9 Day South of France Tour
(Special Lavender - July)
Day 1- Welcome to Southern France!
After picking you up from the airport in the afternoon (pick up from 12 to 4 pm) we will drive you to your hotel where you will have some free time to relax and unpack. (You can also come a day early at the beach hotel to adjust to the time difference, extra night available at check out.) At the end of the afternoon we will meet in the lobby for a welcome drink, you will be able to meet the other travelers as well as your local guides! We will then have our Welcome dinner at a French restaurant where you will enjoy a delicious meal cooked by Christophe renowned local chef and family friend.
Pickup, Hotel Check in, Palavas-les-Flots, Welcome drink, Welcome Dinner
Day 2- On the Compostela road & Winery Flaugergues
To start the day we will visit one of the villages on the "most beautiful villages of France" list, St-Guilhem-le-Desert. It is one of the stops along the Santiago de Compostela (a Pilgrimage road recognized on the UNESCO world heritage list since 1998). The picturesque architecture and the wonderful abbey will bring you back in time. You will learn about the life of Saint Guilhem, grandson of Charles Martel and cousin of Charlemagne. Enjoy the peaceful feeling as you wander through the cobbled streets and archways of this untouched medieval village before stopping for lunch at a lovely French restaurant over a rocky gorge and turquoise river! You will then have some free time to explore: get lost in the small streets, shop the local artisans boutique or have a walk in the adjacent mountains. Mid-afternoon you will be able to visit the 16th century Chateau de Flaugergue winery where a wine tour and tasting will be waiting for you. Vines have been grown on this spot since Roman times and they make excellent wine! After returning back to Palavas, spend your evening freely. You could go for a stroll on the beach, explore the busy fisherman village, and eat at a restaurant by the port! (A list of things to do/see will be provided along with a list of restaurant recommendations located near your hotel.) St-Guilhem-le-Desert on Compostela Road, Wine Tasting Chateau Flaugergues, Free Evening
Day 3- Montpellier & French Picnic
This morning enjoy the gorgeous downtown of Montpellier where we will soak in beautiful architecture: La Promenade de Peyrou, a beautiful scenic park with a statue of King Louis XIV, the Arc De Triomphe monument, a 300 year old Roman style Aqueduct, the Château d'eau, and one of the best views of the city. As we move along we will stop to appreciate the magnificent gothic style of the Cathedral St Pierre, finally you will have the option to visit the Museum Fabre or take some extra free time to shop and explore. Founded in 1825, this exceptional museum houses one of France’s richest collections of European art. We will then gather for one of our tour highlights: a home made picnic catered by Julia's mother! The menu includes Quiches, Tapenade, Charcuterie, Wine and more, a gourmet French meal. You will also get to try your hand at "Petanque", the backyard game of Southern France. The picnic takes place at the Chateau Exindre, where the owner of the winery will give us a fun and educational lesson about wine-making and give us a tasting. This is always a fun afternoon!
Montpellier, Fabre Museum, French Picnic, Exindre Winery, Free Evening
Day 4- Templars, Roquefort & Wine Abbey
Today you will spend your day in the backcountry. We will start the day with a stop at La Couvertoirade, a hidden gem originally land of the Knights Templar. After learning about the tragic history of these crusaders you will be able to walk on the medieval wall and take breathtaking pictures of this stone village. The rest of the day is dedicated to expanding your senses. Visit the Roquefort Cheese Cave, the only place on earth where Roquefort is made. After a delicious lunch in the vaulted restaurant follow your guide for an eye opening tour on blue cheese making. After exploring the caves nested in the heart of the mountain itself (it's cold bring a warm jacket!) you will enjoy a tasting of Roquefort cheese, officially known as ‘the king of cheeses! Finally, we will finish our day by a stop at a 12th century Abbey which is today one of the oldest wineries of Languedoc-Roussillon. After the wine tasting, it will be time to return to your hotel and enjoy your free evening in Palavas-les-Flots. You can use our recommended restaurants list to find a delicious meal!
La Couvertoirade & The Templars, Roquefort Cheese Cave, Valmagne Abbey & Wine Tasting, Free Evening
Day 5- Magnificent Carcassonne & Wine Abbey
Today on our day trip you will explore the exceptional medieval walled city of Carcassonne. The city has about 5,000 years of history and has seen the Romans, Visigoths, Saracens and Crusaders. You will have a guided historical tour and then some free time to explore on your own. The citadel derives its reputation from its massive double surrounding walls spanning 1.9 miles and 52 defensive towers. Walking between the ramparts and surveying the lands, you will feel like you are in a movie, maybe because of the Robin Hood movie scenes filmed here! Finally, we will finish our day by a stop at a 12th century Abbey which is today one of the oldest wineries of Languedoc-Roussillon. After the wine tasting, we will then return to Palavas-les-Flots, where you will spend your evening freely. You will be able to eat a delicious meal in Palavas using our restaurant recommendations list provided at your arrival to find the perfect place.
