We’ve partnered with Kelly Kary of the Olive Oil Outpost on Anna Maria Island, Florida to plan another European food enthusiast getaway. Join us in France in September for a perfect week in the heart of Provence! From the magic of hilltop villages, to Mediterranean views in Marseille, to chic Aix-in-Provence… we’ll wine and dine, cook and create, and immerse ourselves in picturesque Provence.
Our home away from home will be a beautiful stone farmhouse in the picturesque hilltop village Gordes. From our base in the Luberon national park, we’ll explore the famous and unforgettable countryside. Gordes was the base for the film A Good Year (starring Russell Crowe) based on Peter Mayle’s novel of the same name.
During the week we’ll immerse ourselves in the Provençal lifestyle and joie de vivre that characterizes the region. Highlights include fabulous dinners at the villa, wine tasting with a sommelier, a truffle hunt, strolling picture-perfect markets, inspiring art and culture, a hands-on cooking lesson, and a great group of travelers ready to experience it all together.
Saturday, September 22—Welcome to France!
- Settle in at our lovely villa with stunning views
- Taste wine with a sommelier
Arrive into Marseille by train, plane, or automobile and Onward Travel will collect you at your convenience. Sightseeing will be arranged depending on arrival times as all travelers arrive today.
Midafternoon we’ll settle in at the villa. Enjoy some R&R and relax by the swimming pool or take a leisurely walk into the beautiful town of Gordes for an espresso. The 10-bedroom villa is ours for the week and you’ll enjoy your en suite room with Provence-inspired decor.
Early evening we’ll meet for a special aperitif. We’ll be joined by Viktorija Todorovska, sommelier, author of The Art of Living in Provence, and current resident of Nice. Viktorija will lead us in a guided wine tasting to discover the excellent wines of this region. Learn how to taste wine like a pro, try some special vintages, and get to know your fellow travelers. A local chef will prepare a special seasonal welcome dinner for us tonight to start our vacation together on a delicious note!
Sunday, September 23—Living the Good Life
- Savor an olive-oil themed lunch
- Visit UNESCO-listed Roman town, Avignon
Today we’ll ease in the Provençal lifestyle. Enjoy a leisurely morning and a tasty breakfast spread of French cheeses, fresh fruit, croissants, cafe au lait… and more. We’ll visit the village L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue today for an olive oil themed lunch at Les Callis, an olive oil boutique. Our host, Alexandra, is a gourmand committed to procuring and producing the highest quality of olive oil. She will prepare a special lunch for us and teach us about fine olive oil.
Then we’re off to Avignon, a city on the Rhône River that was the seat of the Catholic popes from 1309 to 1377. Avignon remained under papal rule until becoming part of France in 1791. We will visit the Palais des Papes (Popes’ Palace) for a guided tour to discover this important UNESCO-listed palace… the world’s largest Gothic edifice.
We’ll arrive back at the villa this evening to find Viktorija in the kitchen, preparing a special meal for us. Viktorija is going to “cook the book” and prepare a delicious dinner featuring recipes from her cookbook. In addition to her excellent cuisine, she’ll share stories and information for each dish plus perfectly paired wines for our meal together.
Monday, September 24—Provençal Culinary Immersion
- Experience village life and enhance your culinary repertoire
- Snap a photo of Roussillon’s 40 tints of red
Today we’ll have a special experience: a cooking workshop at La Belugue, an 18th century village farmhouse… an immersion in the rural French lifestyle. La Belugue is a gorgeous home owned by a Franco/American couple (former execs who met in Singapore, now creating a simpler life in Provence) that lies at the entry of a picturesque, tiny village. Learn lovely recipes, visit an artisan in town, taste the excellent local wines, and observe village life. And of course feast on a fabulous lunch complete with the village’s wonderful goat cheeses. As she hosts us with style and panache, proprietor Kelly will remind us that gastronomic French meals are recognized by UNESCO as intangible cultural heritage that must be preserved!
On our way back to the villa (rosé is waiting in the fridge) we will stop in the village of Roussillon, famous as being a visual striking destination. Roussillon is situated in one of the biggest ochre deposits in the world and is known for its magnificent red cliffs and ochre quarries. The houses are painted in beautiful shades of ochre, combined with the light and valley views… it’s beautiful!
Tonight you may like to wander into town for dinner or relax at the villa and have a casual light supper.
Tuesday, September 25—Local Magic: Market & Truffles
- Snag some souvenirs at Gordes’ weekly market
- Hunt for truffles… one of the world’s most prized delicacies!
It is market day in Gordes and we’ve reserved the morning to stroll the market. Most Provençal villages have weekly markets and the market in Gordes is known for being an upscale, pretty, colorful market with stalls set around the foot of the castle at the village center. You may like to shop for soap, lavender, fabrics, honey, hats, pottery, or crafts. Enjoy lunch on your own in town.
Midday, we’ll visit Sénanque Abbey, a graceful Cistercian abbey with picture-perfect views, founded in 1148 yet still home to small monastic community. Those who are up to it may like to take the scenic 1.5 hour walk from Gordes to the abbey. But conserve your energy as more fun awaits… We’re off to hilltop Bonnieux, a medieval town chock-full of character. Enjoy an hour to stroll the town before we head further south in the Luberon.
