LIVE LIKE A LOCAL IN PROVENCE
June 24-30 2018
(7 DAYS / 6 NIGHTS)
What do you get when you take the most marvelous aspects of a "Live-Like-a-Local"sojourn and add: daily opportunities to hike or kayak in the enchanting countryside; chances to visit an ancient Roman aquaduct, the summit of one of Europe's most famous mountains; wine tasting in prestigious Chateauneuf-du-Pape; and an abbey that is the quintessential image of Provence? This "Out and About" sojourn!
Provence is one of the most popular tourist destinations in France. Sun bathed days, vibrant colors, warm breezes perfumed with wild thyme and rosemary, cobble stoned villages perched atop towering hills, mouthwatering dishes prepared with the local olive oil... it is little wonder people are drawn to Provence.
Did you ever wish you had a friend in France who you could go visit? Now you do! The owners of Sojourner Tours, Lisa & Francis, will be the friends you wished you had (but haven't met yet) as they host you and your small group of fellow sojourners in a countryside villa. They'll invite you to experience "living like a local" in Provence. Each morning you'll enjoy a typical French breakfast with fresh bread and croissants from a local bakery. Then, you'll go on a day-trip with them to explore their favorite villages and sights in the region. You'll shop in local markets. You'll go wine tasting. And, each evening you'll have time to relax at the villa while they prepare a light meal featuring local produce and specialties for you. Some evenings you might like to take a dip in the pool, other nights you might unwind with a glass of wine, and there may even be an evening when you decide to pop in the kitchen to pick up some local recipes
On this sojourn you'll unpack your bags in an unexpected corner of the countryside where you can get away from the fast paced life and really enjoy the slow pace of the French Provencal lifestyle. Each day you'll head out on excursions that go beyond the typical tourist experience: your hosts have selected a collection of their favorite spots in the area to share with you. These places range from the famous city of Aix-en-Provence and villages bearing the official title of "Most Beautiful Village in France" to places that many French people don't even know exist because they are tightly guarded local secrets. If you are looking to really get away from it all and immerse yourself in the French culture for a week, this sojourn is for you.
Each day you'll be able to choose between an active and a more relaxing option to get "Out and About" and enjoy the natural beauty and ancient history of Provence!
(Be sure to look at the detailed itinerary below the highlight section)
You'll be based in a comfortable villa with a swimming pool and outdoor terrace. Sojourning in one house for the whole trip means you can unpack your bags and make yourself at home for a relaxing trip without having to repack or change accommodation. Some of the highlights of this sojourn include:
- A focus on discovering Provence's charming remote villages which are inaccessible by public transportation, including six villages that have been awarded the title of “Most Beautiful Village of France”;
- An opportunity to kayak under the Pont du Gard, an ancient Roman aquaduct and UNESCO World Heritage Site;
- Wine tasting in the renowned Chateauneuf-du-Pape wine country;
- An opportunity to see the panoramic views from the surprising terrain atop Mt.Ventoux;
- A visit to the picturesque Senanque Abbey with the option to tour the inside;
- a visit to the city of Aix-en-Provence;
- Shopping in several traditional Mediterranean outdoor markets;
- Enjoying the French lifestyle in authentic restaurants, cafes and historic town centers;
- Tours of historic monuments including Roman ruins and a castle;
- Laid-back breakfasts and dinners served family-style at your villa.
- A lavish meal in a Michelin star restaurant.
Your base will be a countryside villa somewhere in the Provence backcountry near the Vaucluse and famous Luberon areas. The exact location will depend on the size of your group and the houses available at the time you make your reservation: PLEASE RESERVE EARLY. Wherever your villa is located, you can expect to have a pool and private bathroom for you and your roommate.
