What is it about Provence that so captivates both overseas and French visitors that they keep coming back to get their fix?
Perhaps the near perfect climate where for most of the year Provence is bathed in glorious southern sunshine with an intensity of light. A light that in contrast with the red tile roofs an infinite variety of greens and the looming presence of limestone hills makes a wonderfully rich mosaic of colours that has over centuries inspired so many artists such as Cezanne and Van Gogh to name but two.
Perhaps it is the echoes of the Roman footsteps in this area that has left us with some powerful reminders of this great Empire in the form of Aqueducts and Ampitheatres. Perhaps the ancient perched villages that crown the hills like pearls on a necklace or the countless bistros and brasseries that express Provences rich gastronomic resources so simply yet beyond praise. Perhaps it is the omnipresent vineyards and Olive Groves, the Market days in old town squares, the warmth of the people the perfume of the Lavender fields, the antique fairs?
Only one way to find out. Come and see for yourself.
1 Day - Avignon
Taking the express train (TGV) from Paris we arrive in Avignon this amazing walled city famous for its Bridge over the Rhone and the enormous Palais des Papes, papal centre in the 14th century.
We explore here in the cultural centre of Provence before taking a trip out to Chateau Neuf des Papes the most prestigious of the Southern Rhone wine area. We discover all about this wine at one of its celebrated vineyards, before returning to Avignon to stay at our Hotel within the walls. We will enjoy the delights of Avignon at night when dining out at a recommended restaurant.
2-5 Days - Luberon
We head East to the Luberon our base for the next 3/4/5 days.
The Luberon so recently renowned owing to Peter Mayle'e series of books (A Year in Provence etc.) is an exquisite part of Provence. The Luberon is a gentle range of hills with some of France's most beautiful villages perched on the summits. We have plenty of time to explore the best such as Gordes, Menerbes and Bonnieux where we wander through these amazing ancient villages enjoying the wonderful views and narrow lanes with hidden delights round every bend.
It is also a perfect base to venture further afield in Provence. Trips to Aix en Provence, Cezanne's native town, Marseilles that great Mediterranean port and France's third city, the market in Carpentras, the Isle-sur-la-Sorgue the provencal capital for antique enthusiasts, wine festivals and local fairs. All these are possible depending on your time, interests and what's on at certain times of the season.
Rest assured you will never be at a loss for enjoyment in Provence, some people are happiest doing very little other than wandering and relaxing in the southern sun.
1-2 Days - The Apilles to Arles
We leave the Luberon heading east to the Alpilles area of Provence to see Les Baux de Provence in the heart of olive and wine country. This is an amazing long deserted rock citadel - some say on a par with Mont St Michel. Time to explore here and visit the nearby World Gold Medal olive oil producer before we arrive in Arles, the gateway to the Camargue.
This amazing walled city was once the Roman Capital of their Provincia but today the influence is more Spanish than Italian as the Roman Ampitheatre now hosts bullfights. Arles offers many ancient wonders for us to see and why not in the footsteps of Van Gogh who had his most prolific time as an artist here, sadly perhaps his most deranged as it was here he cut off his ear. Plenty of time to explore as we spend a night here and enjoy Arles when many of the visitors have left.
1 Day - The Camargue
We drive out into the Camargue this strange almost other worldly delta of the Rhone River where there are few roads and wildlife abounds in the wetlands. Famous for its Rice Harvests, black bulls, cowboys, pink flamingoes and the Camargue ponies. We drive through this national park to Aigues Mortes or dead waters another walled town built by the French King St Louis as an embarcation port for the crusades. Lunch here before setting off for Nimes and our high speed train back to Paris ending in another Roman Town what will have been an unforgettable time in Provence