- Spend three nights in Aix-en-Provence's charming historic center
- Participate in a cooking class in the Provençal countryside
- Explore ancient UNESCO World Heritage Sites at your own speed
- Visit vineyards and tastings rooms in Chateauneuf du Pape
- Get up close to Paris's famous monuments and secret passageways
|Day 1||Arrive in Paris - Transfer to Provence||Aix-en-Provence|
|Day 2||Walking Tour in Aix-en-Provence||Aix-en-Provence|
|Day 3||Provence Cooking Excursion||Aix-en-Provence|
|Day 4||Drive to Arles - Free Day||Arles|
|Day 5||Chateauneuf du Pape & Gigondas Wine Tour||Avignon|
|Day 6||Explore Pont du Gard & Les Baux de Provence||Avignon|
|Day 7||Transfer to Paris - Classic Walking Tour||Paris|
|Day 8||Covered Passageways of Paris||Paris|
|Day 9||Depart Paris|
Day 1: Arrive in Paris - Transfer to Provence
Welcome to France! The adventure begins with an arrival in Paris, from where you'll catch a direct TGV (high-speed train) for a three-hour journey to the famous Provence region, located in the southeast of the country. Another option is to fly direct from Paris to Marseille. From there, you'll transfer 19 miles (30 km) north to Aix-en-Provence, a university city and the former capital of Provence. You can also pick up a rental car directly at the airport.
'Aix', as it's commonly called, is a city set in an exceptional geographic location, amid the picturesque surrounding villages oozing with charm. The rural landscapes here, famous for their vineyards, lavender-blanketed fields, and limestone cliffs of Sainte Victoire Mountain, have been immortalized in the works of painters such as Cezanne, Picasso, and Kandinsky. Over the next few days, you'll immerse yourself in the region as you enjoy all the culture and beauty for which it is deservedly famous.
Though you might be tired from a long journey, you can dine at one of the fine restaurants in Aix's historic center where you'll be staying. Take your pick between intimate bistros and chic gastropubs as well as fine-dining eateries serving contemporary French and fusion cuisine.
Day 2: Walking Tour of Aix-en-Provence
Today, after breakfast at your hotel, you'll have the entire day to explore this fascinating city rich in heritage, art, culture, and higher education. Aix enjoys an exceptional geographic location and the picturesque charm of the surrounding villages will pleasantly surprise you, as well as its magnificent landscape.
In addition to having free time to see the sights, you'll also take a two-hour stroll around its labyrinth of narrow streets and thousand fountains on a private walking tour with a local guide. You’ll visit the cathedral, Hotel de Ville, Cours Mirabeau, the Roman remains and some additional secret spots known by your guide.
Speaking of your guide, make sure to ask him/her for the best restaurants in town before you head out for dinner.
Day 3: Provence Cooking Excursion
Today, you'll get a chance to experience Provence's rich way of life with a foodie tour and cooking class.
This full-day adventure starts with a shopping trip in the food markets of Aix's Old Town. Along with your guide, you'll meet local purveyors and choose fresh regional produce and products like herbes de Provence, olive oil, truffles, figs, honey, and more.
Next, you'll bring these ingredients to your host's country estate, which follows a route that passes through the scenic Montaiguet Forest. You'll even stop at a local chateau to select some great Provençal wine to pair with your meal.
Upon arriving at the country home, you can take a stroll around the property and search for wild aromatic herbs. Then it will be time to start the cooking class—this is where you and a group of culinary enthusiasts will actively participate in the preparation of various recipes. After two hours of cooking, everyone will sit down at the long communal table for a fun and rewarding meal.
Return to your hotel in Aix-en-Provence in the late afternoon and enjoy the evening on your own.
Day 4: Drive to Arles - Free Day
This morning, after breakfast in Aix, you will begin your road trip with a scenic drive to the ancient Roman city of Arles. If traveling during summer months, keep an eye out for the sunflower fields that line the roadsides, which famously inspired Van Gogh. In fact, the artist painted some 200 works while he lived in Arles.
You'll have the day to explore this UNESCO-listed fortified town during a self-guided walking tour of the historic center. Make sure to visit the town's shady squares as well as its Roman, Christian, and medieval monuments including the arena, the amphitheater, and the Saint Trophime Church.
