Small group tours for women who love to travel
Day 1 - Arrive at Aix-en-Provence TGV - Cucuron
Arrive at Aix-en-Provence TGV Station where you will be met and transported to the exquisite French Villa we will call home for the next 12 nights.
Sitting just outside the beautiful village of Cucuron, near the road to Lourmarin our wonderful Villa benefits from a perfect location in the ‘golden triangle’ of the Luberon and offers luxury accommodation, a heated pool, spacious grounds and beautifully appointed guest bedrooms.
Enjoying recent fame as being the site of the cafe scene bought to life by Russell Crowe’s character in the big screen adaption of Peter Mayle’s book ‘A Good Year’, Cucuron has long been a favourite of those who know and love the real Provence.
Arriving at the Villa you will be swept away by the beauty of the surrounding landscape which you will be able to enjoy over a delightful lunch followed by an afternoon of settling in, relaxing and getting to know one another before heading to Lourmarin for our formal welcome dinner.
Day 2 - Rousillon - Gordes - Abbey de Senanque
Today we start our day with a visit to the exquisite Abbey de Senanque. This 12th Century Cistercian abbey nestled between hills and surrounded by brilliant fields of lavender is one of the purest examples of Cistercian architecture. Following our visit to the abbey we head to the nearby tiered village of Gordes. Gordes sits spectacularly on the white rock face of the Vaucluse plateau where in the early evenings the village is theatrically lit by the setting sun, turning the stone buildings a shimmering gold. Today is market day in Gordes so here you will take your time meandering through the village discovering the myriad of stalls offering everything from delicious cheeses and produce to handmade pottery, silk scarves and so much more. After dining in one of the lovely restaurants we take the winding road south towards Roussillon. As much as Gordes is known for it's white rock, Roussillon is famed for its distinctive red-ochre coloured hills, beautifully offset by the vegetation tumbling down its promontory. This hilltop village is a mesmerising red showstopper. After a walk through the picturesque hills we explore the lovely village and it's many boutiques and galleries before heading home to relax with a glass of wine whilst a delicious Provencal dinner is prepared for you.
Day 3 - Uzes - Pont du Gard
This morning we journey to Uzes with its lofty towers and narrow medieval streets. This elegant town grew fat on the proceeds of three luxurious goods – silk, linen and bizarrely liquorice.
Uzes Wednesday and Saturday markets are held in the impossibly romantic setting of the medieval square, known as Place aux Herbes, in the heart of town. The pretty pedestrian-only streets leading off Place aux Herbes offer beautiful boutiques selling gorgeous women’s wear and luxury goods, much more upscale than you would imagine from a country town miles away from Paris. Once you have strolled through the markets and discovered the stylish and sophisticated shops you can climb one of the famous towers, or grab a photo of Uzes own leaning tower of Piza, La Tour Fenestrelle. We then take a short walk to a very special lunch destination where we are treated like Royalty and our taste buds are tantalised with the most delicious dishes you can imagine at this Michelin listed restaurant. After our leisurely long lunch we head out to the surrounding countryside to the magnificent Pont du Gard, a three-tiered aqueduct that was once part of a 50km long system of water channels built around 19BC to transport water from Uzes to Nimes. The scale of this ancient Roman aqueduct is huge, 50m’s high, 275m’s long and graced with 35 precision built arches the bridge was sturdy enough to carry up to 20,000 cubic metres of water per day. Each block was carved by hand and transported there from nearby quarries. No mean feat considering each of the largest blocks weighs over five tonnes. This is a sight not to be missed.After another magnificent day of sightseeing we head home to dine on the terrace with dinner prepared for us by one of our local guest cooks whilst we relax and take in the ambience of our surroundings.
Day 4 - Menerbes - Lacoste
After our wonderful day of sightseeing yesterday it’s time for a morning relaxing and enjoying our beautiful villa. Stay in bed for a sleep in, relax by the pool with a book or take time to write home. If relaxing by the pool, reading or just sitting chatting is not for you, we are more than happy to drop you to one of the nearby towns for you to wander freely and discover delights of your own. After our morning off we will travel to the beautiful walled village of Menerbes. You may not have heard of the tiny remote village but you have probably heard of the man who made it famous – British writer Peter Mayle. Mayle’s books about living in Provence as an expat leveraged the town to the top of many a travelers ‘must see’ list.
Unfortunately neither Mayle nor Menerbes had any idea of the onslaught of visitors that would ensue such that Mayle packed up and moved to the Hamptons for a few years before returning back to Provence. Fortunately the village coped and as a result took advantage of its new found fame and influx of tourist money opening new boutiques and restaurants and remains a mecca for disillusioned souls seeking a new existence. The village itself is a lovely jumble of ancient medieval towers, churches and stone streets. At one end is the Citadelle, a miniature fortress dating from the 16th century and at the other end is the cemetery along with Chateau du Castellet where the painter Nicolas de Stael once lived. There are photo opportunities everywhere however one of the best is through an arch at the top square beside the ancient mairie (town hall) where you can see the distant villages including Gordes. It is here that we dine partaking in another sumptous lunch before heading on to the cobbled village of Lacoste, famous for being home to the Marquis de Sade, the founder of modern day Sadism. The chateau once owned by the Marquis is now owned by none other than Pierre Cardin as is much of the village itself. If we are very lucky we will get a private tour of the Savannah School of Art and Design Studios and Library with the wonderful Sean who regales us with tales of the village and amazes us with views across the valley from behind closed doors in this ancient village. Tonight whilst you relax with a glass of wine, participate in a cooking class at the Villa with one of our lovely local guest chefs.