Provence, the region where you'll be staying, lies on the Mediterranean sea and stretches from the Rhone River (famous for its wines like Chateauneuf-du-Pape) to the Italian border. Your sojourn focuses on the villages of the mountainous backcountry around the base of the Mt. Ventoux and Luberon Massif. The area is host to the quintessential elements of Provence: red-tiled rooftops, cobblestoned streets, wild herbs, olive trees, lavender... and the cicadas will serenade you during your stay.
You'll be living like a local, enjoying typical French breakfasts and dinners served "buffet" style at your villa where you can eat together with the group in the dining room or on the terrace --or even find yourself a private spot for some "me" time.
Breakfasts typically consist of a cup of tea or a bowl of either cafe-au-lait or hot chocolate accompanied by fresh bread and Viennoiseries including croissants from a local bakery. You will also have a selection of yogurt, cheeses, meats and fresh fruit as well as juice to compliment the typical fare.
Lunches are exciting and full of variation! Lunch is the main meal of the day in France, so this will be your most substantial meal of the day and it will be fun and different each time... You'll have two days when you can explore and eat wherever you want. There will be one day when you shop in a market with the group to buy local specialties and produce. One day you will go to a lavish restaurant beloved by the locals. And, the last day, you'll go to a fancy gastronomic restaurant which was awarded one Michelin star (one of the most sought-after culinary distinctions in the world).
Dinners are made from scratch by your hosts at your villa in a very traditional French spirit. Before dinner, Lisa and Francis will put out some nibblies and drinks so you will have the option of relaxing with an aperitif while your meal is prepared. French dinners are typically light meals, somewhat like American lunches. Lisa and Francis will prepare an array of high-quality local items including fresh vegetables, meats, a cheese platter, breads and sometimes soup, pasta or French Tabbouleh made with couscous. You'll be able to assemble a sumptuous meal to your liking. You are always welcome to pop in the kitchen where your hosts will teach you the secrets of making a French vinaigrette for example, and other recipes.
The Provence Inland itinerary
Arrive at Your Villa
AFTERNOON: upon arrival, you can settle into your room in a Provencal Villa (housing depends on the size of your group). While other guests are still arriving, you can explore on your own, take a dip in the pool or relax in the villa with a cup of espresso or tea.
RECEPTION & DINNER: In the evening, you will get together with your hosts and the rest of the group to celebrate the beginning of the sojourn French-style with a typical apéritif at 6:00 pm, featuring the most festive of French beverages: real Champagne! You will then enjoy a laid-back dinner prepared by your hosts.
DISCOVER "THE most beautiful villages" In the luberon
Choose a Light or Moderate physical challenge: optional 1 hour hike
Les Baux de Provence, Senanque abbey & Gordes
Gordes is the "poster" village of Provence: a feudal town atop a hill crowned by a fortified castle. Gordes is so charming that it has become a trendy spot for actors and artists to buy second homes. Part of the draw are the narrow cobblestoned "calades" or streets which intertwine and create a fun maze in which to wander. The Senanque Abbey is Provence's calendar girl. You have undoubtedly seen photographs of this humble abbey flanked by lavender fields: it is one of the most recognizable sites in the area. Not too far away, is another exceptional site: Les Baux. Sitting atop a rocky spur, what remains of Les Baux is a cluster of houses and the ruins of a castle which had been carved right into the rock.
MORNING: Traveling through beautiful provencal landscapes, you will arrive at the Senanque Abbey.
- OPTION Visit the interior of the Abbey then hop in the van to meet the hikers in Gordes
- OPTION Hike to the village of Gordes (45 minutes- 1 hour)
From the Abbey everyone will meet up in Gordes, a famous hilltop village which bears the title of one of the "Most Beautiful Villages" of France. You will first have free time to explore its charming cobblestoned streets at your own pace. Then you will meet back up with the group to visit the ancient network of underground halls that is hidden under the village.
LUNCH: You'll eat in a local restaurant.
AFTERNOON: Following lunch, you will head to an olive oil farm where you will learn about the traditional production methods of this Mediterranean product. Then you will go to another famous Provence hilltop village which also bears the title of one of France's "Most Beautiful Villages".
