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France: Slow Road through Provence

The natural splendor of Provence proved endlessly inspiring for Cezanne and van Gogh—and will surely stir our senses too. Join us to stroll through fragrant fields in the foothills of the Alpilles mountains and along ancient streets in picturesque villages like Les Baux and St. Remy.

  • 10 Days
  • Activity Level: Easy
  • Daily Mileage: 2 - 6 mi
  • Daily Walking: 2 - 5 hr
  • Small Groups: 20
  • Walking Activity
  • Relatively flat terrain. Well-kept paths. Fine for even occasional walkers.
  • Airfare Packages Available

Why You'll Love This Tour

Overview

France: Slow Road Through Provence

The light attracted Van Gogh and Cezanne—the way the sunshine spills over ancient olive groves, lush vineyards, and hills bedecked with pines. Discover Provence and all of its delights the way residents have for generations. Taste the wine and the olive oil at a local vineyard and grove. Share lunch in the home of renowned pastry maker and with a local potter. Mingle among locals at their colorful outdoor market. As we walk sinuous paths through alluring Aix-en-Provence, historic Avignon, and Van Gogh’s charming St. Remy, the past will come alive and present will glow with enchantment.

Cultural Highlights

  • See two of the “Most Beautiful Villages in France,” Seguret and Les Baux
  • Enjoy a private wine tasting at Domaine de Mourchon
  • Picnic in the garden of a Provençal potter Alain Berthéas
  • Shop at the outdoor market of Vaison la Romaine
  • See Avignon’s massive Palais des Papes, a UNESCO site
  • Explore clifftop Les Baux, a restored medieval village
  • Dine in the home of St. Rémy pastry chef Odile Misfud
  • Retrace the steps of van Gogh and see the St. Rémy sites he painted
  • Enjoy a tour and tasting at a Saint-Rémy olive grove

What To Expect

This tour features a combination of easy terrain and paved roads mixed with moderate hills, open countryside, and uneven footpaths over limestone pebbles and cobbled streets. Ideal for enthusiastic beginners and experienced walkers. Our VBT support vehicle is available at specific meeting points for those who need a lift. Both morning and afternoon walking options are available most days. Several of the walks require a transfer from our hotel to the start of the walk. Our Trip Leaders often use this time in the van for our morning route review, so we can enjoy a more leisurely morning at breakfast.

Average Daily Mileage: 2 – 6 miles
Average Walking Time: 2 – 5 hours

Climate Information

Average High/Low Temperature (°F) – Avignon
May 65º/46º  Jun 72º/52º  Sep 82º/61º  Oct 76º/57º

Average Precipitation (in.) – Avignon
May 2  Jun 1  Sep 3  Oct 4

What’s Included:

Walking Vacation Only – without Air

  • 6 nights in historic 3- and 4-star French hotels and châteaux
  • 11 meals – 6 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 3 dinners

Air Package Plus

  • Roundtrip international airfare
  • 8 nights in historic 3- and 4-star French hotels and chateaux
  • 13 meals – 8 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 3 dinners
  • Transfers
  • And the option to add our Low-Cost Trip Extensions: Pre-trip Extension: Aix-en-Provence – 2 nights for only $295 • Post-trip: Paris – 3 nights for only $645

Both Vacation Options Include

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Air Package Plus Single Supplement: $645 | Land Only Single Supplement: $495

Please note: Web Special savings cannot be combined with any other offer. Standard Terms & Conditions apply when purchasing this trip. Prices include all airline surcharges and Government taxes and fees. Ask our Tour Consultants for details. Every effort has been made to produce this information accurately. We reserve the right to correct errors. Prices are based on preferences selected above, including meals and sightseeing as specified in What’s Included. All prices are subject to change. Departure dates and prices shown may be updated several times daily, and apply to new bookings only.

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Itinerary & Map
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DAY 1: Depart from home / Fly overnight to Marseilles

Depart from home and travel to France. The particulars of your arrival overseas are detailed with your flight itinerary

DAY 2: Arrive in Marseilles and transfer to your Aix-en-Provence hotel

Upon arrival at Marseilles (MRS) Airport, claim your luggage and clear customs. If your luggage is lost, fill in a PIR form before leaving the customs area—VBT representatives are not allowed into the customs area. Make sure that your VBT luggage tags are attached to your bags. This helps the VBT representative to identify you.

After exiting customs, enter the arrival hall and look for your VBT representative, who will be holding a VBT sign. Your representative will welcome you to France and arrange for your transfer via taxi or van (approximately 45 minutes depending on traffic) to your Aix-en-Provence hotel. (Please verify with your VBT Trip Leader the time of your transfers at the end of your trip, from your Aix-en-Provence hotel to the Marseilles airport, or your Paris hotel to the Paris airport if you are taking the post-trip extension). Important: If you are delayed in meeting your VBT representative at the Marseilles Airport, please call 04 42 93 01 44 from within France. Outside of France, call +33 442 93 01 44.

