9 Day South of France Tour
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- Magical Provence & Van Gogh
On this day you we will visit Les-Baux-de-Provence, a gorgeous stone hilltop village officially classified as "one of the most beautiful villages of France". We will do a short walking tour and then take a break for lunch at a nice little restaurant in town. Afterwards 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. Next we will visit Les Carrières de Lumières: a fascinating art, light & sound show. The exhibition of 2019 featured the works of Van Gogh and it 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. 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! (A list of things to do/see will be provided along with a list of restaurant recommendations located near your hotel.) Provence, Baux-de-Provence, Light & Sound Show, Van Gogh, 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- 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 spices 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! We will then head to a little village where Julia grew up close to Palavas-les-Flots to enjoy dinner together. This small local restaurant offers a cosy-vintage ambiance and excellent food cooked with local and fresh produce. A real gem!
Late Morning Departure, Farmers Market, La Couvertoirade & The Templars, Roquefort Cheese Cave, Dinner at Le Petit Troc
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, 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 6- Arles: Home of Van Gogh & Camargue Ranch
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 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- 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. 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- 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. We will enjoy our lunch in the historical center and then visit the splendid "Jardin de la Fontaine" an 18th century park. 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 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!
Nimes Roman City, Chateau de Flaugergues Winery, Free Evening
Day 9- Small Medieval Villages
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. 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. St-Guilhem-le-Desert, Compostela Road, 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 morningand 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.