Occitanie & Provence, A Women's Only Adventure

May 14 – 26, 2022 SOLD OUT

This special twelve day tour takes a serpentine route through some of the most beautiful countryside in southern France beginning in Albi and ending with the Gypsy Festival in the Camargue. We’ll visit the best of the Occitanie and Provence-Alpes-Côtes d’Azur’s sun-kissed regions, famous for beautiful villages, market towns overflowing with character, legendary history, and unique culture. We’ll even dip over the border into the Vaucluse to visit a few villages that shouldn’t be missed.

Sample Itinerary

Day 1

After your arrival at Blagnac Airport in Toulouse, we’ll drive to Albi, known as La Ville Rouge, the red city. Once settled at our hotel, L’Autre Rives, we’ll have lunch in the old city center, then spend the rest of the afternoon discovering Albi. Sainte Cécile, Albi’s 13th century cathedral, dominates the skyline, reflecting the grandiose vision of Bernard de Castanet, the Bishop of Albi. The cathedral’s decorated ceiling is considered the largest fresco in France. Albi’s most famous son is the artist, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The Palais de la Berbie, the former Bishop’s Palace, has the largest permanent collection of Toulouse-Lautrec’s work, and the Palace Gardens offer a magnificent view of the Tarn River. The river bisects Albi and is spanned by three bridges. The first, one of the oldest in France dating from 1040, is still in use today. The second was built in the 19th century, and the third, a railway bridge, was designed by Gustave Eiffel, of Eiffel Tower fame.

Day 2

The history of Cordes-sur-Ciel began in 1222 as the first bastide, fortified village, in France. It was built by Raymond VII, one of the Counts of Toulouse. This charming medieval town is perched on the top of a hill known as Puech de Mordagne, often giving the illusion of Cordes floating in mid-air. By the beginning of the 20th century Cordes had fallen into ruinous decay, but luckily in the mid-1940s the village’s fortunes improved and it became an artists’ center. The writer Albert Camus moved there as well as the painter Yves Brayer, who oversaw the village’s transformation. We’ll also visit Puycelsi, another charming, though smaller, fortified village hidden on the edge of the Grésigne forest and walk its ramparts for spectacular views over the valley below.

Day 3

Despite Castres Latin origins, the Agout River village, was not founded by the Romans. The origins of the city date back to the year 647, with the founding of its Benedictine abbey. Castres has some remarkable architectural treasures, in particular the Episcopal Palace, the work of Jules Hardouin-Mansart, architect of Versailles. The Palace became the Goya Museum in 1947. After the Louvre in Paris it houses the most important collection of Hispanic art in France. After lunch we’ll drive to the village of Lautrec. Amazingly, the painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec never visited Lautrec. It is well known for its pink garlic, Ail rose de Lautrec, grown exclusively in and around the village, as well as its Bleu de Pastel dyes made from the woad plant.

Day 4

Gaillac was founded in the second century by the Gauls, who created a port along the Tarn River.When the region was conquered by Rome, Gaillac gained notoriety and prosperity for its wine. Roman merchants transported the wine to Bordeaux, shipping it down the Tarn River to the Garonne, which runs all the way to the Atlantic.The local wine of Gaillac is France’s oldest wine, first been made almost two thousand years ago from wild vines found in the forest of Grésigne. Gaillac wine was one of the two Grands Crus, great wines, of Roman Gaul, centuries ahead of Burgundy and Bordeaux wine. Depending upon your tastes we may visit Gaillac’s most notable Wine Cooperative, Maison Labastide or one of its two famous red brick buildings, the Abbaye St. Michel or the Church of St. Pierre.

Day 5

Leaving the Tarn region on our way to the Bouches-du-Rhône, we’ll stop in the utterly charming village of Pézenas. Here we’ll find the centre ville, city center, full of artists ateliers, cafés, antique stores, and bookstores. It will be impossible to leave Pézenas without a handmade souvenir. Pézenas seduces visitors with its magnificent medieval architecture. Leisurely strolling along the winding cobblestone streets there we’ll be able to glimpse beautiful old houses through courtyard doorways, exquisitely carved Renaissance windows, and fabulous old doors with terra cotta carvings to photograph and admire. After lunch we’ll drive through the southern corner of the map to Fontvielle, home of one France’s most famous literary landmarks, the Moulin de Daudet and settle in at our hotel, the deluxe, boutique hotel Villa Regalido

Day 6

Just a short walk from our hotel in the village, we’ll choose to visit one of France’s most famous literary landmarks, the Moulin de Daudet, Daudet’s Windmill (Alphonse Daudet wrote Lettres de mon Moulin, Letters from my Windmill here in 186o) or the Moulin Cornille, to tour one of the most important olive oil mills in the country, which continually produces oil from the fruit of over 400,000 olive trees that carpet Les Baux valley. Driving across the western side of the limestone massif, Les Alpilles. we’ll settle into the absolutely picture postcard perfect village of St. Remy de Provence. The physician and astrologer Nostradamus lived here and Vincent Van Gogh painted 150 canvases including his famous “Starry Night” while convalescing at Clinique St. Paul de Mausole just a two minute drive away.

