Arrive by 4pm in Avignon, France, and transfer to our hotel in the historical center of this walled city. Meet your trip leader and group for a 5:30pm orientation in the hotel. We enjoy a short walking tour of the city en-route to a local restaurant for our first Provencal dinner. Dinner included.
Walking: 30 minutes.
We take a walking tour of historically rich Avignon and visit the Papal Palace, a jewel of medieval architecture, and the famous bridge over the Rhone River, Pont St. B�nezet. Departing Avignon after lunch, we visit two Roman monuments in the heart of the Alpilles, then begin our hike to the rocky village of Les Baux-de-Provence. En route we stop at a former Roman quarry, where the white limestone to build Les Baux originated. Today the quarry houses the Carri�res de Lumi�res, an extraordinary and unique audio visual show that projects the work of artists such as Picasso onto the quarry walls. There is time to experience the art (optional extra expense) or enjoy the village of Les Baux. Following dinner in the village we return to our accommodations in Avignon. All meals included.
Walking tour: 2 hours; Hiking: 3 miles, 2.5 hours; elevation gain/loss: 200?/ 330?; terrain: paved and dirt paths.
We hike in the world renowned wine region of Gigondas, exploring the Dentelles de Montmirail. Our trail takes us between pinewoods, vineyards and diverse scrubland with a backdrop dominated by a mountain chain of sharp, rocky peaks. After our hike we transfer to a Gigondas winery to visit its cellar, and enjoy a wine tasting. The wine of Gigondas is typically robust, award-winning reds and a few whites and ros�s. We transfer to our accommodations in charming Gordes, a village made up of houses of white and gray stone rising up around the hilltop village and its castle. All meals included.
Hiking: 3 miles, 2 hours; elevation gain 1035?/loss: 1,300?; terrain: dirt paths and rocky trails; driving: about 2 hours.
Departing on foot from our hotel, we follow a cobbled and dirt trail through oak forests to reach the still-working 12th-century Senanque Abbey. The abbey is surrounded by lavender fields, which are typically in bloom from mid-June to mid-August. We take some time to enjoy the peaceful setting, where monks still farm the lavender and tend the bees, before continuing our hike back to Gordes. We are rewarded with panoramic views of the Luberon valley, dotted with the maintained dry stone walls that are characteristic of this region. This evening we visit a local olive oil mill to sample different oils, then enjoy a farm-to-table dinner among the olive trees. All meals included.
Hiking: 6 miles, 4.5 hours; elevation gain/loss: 820'; terrain: cobblestones, dirt paths and sections of paved road.
We say farewell to Gordes and transfer to Roussillon, a small village situated in the heart of one of the biggest ochre deposits in the world. We walk the ?Ochre Trail? and take note of its brilliant russet-red and yellow colors, set off by green forests of pine and oaks. Leaving the canyon, we walk to the center of Roussillon, one of the most beautiful villages of the Luberon. After lunch and some time to explore, we visit a lavender factory to learn about the distillation process, as well as differences and uses of true lavender and lavandin. The Luberon region of Provence has been associated with lavender growing since it was brought here by the Romans 2,000 years ago. Our day ends with a transfer to Aix-en-Provence and dinner. All meals included.
Hiking: 2 miles, 1.5 hours; elevation gain/loss: 985?; terrain: dirt paths and pavement; driving: 2 hours.
Mount Sainte-Victoire is celebrated for its many appearances in paintings by Paul C�zanne. Beginning in a shaded pine forest, we hike up the mountain to a 17th century Priory and the nearby 62-foot Cross of Provence. We are rewarded with 360-degree views of Luberon, Mount Ventoux, the Alps and the vertical cliff just off Cassis called Cap Canaille. We refuel with a picnic lunch before returning to the tree-lined streets of Aix-en-Provence. Nowhere else in France is l'art de vivre (the art of living) so well established. Meander the wide promenade of the Cours Mirabeau, bordered by fine houses and fountains, or relax at one of its many outdoor cafes. Enjoy dinner on your own tonight. Breakfast and lunch included.
Hiking: 9 miles, 5 hours; elevation gain/loss: 2,132?; terrain: paved and dirt paths.
From Aix-en-Provence we transfer to the Calanques de Port-Miou. This long, narrow waterway has a picturesque marina with hundreds of sailboats; it?s the perfect place to enter the water to begin our kayaking tour. We kayak a mini fjord of clear turquoise waters, passing sandy beaches and dramatic white stone cliffs. On the sea, at water level, is the best way to appreciate these outstanding formations. Following a picnic lunch we check into our hotel in the village of Cassis. This charming fishing port is known for its clay colored buildings and ros�-producing vineyards. This afternoon there is free time to relax, explore the village, or take an optional guided walk to Pointe de la Cacau to visit le trou souffleur blowhole. Dinner is on your own; you may wish to try bouillabaisse, a popular Proven�al fish stew. Breakfast and lunch included.
Kayaking: about 4.6 miles, 3 hours; optional hiking: 2.6 miles, 1.5 hours, elevation gain/loss: 92?/33?; terrain: dirt and rock paths.
Note: Day 7 and Day 8 activities are subject to change should the Mistral wind?a strong, gusty, cold, northwesterly wind?cause high seas or close the road to Cap Canaille. Alternate hikes in the area will be provided.
?Cap Canaille, located just a few miles to the east of Cassis, are the highest maritime cliffs in Europe. The summit of Grande T�te has a 1,293? sheer cliff. We reach this remarkable outlook via the Route des Cretes, a road that provides access to numerous panoramic viewpoints. From here we begin our hike along an upper trail, taking in the sweeping views of the sea, cliffs and surrounding mountains. Following our hike we transfer to a nearby vineyard for a picnic lunch, then stroll through the vineyards to a winery to enjoy a wine tasting. We return to Cassis on foot, with the remainder of the afternoon free to discover the shops along the port, take a boat tour to see the Calanques from a new perspective, or go for a swim from the beach. This evening, we gather for a farewell dinner and toast our adventure with wine or pastis, an anise-flavored spirit and aperitif. All meals included.
Hiking: 5 miles, 2 hours; elevation gain/loss: 430'/720'; walking: 4-4.5 miles, 1.5 hours; terrain: dirt and paved paths.
The trip concludes after breakfast. The Vitrolles Aeroport Marseille-Provence can be reached by train (transfer at Marseille-St. Charles station). All transportation is on your own. Breakfast included.