Come savor the pastoral beauty and romantic history of this walker’s paradise! We’ll visit historic château’s and castles, climb around ancient abbeys, walk through olive orchards and over rolling hills covered with vines laden with some of the world’s finest grapes. And, yes, we’ll try a few of the wines made from these grapes. Purple aromatic fields of lavender and acres of golden sunflowers – this is Provence. Sunny and warm, we’ll stroll through countryside immortalized by Cezanne and Van Gogh.
Our 11-day trip starts and ends in Avignon and explores the areas around Vaison-la-Romaine, St. Rémy and Gordes. Be prepared for a feast of color, scenic beauty, gourmet food and wines that keep calling you back for more. Our local guide will show you a part of Provence few ever see. Join us!
ITINERARY (May be changed at the discretion of the trip leader):
Pre-Trip The trip officially begins at 8:00 a.m. on Day 1. Transportation: We recommend that you take the train from Paris. The TGV “fast train” is usually quicker, less complex, and more enjoyable than flying. Should you decide to fly into Avignon, transportation from the airport will be available.
Day 1 After introductions, our first morning’s journey takes us to Vaison-la-Romaine, a town which is, at once, Roman, medieval, and Provincial. Wealthy citizens of the Roman Empire built luxurious villas in the first century of Christendom; Raymond built a chateau on a bluff overlooking the medieval village, which he then had moved into the hills for protection after the end of the Pax Romana. Today locals and visitors alike mingle through the markets and cafés in the shade of giant sycamore trees. After lunch in the village, we will walk up to our hotel in the midlevel section of town to refresh, and then transfer to the trail head in the village of Crestet. We will have a lovely, gentle walk of about 2 hours back to the hotel. This is our base for the next four nights, giving us plenty of time to wander the cobblestone medieval streets of the upper village, and take an optional visit to the Roman ruins.
Day 2 Near Vaison are the wine villages of Cairanne, Rasteau, and Roaix, linked by trails and each with a Romanesque church at the top of the village. We transfer to Cairanne and begin the undulating part of the walk in the cool of the morning. On the way out we are treated to a panoramic view of the village we have just left. The first village we come to is Rasteau. From the view of Rasteau’s 12th Century Romanesque church we will see that we are surrounded by the vineyards that will soon become Resteau’s famous sweet aperitif wine – which we will have to try tonight. Next is Roaix, a smaller village, with it’s own Romanesque church and views of surrounding vineyards. Our final destination is to visit and sample some of the wonderful wines of this area at a small family run winery located just before the village of Cairanne.
Day 3 Today we tackle Mont Ventoux, rising a sheer 5000 feet from the valley floor below. At 6260 feet above sea level, Mont Ventoux is not a terrifically high peak, but a very dramatic one that dominates the surrounding valleys on three sides. In times past local shepherds would drive their sheep across these lower valleys to summer on the mountain’s slopes. Today this tradition is celebrated during the festivals of the Trans-Humance with a special torte made in seven layers, to represent the seven days it took to drive the sheep to the summer pastures. Not only is it a very tasty dish, but it is fun to guess the vegetable used in each of the layers. Our walk begins on a botanical trail on Mt Serein. The first half of the 5.5-mile walk is in a lovely wooded area. Then we move onto the bare flanks of Mt Ventoux and ascend (optional) to the top. We will be treated to magnificent views of the surrounding area and on a clear day the beginnings of the Alps! This is our most challenging hike of the tour, but well worth the climb! (5.5-miles, 2000’ elevation gain)
Day 4 After breakfast we transfer to the nearby village of Gigondas. Apart from its scenic beauty, nestled against the craggy hills known as the Dentelles de Montmirail, Gigondas is known for the excellent Côte de Rhône wine unique enough to have its own appellation, or name of origin. Our hike takes up to the very base of the Dentelles, so named because their rugged outline seems lace-like from a distance. Up close they are anything but delicate, and the almost vertical crags above us harboring prehistoric caves, are a favorite destination for amateur rock climbers. Our trail winds in and out, affording us breathtaking views over the villages and vineyards below. Our 3-hour walk is a loop back to Gigondas.
