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A Walking Tour of Provence and the Mediterranean, France - Itinerary

Here is our planned itinerary, but it could change due to weather conditions or other circumstances beyond our control. Provence is famous for its hot and dry Mediterranean climate. April and May is the ideal season to visit, before the heat sets up for the summer. However, Provence and the Mistral wind are intimately related. The powerful gusts, the roaring wind with the clarity and light it brings to the sky are very much a part of a walking tour in Provence. Included meals shown by B - continental breakfast, D - dinner.

    “Arles is the land of beauty” George Sand 

Day 1 | Sat April 15, 2023: Saint-Rémy-de-Provence 

We meet in our hotel in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence at 5pm for a trip orientation. Situated in the heart of the Alpilles, a land of light and artists, Saint-Rémy is surrounded by lush green perfumed valleys and white limestone hills. Its ancient streets are lined with beautifully restored old houses; you will soon be seduced by Saint Rémy’s charm. Afterwards, we will take a short walk to our first dinner in a typical French Brasserie. D 

Day 2 | Sun April 16: Saint-Rémy-de-Provence 6 miles 1,000 feet of ascent 

A great circular walk from the hotel to explore the limestone hills of the Alpilles, their impressive features and amazing views. We start following the way of the Italians on the Camino de Santiago trail to a beautiful spot by a hidden lake from which we ascend on a good track to our picnic lunch spot. We continue past a cedar forest to the famous Rocher des Deux Trous with, weather permitting, beautiful views of the north of Provence. On our way back, we visit the impressive archeological site of Glanum, founded in the 3rd Century BC. In the evening, we will have dinner in one of the most delightful restaurants in Saint-Rémy, with an original, festive atmosphere where guests share plentiful salads, platters of regional specialties and gorgeous desserts. B D 

Day 3 | Mon April 17: Avignon - Luberon 6 miles 800 feet of ascent 

Today, a 30-minute drive takes us to the papal City of Avignon. The skyline of Avignon is a magnificent urban landscape, with an exceptional set of monuments including the St. Bénézet bridge, the Ramparts, the Petit Palais, the Cathedral and the impressive walls of the Popes’ Palace flanked by 4 mighty towers, symbol of the Church’s influence throughout the Christian world in the 14th Century. After the visit, you can enjoy lunch from the rooftop café terrace. We then drive (50 minutes) to the Luberon Regional Park to explore one of the most famous hilltop villages. Our afternoon walk starts in the village of Gordes, a rocky promontory in a landscape of cypresses, olive and almond trees. We head through a green oak forest to a medieval abbey and a heaven of tranquility. We then continue to a small village of typical dry-stone dwellings and shepherd’s huts with great views of the Alpilles and the Luberon, before heading back to the village for some well-deserved refreshments and dinner in a renowned little restaurant serving local dishes and fine wines in a charming setting. Drive back 45 minutes. B D 

Day 4 | Tue April 18: Saint-Rémy: Saint-Paul-de-Mausole 8 miles 150 feet of ascent

After a hearty breakfast, a circular walk from our hotel takes us to the foothills of the Alpilles through woods and vineyards. We start with a tour of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole, the mental hospital where the great painter Vincent Van Gogh, alone and suffering, found relief and respect for his artistic creativity. Intoxicated by painting and freedom, he immortalized the wheat fields, arid mountains and olive groves, producing in a year 150 of his most famous masterpieces. Our relaxed pace brings us in time for our picnic lunch in a lovely olive grove with great vistas of the nearby hills. After lunch, we visit an award-winning local vineyard for a private tour of their cellar coupled with a wine and olive oil tasting. Later-on we follow an irrigation canal, a refreshing presence in the dry landscape which provides habitat for birds and wildlife. On the way back to the hotel, we enjoy dinner at a delightful restaurant just outside the town, offering traditional cooking in a family atmosphere. B D 

Day 5 | Wed April 19: Saint-Rémy-de-Provence 6 miles 800 feet of ascent 

After breakfast, we head to the weekly market, one of the best Artisan & Crafts markets in Provence. We will take this opportunity to buy a snack for lunch, perhaps a baguette and some local French cheese? After dropping our shopping at the hotel, we head past the ruins of a pre-roman city to a deep shaded vale where we will stop for our picnic lunch. A botanical path then takes us to the top of a rocky cirque, enjoying far reaching views to Mt Ventoux to the north and all the way to the Mediterranean Sea to the south. We then descend on a path with a few rocky steps in a deep gorge between limestone cliffs. Back in Saint-Rémy in the mid-afternoon, there will be time to explore the many historic buildings, museums and art galleries and maybe even for a swim in the hotel’s heated pool. In the evening, we head to our restaurant in a characterful little street, serving typical provençal cuisine made from fresh local produce from the market. B D 

