Marseille, Aix-en-Provence, Chateau la Coste, Gordes, Joucas, Luberon, Abbaye de Senanque, Menerbes, Roussillon, Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, St-Remy, Glanum, Avignon, Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.
Day 1: Introduction to Southern France
Marseilles is an energetic, cosmopolitan city on the water. Greek settlers settled on the shores in 7th century BC, and the borders of the city have grown to become France’s second largest city after Paris. Serene blue water brushes against the Old Port. The sea breeze brushes over the cobblestone streets. The Old Harbor is considered the birthplace of the city. Fishing boats wade in the water with their tall masts drifting back and forth against the hilltop. The aroma of authentic bouillabaisse fills Canebiére Boulevard. Your private transfer meets you at the airport and leads you into the heart of the city, where you settle into your luxurious hotel.
The flavorful seafood stew is a Marseille specialty. In the morning, the east side of the harbor, known as Quai des Belges, hosts a vibrant fish market. Fishers set out their wares on large stands, bearing the weight of fish, mussels, clams, and more caught earlier in the day. Chateau d’If stands off the coast, basking in the sunlight and immortalized in the 1844 novel The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. The 16th-century fortress became a prison nearly two miles away from the city’s shore. The fortress is 92 feet long with flanking towers. A large gun sits between the embrasures pointing out to sea. It was constructed in the 16th century and demilitarized in the late 19th century. Consider reading some of our travelers’ travel reviews of France to further refine your own personalized itinerary.
What’s Included: dinner, transfer, accommodation
Day 2: Southern Charm
In the morning, the scent of freshly dripped espresso blends with the gentle scent of the Mediterranean Sea. The golden sunlight sweeps over the azure water and unique façade of Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde, located on the 490-foot tall hilltop overlooking the city. The basilica was consecrated in the 1860s, replacing the 13th-century church of the same name. The Romanesque style of the foundations blends with the neo-Byzantine mosaics decorating the interior nave. The bell tower rises to 135 feet above the entrance steps.
Cobblestone streets wind through the historic quarter of Le Panier. The artistic ambiance emanates from hidden squares and cafes draped in sunlight. It was once the site of the ancient Greek agora. Artisan shops and workshops showcase local goods. Laundry dangles over lines on the terraced houses above the storefronts. The city is filled with modern luxuries and historic charms. Your private transfer leads you out of Marseille and into the relaxed pace of Aix-en-Provence. Lush leafy trees shade wide boulevards. 17th and 18th-century mansions border open plazas.
Moss covered fountains highlight the delicate and decorative atmosphere of the city. The streets of the Old Town have an undeniable charisma. The ornate Italian-style façade of the 17th-century town hall building sets the scene. The Quartier Mazarin, a 17th-century quarter, follows the historical line of the old town walls. The Fountain des Quatre-Dauphins has four dolphins supported by an obelisk adorned with a baroque motif to display the Italian influence on the design of the city.
What’s Included: breakfast, dinner, transfer, tour, accommodation
Day 3: In the Footsteps of Artists
In the morning, you can hear the fountains sprinkling the squares and streets across the Cours Mirabeau. Emerald leaves cover the rooftops of the elegant hotels. Celebrated artist Cezanne would sit in Les Deux Garcons and search the cityscape for inspiration. Your guide meets you at the hotel and leads you on a fabulous tour of what the locals call “Aix,” before continuing to the 17th-century estate of Chateau La Coste. The classic Provencal palace was erected in the style of a Venetian villa. The aroma of olive trees catches in the soft breeze. Oak and almond trees blanket the hilltops, offering restful shade. Grapevines stretch across the landscape overlooking the rolling mountains on the horizon.
The bright green leaves connote the fertile quality of the soil. The architecture blends into the lavish landscape, uniting the natural beauty with an architectural aesthetic. You can stroll through the woodlands and valleys at your leisure, where you can enjoy the contemporary artwork on display along the paths. You come across the Origami Benches created by French artist Tadao Ando. The shape of the bench and its cover look as though the structure was folded out of paper. The artistic paths of the villa present a chance to discover the tremendous works of French artists across various disciplines. Embrace the feeling of being surrounded by the natural splendor of the countryside.
What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, tour, accommodation
Day 4: French Fairytales
In the morning, the emerald greenery of the Cezanne’s atelier glints against the sandstone hues of the city. The Cezanne Trail begins at the house and winds through the countryside. The local government has indicated important locations with nails shaped in the letter “C.” After breakfast, you say goodbye to Aix-en-Provence and make your way to the perched village of Gordes in the Luberon Natural Regional Park. The buildings were carved out of the rock face of Vaucluse Plateau and maintain the white hues of the landscape. The verdant trees contrast the layered colors of the hillside.
Marc Chagall found inspiration along the town’s medieval streets. Imposing towers rise out of the 16th-century fortified castle of Chateau de Gordes. Narrow lanes wind up and down the hillside. Red ochre cliffs extend from the cedar forests. The city was settled in the Gallo-Roman times, and the castle’s foundation dates back to the 11th century. From the exterior, the castle looks impenetrable due to the impressive preservation of the towers and battlements. The interior now holds the town hall and a museum showcasing the artwork of Belgian painter Pol Mara. The river winds along the gorge floor below. The water has helped shape the village’s surrounding landscape for thousands of years.
