What Francophile hasn’t longed to visit the iconic Provence, land of vineyards, olive trees and stone built villages? France Today Travels will share hidden corners of this marvelous region, with a base in the Southern Luberon Valley. You will be immersed in the relaxed rhythm of French village life, enjoying magical experiences worthy of Peter Mayle’s famous books. After a week discovering hidden gems and postcard Provencale villages, as we take you off the beaten tourist path, you will come to agree this region truly is a land of beautiful contrasts.
Arrivals and transfer to our hand selected charming hotel near the “Plus Beau Village” of Lourmarin, officially classed as one of the most beautiful villages of France. This village was also featured on the French television program “Le Village Préferé des Francais” (the favorite village of the French) and is known throughout the country for its charming streets and trickling fountains. Lourmarin is set amongst vineyards and olive groves, with its own castle as a backdrop. As the driver opens your door and you step into the Mediterranean air, take it all in: you will breath in the smell of wild herbs and hear the sound of chirping “cicadas”, both iconic elements of the Provence environment. This evening, enjoy it all with a taste of the quintessential local’s drink, Pastis, with your new travelling companions, while we have fun learning how to play boules. Dinner will take place at a casual locals’ bistro down one of the little alleyways in the nearby village.
An exciting start to our off-the-beaten-path experiences, with a morning spent truffle hunting at a privately owned family domaine. Here we will learn all the unique traditions of living in the Provencal countryside and enjoy the beautiful scenery. After an explanation by the charming owner and an introduction to his intelligent canine friends, we will hunt for summer truffles, guided by the family’s trained dogs, then enjoy a sweet and savory truffle tasting as a light lunch. As late afternoon arrives, we will head to Cucuron village, with its huge “bassin”, as seen in the popular film “A Good Year”. A guided tour of the ancient rampart walls, chapel, ruined keep and tiny streets will work up our appetite for dinner, to be enjoyed al fresco under the ancient plane trees.
As a complete contrast to the sleepy villages around us, today we visit the extraordinary Chateau La Coste, awarded a travel guide Michelin star for unmissable activities. Their Art & Architecture trail set amongst vineyards and orchards features outdoor art installations by world famous creators, such as Jean Nouvel, Frank Gehry and Norman Foster. A walk at your own pace throughout the property will be rewarded with a casual, yet contemporary lunch served with the domaine’s wines. Later in the day, the creative theme continues as we meet an Irish self-proclaimed “Jewellery maker & antique French textile addict”. She will come to the hotel and share stories of the French family she married into, celebrated haute-couture ribbon makers, and we’ll have a look at the one of kind pieces she makes from 150 year old silk samples. Tonight, you have the opportunity to explore the cobblestone streets of Lourmarin and make your own dinner discovery. Whether you choose to sit on the sidewalk terrace under the plane trees or in a typically French dining room, you are sure to be offered typical Provence cuisine including olives, tomatoes, fresh herbs, lamb, fish and in this season, fruits such as apricots and cherries. Bon Appetit!
Use this morning to lie in and do as you please. Enjoy the hotel facilities, have a walk in the forest, stroll around the Renaissance Chateau de Lourmarin, or head to the boulangerie for your own lunch, visit the art galleries and artisanal boutiques…the possibilities for discovery are endless. In the afternoon, we will have an exclusive, private visit of the lovingly restored 18th Chateau d’Ansouis with Madame la Chatelaine herself! In addition the public spaces, furnished as it would have been at the time, she may just show us into her private quarters, and out to her terrace, perched high above the valley below. Now, get ready for what some to consider to be one of the secret highlights of the region, a Maître Glacier (Master Ice Cream maker), trained by generations, with his own ice cream parlour! After driving down forest lanes, we finally arrive to a stunning terrace once again with an awe inspiring view. You will then indulge in your own ice cream sundae, with a choice of several homemade and local flavors, including lavender and poppy flowers, if you can imagine! Tonight, you might decide to go out to dinner on your own, if you still have room…
At last, market day in Lourmarin! Practically like a carnival, the ambience is ebullient, with tourists and locals alike, doing their shopping in bustling streets, baskets in hand. Stalls overflow with farmers produce and colorful local crafts and linens. You are likely to find plenty of gifts and souvenirs to take home, including olive wood salad servers and cutting boards, pretty sachets of lavender, olive oil soaps and Mediterranean sea salt. There are also plenty of typically French cafés to watch the world go by, if you wish to do that. We’ll gather some delicious fare for a picnic and then head to a local olive oil mill for our picnic lunch. After a relaxing afternoon at the hotel, we will have a pre-dinner stroll to discover the unusual 16th century cave dwellings carved into the rock topping Cadenet village. Dinner together at a cosy, family owned bistro.
You may wish to spend the day packing and relaxing at the hotel or even going off to Lourmarin once again. In case you haven’t got enough of the charming boutiques and ateliers, be sure to check out some of our favorites, including local celebrity artist Gérard Isidiri where you can buy a poster of his café image “La Provence”, the shop Mizso, where ex-Parisienne Valerie crafts jewelry, and La Maison d’Ingrid for a bottle of rosé wine to take home. For those still keen for countryside experiences, we will offer an optional winery visit and tasting at a nearby family owned vineyard. Tonight, we have saved the best dinner in the most delightful of locations on our final night. With Madame in the kitchen and Monsieur working the tables, we will enjoy a multi-course fixed menu at the only restaurant on the main square, in the company of a trickling fountain. The cuisine is divine and you would hardly imagine it originates in a village of only 600 inhabitants. That’s Provence for you!
“Au revoir” and hope to see you again in France! Departure transfers to Marseille Airport or Aix en Provence TGV train station.
*Price quoted per person, based on double occupancy of a room. Please note there is a single occupancy supplement for solo travelers.
**Final itinerary and hotel selection to be confirmed 2 months prior to departure.
Top image: © Vins de Provence / Fotolia
In addition to our years of experience as journalists and residents uncovering the best France has to offer, our sense of fun, our local contacts, our passion for authentic dining spots, delicious wines, the best and most colorful farmers markets in the region, outstanding scenic stops, chances to chat with French friends, off the beaten path experiences, and plenty of relaxation at highly comfortable hotels, you can quantify it as follows:
Six nights double room hotel accommodation in comfortable family owned hotel of 3/4* category
All breakfasts, 3 lunches (inc truffle tasting & 1 picnic), 1 afternoon ice cream feast, 4 dinners
Local wines included at group dinners
Services of an on-site and full-time experienced Tour Director
Services of all accompanying local guides, where applicable
All private tours and outings, including entrance fees and tastings, where applicable
Optional activities, where specified
Comfortable group transportation throughout the trip
Arrival and Departure transfers to/from the airport and train stations specified below, to the meeting point on Day 1 and from our last location on Day 7
All gratuities for baggage, porters and hotel service
What’s not included:
Air travel to/from France, and any transportation required to get to and from the Arrival/Departure points on our trip itinerary.
Travel or International Health Insurance
Individual meals or drinks taken on your own, when not dining as a group
And of course, there is no hassle with France Today Travels!
We will make arrangements to collect you and return you to one of the following points: Marseille Airport or Aix en Provence TGV station (high speed train from Paris). Do chat with us to ensure you have the best option to tie in with any of your pre and post tour travel plans.
Top image: © Vin de Provence