, in April, Mars, May, June and September, when the town will give out most of its charm once the crowds of summer holiday makers will have left back to more northern latitudes. Then old St Tropez will appear with its narrow charming lanes and flowered with warm colors.
Starting early in the morning, the "place aux Herbes" (literally the "Herbs square") will offer the visitors vegetables, fruits and flowers, next to the marina where some fishermen sell their fish on the market, not far from the famous cafes "the Gorilla" and "Sénéquier".
A typical provençal market takes place each Tuesday and Saturday morning on the Place of the Lices.

To visit:

The old port. Place of the Lices. Rue Gambetta, La Place de l'Ormeau, its 13th. Century church, and its yellow and ochre bell-tower. Musée de l'Annonciade and its Paul Signac, Braque, Matisse, Utrillo, Van Dongen, Bonnard, Dufy collection... and, of course, the "Maison des papillons".

St. Paul de Vence
Built on its rocky outcrop by order of François I°, and surrounded by its ramparts, St Paul is certainly one of the most beautiful villages in Provence.
The beauty of the surrounding area, quality of life and exceptional light has inspired numerous famous artists, painters, writers and poets, some of whom took up residence in the village. You can find signatures from some of these famous artists at the Fondation Maeght which has a large collection of paintings, sculptures, drawings and other graphic works from the XX°century.
Walk around the narrow and so picturesque streets of the village, from the Porte Royale to the Porte Sud via the (pedestrianised) and you will discover magnificent stone façades from the XVI° and XVIII° centuries. Lose yourself in the maze of charming streets, the floral exuberance of the gardens, the little shady squares, ancient fountains, gateways and porches, or wonderful windows and you'll see why St Paul is a favourite subject for photographers.
Visit some of the artists' and craft workshops or museums or go shopping in the provençal boutiques (often full of visitors in summer...).
From the ramparts, wonderful views over the surrounding hills, the Côte d'Azur and of course the sea. No need to repeat that the landscapes are magnificent... St Paul de Vence is true to its reputation as an exceptional and unique place...But let's not say it too loud, St Paul is still a small village which shouldn't be disfigured by large car parks capable of hosting convoys of coaches!!


To visit :

The Collégiale church and its treasure. Chapel St Mathieu.
Museum : Fondation Maeght - paintings, sculptures, drawings, ceramics.
Local history museum. Municipal museum.
Nice and Montecarlo
Nice, the fifth largest city in France, acts as a magnet attracting people from all over the world, for a multitude of reasons, Not only renowned for its grace, Nice has become a hub for research in industry, science and advanced technology since the creation of such centers as Acropolis and Sophia Antipolis. The Palais de Congrès, a convention center, can accomodate diverse functions and the international airport has a capacity that only Paris can better.

Both elegant and simple, Nice charm comes from its exceptional climate as well as its beauty. Even in the winter the café terraces are filled with people happily drinking and contemplating the ultra famous Promenade des Anglais. Always in flower this wonderful walk follows along the bay, looking out onto the Baie des Anges and the beaches on one side, and on the other such luxury hotels as the Negresco.

The architecture of Nice can be astonishing with the wild exaggerations of the Belle Epoque style or the Baroque influenced houses and marisions on the hills of Mont Boron. Fabulous creations have been realized in the floral gardens and parks of the hills of the Chateau, the Chambrun park or the Espace Masséna.

The only way to get to know the real Nice is by strolling through the ochre colored typical narrow streets listening to the "Niçois" speaking their own language (Nissart) and by tasting their savoury cooking, One mustn't miss the onion, anchovy and olive tarts called Pissaladières, the vegetable and tuna sandwiches known as Pan Bagnat, the Salade Niçoise or the famous Ratatouille (tomatoes, eggplants and zucchini squash stew).

The main cooking ingredient is olive oil of course, and many of the dishes are garnished with the succulent little black Nice olives called Caillettes. Nice is also a city of art and culture and after Paris, has the higest number of museums in France.