What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, transfer, tour, accommodation
Day 5: The Pleasures of Luberon
The aroma of fresh lavender fills the morning air. Purple fields brush against the verdant edges of the hills. At breakfast, you indulge in the rich flavor of freshly dripped espresso before venturing out into Luberon to discover the captivating history at the Abbaye de Senanque. The abbey was founded in the 12th century and reestablished as a Cistercian community in the mid 19th century. Monks grow lavender and tend to honey bee farms. The herbaceous aroma is a perfect match with the sensational purple color of the lavender fields. Pillars and large cobblestones line the inner cloister. You continue to the village of Menerbes, located on a rocky outcropping overlooking Luberon. Forests open up to a view of vineyards.
Narrow streets wind along antique houses and a 17th-century bell tower. Pablo Picasso once owned a home in the village and retreated to the streets when in search of quiet and inspiration. Excavations have shown uncovered artifacts proving that the area has been inhabited since prehistoric times, containing the remains of villas and ancient cemetery remnants attributed to the Romans. The Corkscrew Museum is a delightful rural exhibition displaying more than 1,000 different varieties of corkscrew. The tool was invented by a Frenchmen in the 12th century and has since become invaluable to wine lovers across the world.
What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, dinner, tour, accommodation
Day 6: Beneath the Provencal Hills
Since your visit to the Abbaye de Senanque, you now find the air-brushed with an essence of lavender seemingly everywhere around Provence. The delicate aroma is refreshing. After breakfast, your guide leads you to the commune of Fontaine-de-Vaucluse at the foothills of the mountains bordering the Cote d’Azur. A cliff borders the town, rising to a height of 754 feet. The largest spring in France surges into the Sorgue River in March. The translucent turquoise water wraps around the base of the cliff and splashes cold water against its banks.
The Italian Poet Petrarch once called the village home in the 14th century. You continue to Saint-Paul-de-Mausole, the asylum where Vincent van Gogh resided. The gardens have been maintained with manicured hedges bordering blossoming flowerbeds. The pyramidal roof of the structure provides volume to the two-story square steeple. A Romanesque stairwell guides you through an exhibition of artwork painted by local artists. At the top of the stairs, a window opens to the wheat field that inspired van Gogh during his stay, along with the famous painter’s chambers. This was also the location that inspired the artist to paint the deep swirling colors of The Starry Night.
What’s Included: breakfast, dinner, tour, transfer, accommodation
Day 7: The Full Experience of Avignon
The echoes of the seat of papal power continue to sweep across the city of Avignon. The medieval fortress and former papal palace of the Palais des Papes encompasses 118,403 square feet. Café tables bask in the shade of the leafy squares along the cobblestone streets. Your guide meets you at the hotel and leads you through the celebrated marketplace of the city. Over 40 stalls fill the covered central market of Les Halles. Creamy olive oils and vibrant spices are on display. The zesty aroma of fresh raspberries drifts through the air. Eggplant glistens in the soft light. Freshly baked baguettes rise out of breadbaskets like sabers.
The nearby flower market fills with the blossoming petals of vibrant sunflowers and tulips. Your guide leads you through the lanes of the marketplace and to the private kitchen to learn the secrets of French cooking first hand. Asparagus season is celebrated in and around Avignon, and your instructor lets you know it. He teaches you various ways to prepare the simple vegetable, from grilling the spears to creating a decadent soup, producing a lavish lunch. Before you dine, a local sommelier teaches you about the flavor profile of Rhone wines, to better accompany the characteristics of the meal you have made.
What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, tour, accommodation
Day 8: Images of the South
The morning light washes over the Rhone River and highlights the edges of the historic Saint Benezet Bridge. The 12th-century edifice reaches a length of 2,952 feet and contains 22 arches. It was once an important crossing point of the river until the 17th century. After breakfast, your guide takes you to the exciting Roman aqueduct of Pont du Gard, a 31-mile system erected in the 1st century AD. The aqueduct carried water from a spring in Uzes to the Roman colony now known as Nimes. The three-tiered archways cross the Gardon River at a height of 160 feet, with a descending gradient of nearly one inch.
The structure provides insight into the precision and skill of Roman engineering. At Châteauneuf-du-Pape, you have a chance to explore the rich history and magnificent wines of the town. Vineyards unfurl like draping prairies around the Rhone Valley. Trees sprout from between homes beneath the crowning 14th-century structure of Pope John XXII’s Castle. Vineyards in the area encompass more than 7,900 acres. Explore the vineyard of Domaine Juliette Avril, a family-run estate started in the late 1980s. The 94 acres of land contain fertile plateaus, rich calcareous soil, and cobblestone. The Juliette Avril Rouge is a red blend with notes of raspberry. The mild fruity palate has a polished finish, readying you for another sip of wine.
What’s Included: breakfast, dinner, tour, accommodation
Day 9: Exceptional Provence
At breakfast, you find the simmering aroma of espresso blending with the scented memory of lavender. The sunlight sweeps across the meadows outside of Avignon. The golden statue of the Virgin Mary adorns the 17th-century Romanesque dome of Cathedral Notre Dame des Doms. The gilded shape glints in the drifting light. The gardens on the hilltop next to the basilica provide unparalleled views of the Rhone River. The water brushes past the grass-lined riverbanks. After breakfast, your private transfer greets you in the hotel lobby and escorts you to Marseille Provence Airport for your flight home.
What’s Included: breakfast, transfer