- OPTION: Visit the ruins of the medieval castle that towers above the village at your own pace;
- OPTION: Take a ten-minute walk down hill to a former limestone quarry to see a light show. Images of famous artworks are projected onto the interior walls of the quarry and set to music for a monumental effect.
- OPTION: Skip the ruins and the quarry to stay in the village to have more time shopping or to visit a cafe.
You will then head back to the villa where you can relax, enjoy the pool, or have a glass of wine while your hosts prepare dinner.
DINNER: You will have a typical French-style summertime dinner with an assortment of local wines at the villa.
ROMAN RUINS & WINE TASTING chateauneuf du pape
Choose a light or invigorating physical challenge: optional 4/5 hours of kayaking
PONT DU GARD & CHATEAUneuf du pape
Today you'll be visiting two spots that are revered by the French.
The Pont du Gard (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) is not only one of the best preserved Roman aquaducts, it is also the tallest. The three-tiered bridge stands a stunning 160 feet over the Gardon River. It is truly amazing to pass under this structure built some time between 40-60 AD. Originally designed to transport water for the Romans in addition to serving as a bridge, the structure was preserved over time because the bridge was used as a lucrative toll site.
You'll go winetasting in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, the most famous appellation in the Rhone wine country. Wine has been produced along the Rhone river banks since pre-Roman times. But, as the name suggests, Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines date to the 14th century when the Popes moved temporarily to nearby Avignon. The church was a major player in the wine industry of the time. Today, the region is known for its earthy-gamy red blends dominated by the Grenache grape.
MORNING: You get an early start on the day and head out for the Gardon River.
- OPTION: Kayak down river past villages, through the Provencial landscapes and under the famous Pont du Gard Roman aqueduct.
- OPTION Drop off the Kayakers and hop back in the van for a road trip to the city of Nimes where you can stroll through the historic center at your own pace to see some of the world's best preserved Roman monuments: a temple and an arena.
LUNCH: Kayakers will picnic while the urban hikers in Nimes have the freedom to choose their own restaurant as they explore the city.
AFTERNOON: The Roadtrippers will return to pick up the Kayakers and you'll head as a group to do some winetasting together in Chateauneuf du Pape.
DINNER: You will have a typical French-style summertime dinner with an assortment of local wines at the villa.
Off-The-beaten-Path IN The MOUntainous Drôme Provencale
Choose a light or invigorating physical challenge: optional 3/4 hours of walking
Locals generally say that the Drome is what Provence was before the influx of tourists even though it is not technically part of Provence. Here you have all the best of rural inland Provence: the lavender, the wine, the olives and the bonus of having it all to yourself... and the local French residents. The Drome is breathtaking, amidst the mountains you'll see the stone buildings of old Feudal villages clustered atop hills. Spending a day in the Drome is truly living-like-a-local.
MORNING: A scenic drive through the countryside will take you to the town of Sault, where few foreign tourists venture. You'll head to the town's traditional outdoor market, which will be in full swing, to select local specialties to enjoy with dinner back at the villa.
LUNCH: You will have lunch at a rustic local restaurant situated in a lovely hilltop hamlet.
- OPTION: Hike to a village bearing the title "One of France's Most Beautiful Villages" through two other small villages. (2.5 -3.5 hours, with steep descents)
- OPTION: Road trip to the summit of the famous Mt. Ventoux to enjoy the panoramic views from the top.
After that, you'll return to the villa to relax, enjoy the pool, or have a glass of wine while your hosts prepare dinner.
DINNER: You will have a typical French-style summertime dinner, which will include local goodies purchased at the market we visited earlier in Sault, with an assortment of local wines at the villa.