VBT provides you with City Information that includes information and recommendations on what to see and do in Aix-en-Provence during your stay. Use the rest of the day to relax or to begin exploring the city.

Please note: If you arrive early, your hotel room may not be available until 2:00 pm. You may store your luggage with the reception desk.

Hotel: Aquabella Hotel

DAY 3: Meet Trip Leaders / Transfer to Vaison la Romaine

VBT No-Air Package guests: Enjoy lunch on your own before meeting your VBT Trip Leaders, who will be wearing VBT staff garments, in the lobby of the Hotel Aquabella, 2 Rue Des Etuves, Aix-en-Provence (tel. 011 33 4 42 99 15 00) at 12:50 p.m. Be dressed and prepared to start the warm-up walk upon your arrival at Vaison la Romaine, as we will not visit the hotel first. You’ll transfer via private motorcoach to Vaison la Romaine (a journey of approximately 90 minutes, depending on traffic).

If your arrival in Aix-en-Provence is later than 1 p.m. or if your arrival is delayed, you must make your own arrangements for travel to our hotel in Vaison la Romaine. Please contact the hotel to let them know if you are delayed. The hotel will pass your message along to your VBT Trip Leaders.

VBT Air Package and Pre-Trip Extension guests: After breakfast, check out of the hotel (your luggage can be stored with the reception desk) and enjoy a morning at leisure in Aix-en-Provence. Enjoy lunch on your own before meeting our VBT Trip Leaders, who will be wearing VBT staff garments, in the hotel lobby at 12:50 p.m. Be dressed and prepared to start the warm-up walk upon your arrival at Vaison la Romaine, as we will not visit the hotel first.  You’ll transfer via private motorcoach to Vaison la Romaine (a journey of approximately 90 minutes, depending on traffic).

Upon arrival in Vaison la Romaine, you’ll embark on a walk that loops from the center of town into the countryside and back. As you make your way to our hotel in the medieval section of town, you’ll walk along cobblestone streets and through small squares, passing by fountains and a belfry featuring a wrought-iron campanile.

Enjoy time on your own to relax and settle in before regrouping for tonight’s welcome reception and dinner in the hotel.

Hotel: Hostellerie Le Beffroi
Meals: B (included for Air Package guests only), D
Daily Options: 2.2 mile (3.5 km) warm-up walk on dirt paths and roads through town.

DAY 4: Walk from Sablet to Seguret/Wine tasting at Domaine de Mourchon / Visit and picnic lunch at potter’s home

After a very short transfer this morning to the village of Sablet, you’ll start your walk to one of the official “most beautiful villages in France,” Seguret. The village lies at the foot of a hill topped by the ruins of its feudal chateau. There will be time to explore the charm of this village, with its typical Provencal atmosphere and medieval character.

Just outside of the village is located the Domaine de Mourchon, where you will stop to taste their wines. Your walk then continues to the home and workshop of potter Alain Berthéas. He is famous for producing large clay pots for both wine storage and as pieces of art. Here we’ll all enjoy a picnic lunch in his garden.

Later, we return to Vaison la Romaine, where the remainder of the day is yours. Enjoy strolling through the medieval town and trying one of its many wonderful restaurants for dinner on your own.

Hotel: Hostellerie Le Beffroi
Meals: B, L
Daily Options: 4 or 6 miles (6.4 or 9.6 km) with slight incline, then slight decline on paved roads and dirt paths.

DAY 5: Market / Walk to Crestet

After breakfast, you’ll walk straight from the hotel to the market of Vaison la Romaine, where you can immerse yourself in the wonderful scents, colors, and sounds of Provence. You’ll be tempted by the local produce such as white asparagus, purple artichokes and a huge array of olives. Sample baked goods and artisanal cheeses. Or pick up some dried lavender, fragrant handmade soaps, or the colorful tablecloths, napkins, and other linens that are emblematic of Provence. You might wish to pick up few local delicacies for your lunch, which you’ll pause to eat later during your walk through open countryside to the pretty hilltop village of Crestet. As you stroll its narrow, winding cobblestone streets, you’ll be treated to magnificent views of the Ouveze Valley and majestic Mount Ventoux.

After leaving Crestet you’ll meet our bus and shuttle to your next hotel in Villeneuve les Avignon (a journey of approximately 60 minutes, depending on traffic). Upon arrival you will enjoy free time to settle in before we regroup for dinner in the hotel’s restaurant.

Hotel: Hotel La Magnaneraie
Meals: B, D
Daily Options: 4.7 miles (7.5 km) with slight incline and decline on paved road, paved path, dirt path, and cobbled lanes.

