October 12 – 24, 2023 Women only
Provence is a magical triangle of land in southeastern France containing the spirits of civilizations past and present – a splendid, multi-faceted mosaic of sunshine and serenity.
Its unhurried daily rhythms will embrace you on our slow travel, epicurean tour. This sun-kissed corner of the map encompasses such seasonal bounty, irresistible scents of lavender, rosemary and thyme, you can almost taste its beauty.
The French passion for food is celebrated in the village markets where seasonal foods are the mainstays of daily living. We’ll visit farmers’ markets, and indulge in two, hands-on cooking classes with local chefs. We’ll dine at Michelin Guide restaurants, tour charming villages, and sample wines at local vineyards.
As an introduction to Provence I’ve selected some of the most popular books about Provence, as well as the most influential food and wine writers from Waverly Root to M.F. K. Fisher, You’ll discover this magical corner through the words they wrote, the recipes they cooked, the meals they savored, and the tales they told.
After your arrival at the Gare d’Avignon, we’ll drive to our accommodations at Le Prieuré La Madelène in the village of Malaucène. Surrounded by ancient plane trees, Malaucène is the gateway to Mont Ventoux, favored by the Tour de France cycling competition. La Madelène is a beautifully renovated, 12th century Benedictine priory tucked discreetly away among cherry tree orchards, vineyards, olive groves, and fields of red poppies. Once we’re settled into our rooms, we’ll be served an al fresco evening meal on the terrace by our hosts, a sampling of local charcuterie, cheeses, and fresh bread, accompanied by a selection of excellent regional wines.
We’ll spend our first full day together exploring the village of Uzès, one of the best kept secrets of Provence. Set amidst beautiful countryside, this gem holds one of the best Saturday farmers’ markets. We’ll feast our eyes on artisan pottery, housewares, clothing, leather goods, soaps, furniture, flowers, spices, textiles, and more hidden among its cobblestoned streets and arcaded square. Lunch will be at the Michelin restaurant, La Table de Uzès. After lunch we’ll either visit the commune of Saint Quentin la Poterie, the ceramic capital of the Pays d’Uzès, or the Pont du Gard, a Roman marvel of engineering bringing water to the city of Nîmes, some 24 km away.
Every Sunday throughout the year, the lovely river-side village of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue combines its antique and farmers’ market making it an incredible feast for the senses. Considered the Venice of Provence, its old canals, historic waterwheels, and wooden bridges cut an intricate path throughout the village. With the crystal clear Sorgue River as our backdrop we’ll begin our day early hunting for treasures along streets brimming with antiques, collectibles, old and new: furniture, paintings, china, carpets, clothes, and linens. Before stopping for lunch at Le Bellevue, we’ll let our tastebuds be our guide, gathering everything we’ll need for an early evening alfresco meal under the stars.
After our breakfast of croissants, freshly baked cakes, and confitures, we’ll head for the village of Bédoin whose farmers’ market is yet another remarkable variation on the farm to table theme. Its main street curves under the shadow of Mont Ventoux and offers some of the regions best offerings. The heady scents of lavender soaps, fresh herbs and spices, breads and pastries from vendors fill the air. We will wander without any set itinerary until our baskets are bulging with a cornucopia of vegetables and fruits at their peak of ripeness. At noon we’ll meet for lunch in the courtyard of the restaurant, Lily et Paul. In the afternoon we’ll relax until it’s time for our evening meal.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape sits towards the bottom of the Rhône Valley. The name means, “Pope’s new castle,” and refers to a time when the seat of the Roman Catholic Church was in Avignon (between 1309–1377). This famed region has written records of vineyards dating back centuries. Châteauneuf-du-Pape was the very first wine appellation created in 1936, and is one of 19 official crus or “growths” of the Côtes du Rhône wine region. We will visit some of these wineries, enjoy tastings, and learn about what makes this wine so special. After lunch at Les Vieux Telegraph overlooking the valley below, we will take a leisurely drive to Beaumes-de-Venise famous for its sublime fortified dessert wine, Muscat, and tour La Balméene olive mill.
The wild landscapes surrounding the elegant village of St. Remy de Provence has attracted dreamers and artists from Nostradamus to Vincent Van Gogh. In the village home and kitchen of La Cuisine Provençal we’ll enjoy our first cooking workshop will chef, Jane Satow. We’ll make 7-10 recipes, including several amuse-bouche, a starter, main course, and dessert. Our classes begin in the local farmers’ market where we’ll collect ingredients together, and meet the producers. After the cooking portion of the class we’ll enjoy a meal together on Jane’s outside patio. Following the class we’ll explore St. Remy. In the old squares we’ll find everything from sophisticated art galleries to the sublime chocolates of Joël Durand.
