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Discovery Tour: Roman Provence - A Culinary & Cultural Journey - Itinerary March 24 - April 2, 2025

The trip starts in Nîmes and ends in Arles

Big Round World will provide additional information to registered participants. Below is our planned itinerary. Please, keep in mind that it could change due to weather conditions, or other local circumstances beyond our control.  Included meals shown by B - Breakfast, L - Lunch, D - Dinner.

Day 1  Monday March 24th, 2025  Arrival Day

We meet in Nîmes, one the best preserved Roman cities in Provence. Our hotel is a 5 minute walk from the train station in the center of old Nîmes and just around the corner from the Amphitheatre. Our hotel rooms are available from 3pm. At 5pm we gather at our hotel for a welcome drink and nibbles to review our trip itinerary and answer last minute questions. Afterwards we walk to a nearby restaurant located in an historic hotel built in 1840, for our first meal on the trip, a 3 course “menu du terroir” paired with a glass of regional wine. D.

Day 2  Tuesday March 25th  Introduction to Nîmes  

Nîmes is considered “the most Roman city outside of Italy”. By the 1st century BCE, the Romans made it the capital of Provence and substantially invested in its infrastructure and architecture. A small train ride will give us an overview of the old center. After the ride, we stroll through the streets to get to The Halles - the quintessential farmers’ market in the life of the Nimois (People of Nîmes). This covered market displays the abundance of local delicacies and fresh produce. This is also a great place for buying produce for a sack lunch. In the afternoon, we tour two Roman era UNESCO World Heritage sites, the Amphitheatre and the Maison Carrée (Square House), an early and one of the best-preserved examples of a Roman temple dedicated to Emperor Augustus' sons. A visit to the Musée de la Romanité, an interactive Gallo-Roman museum, will help us understand the impact of romanization over the centuries that makes Nîmes today. The modern building also offers a panoramic view of the city from the rooftop and access to a typical Mediterranean garden. This evening we dine at a neighboring restaurant to taste local cuisine with a 3 course meal paired with a glass of wine.  B, D

Day 3  Wednesday March 26th  Day in Uzès and Le Pont du Gard

We travel to Uzès (originally Ucetia in Roman times) by local bus. Uzès is a gem of a bastide, or fortified town, established in Gallo-Roman times as an oppidum or administrative center. We start at the biweekly farmers’ market held in the Place aux Herbes, an elegant square sheltered by magnificent sycamore trees. Narrow cobbled streets encompassed by gently worn stone shuttered buildings invite us to investigate the old medieval town. The stunning Pont du Gard, UNESCO World Heritage site, built in the 1st century CE as part of the Roman aqueduct of Nîmes, was used until the 6th century. Just 6 miles from Uzès, for 2000 years the Pont du Gard has spanned the River Gardon. A breathtaking marvel. Prepare for an adventure - we visit this site atop e-bikes. Tonight we enjoy a two course dinner in a unique Mediterranean restaurant paired with a glass of wine. B, D

Day 4  Thursday March 27th  Last day in Nîmes

We start our day with a visit to the Musée du Vieux Nîmes where a room is dedicated to the fabrication of denim (de Nîmes). Who would believe jeans were invented in Provence? After a quick stop at The Halles to grab your new favorite fare, we head to the Jardin de la Fontaine for a picnic. Be ready for an enchanted moment. This 18th century botanical garden is one of the first public gardens of France. Encompassing an ancient spring, the garden is adorned with statues, canals, fountains and ancient monuments including the Temple of Diana and the Magne Tower, the last remaining vestige of the ancient fortifications of Nîmes built by Emperor Augustus. A 15 hectares garden (roughly the size of 37 football fields) of perfect scenery to wander. The rest of the afternoon is free for you to enjoy and explore by yourself. We regroup later at the hotel for appetizers and drinks. Spanish culture and cuisine has been part of Nîmes for centuries and this evening is tapas night. Be ready for a lively and fun evening. And with luck we might catch some flamenco dancing or Spanish guitar playing. B, D.

Day 5  Friday March 28th  Transfer to Arles

Today we pack up our belongings and set off for Arles by train, a 30 minute ride. After dropping our bags at our hotel, we begin our exploration of Arles. The city center of Arles is home to a collection of Roman and Romanesque Monuments listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1981. These include the Amphitheatre, the Roman Theater built in the reign of Caesar Augustus with an original capacity for 8,000 people; the Cryptoportico, subterranean galleries likely built by the Greeks in the 1st century BCE and may have been used as slave barracks; St Trophime’s Cloister and Church dating from the 11th - 12th centuries CE and used to keep safe relics from other churches during the French Revolution. In the following few days, through Van Gogh’s eyes, we will also discover the Arles that inspired a number of his famous paintings. We dine in a quaint little bistro located in a house dating to 1780 for a traditional dinner made with amazing fresh local produce. B, D   