DAY 6: Avignon

This morning, you’ll walk from the hotel through the outskirts of Villeneuve and into the surrounding countryside. Your trail follows the long distance footpath GR42 through lovely woodlands and rewards you with magnificent views over Avignon and Villeneuve les Avignon. After returning back into Villeneuve you’ll take the local public bus to Avignon proper.

After free time for lunch, you’ll meet a local guide for a walking tour of the famed “City of Popes,” so named for the 67-year period during the 14th century when seven popes, beginning with Clement V, abandoned Rome and made the city their permanent residence. During your stroll, you’ll tour Avignon’s historical center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and view the fortified Palais de Papes, or Palace of the Popes, the magnificent Gothic complex where the popes lived.

The rest of the afternoon is yours to do as you please. Perhaps you’ll venture inside the Palais de Papes, or browse for pottery or handmade tablecloths at the many shops and market stalls. Wander over to the city’s signature Pont de St. Bénézet, the medieval bridge upon which the famous children’s song “Sur le Pont d’Avignon” is based. Later, you’ll regroup with your Trip Leaders and walk (or take the public bus) back to your hotel.

Dinner tonight is on your own.

Hotel: Hotel La Magnaneraie
Meals: B
Daily Options: 5 miles (8 km) on town sidewalks and undulating country trails, followed by an Avignon city walk on town sidewalks and paved roads.

DAY 7: Les Baux / Les Alpilles / St. Remy

Today’s discoveries begin with Les Baux, another of the official “most beautiful villages in France” that is perched on a rocky plateau more than 800 feet high, and which can only be reached on foot. In the Middle Ages its court was famous for the minstrels and troubadours who came here to sing songs of courtly love. Enjoy some free time to explore on your own, admiring the village’s carefully restored medieval facades, browsing its art galleries and craft shops—and delighting in the sweeping views of the surrounding countryside.

You’ll then transfer to a nearby ridge to begin your walk near Les Alpilles, or “The Little Alps.” This chain of limestone peaks running east to west is where bauxite was first discovered (and named after the village of Les Baux-de-Provence), and is an extension of the Luberon Mountains. Although the Alpilles may seem white and barren, the area has been a rich producer of almonds, apricots, olives and grain since the Middle Ages. Your walk treats you to magnificent views of the mountains and surrounding plains before you drop down through the wooded slopes into St. Rémy. Here you’ll be invited into the home of Odile Mifsud, a renowned pastry maker. She’ll give you a taste of her considerable talent during a memorable home-cooked lunch—including delectable pastries, of course!

Afterward, you’ll meet up with another local friend, historian Mathilde Duvillier, who will escort you on a walking tour following in the footsteps of Vincent van Gogh. The artist’s paintings come alive as you visit the very scenes he immortalized. One of Van Gogh’s most famous paintings, The Starry Night, is believed to have been inspired by night views of St. Rémy. You’ll also visit inside the sanitarium where the layout and furnishings of Van Gogh’s room have been reproduced. After your walk, you’ll shuttle to our next hotel, located just outside of the city.

Tonight, enjoy dinner on your own at our hotel’s restaurant, or venture into St. Rémy and choose from among its many inviting bistros.

Hotel: Chateau de Roussan
Meals: B, L
Daily Options: 6 miles (9.6 km) on a rocky limestone path, gradually declining on a dirt path, and finishing on a paved road with some steep downhill sections.

DAY 8: Walk in Les Alpilles / Market visit at Eygalières / Olive oil tasting at Moulin à Huile du Calanquet

Today you’ll have a short shuttle ride to your trail head, where you’ll follow an undulating footpath that skirts the bottom edge of Les Alpilles through olive groves and vineyards. From a distance, before you arrive in the village, you’ll see Eygalières perched on the summit of a small hill. As you approach, you’ll be able to make out the small houses that make up the village and the busy Friday market. Stop here to explore the village and market, perhaps buying some local produce for a picnic lunch.

Afterwards, you’ll shuttle a short distance to the Moulin à Huile du Calanquet and have the opportunity to learn all about the production of olive oil during a tour, starting in the olive grove and finishing with a tasting session.

You’ll return via shuttle to St. Rémy, which you’ll have time at leisure to explore before returning to your hotel.

Tonight, toast your discoveries of southern France with your fellow travelers during a special farewell dinner at the hotel.

Hotel: Chateau de Roussan
Meals: B, D
Daily Options: 5 miles (8 km) on a flat to undulating rocky limestone path.

DAY 9: Transfer to Aix-en-Provence / Free time / VBT No-Air Package ends

VBT No-Air Package guests: After breakfast, transfer to the Aix-en-Provence Hotel Aquabella, arriving at approximately 11 a.m. Your tour ends here. If you need to depart at an earlier time, please make your own transfer arrangements.