Day 5 Today we transfer to St. Rémy-de-Provence. St. Rémy is rich in culture and history, and today is certainly a center for the artist community in Provence. This will be our home for the final 3 days of the tour. After the lunch of our choosing under the shady Plane trees lining the village, we will transfer to the quaint village of Eygalieres, where we will walk along the base of the Alpilles (little Alps) mountain range. We will stroll along a flat, charming trail that will lead us to a site esteemed for its wondrous powers since Roman times. This is the Château de Romanin, a quite modern wine château built under the ruins of the ancient château by people who believe the stars, the moon and the planets have the power to influence the way wine develops as it ferments and ages. As the winemaker is none other than the proprietor of the prestigious Oustaù de Baumanière restaurant in Les Baux, the idea of wine’s being subject to celestial influence cannot be easily dismissed. Surely it is worth a closer look. After a look around at the spotless cuverie with it shining stainless steel cuvées, we are ready for a few samples! (4-miles)
Day 6 Near St. Rémy is the medieval town of Les Baux. Les Baux also has been given the classification of “One of the most beautiful villages in France”. This morning we will be treated to a guided visit of the village and the château that crowns it. Les Baux has a fascinating history. 500 years ago the Lord of Baux ruled with a tyrannical fist some 80 surrounding communities. Warlike, the family terrorized trade and made war in such far away places as Spain. Finally, wearying of this constant harassment, the King of France sent an army to lay siege to and finally destroy the fortress. Finally ruined, both literally and financially, Les Baux receded from history only to re-emerge as the namesake of bauxite ore, discovered nearby in the 19th century. Though upper village remains in ruins, a lively lower village has taken advantage of the constant flow of visitors attracted by the natural beauty and romantic background of Les Baux. From the top of the village the Mediterranean Sea is visible on clear days, and the nearby Alpilles provide a dramatic backdrop. After visiting the ruins, and having lunch, you might want to wander the plethora of shops selling all sorts of souvenirs, pottery, and paintings. In the afternoon we will begin our walk, after circumventing the rocky outcropping that the village is situated on, we will descend to the valley below, to the area that inspired Dante’s writing. Our 3-hour walk will end at a very unusual winery located deep inside the surrounding limestone formations. (4-miles)
Day 7 Today we start our day with a guided visit of the Monument of Les Antiques, built by Caesar, and the town of Glanum. Glanum is a ruined Gallo-Roman town, which started out as a Greek trading colony. This is considered one of the most important archeological sites in France because of the variety and types of structures and length of time this was inhabited (giving us information on more than one culture), and because of the good condition of its remains. Glanum was invaded by barbarian tribes in the third century, and the drain system was purposely blocked. Found at the mouth of a small canyon, the town was quickly buried in sediment, preserving it from the worst of the ravages of time. Vincent van Gogh spent nine months of the last year of his life in St. Rémy; our guided visit will take us to some of the sites painted by Van Gogh. We will also visit the sanitarium that he was interred in as a mental patient. After lunch we will ascend to the top of the Alpilles to “The Rock With Two Holes” that Van Gogh painted. It is an inspiring 4-hour walk that will take us on a loop trail back to our starting point at Glanum. (3.5-miles).
Day 8 An unusual destination is ours today. We will transfer south 45 miles to a trailhead just above the Fontaine de Vaucluse, a place of unique natural beauty. Our 3-hour walk this morning will take us along the ridge of the Vaucluse Plateau, offering us spectacular views of the entire Luberon Valley. We will continue to the historic Mur de La Peste, a wall built to separate Northern and Southern Europe during the time of the Black Plague. We will walk through fragrant herbs and flowers into the village of Fountain de Vaucluse. This small village has sprung up at the spot where the Sorgue River emerges from its underground course at the base of a sheer box canyon. Crystal clear and vigorous, the Sorgue flows out of the narrow canyon past cafés and restaurants below the ruined castle known to the poet Pétrarque. We have our choice of scenic paths to wander as we explore the area. After our afternoon in Fountain de Vaucluse, we will transfer to the picturesque and ancient village of Gordes. Gordes, is perched atop a rock like the Acropolis of Provence, overlooking the Luberon Valley, and has the distinction of being declared “One of the most beautiful villages in France” an official title of the French government. The site of this village has theoretically been occupied since the year 6000 B.C. In recent times, one of the better-known artists to have made Gordes their home is Vasarely, who is known for his geometric style of painting. Our dinner tonight will be at the charming and gourmet restaurant, Ferme de la Huppe. Gordes will be our home for the next three nights.
