Picturesque walking on quiet foot paths through cypress forests, olive groves, tidy vineyards and scenic hills of colorful, fragrant Provence; visits to the Pont du Gard and the Roman ruins at St. Rémy; visits to some of the most beautiful villages in France: Roussillon, Gordes, Les Baux, Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and St. Rémy; visit to the Sénanque Abbey and the Village des Bories in Gordes; visit to the famous hospital St-Paul-de-Mausole where Vincent van Gogh resided for a year; the open-air market in St. Rémy and the Ochre Mines of Roussillon; three nights in a charming hotel in Gordes and three nights in a delightful “Mas”, a farmhouse hotel in St. Rémy, each with a refreshing swimming pool; exquisite fresh Provençal food; outstanding leadership by Van Gogh Tour’s owner. This tour is limited to 12 people!
Day 1: Easy 2-3 mile walk around Pont du Gard
The tour starts in the early afternoon with a transfer from the TGV station in Avignon to the Pont du Gard for our first afternoon walk. We’ll walk on the north side of this 2000 year old, beautifully preserved aqueduct, one of the wonders of the Ancient World and a “must see” in Provence. We’ll enjoy nice views on the river down below and Chateau de St. Privat on the other side of the river. Then we cross over the Pont du Gard and admire this world wonder from a panoramic viewpoint on the other side. Afterward we’ll spend some time in the “Grande Expo du Pont du Gard”, an extremely well-produced multimedia exposition, before we drive to one of the “most beautiful villages in France”, charming Gordes, our “home” for the next three nights. Here we’ll find our intimate, tastefully decorated family-owned hotel with charming bedrooms in Provencal style. You might like to take a dip in the pool before our first delicious dinner in a local restaurant!
Day 2: Moderate 6 – 8 mile walk around Gordes
We’ll start today with a walk from our hotel on an ancient, cobble stoned trail down to the 12th century Senanque Abbey, a masterpiece of Romanesque architecture, harmoniously placed in perfumed lavender fields in the Senancole Canyon. After our peaceful visit we continue our walk along the murmuring brook through the lonely canyon valley to the unusual “Village des Bories”, a fascinating collection of 200 year old stone “bories” or huts consisting of loose, grey stones piled together. It is hard to believe that these stone pilings were inhabited until the early 19th century. A lovely path will bring us back to Gordes for a short stroll through the small, sometimes steep, alleyways. You might like to visit Gordes’ splendid Renaissance Chateau which houses an exhibition of the works by the contemporary Flemish artist Pol Mara. Then return leisurely to our hotel. Dinner on your own this evening in one of Gordes’ fine restaurants.
Day 3: Moderate 6 mile walk in the Grand Luberon
The Luberon is a wooded mountain range that stretches from Cavaillon to Manosque and it is a walking, hiking and mountain climbing paradise beloved by the French. Here you’ll also find many of the picturesque small villages that Peter Mayle described so well in his popular book on Provence. We’ll begin our walk on a shaded country road and soon we’ll be climbing gently up to a plateau with magnificent views over the Aigue-Brun Valley. We’ll pass by the tiny village of Buoux and the Chateau de Buoux as we walk along the Ubac Brook. Far above we’ll spy the tower of the cloister in St. Symphorien and a pleasant walk along the rustling Aigue-Brun River will bring us back to our starting point and a peaceful restaurant for a simple lunch. From here we’ll drive to wonderful Roussillon, and its incredibly brilliant Ochre Mines whose vivid red and yellow hues make it a photographer’s paradise. Late in the afternoon is the perfect time to photograph this natural landscape and the colorful ‘red” village, perched high in the mountains. Dinner tonight is in our hotel where the food is lovingly prepared by the chef.
Day 4: Easy walking, about 2 miles in Fontaine de Vaucluses and L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue
Today we transfer to beautiful St. Remy. Along the way we will stop in Fontaine-des-Vaucluses, a picturesque small town nestled at the bottom of a valley with steep mountains on either side. We will walk to see the “magical” source of the river (called the fountain), and give you time to explore the paper mill that is still powered today by the strong and powerful green river. After arriving in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, another lovely town lined with dappled plane trees on the River Sorgue, you can have lunch in one of the many restaurants along the river. All small streets and alleys in the old center lead to the Baroque 17th century Notre Dame des Anges Church, with its ornate gilded decorations definitely worth a visit. Interesting also are the myriad of fine antique shops and the old watermills in the river that once provided the town with all the energy for its paper industry. Afterwards we have the final transfer of the day to our beautiful hotel in St. Remy, where later we have dinner in a wonderful local Provencal restaurant.
