9 Day South of France Tour
Day 1- Welcome to Southern France!
Pick up at Montpellier's airport or one of the train stations is between 12 and 4:30 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- 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 3- 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. 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.) Baux-de-Provence, Light & Sound Show, Van Gogh, Free Evening in Palavas-les-Flots
Day 4- French Market, Templars, Roquefort Cheese Cave
This morning will be free for you to enjoy the local market across from your hotel and discover all the colorful products of the South. Later in the morning we will go to 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! 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!
Later Morning Departure, Farmers Market, La Couvertoirade & The Templars, Roquefort Cheese Cave, Free Evening
Day 5- Roman Relics & Wine Tasting
Today we will spend the morning in the city of Nimes, home to the finest collection of Roman architecture in all of France, including a magnificent amphitheater and a 2,000-year-old temple. Our guided tour will start at La Tour de Magne, the highest point of the city. We will gently stroll down to the city center through the the splendid "Jardin de la Fontaine" an 18th century park where the natural spring that flows through town is located. You will see the Temple of Diana and the Maison Carrée: one of the most well preserved Roman temple in the world. After learning about the importance of the Romans in Southern France we will enjoy our lunch in the historical center before we head to the Roman Amphitheater. Here you will have 1h free time to visit the inside of the Arena, walk around or simply enjoy coffee at the corner café facing this majestic monument. (Please not that there will not be a guided tour of the inside as you will get to visit the inside of the one in Arles.)
Mid-afternoon we will head to the Chateau de Flaugergues, built at the end of 16th century by wealthy aristocrats, where a wine tour and wine tasting will be waiting for you. Vines have been grown on this spot since Roman times and they make excellent wine! After a short drive you will be back to your hotel for your free evening, why not enjoy some mussels and fries at one of the seafood restaurants near your hotel or maybe grab some snacks at the local bakery and relax in your room.
Nimes Roman City, Chateau de Flaugergues Winery, Free Evening
Day 6- 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 7- Avignon & Pont du Gard
Today we 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. Also registered as a UNESCO monument, it is a milestone of human engineering and one of the greatest monuments of France that stand as a reminder of the tremendous power of the Roman Empire. You will then have the evening free for you to relax and remember this incredible day spent traveling back in time. You can use your evening to stroll on the beach, explore the busy fisherman village, and eat at a restaurant by the port. Avignon, Pont du Gard, Free evening
Day 8- Magnificent Carcassonne
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 where you will learn about the history of the Cathar and the different periods of constructions of this magnificent defending art work. We will have lunch together and then you can enjoy 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! Will then return to Palavas-les-Flots, your home base town, 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 9- Montpellier 7th city of France & Crusade Town
For our last day of tour but not the least, 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.
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. Montpellier, 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! We will drop you off at the airport or train station in the morning before 12 pm 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 between 4 am and 12pm