Day 9 We will start our day with a 2 ½ hour walk from our hotel in Gordes on an ancient trail to the Abbey of Sénanaque. Built in the 12th century, this abbey is a masterpiece of Romanesque architecture, with a balance rarely seen in the days of decades-long building projects. Today the Abbey is inhabited by six Cistercian monks fulfilling a vow of silence. We will have a guided tour of the Abbey. (3.5-miles) After our visit we will transfer to the village of Murs. Here we will lunch in the tiny village’s only business, the charming restaurant Le Crillon. After a hearty buffet lunch we are off on foot for our afternoon walk through the vineyards, cherry orchards, wood lands surrounding Murs. We will have fantastic views of the Luberon Massif and valley. We will visit a borrie, a prehistoric Gallic hut thousands of years old. Our 3-hour walk will end back in Murs.
Day 10 This morning we will have time to explore the wonderful open air market in Gordes. We’ll walk through the traveling market where itinerant merchants unveil baskets of olives, piles of fresh bread, rows of cheese, lavender honey, colorful fruits, and vegetables. It is a celebration of the senses. We will have some time to shop and explore the market before winding our way down and out of the village. In the distance we can glimpse Roussillon, perched on its’ ocher-colored hill, our destination. We will walk 6.5 miles (with an option to transfer at 4 ½ miles) across the lovely Luberon Valley, meandering across orchards, and vineyards in the midst of harvest, up and into the village. Once in Roussillon, we will have lunch in one of the many fine restaurants. We can then choose to explore this artist’s community, or we can walk the trails along the ochre cliffs, which match the walls of this village. After time to visit, we’ll transfer to the village of Lacoste, whose ruined castle was once the family seat to the Marquis de Sade. We will walk the winding cobblestone lanes of this tiny village up to its foreboding crown, the Marquis Chateau. Tonight our farewell gourmet dinner, to celebrate our time in Provence, will prove to be fun indeed!
Day 11 Transfer to train station or airport in Avignon. It’s a 45-minute drive and we plan to arrive at 10:00AM.
|Dates:||Sept 23-Oct 3, 2013|
|Land Cost:||$3595 (U.S. Funds)|
|Single Supplement:||$500. (U.S. Funds) Limited Availability|
|Lodging:||Hotels, Country Inns|
|Difficulty:||Hikes of 4 – 9 miles w/ some elevation gains|
|Trip Begins:||Avignon, France|
|Trip Ends:||Avignon, France 8:00AM|
WHAT WE PROVIDE:
Walking The World Guide
Ten nights lodging in Bed & Breakfasts or Country Inns (double occupancy)
All breakfasts, 4 lunches, 6 dinners
All admission fees to scheduled stops
All transportation while on tour
Walking The World Shirt or Hat
Loads of good fun, humor, and companionship!
Your guide for your adventure is Kathy Lewis. Kathy is a passionate world traveler and for the past 16 years has been guiding and sharing her knowledge of the land, history and culture of her many diverse tour destinations. Whether it’s the charming villages of Provence in France, the “unique inside view” of her home territory in the Hawaiian Islands, the beautiful Welsh countryside of her ancestors, or the striking scenery of the Mediterranean Island of Corsica, she takes great delight in sharing her knowledge of wild herbs and plants along the trails, world class wineries and gourmet regional cuisines and will be sure to introduce you to her many colorful local friends along the way. Kathy is American, but has lived and explored many part of Europe and South America, lived, worked and explored the vast expanses of Alaska, operated an organic farm on the island paradise of Maui in the Hawaiian Islands and lived in the cosmopolitan center of Paris, France. Kathy is also a professional chef and takes great pride in finding the best of the best of culinary experiences.