Provence & the Riviera

  Nine Glorious Days!

Best of France Travels offers you a tour that includes the best of 

Provence and the French Riviera!

 

June 18-24, 2017 – Full

September 24-Octobr 3, 2017 – 6 openings

 

We will meet you at the Nice airport upon your arrival and transport you to St. Remy-de-Provence. Check in at our charming Provencal country inn, The Mas des Carassins, which will be our home for the next six days. This top rated hotel in St. Remy has been our “Home away from Home” in Provence since 2010. You will be delighted by the friendly and impeccable service, the scrumptious dinners and amazing buffet breakfasts in a setting that is quintessentially Provence. You will enjoy dinner each evening here at their restaurant, La Table d’Yvan, a Michelin restaurant. Surrounded by acres of gardens, fountains, and two swimming pools, this lovely inn will make you never want to leave.  Upon your arrival you will have time to unpack, relax, and take a tour of the extensive gardens before your welcome dinner this evening. You will enjoy 5 course gourmet dinners each night at the Mas des Carassins! This beautiful inn is less than a ten minute walk to the center of the town which is filled with lovely squares, plant-filled alleyways, and cooling fountains. This is a quaint but active village, with a great selection of restaurants, cafes, galleries, and specialty boutiques.

We will stay for three additional nights in Nice at our charming four star Belle Epoque hotel, Le Grimaldi. Le Grimaldi has been awarded the Certificate of Excellence on Trip Advisor and is rated in the top 10 percent of all hotels in Nice. They are known for their exceptional service and have a wonderful team of professional staff who always go out of their way to be friendly and helpful. Our  hotel is perfectly situated to explore all that this city has to offer: dining, shopping, sunbathing and swimming, movies, theaters, opera, museums — or just strolling along the Promenade des Anglais and enjoying the good life. In Old Nice the Cours Salaya has a daily market of flowers, fresh produce and original art. Old Nce and is lined with terrace cafés and colorful old buildings. Stroll through a labyrinth of secret passageways and cobblestone streets. Be sure to enjoy one of the private beaches, complete with umbrella, lounge chair and waiter to serve you! For art and history lovers there are several museums: The Massena Palace Museum, the Beaux Arts museum, the Palais Lascaris, the Matisse Museum and the Chagall Museum. Savor local cuisine of shellfish, bouillabaisse, or enjoy one of the many Italian restaurants in the town. Dance the night away at the disco or try your luck at the Casino Rhul on the Promenade des Anglais. On Monday take advantage the extensive “brocante” (antique) market in old Nice. Look for old Limoges, vintage linens with hand tatted lace, old silver, antique cork screws…taste the specialties offered by the vendors of marzipan, calissons, and nougat.

Program Itinerary

Day 1 – Welcome to France! We will meet you at the airport in Nice after you retrieve your suitcases. If you have chosen to arrive in Nice a day or two early, we will meet you at the Hotel in town.  Enjoy a beautiful, leisurely ride in our luxury coach bus past Mediterranean landscapes, through the hilly, rocky Var region into the heart of Provence.  We will stop for a break along the way for some fresh air and a snack.   When we arrive at our hotel in St. Remy you will have time to settle in and unpack, take a walk around the gorgeous gardens, or have a refreshing dip in one of the two swimming pools on the grounds. At 7:30 we will have a welcome gathering in the garden and our first five course dinner prepared by the fabulous chef at the Mas.    Start with an “Amuse Bouche” which is always a delightful surprise.  Next comes the “Entrée” or appetizer course.  This course is based on a principal ingredient and includes three variations around the theme. It could be melon, or tomato, or zucchini in the form of a chilled soup, a sorbet and crème brulee.  Next comes the “plat principal” which is the main dish.   Afterwards you will be served the cheese course, then dessert.  It is an event each evening and most nights the weather is perfect for dining in the garden.
 
Day 2 – After breakfast we will walk to the famous archeological site, the City of Glanum. Our very knowledgeable guide will explain the history of this fascinating site which was settled by Celtic Ligurians, Greeks, and then the Romans. After our visit of Glanum we will walk to St. Paul de Mausole, the hospital where Van Gogh admitted himself as a patient after his “crisis” in Arles.  Vincent stayed here for more than a year. This was a prolific phase of Van Gogh’s career.  He completed over 150 paintings and drawing, including several of his room and the hospital buildings, “Starry Night”, and many different views of the surrounding landscapes.  After our visit to St. Paul de Mausole you will have a free afternoon in St. Remy.  Enjoy lunch at one of the many cafes or restaurants in St. Remy, visit the Musee des Alpilles, browse the charming boutiques, and explore the town.
 
Day 3 – Today we will begin with a visit of the Chateau Romanin winery. Winemaking at Château Romanin is based on biodynamic winegrowing methods. This winery has a Templar theme due to it being built below the ruins of a 13th century Knights Templar Castle.  After our visit of the domaine and the cave, we will have the opportunity to taste the different wines made at Chateau Romanin.  Purchase some wine to take with you and enjoy a glass in the gardens at the hotel!   Next we will drive south through the Camargue region. Look for the famous black bulls and the beautiful white horses used by Camargue cowboys. Our destination is Aigues Mortes, a medieval walled city and site of the 13th Century seaport constructed by King Louis IX for his departing crusaders.  Walk around the ramparts to get the best view of the surrounding landscape, the ancient towers, and a panoramic view of the cité. Try the regional specialty, Gardienne, a delicious stew made of beef and served with the famous Camargue rice. Mid-afternoon return to St. Remy and free time before dinner.
 