The city is animated at night as well as in the day especially in the summer with the Nice Jazz Festival held in the arena, the gardens of Cimiez, and the flower contest on the Promenade des Anglais in which participate the prettiest women on the Côte d'Azur (French Riviera). Each day of the week, the picturesque flower market on the Cours Soleya takes place.. Each districts of Nice is alive with markets, boutiques and restaurants making the whole city a lively place to visit.

Situated on the Cote d'Azur between Cap d'Ail and Menton, just a few kilometers from the Italian Riviera, Monaco is one of those magic glamorous places that has a world wide reputation.
Monaco is a sovereign state, independent and prosperous. It has its own government and the head of state is His Highness Prince Albert.
There is no doubt that Monaco has a privileged location. This tiny capital (1,95km. with a soaring economy, is built against the mountains (Monaco is nicknamed "The Rock"), and spreads down to the shores of the Riviera. 31 hectares have been added to Monaco's surface by building several sky scrapers right on the water.
There is sun here almost all the time, and fabulous parks and gardens have been laid out throughout the city. There are sumptuous boutiques with the latest fashions, palacial luxury hotels, and very chic restaurants. The cultural and sports centers are fitted out to perfection. Everywhere you look there are long limousines gliding, or little Porsches zipping around the famous curves of Monte Carlo. This is Monaco.
This perfect little Paradise is one of the "IN" places for the international jet set and the very famous. It is also, understandably, a favorite hunting ground for the notorious ""parapazzis".
(Credits to: http://www.provenceweb.fr, from which these texts were inspired)

DAY ONE : the Popes’ Palace and the Val de Benediction cloister.


Pick-up at 9 :00 a.m. at your hotel lobby (duration: 8 hrs.)

Your driver-guide will be waiting for you at the hotel reception.
He/she will have picked you up at the train station or the airport the day before, made sure that everything was working fine and discussed with you the last details of your next day excursion.


Drive to the Popes' Palace in Avignon.
The palace construction begun in 1335 and it is known to be the biggest Gothic Palace in all of Europe, equivalent in size to 4 Gothic cathedrals!
You will be guided to explore the 20 rooms and more, visit the private apartments where Popes lived for over 70 years.
Then after a stroll across the Palace gardens overlooking the city, walk down to the famous "Avignon bridge", built in 1177, after a young sheperd named Bénezet who claimed to have heard Divine voices.

Lunch
After a short drive to the Ile de la Barthelasse, you're off for a typical Provençal meal at the restaurant Le Bercail, from which you will enjoy a unique "one million dollar view" to the ramparts of Avignon and the Popes' Palace.
Walking tour in Villeneuve-les-Avignon.
Your tour guide will then escort you for a walking tour in History through this charming fortified little town across the Rhone river, facing Avignon, which used to be the frontier between the Kingdom of France and the provençal Pope's possessions.
Visit of the Carthusian monastery of the
Val de Benediction, on of the biggest in the world, discover how monks lived in the Middle Ages, admire frescos by Matteo Giovanetti.
End of your walking tour with views of Fort St. Andre and its abbey Italian styled gardens.
You will then be driven back to your hotel in Avignon, and eventually stop at the Place de l'Horloge for an evening "aperitif" drink before dinner.

DAY TWO: Pont du Gard, Saint Rémy de Provence, Glanum, les Baux de Provence.

Pick-up at 9 :00 a.m. at your hotel lobby (duration: 9 hrs.)

Your driver-guide is waiting for you at the reception ready to take you to Pont du Gard (30 to 40 minutes drive…).
There you will be astonished to see the biggest aqueduct from ancient Roman times, which used to supply running water to the city of Nimes and its surroundings, still in perfect conditions: a marvel of engineering work that has defied two millenniums, attracting scientists, artists and visitors from all over the world.
This magnificent monument is situated at the end of the Gardon Canyon. From its heights, one can admire the suggestive landscape of the valley and follow the flow of the river Gard, tributary of the Rhône river.

Drive to St. Remy de Provence
Located at the slants of the Alpilles mounts, the town that gave birth to Michel de Notre Dame, universally known as Nostradamus, will capture you in the charm of its streets and ancient fountains. In St. Rémy de Provence you can see the house where the famous diviner was born in 1503. Then you’ll be off to discover the ancient Roman site of Glanum, walk amongst the ruins of the Forum, monuments and baths in a gaulish-roman necropolis that dates from 30 B.C.