HiGH CULTURE in fashionable Aix-en-provence & WINETASTING
Choose a light or moderate physical challenge: optional 2-5 miles of urban walking
This sophisticated college town is considered the heart of elegance Provence-style: this is the place to shop or sip coffee on a terrace and people-watch. Outdoor markets, charming public squares, museums, a cathedral... Aix has plenty to discover and its compact historic center makes this small city a fun and easy place to wander. The countryside around Aix has been immortalized in the post-impressionist paintings of Paul Cezanne, who was born here and turned into one of the most significant painters of the 19th century.
MORNING: Thursday is the perfect day to visit the city because it is a Grand Market day with four of the city's markets in full swing in the morning. You will have free time to explore the flea market, the textile market, the food market and the flower market as well as the historic district at your own pace. This is a great opportunity to buy local crafts and souvenirs like honey and lavender products.
LUNCH OPTIONS: Meet back up with the group to enjoy a refined lunch in a luxurious gastronomic restaurant that boasts a Michelin star (one of the most sought-after distinctions in the culinary world). Alternatively, you may opt out of the group meal to pick your own dining option or to enjoy a more private experience.
AFTERNOON: After lunch, you'll have several choices...
- OPTION: Continue to enjoy the city on your own --visit the Saint-Sauveur Cathedral, stroll the pedestrian streets and majestic city squares, go to the Granet Art Museum;
- OPTION: Do a self-guided "Cezanne-Walk" (using a map provided by your guides) to see the spots associated with the great artist in the city center;
- OPTION: Head off with your guides to visit both Cezanne's family home and his workshop.
LATE AFTERNOON: Before heading back to the villa, you'll drive to a winery with your group where you'll learn about another local wine appellation and sample the production. You will then return to the villa to relax, enjoy the pool or have a glass of wine while your hosts prepare dinner.
DINNER: You will have a typical French-style summertime dinner with an assortment of local wines a the villa.
EXPLORING "THE MOST BEAUTIFUL VILLAGES" OF THE lUBERON
Choose a light or moderate physical challenge: optional one hour hike
MÉNERBES & ROUSSILLION
The Luberon mountain chain in Provence is home to several villages bearing the official title "Most Beautiful Village in France"and each has a very distinct character. Ménerbes is a humble village perched atop a hill with sweeping views over the lush area and a most quintessential French aesthetic of understated elegance: well-maintained stone homes with shutters and doors painted in sophisticated grey-toned colors and cottage-garden-type landscaping. Those who have read A Year in Provence will thrill at visiting because the author's home, which is featured in the book was here. Roussillion is a village with an entirely different spunk. The environmental setting, featuring weathered ochre contrasted against deep green vegetation, has earned it the nickname "the Colorado of Provence." What is delightful is that the homes all celebrate this natural pigment. Just over the mountains is a Renaissance castle in the village of Lourmarin (where author Mayle later moved).
MORNING: Your day will begin in Ménerbes, a lovely hilltop village where you can let yourself be seduced by the panoramic views over the Luberon, the vegetation, the charm of the village. You'll arrive early enough to stroll around on your own, pop in a few places like the church, or perhaps a shop or art gallery.
LUNCH: (FREE CHOICE) You'll be free to find the restaurant of your choice. Options range from simple cafes to a restaurant housed in a 17th century manor featuring truffle mushrooms.
AFTERNOON: After lunch, you'll head to the village of Roussillon. The striking ochre colored earth here is used to color the buildings of the village.
- OPTION: Join your guide for a 60-minute hike through the ochre escarpments to the old quarry.
- OPTION: Take the shorter 30-minute trail on your own so that you can divide your time between the hike and village.
- OPTION: Skip the hike and enjoy spending all your time exploring the village.
After everyone has had a chance to at least take a peek at the village, you'll head on to the village of Lourmarin, where you'll visit the Renaissance castle.
DINNER: The meal will be preceded by an aperitif featuring the most festive of French beverages: real Champagne! You will then have a typical French-style summertime dinner with an assortment of local wines at the villa.
End of the tour.
Breakfast at the villa.