Eat, Drink, Shop –
A Woman’s Adventure in Provence
Sept. 30th – Oct. 7th, 7 nights, 8 days
Oct. 7th – Oct. 14th, 7 nights, 8 days
Provence is a magical triangle of land in southeastern France containing the spirits of civilizations past and present, a splendid, multi-faceted mosaic of sunshine and serenity. This sun-kissed corner of the map encompasses such seasonal bounty, brilliant colors and irresistible scents of lavender, rosemary and thyme, that you can almost taste its beauty. The contrasts of its luminescent light and primary colors has inspired artists from Van Gogh to Cézanne, and its untamed backdrop has influenced countless writers and poets from Petrarch to Pagnol and Collete to Peter Mayle.
Our Provençal Adventure begins after your arrival at the Gare d’Avignon (Avignon Train Station). We will drive forty-minutes due east through the garrigue (Mediterranean ecoregion) to our accommodations at Mas de la Perdrix, a beautifully renovated farmhouse. After settling into your rooms you will be treated to a Beames-de-Venise Muscat apéritif welcome. Muscat, is a surprisingly fruity, white, fortified wine, intoxicating without being heavy. It is usually served with Roquefort cheese and medallion foie gras (duck or goose liver). Apéritif time will be a moment to relax and unwind from the day’s travels, and the perfect transition into the evening with your new adventure companions. A light supper will be prepared for you by Seattle chef Diane LaVonne, from Diane’s Market Kitchen. Afterwards, all of our in-house meals will be prepared by either Diane or local chef, Ronald Guillaume. Et voila! On this woman’s adventure you will have everything you need to immerse yourself in a pure Provençal experience.
Aigues Mortes is a perfectly preserved, bastide, walled village, set among the salt marshes of the Camargue. A magnificent example of Medieval architecture, built by St. Louis (King Louis IX of France) Aigues Mortes was the Mediterranean port from which he launched his 7th Crusade to spread the Gospel. This historic, fortified village is filled with cafés, art galleries, shops and restaurants. We will have lunch at Chez Coco, one of the best restaurants within the village walls. After lunch we will drive across the bridge just south of the walled city to visit Les Salins d’Aigues Mortes, producers of fleur de sel (Mediterranean salt) since 1856.
St. Remy de Provence is a one of the most charming villages in Provence. Situated on the western side of the limestone massif, Les Alpilles, it is surrounded by some of the longest and most beautiful stretches of plane tree-lined roads anywhere in France. The astrologer Nostradamus lived here and Vincent Van Gogh painted “Starry Night” while convalescing at Clinique St. Paul, a ten-minutes walk from the village center. If you’re a history buff, a further 5 minute walk past Clinique St. Paul will bring you to the ruins of Glanum, a grouping of the earliest ancient Greek houses in Provence, as well as a triumphal arch built during the reign of Emperor Augustus in 27 BC. St. Remy is a village we might walk through for hours, perusing its many cafés, restaurants, galleries, and shops.
Les Baux is the most dramatic, 10th century fortress sight in Provence. Perched on a promontory over looking the Val d’Enfer (valley of hell) this pedestrian only village was the fiefdom of the blood thirsty Lords of Les Baux and paradoxically, birthplace of the troubadour tradition of courtly love & chivalry. Its ruined castle and environs, once the legendary haunt of witches and spirits, attracts more visitors every year than the Louvre in Paris. Below Les Baux, at the quarry site where bauxite was discovered in 1822, is the Carrière de Lumière, a natural theatre where three dimensional images are projected onto the white quarry walls, floors and ceilings accompanied by music, creating an amazing audio-visual experience. Les Baux valley is also the home to some of the best wines in Provence. We might choose a dégustation (tasting) and tour of Château Romanin, the cellars of which resemble an underground cathedral or a short drive to the village of Maussane to see the Moulin Cornille, France’s most important olive oil mill. The Moulin Cornille continually receives a gold medal for its unusually flavored olive oil tasting of dried fruits and almonds, produced from the fruit of over 400,000 olive trees that carpet Les Baux Valley.
Arles was one of the two most important Roman towns outside of Italy and was the capital of the 3 Gauls, France, Spain and Britain. It was also a leading port of the Roman empire when it was closer to the sea. Everything worth seeing is within easy walking distance from the village center, the Place de la République. Here we will view the famed portal of the 12th century church, St. Trophime and its cloister, then take a short walk around Les Arènes, one of the largest, best preserved Roman amphitheaters in France. We might also visit the musée Arlaten, which has the largest collection of folklore in Provence or walk the Alyscamps, a Roman necropolis, one of the most significant cemeteries in the ancient world. Vincent Van Gogh painted over 300 canvases while in Arles, and though the town doesn’t own a single one of his paintings, its appreciation of his work and life are evident throughout.
Uzès is one of the best kept secrets of Provence, a mere 25 kilometers north of Nimes, set amidst the beautiful, granite granite countryside. This gem of a village is filled with Renaissance and Romanesque architecture and has one of the best markets in the Gard départment. Uzès prides itself in having one of the most extraordinary, tourist attractions 15 minutes away, the 3-tiered bridge, the Pont du Gard, the tallest aqueduct of the ancient Roman empire which spans the Gardon River valley.
L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, in the Vaucluse départment resembles a miniature Venice with it’s canals and bridges. Powered by the Sorgue River which cuts an intricate path through the village, only 9 of its original 70 water mills remain, It is the European center for antiques and second-hand stores. Every Sunday of the year, L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue combines it’s antique and farmers’ market, making it a feast for the senses and a shopper’s paradise. In the afternoon we may choose to visit the Fontaine de Vaucluse and comfortably hike to the source of the Sorgue River or drive a bit further to the stunning, hilltop village of Roussillon. each of its buildings covered with one of the 17 shades of ochre (natural pigments) mined in its quarries.
We may also decide to change our itinerary completely and drive the serpentine roads of the Dentelles des Montmirail, a 9 mile lacework of stunning mountain peaks. Along the way we’ll stop in one of the many villages tucked into the hills to sample fresh goat cheese and Côte-du-Rhone wines and crisp, farm-fresh apples.
After our last breakfast together we will depart for the Gare d’Avignon.