May 12-24, 2023 Women’s Only Tour
October 12 – 24, 2023 Standard Tour
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. This sun-kissed corner of the map encompasses such seasonal bounty, and irresistible scents of lavender, rosemary and thyme, you can almost taste its beauty. Its unhurried daily rhythms will embrace you on this slow travel, culinary tour. We’ll visit farmers’ markets, and medieval villages. We’ll dine at Michelin Guide restaurants, or find the perfect picnic spots tucked away in charming villages. We’ll sample wines at local vineyards, and we’ll trace the footsteps of some of the most influential food and wine writers such as M.F. K. Fisher, Waverly Root, Richard Olney, Elizabeth David, Alice Waters, and Julia Child, through the recipes they cooked and the meals they savored.
We’ll spend our first day together in the village of Uzès, one of the best kept secrets of Provence. Set amidst beautiful countryside, this gem of a village holds one of the best Saturday farmers’ markets in the Gard department. We’ll discover 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 Guide restaurant, La Table de Uzès.
With the babbling Sorgue River as our backdrop we’ll begin our day early hunting for treasures along table-lined streets brimming with antiques, collectibles, old and new: furniture, paintings, china, carpets, clothes, and linens. Before stopping for lunch at Le Bellevue, a flower-filled riverside restaurant, 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, confitures and fresh brewed coffee, 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 the boulangerie 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, share stories, read, nap, or plan 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 called Muscat.
No tour would be complete without a visit to Saint Paul Mausole, the monastery just outside St. Remy, where Vincent Van Gogh lived while receiving psychiatric treatment. He painted over 100 canvases during his time here before leaving for Paris, including his famous “Starry Night”.
M.F.K. Fisher considered Aix her second home. We’ll have
lunch in one of her favorite restaurants. Afterwards we’ll visit Cézanne’s atelier.
A bit further down the road in the village of Maussane, we will have lunch at Le Bistrot du Paradou, famed for its cuisine. Set in a quintessential, blue-shuttered, Provencal farmhouse, its beautiful terrace and its old fashioned interior is a local institution. From their homemade aïoli to their hand-crafted pies, we will celebrate their Michelin Guide recommended repertoire of generous and delicious dishes.
Under the shadow of the Arènes, an enormous Roman amphitheater built in 90 A.D., we’ll have lunch at the Michelin Guide recommended restaurant, La Galoubet, in the heart of the old town This pretty bistro with vintage decoration draws a crowd of regulars who can be sure of what they’ll be getting: ingredients sourced at the market and transformed into delicate dishes.
The Coustellet farmers’ market takes place every Sunday morning from April to December, and is another wonderful market to explore. It is a marché paisan, which means that the produce is sold by the producers themselves who take pride in offering a fresh, farm to table cornucopia. It is a marvelous showcase of the fruit, vegetables, herbs, flowers, wine, honey, cheese, bread, and other unique delicacies of the region.
In the afternoon at our French table we’ll learn, hands-on, how to prepare dishes from appetizers to desserts sure to whet the palate from one of the best local chefs in the region. We’ll discover the subtleties of cooking with wine and eau-de-vie, as well as the how to use the mainstay of the Provençal kitchen, Herbes de Provence -thyme, lavender, sage, bay laurel, marjoram and it’s wild form, oregano.
We’ll drive through the Petit Luberon, Peter Mayle country, a magical region popularized in his book, A Year in Provence. We’ll visit Bonnieux, Lacoste and Ménerbes with a stop at the Chateau la Canorgue, the beautiful 16th century chateau in the Ridley Scott movie, The Good Year, based on Mayle’s book. The chateau’s AOC wines, all organically grown, consistently win medals at international competitions.
Bonnieux also boasts the Musée de la Boulangerie, which will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about Provençal breads. Overlooking the village of Lacoste is the former ruined castle of the infamous Marquis de Sade, completely renovated by the designer Pierre Cardin, now an arts and theatre venue. We’ll have lunch at Les Saveurs Gourmand, in the honey colored village of Ménerbes, the actual home of Peter Maybe, artsy, charming and picture postcard perfect.
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