Today we’ll take a drive to the stunning village of Roussillon, its vividly red-ochre soil visible across the Coulon valley floor. Experiencing the farmers’ market of this once fortified stronghold along its winding streets will feel like wandering inside an artist’s palette whose colors range from deep-orange to pink and yellow. After lunch at Le Piquebaure, with stunning views from the veranda, we’ll don our miner’s hats and tour the underground ochre mines of Bruoux.
Eygalières is a lovely village with a ruined castle nestled along the western fringe of the Alpilles Mountains. We’ll wander its wonderfully colorful market that stretches from one end of the main street to the other, then have lunch at the charming restaurant, Chez Paulette. On our way back to Malaucène we will stop just outside of St. Remy de Provence at Chateau Romanin for a guided tour and tasting of their whites, reds and rosés in their spectacular cathedral wine cellar.
Bonnieux is one of the loveliest and largest perched villages in the Petit Luberon. We’ll wander its farmers’ market enclosed by old ramparts shaded by ancient cedar trees. After lunch at the Michelin restaurant, L’Arôme, we’ll first tour the tour the Chateau la Canorgue, the beautiful 16th century chateau in the Ridley Scott movie, The Good Year, based on Peter Mayle’s book, A Year in Provence. The chateau’s AOC wines, all organically grown, consistently win medals at international competitions. Our last stop of the day will be the beautiful village of Ansouis, the film location for Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources. It’s also the home of the best Santon maker in Provence, his clay figurines are prized collectibles.
From another one of the best local cooking classes in the region. we’ll learn, hands-on, how to prepare dishes from appetizers to desserts sure to whet the palate. We’ll choose our gourmet ingredients from the St. Remy de Provence farmers’ market then head back to the home kitchen of our chef, Gilles Conchy. Gilles will pass on his ‘family’ know-how around Provence’s iconic dishes: asparagus with truffles, courgette flowers fritters, daube Provençale, ratatouille, tarte aux pine nuts, poached fruit salad with mint and more. We’ll discover the subtleties of cooking with the mainstay of the Provençal kitchen, Herbes de Provence – thyme, lavender, sage, bay laurel, marjoram and it’s wild form, oregano.
We’ll drive to the small, but magical villages of Ménerbes and Vénasque. Ménerbes was the original home and inspiration for Peter Mayle’s, A Year in Provence. Below the village, we’ll enjoy lunch together in the vineyard enclosed courtyard of the charming Bastide de Marie. On our way back to Malaucène we’ll make a brief stop to the medieval hilltop village of Vénasque, its baptistery built on the site of a 6th century pagan temple. This small cruciform structure is one of the earliest Christian buildings in France.
Every quiet Sunday morning the otherwise bustling town of Carpentras holds a large flea market under a canopy of magnificent old plane trees. Among the many and varied vendors you might find unexpected treasures to take back home. Today, lunch will be in the nearby village of Pernes-let-Fontaines, often overlooked by visitors to the region. Its 13th and 14th century towers and gateways, plus its 36 fountains spread throughout this riverside town, give it a lyrical and relaxing atmosphere for our last day together.
We will depart for either Blagnac Airport in Toulouse, or the Gare d’Avignon in Avignon, depending upon your scheduled return. You might want to consider spending the night in either Toulouse or Avignon, leaving for your destination the following day.
13 days, 12 nights
Tour Price – $5,795.00 per person.
Small group tour for no more than 6 people.
Reserve Your Place
Suggested Reading List:
Two Towns in Provence – M.F.K Fisher
French Provincial Cooking – Elizabeth David
Lulu’s Provençal Table – Richard Olney
The Food of France – Waverly Root
Chez Panisse – Alice Waters
Mastering the Art of French Cooking and My Life in France – Julia Child
Provence – Luke Barr
The Provence Cookbook – Patricia Wells
Home Cooking – Laurie Colwin
When French Women Cook – Madeleine Kamman
Around My French Table – Dorie Greenspan
The French Laundry Cookbook – Thomas Keller
Plat du Jour – Susan Hermann
French Comfort Food – Hillary Davis
My Paris Kitchen: Recipes and Stories – David Lebovitz
Chocolate & Zucchini – Clotilde Dusoulier
A Year in Provence – Peter Mayle