Day 5 - Lourmarin
Today we visit the nearby village of Lourmarin, officially classified as one of the most beautiful villages in France, known as the village of belfries. Lourmarin is known as a village to lose yourself in for hours, amidst old squares, stone walls, gorgeous stores and clouds of bougainvillea and jasmine. Much of the village is set around the central bell tower built on the remnants of the medieval moated castle that once defined Lourmarin.
Whilts wandering around the markets take the time to walk the short distance to the Chateau de Lourmarin, a handsome 16th century castle, part of which is open to the public. It’s well worth a visit to see the furnished apartments, magnificent stairway and library of 28,000 books.
After a morning of meandering around the famous Lourmarin markets and discovering all this exquisite village has to offer we dine on the terrace at one of the villages lovely cafe's before returning to the Villa for an afternoon siesta prior to our very special event for the evening..... our Michelin star cooking class with the famous Eric Sapet at La Petite Maison in Cucuron. This is a once in a lifetime experience and never fails to exceed all expectations.
Day 6 - Les Baux - Carrieres de Lumiere
After another relaxing start to the morning we set off to Les Baux-de-Provence, a village set atop a rocky outcrop crowned with a ruined castle overlooking the plains to the South also referred to as one of the most beautiful villages in France. The village was named after its location, a bauc being a rocky spur and to the aluminium ore (bauxite) that was first discovered there by geologist Pierre Berthier in 1821. The steep cobbled laneways lead off in all directions offering a myriad of wonderful boutiques, galleries, architecture and views to be discovered and then of course there is the ruined castle itself sitting atop of the village waiting for you. We dine in one of Les Baux's lovely restaurants with a view out over the plains looking towards our next adventure... the famous Carrieres de Lumieres.Words alone can not describe this spectacular vision of images and sound displayed on cave walls inside the huge cavernous quarry. Stepping inside the doors finds you transported to another time and place as the music takes over and your senses are mesmerised by this wondrous hypnotic light and sound show.
Day 7 - L'Isle-sur-la Sorgue - Fontaine de Vaucluse
A moat of flowing water encircles the ancient and prosperous town of L’Isle-sur-la Sorgue famous for its antique markets. Known simply as ‘L’Isle by the locals, this pretty Provence village is often dubbed the ‘Venice of the South’. L’Isle is a truly lovely place with curious canals that run through the town – five mini tributaries of the river Sorgue – making it a watery oasis. Look out for the lovely waterwheels scattered around town, some of which still turn.
Every week, regardless of the weather, there are stallholders here on Thursdays and Sundays attracting buyers from all over the world. Stretching from Place Gambetta all the way along Avenue des Quatre Otages there are stalls selling everything from local produce to typical style Provence wares – bright tablecloths, candles, soaps and so on. You are sure to make a purchase in this delightful village. We will dine at one of the fine restaurants located next to the flowing river in the heart of this exquisite village.
Leaving L’Isle behind we travel the short distance to beautiful Fontaine de Vaucluse, a medieval village tucked in a ‘closed valley’ at the southwestern corner of the mountainous Plateau de Vaucluse. This ancient town at the base of high rocky cliffs features a deep pool of seemingly still water that is actually a fully-fledged river gushing up out of the depths. The source of the pool is fed by collective rainfall in the Plateau de Vaucluse where in wet season the spring produces water at an astonishing 200 cubic meters a second, making it one of the most powerful resurgent springs in the world. As late as 1985, a small robot submarine went down 315m and still could not locate the bottom, a mystery still to be uncovered and a truly amazing sight to behold. Tonight we are once again spoilt with the delights of true Provencal dishes prepared by our local guest cook.
Day 8 - Cassis - Mediterannean
Today we head to Cassis, a very ancient fishing port famous for it’s cliffs and the sheltered inlets called Calanques, formed 120 million years ago. Cassis offers a concentrated version of Provence and the Mediterranean. The magic begins to work on the little road that leads to the village, winding between vineyards and pine trees as it meanders down to the port, a bustling hive of activity. We hop on board on of the many boats ready to take us on an inspiring journey of discovery visiting these natural wonders which I'm sure will leave you breathless with their shear beauty. On our return we dine at one of the best restaurants in the small village overlooking the waters edge watching the sun sparkle on the Mediterrenean whilst sipping on a glass of rose, oh, it doesn't get much better than this for a day out. After lunch we meander around the old village discovering streets that reveal lovely old buildings dating back to the 16th century, some restored with the colourful pastels of Provence. There are old fountains, shops and an open air artists market where you can purchase paintings of Provence.