Day 6 | Thu April 20: Arles - Camargue 4 miles 50 feet of ascent 

A 30-minute drive in the morning takes us to Arles, known as the Little Rome, because outside of Rome itself, it is the city with the highest number of vestiges and sites dating from the Roman Empire. Visit the museums and monuments at your leisure, maybe stopping for lunch at the café terrace made famous by Van Gogh. In the afternoon, we drive (20 minutes) to a superb nature reserve, part of the Regional Park of the Camargue, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, for a guided tour to discover the rare and iconic wildlife of the wetlands of Provence. Back in Saint-Rémy (35 minutes), for a great dinner at our favorite local restaurant where the chef revisits his grandmother’s recipes, with a touch of originality featuring organic, local produce. B D 

Day 7 | Fri April 21: Les-Baux-de-Provence 8 miles 1,200 feet of ascent 

After breakfast, we embark on a very special walk straight from our hotel. We ascend once again through the Alpilles first on quiet roads and good tracks, then on more rugged trails in the heart of the forest. We will enjoy great views from our picnic spot, before discovering the amazing scenery of the valley of Les-Baux-de-Provence: a chasm of rocks and light that has inspired writers, artists and filmmakers alike. We head down to the Carrieres de Lumieres, the old bauxite quarries, for an extraordinary immersive experience of music and light that is sure to impress. We then ascend to the medieval town and castle of Les-Baux-de-Provence, where we discover the tumultuous history of the Lords of Les Baux, the medieval ruins, towers, keep and chapel with magnificent views over the valley, the vineyards and olive groves. A grand finale for our week exploring this area of Provence. A very short drive (15 minutes) back to Saint-Rémy where we head to a vibrant brasserie in the center of town for a colorful dinner. B D 

Day 8 | Sat April 22: La Ciotat 3 miles 500 feet of ascent

In the morning, we leave St Remy and the Alpilles for the coast and the clear blue waters of the Mediterranean. A couple of hours on the train and we arrive in the vibrant port of La Ciotat for lunchtime. We drop our luggage at the hotel and explore the fascinating historic buildings and the intriguing museum in the old town. Afterwards, we head to the beautifully landscaped Parc du Mugel offering great views of the bay. We keep ascending to the local landmark, an extraordinary rocky formation known as the Eagle’s beak. We push on over the hill to the little secret beach hidden behind the town before returning via quiet roads and lanes surrounded by olive groves and dry-stone walls locally known as “restanques”. Dinner on the port. B D

Day 9 | Sun April 23: Coastal Path St Cyr to Bandol 8 miles 900 feet of ascent 

We head to the nearby village of St Cyr. After the disappearance of the prized red tunas that used to frequent this picturesque bay, the old fishing village has become a lovely tourist resort for people escaping the gargantuan city of Marseilles for the weekend. The coastal path is a succession of rocky ascents and descents on a good path and quiet lanes, through Mediterranean pine forests, the garrigue (an attractive mix of typical Mediterranean aromatic shrubs interspersed with colorful ephemeral flower species)  and vineyards and alongside vertiginous cliffs above the sea. With hidden crystal-clear water coves and rocky outcrops with spectacular views of the distant islands, the scenery is just extraordinary. Our walk finishes in Bandol, a little town popular with sailors, yacht enthusiasts and holiday makers and famous for its deliciously refreshing rosé wine. We take the local train back to La Ciotat (a short 20 minute ride) in time for a lovely dinner on the port. B D

Day 10 | Mon April 24: Les Calanques de Cassis 7 miles 1,700 feet of ascent 

Today, we depart directly from our hotel, heading up towards the hills. After a steady climb, we emerge in an area covered with garrigue. We follow a quiet road before joining the coastal path near the top of the cliffs near the lookout station. The breathtaking cliffs between Cassis and La Ciotat are some of the highest in Europe and home to an exceptional biodiversity. From there we follow the path with fantastic views towards the bay of Cassis in the distance. After our picnic lunch on the cliffs, we start our descent, at first carefully negotiating a few rocky slabs and steps, then on a good path and a quiet lane. On the way, we pass Cassis’ famous vineyards, celebrated by the poet Frederic Mistral and recognized with its own protected area known as Appellation d’Origine Controlée. The first grapes were planted by the Phocaeans people in 600 BC. The dry white wine has a subtle taste of honey, lemon and flintstone and is the perfect complement to the many fish dishes for which this region is famous. We continue our descent and finally arrive in the village of Cassis.  Located in the heart of the newly designated Parc National des Calanques, Cassis is the most charming fishing port in truly unique settings. The paths in the Calanques are steep and rough with loose rocks. Undeniably, the best way to explore the Calanques, a succession of deep inlets with superb turquoise waters framed by towering white limestone cliffs, is by boat. Weather permitting, we take a scenic 90 minutes tour of the most spectacular calanques. Back in Cassis, we explore the port, the lovely shops, bars and ice-cream parlors before heading back to our hotel for dinner to celebrate our trip in Provence. B D

Day 11 | Tue April 25: Farewells 

Departure day after breakfast, check-out time 11 am. B

The trip leader will provide 4 trip bulletins prior to departure with more detailed and specific information to help you prepare for your adventure. If you’d like advice with your in-country travel arrangements, please do ask, we are happy to help. The hiking on this trip is moderate with some more challenging sections. 

Trip Date   April 15 - 25, 2023 | 11 day trip

Group size 12 participants 

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