Discovering Provence: The French Riviera

WE132919 - © - J¸rgen Feuerer

The Lavender Fields of Provence

Cézanne, Van Gogh, Chagall, and Matisse all drew inspiration from the storied beauty of Provence, and now savvy travelers can as well on a new, affordably-priced 12-day small group tour with Odysseys Unlimited: Discovering Provence with the French Riviera. From billowy lavender fields to rose-hued salt marshes, hilltop villages to medieval towns, and traditional cowboy ranches to the French Riviera, the small group tour relishes la vie Provençale with visits to Aix-en-Provence, Arles, and the quintessential Provençal villages of Lourmarin, Rousillon, Les Baux ,and Saint-Rémy; along with the Camargue region, Avignon, and Nice.

Six-time honoree of Travel +Leisure’s World’s Best Tour Operators award, I like Odysseys Unlimited approach with small groups, limited to 12 – 24 traveling companions, and led by top-rated tour directors with a balanced mix of guided tour and time for independent exploration. There’s nothing worse than never having a moment to relax. The company’s tour directors illuminate historic sites such as Cézanne’s atelier in Aix, the Pont du Gard and the Palais des Papes (Papal Palace) in Avignon, and the UNESCO sites of Roman Arles, while also allowing ample time to stop and smell the sunflowers. Or the lavender.

TET-TI47001708 - © - Henryk Sadura

The sights of Provence

Small group highlights abound, including a private cooking class from a local Provençal chef, dinner and a wine tasting at a vineyard, a visit to a working manade (traditional ranch) in the Camargue, and a stay at a converted 17th-century convent.

Priced from $3,997 total price from Boston and New York ($3,495 air and land inclusive plus $502 airline taxes and departure fees), and slightly higher from other gateway cities, Odysseys Unlimited’s 12-day Discovering Provence with the French Riviera debuts April 6, 2020, and has 12 departures through October 12, 2020.  There is an optional three-day/two-night extension in Nice on the French Riviera, from $245.

www.odysseys-unlimited.com

For a day-by-day itinerary check it out here:

Discovering Provence with the French Riviera

The Majesty of Provence

Lin Urman, Jaunt Magazine Contributor

Lin Urman, Culinary Blogger for On the Table, a popular foodie blog in Tel Aviv, and Saloona, a  blogger network for women and lifestyle, travels to Provence to show our readers all that’s unique about the lifestyle and food of Southern France.

I never planned to join my boyfriend in Provence during his last week of a professional chef training course. He was working as a well-regarded chef at one of Tel Aviv’s finest restaurant and wine bars, Yo’ezer, when he decided to take a course in Provence. I had just come back from a 6 month stint in India and was about to plan a trip to The Big Apple. I had already tasted the French lifestyle during my visit to Paris last year so visiting France again seemed entirely indulgent, but life can be surprising during the autumn season.

Somehow, as a result of a last minute decision, I found myself at the airport while my boyfriend easily arranged everything we needed.

He rented a car from Europcar with a very attractive deal (1750 kilometers for 5 days) and a nice double room in the 2 star property Hotel Del’ Amphitheatre which was more like 4 stars, and located in one of the greatest, central passageways of the old city or Arles. Alas, I landed in Marseille and we had the most incredible 5 days in autumnal Provence.

Arles Amphitheatre

Arles is a quaint 3,000 year old town in Provence with a historic Roman amphitheatre in the old part of the city. It’s highlights also include a spectacular Sunday market in the centre of the modern part, plenty of tiny streets with interesting shops and restaurants, and totally unexpected siesta hours. There is no rush in the air, but a beautifully warm sunset atmosphere with strong winds. An everyday “must”.  The first day we just hung around discovering the city (with 20 oysters in the bag), until the hunger guided us to Cilantro, a 1 star Michelin restaurant located in the old city.

Gazpacho at Cilantro

From the outside, it looked like a regular neighborhood passage, nothing special about it. From the inside, the restaurant’s interior was designed in a clean, chic style with plenty of light and sleek metal accents. The moment the food started to arrive to our table, I realized that Michelin stars have nothing to do with the tires, toilet, or the map on the table. The young, fresh staff of Cilantro (no one was too suited or tied) served us 5 dishes for 99 Euros which included shrimp and avocado cream with gazpacho, soft filet on top of purple potato cream, cream of artichoke, foie gras, and delectable dessert.

Thanks to the 1750 kilometers deal on the car, the next morning we began to discover the Provence area by visiting the small town of Les Boux, located 30 minutes driving from Arles.

Fine Fare at La Cabro D'or in Le Boux, France

In Les Boux, there are two incredible “must see” places; one is the old château atop the hill from which you can see amazing view. The second, and the most interesting for foodies like us, is the 5 star hotel of Provence, La Cabro D’or.

The hotel is located down a winding road and in its spectacular garden there is 1 Michelin star restaurant by the same name which serves lunch for the reasonable price of 50 Euros. We tasted great food and local wine, took some pictures with swans in the “lake” in the center of the garden, and went back to the road to reach Avignon.

Avignon, France

Avignon is a beautiful modern city with a huge citadel and spectacularly green park on the top of the hill where we were happy to land on the grass for our private siesta among fiddling ducks, residents of the centrally located fountain.

When evening came, we were back in Arles where we discovered a nice neighborhood tapas bar called Bodeguita where we had a light dinner of 5 small tapas plates and glasses of strong sangria.

The next morning, we decided to discover the beautiful and rich Saint Tropez, which we discovered was such a rich city that no matter how happy and successful you feel, it will make you still feel you are not happy or successful anymore!

Without any maps, we found the incredibly beautiful and sunny port for yachts and the old promenade, tiny streets, and very expensive shops. We grabbed an ice cream, hung around and went back to our modest self catered dinner in the room of the hotel in Arles, which was made up from selection of well known French baguette, sausages, fromages and tomatoes (yellow and purple).

The Market of Arles

When we awoke up, we caught the most famous market of the boulevard De La Croix Rousse in the capital city of French gourmet cuisine, Lyon. If Lyon is the gourmet spot, De La Croix Rousse is the most famous spot for it and, for that reason, it’s also a very easy to find without a map because huge signs guide you on how to get there from every point of the city.

Because we were as usually late – and because of the French like a good siesta – we missed the market, but on the top of the hill (where the market is supposed to be) we found amazing delicacies shops; one for sea products, one for sausages, and one for pastries. So, we did a little shopping tour and arranged a tasty break on a tiny piece of Provence grass along one of the highways on our way back to Arles.

It was a perfectly warm, tasty, and spontaneous visit which didn’t break our wallets and the taste of which I still have in my mouth. That’s how it goes when it’s a perfect match between Bon Voyage & Bon Appetite!