France - From Palatable Provence to Redolent Riviera

This is a sensational tour. On this trip to Provence and the Riviera, all of the senses are catered to, form the bucolic beauty of small French villages in quiet flowered valleys to the scent of chocolate as it is transformed into little squares of indulgence. Your faculties will be put to practical use as well when you learn how to prepare a meal, and then enjoy the fruits of your labor. The patina and earthiness of timeworn stone walls complement the fruit and tannin of wine, the scent of freshly baked bread and the sounds of conversant market goers laughing and negotiating for the best price, create a full bouquet of rich experiences. This is what awaits you on this truly sensational trip to Aix-en-Provence and the Riviera.

Degree of Difficulty - Two Paws

Slightly Active. May involve some walking and climbing.

Weather Reports - When To Go

With its mild Mediterranean climate, Provence & the Riviera enjoy more than 300 days of sunshine a year and moderate temperatures, thus a tour to this part of the world can be enjoyed at any time of the year. Provence is of course known for its amazing lavender fields. End of June through early August is when the fields turn into a beautiful hue of purple, but that’s not the only time that one can enjoy the beauty of the region and culinary delights.

Paris also enjoys mild and moderately wet climate year round with the summer being warm and pleasant with a fair amount of sunshine. Spring and Autumn are lovely with mild days and fresh nights. Winter is cold and although the temperatures are above freezing, it can be overcast and cold. However, like our London program, the ‘city of lights’ can be visited any time of the year as long as one is appropriately prepared for the weather.

Days 1/2 USA/MARSEILLES/AIX-EN-PROVENCE

Fly overnight to Marseilles in the south of France. Upon arrival at Marseille Provence Airport, a local guide will greet you and assist in your transfer to your hotel in Aix-en-Provence which lies approximately 16 miles to the northeast. This evening you and fellow travelers will indulge in a sumptuous welcome dinner. Bon appétite! Located in the heart of Aix, your historic, yet modern hotel offers comfort and convenience and has seen many dignitaries and celebrities in its storied past. HOTEL DE FRANCE. (Meals Aloft, D)

Day 3 AIX-EN-PROVENCE

Begin your exploration of Aix-en-Provence where, in 123 BCE, Roman Consul Sextius Calvinus stamped his name on the nearby hot springs. Called Aquae Sextiae, the name became associated with the town that grew around the hot springs which over time has been shortened to Aix. The name has shortened, but what is known as Aix-en Provence has expanded to encompass an entire province. On your first day, enjoy breakfast then take to market with a food specialist and walk amongst stalls filled with fresh fruits and other delectables. Your guide will elucidate on how to prepare some of the fresh ingredients found in the market and restaurants of note and a discussion on the region’s food culture will take place. A visit to the historical and meticulously preserved studio of Paul Cezanne precedes afternoon libations within a traditional bastide (fortified town or manor house). HOTEL DE FRANCE. (B)

Day 4 AVIGNON

After breakfast, travel past orchards and lavender fields to Avignon on the banks of the Rhône. Once there, enter a 15th century townhome for a culinary class where, under the guidance of a professional chef, you will learn how to prepare and then eat, an exquisite lunch. Walk off your afternoon respite on a tour of Avignon, which from 1309-78 was the City of Popes, the seat of the papal authority having been moved from Rome by Pope Clement V. Continue to Abbaye Saint André which sits across the Rhône from Avignon where your proboscis will be met by the scent of the myriad flowers populating the Mediterranean styled terraced gardens of the now privately owned estate. Aperitifs with the owner follow the tour then return to Aix where you may enjoy a dinner of your own choosing. HOTEL DE FRANCE. (B,L)

Day 5 ALPILLES

Raise your appreciation of French cuisine when you take to the Alpilles. Though relatively low in altitude, this mountain range is dramatic in its presentation and its numerous valleys provide purchase for a diversity of crops. The product of this agriculture can be found in many shapes, such as the hand crafted soaps of Salon De Provence, made of natural oils and plant based fragrances. After indulging your olfactory sense with sweet essences, treat your palate to some wine and fresh pressed olive oil at a nearby estate. Carry on to Baux de Provence to view the product of local artisans, craftspeople, and farmers. Proceed to the town of Saint Remy and Saint-Paul de Mausole Asylum, location of Vincent Van Gogh’s 53 weeks self “confinement” during which he created some 143 oil paintings. Let the tongue taste what the eyes have seen on a visit with a chocolatier of national renown. HOTEL DE FRANCE. (B)

Day 6 NICE

Today leave the pastoral charm of Aix behind and stride for the seaside sophistication of Nice, stopping to taste wine at Chateau Sainte Rosaline along the way. As you enter Nice, drink in the stunning panoramic views of the city, the intricate Belle Époque building facades and the stratospheric and ornately decorated domes of Saint Nicholas Church. Conclude in Cimiez and the serenity of the Franciscan monastery of Our Lady of Cimiez and its enchanting gardens. Located in the heart of Nice, close to the Place Masséna and Promenade des Anglais, your Art Deco hotel offers 23 spacious rooms, each with its own unique character. HOTEL LE MEURICE. (B,L)

Day 7 GRASSE: SAINT PAUL DE VENCE

After your morning meal, repair to Grasse, considered the perfume capital of the world. A feast for the nose awaits you in a perfumery’s workshop, then it is away to the village of Saint Paul de Vence for a lunch of cheese and wine. Post meal, behold the modern art masterpieces of Miró, Chagall, and Bonnard, on display at the Maeght Foundation. Return to Nice in the evening. HOTEL LE MEURICE. (B,L)

Day 8 NICE

A gastronomic tour of Nice is the plan of the day! Under the skillful tutelage of a food specialist learn how history has shaped the cuisine of Nice. Taste some of the culinary creations that are unique to Nice, such as tourte de blettes, a tart made of sweet Swiss chard, parmesan, pine nuts, and raisins. Sample olive oils and vinegars infused with exotic flavors like passion fruit, and let the rich earthiness of French cheese permeate your palate in the market. This last full day will culminate in a farewell dinner with your travel mates at a gourmet restaurant. HOTEL LE MEURICE. (B,D)

Day 9 NICE/USA

Today bags are packed and farewells said to the south of France. Take with you the rich textures of the flavors, aromas, and landscapes of the region. Bon Voyage! (B, Meals Aloft)

YOUR JOURNEY INCLUDES:

  • Superior accommodations throughout as indicated or similar.
  • Continental breakfast daily, a welcome dinner and a farewell dinner; other meals and tastings as indicated in the itinerary. (B=Breakfast; L=Lunch; D=Dinner)
  • Culinary experiences as specified.
  • All ground transfers and excursions in private deluxe motor coach.
  • Services of a specialist guide with 10 travelers.
  • Entrance fees to all venues indicated.
  • Complimentary bottled water on coaches during sightseeing.
  • Complimentary passport wallet and baggage tags.
Prices starting at $4,295. For further booking, date, and pricing info please contact info@classicescapes.

Does not include international or domestic flights. Prices are based on 10 or more travelers, and are subject to change.