9 Day South of France Tour
(Special Lavender - July)
Day 1- Welcome to Southern France!
Pick up at Montpellier's airport or one of the train stations is between 12 and 4 pm. We will drive you to your hotel where you will have some free time to relax and unpack. (If you cannot arrive before this time you may have to take a taxi to the hotel) We will then all meet in the lobby for a welcome drink at 6 pm where 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 be able to enjoy your first delicious French meal!
You can also come a day early at the beach hotel to adjust to the time difference, you have the option to book an extra night at the hotel when you are making your booking or adding it to your order later. If you come a day early pick up is until 8 pm.
Pickup, Hotel Check in, Palavas-les-Flots, Welcome drink, Welcome Dinner
Day 2- Montpellier & Winery Flaugergues
This morning enjoy the gorgeous downtown of Montpellier where we will take in sights of 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 talk about the famous University of Medicine of Montpellier, stop to appreciate the magnificent gothic style of the Cathedral St Pierre and learn about hidden secrets that you might have not seen on your own. After 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. Finally, mid-afternoon you will be able to visit the 16th century Chateau de Flaugergues 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.) Montpellier, Wine Tasting Chateau Flaugergues, Free Evening in Palavas-les-Flots
Day 3- On the Compostela Road & French Picnic
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 boutiques or have a walk in the adjacent mountains. 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!
St-Guilhem-le-Desert on Compostela Road, Fabre Museum, French Picnic, Exindre Winery, Picnic Dinner
Day 4- Arles: Home of Van Gogh & Camargue Ranch
The city of Arles in Provence is famous for its many Roman monuments and being the place where Van Gogh called home for a little over a year and produced over 300 paintings! Here you will follow our Van Gogh expert guide and discover the places by which Vincent was inspired. During the tour you will also have a chance to visit the Roman Arena built around 90 AD. After lunch you will have the choice to visit the Foundation Van Gogh to see it's current exhibit or explore the city on your own more. We will then regroup and head to an authentic ranch in the Camargue! Another highlight of the tour, 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 French barbecue 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 5- Stone Hilltop Village, Art & History
Our first stop today is the picturesque hilltop village of Les-Baux-de-Provence. 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 2023 exhibit will be Vermeer and Van Gogh! You can learn more about 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. Baux-de-Provence, Light & Sound Show, Van Gogh, Free Evening in Palavas-les-Flots
Day 6- 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. You will get to learn about the intriguing history of this abbey-winery and taste their fantastic wine at the end of the tour. 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 in Palavas-les-Flots
Day 7- Avignon & Ocre Roussillon
This morning we will check out of our hotel in Palavas and venture deeper into Provence to stay in the famous ochre-colored village Roussillon in the Luberon valley for 2 nights. On our way we will discover Avignon for the day and its magnificent historical center listed as a world heritage site by UNESCO. During your guided tour you will tour the Papal Palace dating back to 1252 where seven Popes resided successively and the Pont d'Avignon bridge which inspired the famous kid's song. You will also learn about the rich history of the town thanks to the prosperity brought by the Rhone river and Italian influence. We will then have a fabulous lunch on the main square in front of the entrance to the Palace before heading to your new hotel mid-afternoon. After check-in at La Maison des Ocres in Roussillon, you can use the rest of your afternoon and free evening as you wish: enjoy the pool on site or explore the beautiful ochre-colored village. Use our recommended restaurant list to find a restaurant that suits you or go to the local bakery for some delicious snacks to go.Check out, Avignon, Hotel Check-in, Free Evening in Roussillon
Day 8- Lavender Fields, Gordes, Roussillon
Since it is the lavender season and we are in lavender country, we will start by stopping at 2 or 3 lavender fields for picture opportunities. Then we will visit 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 and take some to their distillery to make your own essential oil that you will keep as a souvenir! You will be able to take more pictures during this fun lavender field experience. We will then enjoy a homemade lunch at a private Provencal home in the middle of the country side. After this relaxing lunch we will then head back to Roussillon. You will have the choice to visit the hilltop village of Gordes or enjoy the afternoon free in Roussillon. Another day full of fun and picturesque places! Lavender Fields, Sault Lavender Farm & Distillery, Gordes, Roussillon, Free Evening in Roussillon
Day 9- Pont du Gard, Crusade Town
After we check out of the hotel in the morning and begin our journey back to Montpellier, 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. We will have lunch on site at the local restaurant. Then 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.
Check-out, Pont du Gard, Check-in, Aigues-Mortes, 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! You will be using the free shuttle 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.