This evening it is time for a memorable truffle hunt! We’ll visit a small working farm complete with wild herbs, vineyards, olive groves and beehives. Learn all about truffles—tubers that grow near certain tree roots—including how they’re grown, stored, and prepared. We’ll be led by Johann and two dogs as we search for truffles. Then it’s time to taste and we will enjoy truffle-themed hors d’oeuvres, truffle ice cream with truffle honey, farm products, and…Champagne!
Wednesday, September 26—Art & Culture
- Lunch on “le menu” at a charming Bistrot
- Admire Picasso’s works projected on quarry walls
Mid-morning we’re off to Saint-Rémy for another market morning. Saint-Rémy has a great selection of gourmet shops and the market is large and hopping. Or, perhaps you’d like to visit one of the town’s museums or churches. There is also an excellent archaeological site just outside the town! We’ll convene at noon to visit Monastere St-Paul de Mausole where Van Gogh spent the last year of his life; he admitted himself in 1889. St-Paul remains a psychiatric institution and has a walking trail with gardens and reproductions. Learn about Van Gogh’s most productive artistic period as you enjoy a self guided visit.
Hungry yet? Lunch today is at Le Bistrot du Paradou. Each day, a different menu is featured and the menu and leisurely lunch experience is quintessentially French.
In the afternoon we will visit Carrieres de Lumieres, a sound-and-light show in a former limestone quarry. Gigantic projections of famous artworks illuminate the cave walls, complete with music. During our visit the theme will be Picasso. It’s a sensory experience.
Tonight we’ll relax at the villa and enjoy a casual dinner by a local cook. The vin will flow, of course!
Thursday, September 27—Marseille Boat to Bowl
- View an interesting coastline dubbed France’s newest national park.
- Dine on Marseille’s signature dish: bouillabaisse.
Mid-morning we’re off to Marseille, a vibrant, modern port city. Marseille is the second largest city in France and the Mediterranean views are enchanting. The coastline is marked by high, rocky promontories known locally as calanques… France’s newest national park! Weather permitting, this morning we will take a relaxing 2-hour boat ride to view the calanques, inlets, and coves from the water.
We’ll return to the old port, home to the fish market. The cuisine in Marseille has many international influences due to the city’s diverse population but the signature dish is bouillabaisse. Bouillabaisse was born out of poverty, when fishermen used the catch of the day they could not sell to make a flavorful soup. But it is now a high-end experience and we’ll enjoy a swanky lunch at Miramar, one of the most praised restaurants for bouillabaisse.
This afternoon enjoy an excursion to the icon of Marseille: Notre-Dame de la Garde, an opulent basilica situated at Marseille’s highest point to welcome the sailors home. Or you may elect to visit the MuCEM, a bold, new museum noted for its views and architecture.
After a full, stimulating day, spend your last evening as you please. Onward Travel will assist with dinner reservations.
Friday, September 28—Drinking in the Landscape
- Picnic at Pont du Gard: an amazing display of Roman engineering
- Taste wines in Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Enjoy a low-key morning before we’re off to Pont du Gard for a picnic. Pont du Gard is a spectacular UNESCO-listed Roman site, a three-tiered aqueduct built around 19 BC. It is huge and each block was carved by hand and transported from nearby quarries. Enjoy a jaunt on the Mémoires de Garrigue walking trail to soak up this site.
It’s harvest time so let’s visit a winery! At her shop, Kelly carries excellent wines from Domaine de la Solitude and this afternoon we will visit their estate. The winery is owned by an important family and is located in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC, a prestigious denomination located around the village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the Rhône wine region. After a lovely tasting, we’ll return to the villa for a memorable dinner. It is our last night at the villa and a talented chef is coming to prepare a beautiful dinner of us. We’ll toast the fabulous week we’ve had together!
Saturday, September 29—Charming Aix-en-Provence
- Tour Aix-en-Provence, a classy college town
- Shop and sightsee as you please in Aix
This morning we say au revoir to Gordes and head south because it is market day in Aix-en-Provence! In addition to perusing the market, we’ll take a walking tour with a local guide to learn about Aix’s history and famous fountains. The Romans called Aix the City of Water because of it many beautiful fountains. Aix is the birthplace of Paul Cézanne and the main street Cours Mirabeau is leafy and lovely. Calissons cookies are a specialty of Aix. We’ll visit a shop together to taste this confection (Molly’s favorite).
Enjoy time on your own for lunch, shopping, and sightseeing in Aix. Your luggage will be transferred to Hotel Cézanne, a boutique hotel close to the city center, so head back to the hotel at your leisure. Tonight we will visit a charming restaurant to share one last delicious meal together.
Sunday, September 30—Bon Voyage
You may choose to fly from Marseille or Nice, or take the TGV train to another destination in France. Or, perhaps you wish to linger in Aix-en-Provence. Onward is happy to assist with your arrangements. Bon voyage!