Day 5: Moderate 5 – 6 mile walk around St. Remy
A Provencal open-air market is a must on a tour in Provence and today in the morning you have time to stop by the weekly outdoor market in St. Remy, one of the nicest markets in this area. You’ll have plenty of time to admire the baskets of fruit, vegetables, olives, cheese, local wines and to taste some of the local products! A feast for the senses! Before lunch, we’ll follow the monastery’s ancient walls and walk past meadows with knotty “Van Gogh” trees, olive groves and through a cedar forest to a plateau with spectacular views over the rugged Alpilles. At the top we’ll glimpse the highest mountain of Provence, Mont Ventoux. The serenity here is wonderful and if we’re lucky we may spot soaring eagles high above us. Then we continue on to the “Glasses of Van Gogh” or the “Rock with Two Holes” represented in one of his paintings. It is thrilling to actually walk up and sit in the holes with a panoramic view of St. Remy in the distance. We will enjoy a picnic lunch while admiring this gorgeous view. Eventually we’ll return to Ancien MonastËre de St- Paul-de-Mausole, the 12th century monastery that was converted to a psychiatric hospital. It is here that Vincent van Gogh voluntarily admitted himself for a year and created some of his most famous paintings including “Starry Night.” On our way back to the hotel we will stop by “Les Antiques,” where we’ll find two extraordinary Roman monuments, the Triumphal Arch dating from 20 AD and the particularly well preserved funerary monument dating from 30-20 BC. It was constructed by the Julii (descendants of an important Roman family) in honor of their father and grandfather and has magnificently sculpted sides. You’ll still have time to visit the Roman town of Glanum, still being excavated today or roam around in Saint Remy, rich in culture and history and definitely “chic”. Shopping opportunities abound here or you could visit the well-conceived Centre d’Art in the beautiful 18th century mansion Hotel Estrine where an audiovisual display and thematic exhibitions illustrate Van Gogh’s work and the time he spent at St. Remy.
Day 6: Moderate 5 mile walk from St. Remy to Les Baux
France offers many special “Grande Randonnee” footpaths for gentle walking and we are fortunate to find some here in St. Remy. Today we’ll start our scenic walk through lush, quiet woods, passing by the lake of St. Remy. Gradually we’ll climb up into the Alpilles with terrific views on our surroundings and then slowly approach Les Baux. The village of les Baux, rightly classified as “one of the most beautiful villages in France”, is a bare rock spur with dramatic vertical cliffs and a ruined castle on top. Here in the Middle Ages, the lords of Baux, whose motto was “warriors all – vassals never”, ruled with an iron fist. You’ll learn more about their history after lunch if you visit the chateau on the upper level of the village, from where, on a clear day the Mediterranean Sea is visible! In the village below we’ll find well preserved Renaissance houses, cobble stoned streets, delightful boutiques, shops and cafes. Relax by our hotel pool before£ dinner tonight in our hotel.
After breakfast we’ll provide a group transfer to the TGV station in Avignon for the train ride back to Paris or the next leg of your European vacation.
We meet in the early afternoon in the TGV train station in Avignon. You can easily reach Avignon from Paris by TGV train (about three hours). For last minute train schedules visit the website of the French Railways, www.sncf.com. You could also consider flying into Nice Airport and then take a TGV train to Avignon. We’ll meet at the “Meeting Point” in the north side of the TGV station, just outside of Avignon. If your schedule allows enough time, we recommend that you spend a day or two before or after our tour exploring this fascinating city. Take a train or bus from the local train station to the TGV station to meet the group there.
The tour concludes in the morning of day 7, after breakfast, with a 40 minute group transport back from St. Rémy to the TGV train station in Avignon.
You will enjoy daily breakfast and five dinners of superb three or four-courses. Lunch is not included in the price (except for one picnic lunch).
Check out our Tour Calendar under “Hotel Tours”
7 days/ 6 nights
- – 6 nights lodging in very charming, delightfully decorated 3-star hotels with private facilities
- – 4 dinners and 6 breakfasts, two picnic lunches
- – Entrance fee to the “Grande Expo-du-Pont-du-Gard,” “St Paul de Mausole Psychiatric Hospital,” “Le Sentier des Ocres,” and “Village des Bories.”
- – Outstanding, personalized leadership by VGT’s owner
- – Support van, all transportation during the tour
- – Daily route directions
- – Baggage handling
- – All taxes and gratuities for the hotel and restaurant portions of the tour
The average distance is 3-8 miles per day. The terrain is easy to moderate and the walking is mostly on wider, smooth footpaths. Well fitting, supportive, “broken in”, hiking boots are very strongly recommended for this tour, not because it involves dangerous mountain hiking but because they give a better grip on the occasionally loose, rocky surface.
– Alcoholic and bar beverages
– Two dinners
– 4 lunches
– Transportation other than scheduled VGT transfers
This region is known for its mild climate, warm days and cool nights. Average daytime tempuratures: May is 65-75. the average rainfall is 10 days per month, with more rain in the spring and less in the summer.