Also worth checking out is the Luma Foundation, a nonprofit that supports the activities of independent contemporary artists and other pioneers working in the fields of art, photography, publishing, documentary, and multimedia
Day 5: Chateauneuf du Pape & Gigondas Wine Tour
After breakfast, it's time to depart Arles for your next overnight stay in Avignon. But first, you'll visit the region of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. This is where—during the papal schism—Avignon Popes encouraged the development of viticulture. When you arrive, you'll meet a wine expert who will take you to a relaxing wine tasting tour.
With its characteristic pebbly soils, Châteauneuf du Pape produces some of the best-rated and most complex red wines in France. A very small amount of white wine is produced there, too, for the lucky few who get their hands on it.
In the early afternoon, you'll enjoy some free time to have lunch in the historic village—a place focused on wine production since the early 14th century. You'll then continue toward Gigondas, which lies north of Châteauneuf du Pape in the southern Rhône Valley. The vineyards you'll visit sit just beneath the mountain range known as the Dentelles de Montmirail, at the foothills of the highest mountain in southern France: Mont Ventoux. In other words, keep your camera close.
Following the tour, you'll return to your rental car and continue the trip back to Avignon arriving in the mid-afternoon. Let yourself be captivated by this fascinating medieval city where, for several decades in the 14th century, Pope Clemente V moved his court. Visit the city's UNESCO-listed sites of Le Palais des Papes and the St-Bénézet medieval bridge, subject of the famous song Sur le Pont d’Avignon!
Day 6: Explore Pont du Gard & Les Baux de Provence
Today you will get back in your car and head towards the countryside to the area west of Avignon. This is where you will reach another bridge and one of the most ancient aqueducts of the Roman world located in a beautiful setting: the Pont du Gard. This UNESCO-listed bridge was built in the first century AD by the Romans and was part of a huge 31 mile (50 km) aqueduct which supplied the city of Nimes with running (and drinking) water.
From here, you pass through the lovely village of Graveson before reaching the wonderful Saint Michel de Frigolet Abbaye, at the gates of the Alpilles Nature Park. There, you can take a nature walk through the middle of mountains covered in scrubland, pine and oak forests, with verdant plains which delight the eye at regular intervals. Perched on a rocky plateau and surrounded by this wonderful landscape, Les Baux de Provence is an ideal base from which to discover this unique region. If you have time, don't miss the immersive experience of the Carrière de Lumière exhibition (Picasso and the Spanish Masters).
On your way back to Avignon, visit Saint Remy de Provence, the charming and typically Provençal village that inspired more works by Van Gogh.
Day 7: Transfer to Paris - Classic Walking Tour
It's time to depart Provence, return your rental car, and transfer back to Paris, the City of Lights!
Once you arrive, get ready to explore the city with a private local guide. This full-day tour gives you plenty of time to experience the highlights starting with the Royal Palace, the Sainte Chapelle, and Notre Dame—all within the Île de la Cité. From here, you'll wander through the streets of the trendy Le Marais district and explore symbolic places within such as the Place des Vosges.
After a lunch break, it's time to explore Le Louvre (the largest museum in Europe), with skip-the-line-access, where you'll have time to get up close to Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa. After this cultural visit, relax with some fresh air in the Tuileries Gardens, and then continue to the Champs Elysees and the majestic Arc de Triomphe.
Finally, you'll visit the architectural wonder that is the Eiffel Tower. Enjoy the beauty of this monument before ending the epic tour with a boat cruise along the Seine.
Day 8: Covered Passageways of Paris
Today, you'll have the chance to see a completely different side of Paris. Your private guide will take you some hidden gems focusing on the city's covered passageways during a two-hour walking tour.
These passageways are a Parisian invention and they represent a link between the past and present. Your guide will share anecdotes of these tiny nooks, which were created in the 19th-century during the birth of Parisian shopping arcades. By the 1850s there were approximately 150 covered passages in Paris—and today, you'll see the ones that stood the test of time.
Following the tour, you'll have the rest of the day to explore the city on your own.
Day 9: Depart Paris
It's time to say goodbye to Paris! At the designated time, you'll be picked up from your hotel and transferred to the airport for your departure flight. Bon voyage!