VBT Air Package guests: After breakfast, say goodbye to your Trip Leaders and transfer to Aix-en-Provence. Upon arrival, transfer to your centrally located hotel. You may spend the rest of the day relaxing and discovering this magical city on your own. You may wish to head out immediately to visit the large morning market that sells wonderful fruit, vegetables, flowers and spices, as well as Provençal goods such as soaps, tablecloths, aprons, pottery, and clothes. There’s a flea market, too.

Hotel: Aquabella Hotel
Meals: B

DAY 10: Depart for home

After breakfast*, transfer to the Marseilles airport for your return flight. Please ensure you are ready in the hotel reception area at the designated time.**

*Please note: For guests with early-morning departures, breakfast at the hotel may not be available. Please check with the front desk to verify the times that breakfast is served.

**Please note: VBT transfer times and departure points are finalized in advance and cannot be modified for individual guests. If you extend your stay beyond the scheduled program dates, return transportation to the airport will be at your own expense.

Meals: B

Provence Walking Tour Map

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Accommodations

Château de Roussan

Located on the outskirts of St. Rémy, this 4-star hotel occupies a charming and elegant 18th-century chateau. During your stay, stroll through the surrounding park, which encompasses more than 15 acres of formal gardens, a patio, pools, and an antique greenhouse—all with arresting views of the Alpilles range. Relax in the tastefully decorated library, which houses a collection of rare 19th-century books. And savor Provençal specialties in the on-site restaurant, which features a vaulted ceiling and a garden terrace. The hotel’s air-conditioned rooms boast period décor and are comfortably equipped with cable/satellite TV, minibars, in-room safes, and private baths with showers and hair dryers. Complimentary wireless internet access is available throughout the hotel.
Free WiFi Included

Hostellerie Le Beffroi

This small, family-run hotel consists of two adjoining homes (built in 1554 and 1690) that were restored in the 1950s to become a gracious inn. Hostellerie Le Beffroi is named after Vaison la Romaine’s ancient belfry, and is located in the medieval section of the town on a cobblestone street. The pool and terraced gardens provide fine views over the town, and the onsite Restaurant la Fontaine has both indoor and outdoor seating. Since each of the 22 guest rooms is uniquely furnished, Le Beffroi still has the feel of a private home. Each room has cable TV, a mini-bar, hair dryer, direct phone line and complimentary WiFi. Though the hotel does not have air-conditioning, fans can be placed in the rooms on request.
Free WiFi Included

Hotel La Magnaneraie

The Hotel La Magnaneraie is located in the historic town of Villeneuve-les-Avignon, less than two miles from Avignon. Surrounded by a verdant park, this 15th-century former residence of cardinals and onetime silkworm farm combines the charm of an ancient mansion with modern comforts, and provides an elegant and peaceful haven after an exciting day of exploring. Enjoy the beautifully decorated common areas, including a restaurant featuring many regional specialties and a spacious lounge and bar, as well as an outdoor garden with a heated swimming pool. Each of the 32 rooms offers air-conditioning, a flat-screen TV, an in-room safe and private bath with shower, bathrobe, slippers and hairdryer. Free wireless Internet service is available throughout the hotel.
Free WiFi Included

Hotel Aquabella

The Hotel Aquabella is ideally situated in the heart of the Old Town of Aix-en-Provence, at the foot of the ancient fortifications and in the center of the markets of Provence. From this convenient location, all of Aix is just a few steps away.  When you’re not exploring the lively city of Aix, unwind in the hotel’s spa or heated pool. Elegantly decorated in Provençal style, each room is fully equipped with air conditioning, satellite TV, direct-dial telephone, minibar, bathrobes, and slippers. You’ll also enjoy free wireless Internet access throughout the hotel during your stay.
Free WiFi Included

Millennium Hotel Paris Opéra

The Millennium Hotel Paris Opera offers an ideal Right Bank location, just 1,700 feet from the Opéra Garnier and the famous Galeries Lafayette department store, The building combines the elegance and splendor of the 1920s with modern, comfortable amenities. The hotel features 163 air-conditioned guestrooms with traditional decor in light colors and includes period-style wood furniture with green leather-topped writing desks. All rooms offer satellite television, pay movies, a safe, trouser press, mini-bar, and coffee/tea-making facilities. En-suite bathrooms include hair dryers. In addition to a restaurant, the Millennium Hotel Paris Opera offers a lounge bar where guests can enjoy snacks and drinks by the fireplace and cocktails in the evenings, all to music from the grand piano. Room service is available around the clock. Multilingual staff on the 24-hour front desk can provide concierge services, including theater and opera reservations, transportation arrangements, and recommendations for places to visit. Wireless Internet access covers all public areas of the hotel, and high-speed Internet connections are available in every room.
Free WiFi Included
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Aix en Provence biking pre trip

Pre-Trip Extension - Aix-en-Provence

2 nights for only $295

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Post-Trip Extension - Paris

3 nights for only $645

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