Day 9 - Orange - Perfume Class - Chateauneuf de Pape
After our feast of history, architecture, galleries and boutiques we take the short drive to participate in another very special event... our very own private perfume creation class were we learn what our personalities are based on the fragrances and essences we choose. A two hour class provides indepth knowledge on the creation behind the world's most famous perfumes and allows you to create your own 'signature' perfume with the assistance of our 'Maitre Parfumeur' to take home in your own individually labelled 100ml bottles. Just imagine exclaiming 'I made it in Provence!' when asked the name of the beautiful perfume you are wearing.
Day 10 - Saint-Remy-de-Provence
This morning we travel to Saint-Remy-de-Provence. Every Wednesday morning the town comes alive with one of the most delightful markets in Provence. You will be dazzled by the colours and tantalised by the frangrances of fruits, olive oils, cheeses and soaps not to mention the wonderful Provencal fabrics and other local artisanal products on offer. Although the birthplace of Nostradamus who was born here in 1503, most people associate St-Remy with Vincent van Gogh who found great inspiration here after admitting himself to the Saint-Paul asylum from May 1889-1890 where he produced close to 150 of his superb works inspired by the light, hills, buildings and flowers he saw. St-Remy is also a shopper’s delight with charming lanes and delightful squares encircled by elegant boulevards with stores that are both interesting and upscale. Once you have strolled through the market stalls, go for a wander through the myriad of lanes of the Old Town, most lined with modern boutiques. Make your own discoveries or visit Rue Hoche where you can still see the remains of Nostradamus birthplace. We dine in one of St Remy's lovely restaurants before we take a visit to this ‘mad house’ to see what inspired van Gogh.Upon arrival home you will once again be treated to the delights of of another guest cook as they prepare exquisite Provencal fare for you.
Day 11 - Aix-en-Provence - Atelier de Cezanne
After such a wonderful day of sightseeing yesterday it is time once again to take a morning to relax and enjoy our beautiful surroundings at the villa followed with a simple yet delicioous lunch before we head to the elegeant town of Aix-en-Provence. This beautiful town is defined by a stately avenue lined with beautiful plane trees and dotted with grand 17th century mansions, ancient fountains and marvelous architecture. Aix as it is fondly called is to Provence what the Left Bank is to Paris, an enclave of bourgeois-bohemian chick. Dubbed ‘The Paris of the South’ Aix is a city with both grace and pace.
Discovering the splendor and sophistication of Aix isn’t difficult, you can walk down any street in the central part and be rewarded with gracious lines of sight, from the elegant architecture to the ancient fountains. The town is famous for its watery displays and the sight of them on a hot day is always soothing. There is a distinct energy to the place which perhaps emanates in part from the significant student population.
The old town is a maze of streets and boutiques each more intriguing than the last. Aix has many wonderful shops as it does bars and it doesn’t matter which lane you venture down, the discoveries will be just as charming. No avenue better epitomizes Provence’s most graceful city than fountain studded Cours Mirabeau, sprinkled with elegant Renaissance hotels particuliers (private mansions) and crowned with a summertime roof of leafy plane trees. Named after the revolutionary hero Comte de Mirabeau, it was laid out in the 1640’s.
Today we meander through this magnificent town taking in the sights before taking a short drive uphill where we visit the Atelier de Cezanne. This is where local painter Paul Cezanne (1839-1906) treasured in Aix, lived and painted the Aix landscape. Restored in 1970 the museum is a place to get a great sense of the artist. His paints, painting smock, easel and still life pieces are all there but what’s more evocative is the garden and surrounding landscape. Wandering around outside you can distinctly see where he painted many of his famous canvases.
We finish this delightful day with dinner at one of Aix’s most famous eateries before heading home.
Day 12 - Cabriere d'Aigues - Cucuron
On our last day together we relax a little in the morning or if you desire a last bit of shopping a visit once again to Lourmarin's famous markets is definitely an option for you before we visit the nearby village of Cabriere d’Aigues and partake in a 2 hour wine tasting experience like none other with our very own Claude. I don't wish to give too much away about this wonderful experience other than to say that this private tour is only for our guests alone and is something not to be missed. We also visit a centuries old olive oil mill a short walk up the hill where we are delighted with views out over the valley between stone walls. A simply divine morning spent wine tasting, learning about the history of the Luberon and the milling of olive oil before travelling home to our Villa where we have a very special last night surprise for you.... you will just have to wait and see but I can assure you, it will be one of the most memorable nights of your life.
Day 13 - Depart
After a leisurely breakfast together we will transport you to the Aix-en-Provence TGV Station where you will catch your train back to Paris or perhaps you have plans to visit other destinations in the South. Either way it is a sad farewell but we are sure you will have wonderful memories to share with loved ones and new found friends to keep in touch with. Perhaps you can plan your next L'amitie adventure together.