Provence is a most irresistible land of striking natural beauty and great diversity, fields of lavender, interspaced with vineyards and olive groves, crowned by the hills of the Luberon. The desolate wilderness of the Camargue is fascinating, with its white horses galloping across flat wetlands, herds of black bulls and striking flocks of pink flamingos. Historically the Greeks visited, the Phoenicians traded, the Saracens looted, but most of all the Romans settled; they have all left their legacies. Aix en Provence, Paris-like in stature and style yet village-like in pace and ambience, its old quarter is street upon colourful street of traditional shops with quiet and hidden squares. The majestic Mont St. Victoire, immortalised by Cézanne, towers over it all. This is the real France so beloved by Van Gogh, Renoir and countless other artists who worked here, finding inspiration in the colour and luminosity of light. All the fragrances and colours of this sunburnt land are found in its cuisine and it is all washed down with some of the finest wine in the world.
- Tour of colourful Cassis and including a boat trip to see the stunning Calanques
- Guided walking tour of Aix-en-Provence, Provence’s stylish capital
- Visit to Avignon – home of the Pope’s Palace and almost mythical bridge Walking tour of Arles, capital of Roman Gaul, with an iconic amphitheatre and immortalised by Van Gogh
- Tour of the Camargue, one of France’s finest nature reserves, famous for its black bulls, white horses and pink flamingos
- Tour of the Luberon Hills and it’s timeless Provencal villages so vividly described in Peter Mayle’s book ‘A Year in Provence’
- Visit to the Pont du Gard, one of the ancient Romans’ largest aqueducts
- The price of this holiday is per person based on two people sharing a twin room. Single rooms are subject to availability on request and subject to supplement. The price includes flights to Nice or Marseille or return standard class rail travel on Eurostar and TGV to Aix en Provence, airport departure taxes, coach transfers to the hotel, all tours as mentioned, seven nights bed and buffet breakfast, two dinners in hotels, two dinners in local restaurants and the services of a Riviera tour manager.
- Please Note: There are only a limited number of twin rooms at the Novotel - most have one king sized bed and one convertible single bed. Room type available will be confirmed upon booking.
- NOT INCLUDED: Entrance to Papal Palace and Bridge in Avignon €13, Petit Palais museum €6, approximate costs, payable locally.
Fly to Nice or Marseille or you can travel by Eurostar and TGV to Aix-en- Provence. A coach will take you to your chosen hotel in Aix-en-Provence, where you stay for seven nights’.
Aix en Provence is a stunningly beautiful place, originally a spa town founded by the Romans. It is a labyrinth of tiny alleyways and squares and is known as the ‘city of a thousand fountains’. This is provincial France at its best. Paul Cézanne was the city’s favourite son and he painted 300 paintings here and in the surrounding area, with his workshop preserved exactly how it was when he died in 1906. This morning, you have tour of the city after which you may explore as you wish.
After breakfast you leave Aix and head for the nearby coast and the delta of the great River Rhone - the Camargue – now designated a National Park, an area of outstanding natural beauty famed for its iconic black bulls, white horses and pink flamingos. Next you arrive in Arles, the ‘Pearl of Provence’. Although not very large today, in Roman times it was the imposing capital of Gaul, Britain and Spain with a range of monuments to match. Its preservation has been remarkable and on go on a fascinating walking tour you will see the forum, theatre and incredible amphitheatre plus much more of this superb city. Van Gogh lived here for two years and, inspired by the Provençal countryside, produced 200 paintings and 100 drawings including such famous works as ‘Sunflowers’, ‘Café de Nuit’, ‘The Red Vines’ and ‘The Sower’. After some free time, you are then free to return to your hotel.
This morning you head inland to the stunning scenery of the Luberon mountains. It was here that Peter Mayle found inspiration for his book, A Year in Provence. First of all, you cross the fertile plains adorned with olive and peach groves which change to rich vineyards on the lower slopes. Then as you climb, there is row upon row of fragrant lavender, together with the mimosa and pine trees, that give the unmistakable aroma which is one of Provence’s hallmarks. Once famous as the haunt of highwaymen, with the castle of the Marquis de Sade, it is now a much prized nature reserve.
Today you visit nearby Avignon, one of Europe’s most historic cities. Its destiny changed early in the 14th century with the exile of the Pope’s court from Rome. Vast wealth poured in to build churches, convents and elegant townhouses, but most of all the incredible Papal Palace. You have time to visit this imposing building which from the outside resembles a citadel rising from living rock flanked by turrets more than 150 feet high. Alternatively, there is the Petit Palais museum which houses an excellent collection of more than 1,000 paintings. You also visit the Pont du Gard, an amazing Roman aqueduct, wider than the Thames in London and one of the wonders of the ancient world. You then return to your hotel in Aix.
Today have a free day to spend as you wish. Perhaps sample some local produce at one of the many markets to be found every morning tucked away on a pretty square, perhaps visit the brilliant Musee Granet with a gallery entirely devoted to Cezanne, plus works by Degas, Picasso, Renoir, Monet and host of others or the fascinating Museum of Natural History, exhibiting a collection of dinosaur eggs from the slopes of the nearby Mont Ste-Victoire. Probably best though is just wander through Aix’s maze of ancient street lined by its 17th and 18th century mansions, admire the graceful charm of its fountains, the majesty of its avenues, the intimacy of its cafes absorbing the entire inimitable atmosphere. Perhaps though, just relax with a book, the choice is yours!
Today we head just south to the rugged Mediterranean Coast firstly visiting delightful La Ciotat, whose pretty painted houses rise in tiers overlooking the bay and old port. Along the coastline we start to discover the amazing contorted limestone coastline, carved by the sea into the most incredible almost contorted shapes, majestic needles, hidden coves and almost vertical milk-white cliffs plunging spectacularly into the deep blue sea. This really is one of Europe’s most astonishing seascapes. Next it’s probably Provence’s most alluring port, Cassis, an utterly charming little spot with its myriad of fishing boats riding at anchor, overlooked by a mighty medieval fortress. This gorgeous bay has drawn many famous visitors over the years including Virginia Woolfe and Sir Winston Churchill, who took painting lessons here in the 1920s. Explore the sights or taste some delicious local seafood before, for the finest possible vistas, we explore by boat the stunning Massif des Calanques’s dazzling white cliffs and pinnacles erupting from the sea.
Today you return to the airport or railway station at the appropriate time to return home.