Day 6  Saturday March 29th  A Class in the Art of Provençal Cuisine

An early breakfast allows us to meet with our local host and renowned Chef Erick at the farmers’ market where, under his careful guidance, we will select fresh ingredients needed to prepare our meal. Chef Erick will instruct us on how to prepare a selection of  traditional French Provençal culinary courses. Once the knives are put away, we start with an “apéro” (finger food and drink) and then enjoy the meal we prepared together. At the end of our class, to counter our lunchtime feast, we will stroll the arts and crafts streets of Arles where small boutiques of artisans open their doors. After our early start and efforts to understand the finer elements of French cuisine, the remainder of the afternoon and evening are free for you to relax. Perhaps we might meet later to savor a cocktail at a local bar and enjoy the evening sights? B, L      

Day 7  Sunday March 30th  4x4 Safari in the Camargue

Arles is at the center of a wealth of UNESCO World Heritage sites. We visit the thermal baths of Constantine built in 4 CE under Emperor Constantine. Arles was his residence so he built many things he liked, and the baths were one of them. Even in ruins, they still exude old luxury. We take the local bus to Les Saintes Maries de la Mer, a small picturesque town on the shore of the Regional Park of the Camargue. The Rhone River delta and the sea form a vast marshland, a hidden natural gem famous for its white horses, black bulls, pink flamingos and over 400 different species of birds. And it is in a 4x4 safari that we will explore its beautiful landscape.  Back to Les Saintes, we might catch a game of petanque, a quintessential ball game in Provence. Upon our return to Arles we regroup for happy hour with some specialities brought back from our day trip. We dine in a 17th century vaulted ceiling restaurant for a 2 course meal paired with a glass of wine. B,D

Day 8  Monday March 31st  The Heart of the Alpilles

The Alpilles, “the little Alps”, is a must to see. It embodies the sublime landscape, untamed natural environment and proudly preserved traditions. Les Baux is classified as one of the most beautiful villages of France. Perched on top of a rocky plateau, its historical heritage is pristine with over 22 historic monuments beautifully restored. Evidence of human habitation here dates back to 6000 BCE (Neolithic Age). By the 4th century, the people from Les Baux were known for their mining and quarrying, providing limestone to some of the monuments in Provence. We start with a visit to Les Carrières des Lumières, one of those quarries transformed into a virtual art show, for a completely unique immersive experience. A new show is created every year. Afterwards, we wander in the old village of Les Baux, accessible only by foot, up to the ruins of the 10th century castle, where we picnic with the most breathtaking view of the whole valley. On the way back, we stop for a tour of an 18th century château, its olive oil grove and estate vineyard and experience a tasting of its olive oils and wines. Back in Arles we will enjoy a light dinner in a 13th century cloister. B,D      

Day 9  Tuesday April 1st  Last day in Arles

To promote sustainable transportation, Arles put in place a bicycle path following the St Jacques de Compostelle trail that traverses the city. We follow part of this route on e-bikes - our destination is the famous Langois bridge painted by Van Gogh. Along our route, we will pass by the UNESCO World Heritages sites of Les Alyscamps, a large Roman necropolis, and the Tower des Mourgues and its medieval ramparts. Our last stopover is a visit to the Musee Departemental de l'Antiquité, where a “must see” restored 100 foot Roman barge and one of the three known busts of Julius Caesar sculpted while alive, are housed - both found nearby in the Rhone River. Lunch and the afternoon are on your own. For our farewell dinner we will enjoy a five course gastronomic tasting menu with regional wine-pairing in a small Provençal bistro nestling in the old town.  A fitting finale for our culinary and cultural journey in Provence. B,D     

Day 10  Wednesday  April 2nd Farewell

Our fabulous culinary and cultural journey in Provence has come to an end. We bid you adieu. Breakfast is our last meal on the trip. Check out by 11am. B

Pre trip bulletins will be provided prior to departure with more detailed and specific information to help you prepare for your journey. If you’d like advice on your in-country travel arrangements, please do ask, we are happy to help.

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Trip Dates:   March 24 - April 2, 2025 | 11 days 

Group size: 12 

Trip Price: $4,185 per person  | Deposit: $600

Single supplement: $650

Balance to be paid by December 23, 2024. You will be sent a reminder.

Price is based on double occupancy of rooms. Same gender roommate will be assigned to participants traveling solo. Single supplements are limited. Your non-refundable deposit will hold your reservation. Either pay on line (credit/ debit cards accepted) using our secure PayPal payment system or write a check, payable to “Big Round World”, and mail it to: PO Box 1337, Lyons, CO 80540.

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