Day 4 – Market day in St. Remy! Start the day at the beautiful Provencal market in St. Remy de Provence.  If you get up with the birds, you can watch the market setting up.  It’s really quite a sight to see…and hear and smell!  The artistry with which the vendors display their wares is amazing. You will find everything at this market from French music CDs, original paintings, clothes, lavender products, wine, honey, candy, toys, Provencal linens and crafts, as well as every conceivable food product of the region.  There is live music to be enjoyed throughout the market place.  Enjoy your morning and explore the town. The market ends around 12h30, so don’t get there too late! You will be surprised at how much there is to see and do. Some of our customers like to purchase supplies for a picnic and return to the gardens of our inn.  This is a great way to share and taste many of the regional specialties.  Be sure and find the band “Gig Street” who play in the center of town. This is a group that is not to be missed! 
 
Day 5 – Today we will drive into the Luberon, land of Peter Mayle stories, to the hilltop village of Roussillon, which is listed as “one of the most beautiful villages of France”.   A village of intense color! Over 17 different shades of ochre tint the buildings in colors ranging from golden yellow to deep red.  We begin with a short walk of the Ochre Trails. Wear good shoes and white is not recommended unless you want to change the color of your shoes! Afterwards there is a small market in the village. This is a typical small village market, but has many interesting vendors and artisans.  We will have lunch as a group at the Café des Couleurs on their beautiful terrace overlooking the ochre hills.  After lunch we will drive to Gordes, also designated as one of the most beautiful villages in France, but it  looks completely different!  Stroll the tiny streets which climb up between the tall houses to the fortified castle. Enjoy the panorama of the valley and mountains of Luberon. Afternoon return to St. Remy and free time before dinner.
 
Day 6- Today is our cooking lesson located on a beautiful country estate. Our fabulously entertaining chef will welcome us in his home to teach us how to make 5 different dishes.  Pick fresh herbs and vegetables in the garden and assist with the preparation of these delicious recipes.   We will dine on Chef Yvan Cadiou’s  creations (with our help!) in the garden under the shade of 3oo year old plane trees. With lunch you will have the opportunity to taste some very special wines from the region.  Take your time and relax and soak up Provence!  We will of course finish off with dessert, digestif and coffee…Our chef has produced many different cooking shows, cook books and continues to write a weekly column in the Marseille newspaper. You will be delighted with the lesson, the setting,  the meal, and the hospitality!
 
Day 7 – After one last delicious breakfast in the garden of the Mas des Carassins, we will check out of our lovely inn and drive through the Alpilles mountains to visit Les Baux de Provence. Les Baux is an extraordinary village that blends with the jagged spur of rock on which it is perched.  The dramatic scenery and historic ruins draw visitors from around the world. Les Baux was once the seat of the most powerful (and fearsome!) lords of this region. Some claimed to have descended from the Magi king, Balthazar. Tour the chateau and ramparts, participate in the catapult demonstration, shop in artist ateliers and specialty boutiques. Sit on a café terrace overlooking the sheer cliffs and twisted rocks of the Val d’Enfer (Valley of Hell) which was the inspiration for Dante’s description of the Inferno. This afternoon we will head back to Nice for three days on the Riviera! Check in at the hotel and orientation walk around old Nice.  Free for dinner on your own this evening in beautiful Nice!
 
Day 8 – This morning we will have a beautiful and exciting drive to Eze, the highest perched village on the Riviera at 1,407 feet above the sea.   We will start with a visit to Fragonard, the famous perfume maker for centuries. After the visit of the perfumery, we will go to the village ofEze.  Begin with the exotic garden at the top of the village with more spectacular views of the Mediterranean. At the top of the gardens you will find the ruins of the chateau that Louis XIV had dismantled in 1706.  Take lots of pictures in Eze.  It is very picturesque and you will be thrilled with the results.  In the afternoon we will visit the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, the finest villa on the Riviera.  Seventeen acres of gardens and fountains surround the Belle Époque villa, which houses the art and antique collection of the Baroness Ephrussi de Rothschild.   Late afternoon return to Nice and dinner on your own.
 
Day 9 – Free Day in Nice! Start with the flea market in Old Nice.  Nice’s colorful, sun-drenched Cours Saleya is filled with over 200 flea market vendors selling their wares.  A huge variety of treasures can be found: silver, vintage linens and Hermes scarves, posters, ceramics, paintings, toys, jewelry, and more.  Take advantage of the beautiful beaches or stroll Vieux Nice, a labyrinth of secret passageways and cobblestone streets.  Finish up last minute shopping, visit the Villa Massena, the Matisse and Chagall museums, the many Baroque churches in old Nice, or sit in the square of Place Rossetti and wait for Edith Piaf to appear and sing to you. Tonight we will have our scrumptious Bon Voyage dinner with the group. Our restaurant for our final  meal together is typically French-Nicoise cuisine. You get to choose from a special menu what you would like for dinner tonight. Dine outdoors on the beautiful Boulevard Victor Hugo beneath the giant palm trees lit with fairy lights. Enjoy the fun and lively service at this restaurant and have a  fabulous meal with your traveling companions and new friends.
 
Day 10 – End of Tour today. We will arrange transportation to the airport for each traveler’s departing flights. We schedule your transfers to accommodate YOUR SCHEDULE! Sleep in or depart early – your choice today!

Breakfast and dinner are included every day at the Mas des Carassins.  Breakfast is included every day at our hotel in Nice.

Click here for more details about our tours to Provence and the Riviera.

Click here for details about our tours to Languedoc Roussillon.