Carcassonne Medieval City, Valmagne Abbey & Wine Tasting, Free Evening
Day 6- Arles: Home of Van Gogh & Camargue Ranch
The Provence city of Arles is famous for its many Roman monuments and being the place where Van Gogh called home for 9 years and produced over 300 paintings! Here you will follow our Van Gogh expert guide and discover the places by which Vincent was inspired. Some famous places we will visit are the Yellow Cafe from his "Cafe Terrace" piece, the Langlois Bridge that he liked to paint, and the place on the Rhone river where he would paint the stars. After lunch with a view of the Roman Arena you will visit the Foundation Van Gogh and it's current exhibit before heading to an authentic ranch in the Camargue! Here we will learn about the traditions of the region and see the French cowboys practice herding the black bulls of the Camargue while riding the famous white horses. Afterwards we will enjoy a fun picnic style dinner on the Ranch with regional food before heading back to the hotel.
Arles' Downtown, Van Gogh, Camargue Ranch, Dinner at the Ranch
Day 7- Magical Provence & Van Gogh
This morning we will check out of our hotel in Palavas and venture deeper into Provence for a 2 night stay. Our first stop along the way, Les-Baux-de-Provence, is a gorgeous Southern France village officially classified as "one of the most beautiful villages of France". The cultural heritage here is exceptionally rich and the landscape and the beauty of the Provençal village will take your breath away. We will do a short guided walking tour and then stop at a traditional auberge for lunch. Afterward you will have time to explore the medieval streets, look over the artisan shops, or slow down at a cafe and watch the people come and go. Our next stop is the Les Carrières de Lumières, a fascinating art, light & sound show! The exhibitions of 2018 and 2019 were Picasso and Van Gogh respectively and they did not disappoint! Find out what is the current exhibit here. To finish the afternoon we will visit the 11th century Saint-Paul-de-Mausole monastary to appreciate the beautiful architecture of the Provençal Romansque style. It is here in this sanctuary where Vincent Van Gogh painted his famous Starry Night piece in 1889 during his troubled time. Later in the evening we will head to your new hotel located in Roussillon. After check-in use your free evening as you wish: enjoy the pool on site or explore the beautiful ocre-colored village. Use our recommended restaurant list to find a restaurant that suits you or go to the local bakery for some to go delicious snacks. Baux-de-Provence, Light & Sound Show, Van Gogh, Hotel Check-in Roussillon, Free Evening
Day 8- Sault, Gordes, Roussillon
Since it is the lavender season and we are in lavender country, we will start by heading out to a local family run lavender farm in Sault. Here local farmers will tell us the history of lavender in the region, how to grow and harvest it, and then lead us into the fields to pick some and take to their distillery to make your own essential oil that you will keep as a souvenir! You will be able to take plenty of pictures during this morning lavender field experience. After lunch in a local restaurant we will stop by the hilltop village of Gordes where buildings of tan colored stone fill the steep hill and complement its natural beauty. You will have some free time to walk around. Finally, mid afternoon we will head back to the nearby town of Roussillon where your hotel is located. You will have plenty of time to explore this unique village that is lying on a hill between the Monts de Vaucluse and the Luberon valley with buildings that glow with beautiful pastel shades of Ochre under a blue sky. Sault Lavender Farm & Distillery, Gordes, Roussillon, Free Evening
Day 9- Avignon & Pont du Gard
After we check out of the hotel in the morning and begin our journey back to Montpellier, we will first stop to discover Avignon and its magnificent historical center listed as a world heritage by UNESCO. We will tour the Papal Palace (1252) home to 7 successive Popes and the Pont d'Avignon which inspired the famous kid's song and also its episcopal ensemble (the ramparts and churches). We will have a fabulous lunch on the main square in front of the entrance to the Palace. Afterwards, we will visit a masterpiece of ancient architecture: the Pont du Gard, a massive 2000 year old Roman aqueduct. It is a milestone of human engineering and one of the greatest monuments of France that stands as a reminder of the tremendous power of the Roman Empire. Afterwards we continue to check in to our hotel in Montpellier near the airport for the last night of the tour. After some free time to relax at your hotel, we will end this day with our farewell dinner in the nearby town of Aigues-Mortes: the medieval fortified port city where the 7th and 8th crusades were launched. You will first learn about this truly surprising walled town surrounded by ponds and salt marshes and it's rich history before enjoying a gourmet meal in a 16th century building that holds a 5 star hotel and fabulous restaurant (but shh, this is one of our secret gems!) While eating our last French meal together we can share our good memories before our departure. While eating our last French meal together we can share our good memories before your departure. Avignon, Pont du Gard, Hotel Check-in, Farewell Dinner in Aigues-Mortes
Day 10- Departure
It is time to leave the South of France and return home with new friends, great memories, and plenty of stories! You will be using the free shuttle from the hotel if departing from the airport otherwise we will arrange your transportation to the train station. We will make sure that everything is well coordinated for you to travel stress free. We hope we will have succeeded our mission of sharing our culture and region for a trip full of good times and smiles and that you will join us again on one of our other tours!
Departure for your train or plane before noon.