- Walk the ancient streets of Marseille, France's oldest city
- Cruise the waterways of Calanques National Park on a private boat tour
- Visit a historic religious palace in the medieval city of Avignon
- Experience the Provence way of life through its cuisine
|Day 1||Cultural Aix-en-Provence||Aix en Provence|
|Day 2||Aix Cooking Class: From Market to Table||Aix en Provence|
|Day 3||Avignon, the Luberon, and Villages||Aix en Provence|
|Day 4||Explore Marseille, France's Oldest City||Marseille|
|Day 5||Half-Day Cruise to Calanques National Park||Marseille|
Day 1: Cultural Aix-en-Provence
Today you'll uncover the rich heritage, art, and culture that defines the famous city of Aix-en-Provence. On a two-hour walking tour, you'll stroll a labyrinth of narrow streets, passing historic fountains as your expert guide points out both famous and hidden gems. You’ll visit the Saint-Sauveur Cathedral, a Romanesque/Gothic church built on the site of an ancient Greek temple to Apollo. You'll also see the town hall (also known as the Hotel de Ville), which dates to the 14th century and sits on a charming old plaza. The tour includes a walk along the Cours Mirabeau, a busy thoroughfare lined with plane trees and abounding with markets and cafés—perfect for people watching. You'll even see some ruins dating back to the days of the Roman Empire.
Day 2: Aix Cooking Class: From Market to Table
You're in for a literal treat today in the form of a cooking class where you'll prepare and enjoy the cuisine of Provence. This day-long culinary adventure begins with a foodie tour of Aix-en-Provence, where you'll browse the myriad food markets of Aix's Old Town, meet local purveyors, and pick up fresh regional produce like herbes de Provence, olive oil, truffles, figs, honey, and more. You'll bring these ingredients to the country home where the cooking class takes place and then work on recipes before preparing the feast.
On the way to the country home, which follows a route that passes through the scenic Montaiguet Forest, you'll stop at a local chateau to select some great Provençal wine to pair with your meal. Upon arrival, you can take a stroll around the property and search for wild aromatic herbs. Then it will be time to start the cooking class as you and a group of culinary enthusiasts will take part in preparing various recipes. After approximately two hours of cooking, it will be time for everyone to sit down at the long convivial table and share in all their gastronomic creations.
Day 3: Avignon, the Luberon, and Villages
After breakfast, you'll travel about an hour northwest of Aix-en-Provence to the medieval city of Avignon. There's quite a bit of history here, as this is where Pope Clemente V moved his court in the 14th century, and for several decades thereafter it was the seat of the Catholic popes. On a guided walking tour of the city, you'll visit the Unesco World Heritage Sites of Le Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes) and the Pont Saint-Bénézet medieval bridge. You'll also visit Avignon Cathedral, Doms Garden, Saint Pierre Basilica, and the Place de l'Horloge, Avignon's main square.
Then it will be time to embark for the surrounding Luberon region, an area known for its countryside vineyards, orchards, and charming hill-top villages. You'll travel at a leisurely pace as your guide takes you to the village of l'Isle sur la Sorgue, famous for its outdoor weekend markets, antique stores, and old wooden waterwheels churning over the Sorgue River. After lunch in town you'll head to Gordes. This is arguably the most beautiful of all the hilltop villages in the Luberon. The skyline of Gordes is dominated by its fortified castle, and from its winding cobbled streets you can look out to wide views over the valley and surrounding hills. From Gordes, it's just a few kilometers to the Abbey of Notre-Dame de Sénanque, a Cistercian abbey founded in the 12th century.
Day 4: Explore Marseille, France's Oldest City
Today you'll visit the historic Mediterranean city of Marseille. "Historic" might even be an understatement—with 2600 years of history, this is France’s oldest city. We recommend exploring Marseille's most impressive and historic neighborhoods, like the colorful district of Le Panier. This is the "old Marseille," where the city was founded. It's a working-class enclave on the central port and is the picture of Mediterranean beauty, what with its old plazas, ancient churches, and tenement buildings. You'll also find street art on the walls in the form of colorful frescoes.
Other must-visit areas of Marseille include the city center, the waterfront, the hilltop basilica Notre-Dame de la Garde, and the roman monastic foundation of Saint-Victor Abbey. You can also follow a walkway to Fort Saint-Jean, a fortification dominating the port that was built in 1660 by Louis XIV. Be sure to pay a visit to the fascinating Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations (MuCEM), a modern museum featuring permanent exhibits devoted to the history of these regional societies from ancient times to the present day. You'll want to end the excursion in Vieux-Port, in the heart of the city, where you can finish the day by enjoying a good pastis or beer as the sun goes down.
Day 5: Half-Day Cruise to Calanques National Park
Located just outside of the city of Marseille lies Calanques National Park. This is one of Europe's newer protected areas, as it was established in 2012. It's also unique in that it comprises 520 square kilometers between Marseilles and the seaside town of La Ciotat, protecting both land and ocean. Calanques is a true natural treasure of France's Mediterranean coast, and the best way to experience it is on a private cruise.
This half-day tour leaves from Marseille on a private vessel skippered by our local expert, Laurence. It only takes a few minutes to enter the park and glimpse its stunning limestone sea cliffs and hidden coves. The waters in these famous inlets are an irresistible kaleidoscope of blues that become milky turquoise and crystalline the further you get to shore. You'll have ample time for swimming in these hidden coves, which are only accessible by boat.
Day 6: Departure
In the morning you'll transfer to Paris by train, where you'll catch your flight home. This concludes your grand Provençal adventure. Au revoir!