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 in the little village where Julia grew up close to Palavas-les-Flots that offers a cosy-vintage ambiance and excellent food. A real gem!
Pickup, Hotel Check in, Palavas-les-Flots, Welcome drink, Welcome Dinner
Day 2- On the Compostela road
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 medieval village before stopping for lunch at a lovely French restaurant over a rocky gorge and turquoise river! we will then gather for a home made picnic catered by Julia's mother, one of our tour highlights! The menu includes Quiches, Tapenade, Charcuterie, Wine, Cheese, 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 time! St-Guilhem-le-Desert on Compostela Road, Wine Tasting Chateau Exindre, French Picnic dinner
Day 3- Magnificent Carcassonne
We will spend the whole day exploring 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 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 atop 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! After this memorable day you will be able to relax in Palavas with a free evening. Consider winding down at the wine bar of your hotel or walking along the beach eating some ice cream!
Carcassonne Medieval City, Free Evening
Day 4- Arles, Home of Van Gogh
The 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 we will visit the monuments, do the Van Gogh walking tour to discover the places by which Vincent was inspired and see the current exhibition at the Van Gogh foundation. 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. Mid-afternoon we will head to the Chateau de Flaugergue winery, built at the end of 16th century by wealthy aristocrats, where a wine 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, you will 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!
Arles' Downtown, Van Gogh, Chateau de Flaugergues Visit + Wine TastingFree Evening
Day 5- Montpellier & Camargue Ranch
This morning will be free for you to enjoy the local market across from your hotel and discover all the colorful spices of the South. Later in the morning we will go to the gorgeous downtown of Montpellier for a walking tour: 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 and see inside. After some delicious crepes for lunch, 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. After a short break, we will meet again to visit 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.
Late Morning Departure, Farmers Market, Montpellier, Creperie, Fabre Museum, Camargue Ranch + Dinner
Day 6- Boat Ride, Oysters & Wine
Today you will spend your day relaxing and expanding your senses. We will start the day by a visit of a local oyster farm. French people love oysters and you will learn why! After learning the oyster farming process and tasting the freshest oysters you can find we will head to the Canal du Midi, a 17th century canal, another UNESCO monument. At the time the 150 mile long canal linking the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea was considered a "wonder of the world". Today it is a magical place where travelers enjoy relaxing. We will board on a barge run by a lovely couple that will tell you all about this incredible masterpiece. During your 2.5 hours boat ride, lunch will be served and you will be able to sit back and watch the beautiful trees, boats, roads and houses that board the canal, all while enjoying a glass or two of rosé! 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!
Oyster Farm, Canal du Midi Boat Ride, Valmagne Abbey & Wine Tasting, Free Evening
Day 7- Magical Provence & Van Gogh
This morning we will check out of our hotel in Palavas and venture 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! (program not available yet for 2020) 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 the hotel to check in and then go to a restaurant for dinner to end the night. Provence, Baux-de-Provence, Light & Sound Show, Van Gogh, Hotel Check-in, Dinner
Day 8- Sault, Roussillon, Gordes
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! Next we will head to Roussillon, a truly unique village 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. It is one of the most beautiful villages of France and a must see in Provence. Here we will have lunch and explore the village a bit before heading to the neighboring hilltop village of Gordes where buildings of tan colored stone fill the steep hill and complement its natural beauty. Later we will head to a restaurant for dinner before returning back to the hotel for the night Sault Distillery, Roussillon, Gordes, 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 for the last night and have our Farewell dinner. 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
Day 10- Departure
It is time to leave the South of France and return home with new friends, great memories, and plenty of stories! We will drop you off at the airport or train station in the morning and help to 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.