Day 7

Eygalières is a small, peaceful village full of understated charm in the heart of the Alpilles Natural Park, surrounded by vast fields of olive trees and vineyards. It has many Provencal country stone mas, Provençal farmhouses, all tastefully restored, and historical sites to visit such as the ruins of its old feudal castle and the esplanade of its old keep with magnificent views over the plains below. Eygalières is an easily walkable village filled with quaint store fronts and good restaurants. Friday is market day. Friday is market day in Eygalières. This very quaint market is filled with fresh produce, bread, fabrics, clothing, seafood, cheese, cured meats, local jams and paella made on site. The feel is definitively and beautifully local and authentic.

Day 8

The elegant city of Uzès, in the Gard, is one of the best kept secrets of Provence, a mere 25 kilometers north of Nimes, set amidst beautiful countryside. This gem of a village is filled with Renaissance and Romanesque architecture and has one of the best farmers’ markets in the Gard department under the arcades of the Place aux Herbes and in the surrounding streets. The medieval town is a maze of alleys and shady squares lined with 17th and 18th century mansions.The prettiest Uzès tower, the Fenestrelle Tower, is the only cylindrical bell tower in France. The former Episcopal Palace houses the Georges Borias museum whose collections retrace the history of Uzès from Prehistory to the present day. There are so many sensual pleasures to enjoy in Uzès it’ll be hard to know where to start.

Day 9

We’ll spend Sunday in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, just over the Bouches-du-Rhöne border. L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue resembles a miniature Venice with it’s canals and bridges. Of its original 70 water mills only 9 remain, powered by the crystal clear Sorgue river which cuts an intricate path through the village. It is the European center for antiques and second hand stores. Every Sunday of the year, L’isle sur la Sorgue combines its antique and farmer’s market making it a delightful feast for the senses and a shopper’s paradise. In the afternoon we may decide to drive a bit further to Roussillon, a stunning hilltop village, each of its buildings colored with one of the 17 shades of ochre, natural pigments, mined in its quarries

Day 10

The Gypsy Festival and pilgrimage to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, located on the tip of the Camargue, has been taking place since 1448. According to legend, when a boat carrying the three Marys: Mary Jacobe, Mary Salome, and Mary Magdalene arrived from the Holy Land, Sara la Kali, patron Saint of the Gypsies, waded into the Mediterranean to help them ashore. She is the one who rests in the crypt of the ancient church by the sea. To experience the full-bodied flavor of the festival and pilgrimage, we will visit Saintes Maries-de-la-Mer for dinner and the candlelight procession in and around the church while musicians play traditional Gypsy music in the many village squares. Note: The Gypsy Festival was canceled in May 2020 due to Covid-19, for the first time in 572 years. Should this happen again, other arrangements will be made for next two days.

Day 11

We will arrive early on the morning of May 25th, as the town of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer begins filling with people. The Manadiers, Guardian cattle ranchers, dressed in their traditional outfits sit astride beautiful white horses. Arlesian women and children, also dressed in costumes, mill through the crowds. By afternoon, the clergy make their appearance holding aloft a small wooden boat carrying effigies of two of the Saint Marys.

A procession begins forming and weaves its way through the village streets to the sea with everyone joining in song. Wading into the Mediterranean with the crowd, the priests return the boat to the sacred waters, and for one brief moment, history is repeated. Afterwards, restaurants in the village open, and everyone celebrates.

Day 12

We will visit the village of Aigue Mortes, a perfectly preserved, walled village set among the salt marshes of the Camargue. A magnificent example of medieval architecture, Agues Mortes was built by Saint Louis, King Louis IX of France, and was the Mediterranean port from which he launched his 7th crusade to spread the Gospel. This appealing fortified village is full of cafés, art galleries, shops and restaurants.

Cultivated since antiquity, the Salins d’Aigues-Mortes, salt marshes, form a magical pink landscape created by a naturally occurring microalgae which colors the water  and the flamingos which winter here. We’ll tour these famous saltworks of the Camargue and learn about the delicate production of fleur-de-sel, handpicked at dawn. a unique marriage of the sea, the sun, and the mistral.

Day 13

After our last breakfast together we will either drive back to Toulouse for your scheduled departure from Blagnac Airport, or the Gare de Nîmes, in Nîmes to catch your train to Paris. Depending upon your schedule you may want to spend the night in Toulouse, then taxi to the airport, or spend the night in Nîmes, and take an early train to Paris.

13 days and 12 nights

$4,995.00 per person

Reserve Your Place

Sorry, this tour is sold out for 2022. To get on the wait list or to learn more about our 2023 tour dates please get in touch here

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