Lunch
After such an intense morning, you should be in good appetite and ready to have lunch in a unique open air terraced restaurant that we have selected for you, looking down at the Forum ruins, called "Taberna Romana", literally the "Roman Tavern".There you will get a taste of dishes in use in ancient Rome and have left a landmark in the history of modern gastronomy!

Drive to Les Baux de Provence
The village of Baux de Provence, classed as one of the most beautiful villages in France, is located at the very heart of the Alpilles mounts, on a rocky plateau at 268 yrds. high. It dominates exceptional and breathtaking panoramas. At the end of an easy and pleasant walk (*)along various local Provençal artwork shops (shopping recommended!) the Citadel of le Baux at the end of the village unveil itself to you. Its surface covers more than 17 acres and allows the visitor to witness traces of the tumultuous past of the Baux de Provence: ruins of the medieval castle, siege machines, the cadastral chapel, the donjon, the Sarasin tower…In practice, the whole of the History of Provence told within a vast frame of rocks and stones!
At the end of this extraordinary day you’ll be back at your hotel just on time for dinner...
(*) Walking in the village can be a problem to disabled people

  

DAY THREE: wine tasting at Châteuneuf du Pape, Senanque Abbey

Pick-up at 9 a.m. at your hotel lobby (duration: 8 hrs.)
Picked-up by your by now friendly driver-guide (patiently waiting for you at the reception :-), you're off for another magic day of excursions to two of the best known resorts of Provence:
the village of Chateuneuf du Pape and its wineries and the mediaeval abbey of Senanque.
Located at about 30 minutes drive from Avignon, Chateauneuf du Pape offers to the visitor the sight of narrow sinuous streets punctuated by beautiful fountains, a castle from the 14th. century, medieval chapels and, of course, tasting one of the best wines of France:
Châteauneuf du Pape.

Vine cultivation, already known to the Gauls, was widely developed by the Romans. Monks were the first to clear the land and cultivate these vineyards and Bishops were instrumental in extending vine cultivation. In 1793, the wine growers were able to sell their wine at one third above the maximum price for local, as "Châteauneuf wine is known to be of superior quality in all seasons". The Marquis Tulle de Villefranche shipped his wines all over France, to Italy, Germany, Britain and also to Boston and Philadelphia in the United States.

For your wine tasting session we have chosen for you the Domain Mousset winery. Please, follow the link below (don't forget to come back to our website :…):
http://domainesmousset.com/index.php?langue=en

Lunch
Reservation at the Verger des Papes gourmet panoramic restaurant is possible.
The overview on the Rhône river valley is unique!

Drive to Senanque Abbey
After lunch a one hour pleasant drive across lavender covered valleys and fields (*) will lead you to one of the jewels of this part of Provence: the medieval abbey of Senanque.
Sitting at the bottom of a deep valley, Notre-Dame de Senanque remains one of the purest examples of primitive Cistercian architecture. A community of Cistercian monks still lives here. The entire 12th Century building is open for visits: the abbey church, cloister, dormitory, chapterhouse and calefactory. Since returning in 1988, a community of Cistercian monks has lived and prayed here. Notre-Dame de Senanque is an unique example of twelfth century Cistercian abbey, still alive and still standing.
We'll end our day driving back to Avignon through fruits orchards and poppies fields (summertime only).

(*) beginning of July to end of August

  
SALE CONDITIONS: 30% non-refundable deposit when booking, balance is payable on arrival. Please use the secure payment means as described during our booking correspondence.
CANCELLATIONS: the 30% deposit is non refundable.
PRICE INCLUDES: private driver-interpreter throughout the tour, private local guides, transport (air conditioned minivan or large sedan), all taxes and tolls.
PRICE DOES NOT INCLUDE: optional tipping, personal expenses, insurance, all entrance fees as per suggested itinerary, flights to and from France, accommodation expenses, drinks, and optional activities.


ALL OUR EXCURSIONS TO PROVENCE LAST AT LEAST 2 DAYS