Small Group Guided Tours of Provence
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Experience our 'Secret Provence'.  For detailed itinerary and booking, please contact
esafdie@affinitesociety.com; +1 (401) 225-4919


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Itinerary -- Nectar of the Gods

Day 1

Activity: Airport Pickup

Arrive Marignane Airport where you will be met by your hosts, Elias and Jo Ann Safdie; a mini-bus will be waiting to take you through the French countryside to your hotel in Avignon Centre Ville.  Lunch will be at leisure with suggestions from Jo Ann and Elias if you want more than the hotel fare.  You will have the afternoon to rest but if you have the energy, we recommend taking the Petit Train tour.

Activity: Petit Train Tour of Avignon

This 40 minute tour with individual headphones will give you a great feel for the city and its highlights. The headphones provide the information in various languages. You can catch the train in front of the Papal Palace, just a few yards from your hotel entrance. This is a great way to see what you might wish to view with more attention later in the week.

Activity: Meet and Greet Dinner

vache.jpgGet acquainted at La Vache à Carreaux (The Checkered Cow), a charming restaurant just a short walk from the hotel. The walk to the restaurant affords you a great view of the Palace of the Popes as well as the old dormitories of the Cardinals. We will have a separate dining room and a typical prix fixe French menu consisting of an aperitif (before dinner drink), an appetizer (known in France as the Entrée), a main plate (called Le Plat), dessert and coffee, along with your choice of red, white or rose wines.


Day 2

Activity: Palace of the Popes

The Palace of the Popes stands as the mighty symbol of the church’s influence throughout the western Christian world in the 14th century. Construction was started in 1335 and completed in less than twenty years under the leadership of two builder popes, Benedict XII and his successor Clement VI. The Popes’ Palace is the biggest Gothic palace in all of Europe (15,000 m2 of floor space, which is the equivalent of 4 Gothic cathedrals). During the guided tour you will see over 20 rooms, scenes of historic events, in particular the pope’s private chambers and the frescoes painted by the Italian artist Matteo Giovannetti.   After the tour, visit the famous Pont d'Avignon (Pont St. Benezet) and learn its history and why it does not span all the way across the Rhone

Activity: Lunch at le Pressoir

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Le Pressoir sits in the main square of a sleepy little village called Sarrians about 20 km northeast of Avignon. It is so called because in its back room sits an old olive press, which Jean Pierre will be happy to let you see. Here you will have a typical Provencal lunch, punctuated of course with the obligatory glass of Provence Rose wine.  Sarrians may be sleepy but it boasts over 20 vineyards within its town borders.

Activity: Sarrians Vineyards

During the afternoon we will take two or three tastings of the Rhone wines produced in Sarrians in picturesque caves.  One is situated on a sixteenth century hamlet, has its barrels aging in a natural cave that travels under a hill and has a natural water source at the end of the tunnel.  A second will explain the vinification process and include a tour of the vats in which the wines are undergoing their fermentation.  At the third we will not only sample the wines but also the famed Carpentras strawberries that are in season at this time of year



Day 3

Activity Vaison Market


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One of the hallmarks of Provence is the outdoor market. Each village and town has one day every week (sometimes two) set aside for local farmers, cheesemakers and other vendors to come to the town square or some other designated place, set up their wares, and sell to the public. The Wednesday market at Sault has been going on uninterrupted since the 1500’s!!. We will be visiting one of the larger markets in the area at Vaison la Romaine, where there are a multitude of Roman ruins and a scenic 1st century bridge to admire as you wander the stalls of the market. This will be a great opportunity for you to buy gifts for friends and loved ones back home as you will be able to find everything from Provençal tablecloths to scented soaps, lavender, cheeses, sausages, olives..you name it. The French word for negotiating is marchandise. Any of you who speak French can practice your negotiating skills
Lunch in Vaison

Activity Fontaine du Clos


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This vineyard is one of the twenty inside Sarrians and it was selected because they not only make wines from their own grapes, they actually produce grape stock for vintners in the area. They produce over 30 of the Provencal grape varietals, including the ubiquitous Grenache grape found in almost all Cotes du Rhone wines, as well as the Cinsault, Mouvédre, Syrah, and Carignane which are used in different proportions to blend the different wines. We will have three visits at the Cave: 1. A visit to the cellar with an explanation of winemaking, 2. Introduction to Tasting will ‘enhance your senses and develop your ability to enjoy the art of the sensory analysis’. You will receive an official tasting glass as a souvenir of your visit. 3. An introduction to the concepts of Ampelography (the study of the characteristics of grape vines).


Day 4

Activity: Orange Arc de Triomphe

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Orange has a beautifully preserved Arc de Triomphe, built as a tribute to the Roman Second Legion.  The commemorative arc depicts carvings of sea battles, of slaves being captured and returned to Rome, and many other curiosities.  It sits at the north end of town, on the road believed to be the original Roman Cardos which was a north/south road built by Romans in every city they inhabited.

Activity: Orange Antique Theater

orange%20theatre.jpg This guided tour will give you an amazing insight into the grandeur and majesty of this theater during the days of the Roman occupation. The stage is nearly intact, including a statue of Augustus Caesar dating back almost two thousand years.  It is still used for plays and concerts and there are some amazing displays of plays that were put on almost 100 years ago on this stage.

Activity: Lunch and Wine Pairings - Gigondas

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Lunch will be combined with a wine tasting in the lovely village of Gigondas. As with many thing
s in France, there are strictly defined hierarchies in wines. Within the Cotes du Rhone family, Gigondas is second only to Chateauneuf du Pape in quality and reputation.  We will dine in a small restaurant in the center of the village fo Gigondas and have a three course meal, each paired with a Gigondas wine.  

Activity: Tastings/ Le Crestet




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This particular cave in the Middle Ages once belonged to the Chateau d'Entrechaux.  It is an old building situated at the foot of "the Giant of Provençe", Mt. Ventoux.  The Mas is the property of the Benoit family and has been in their possession since the end of the 19th century.  Because of the physical location of the vineyards, they actually inhabit a number of apellations and so are able to produce wines under the labels of Gigondas,Vacqueyras, Seguret,Côtes du Rhône Villages and Côtes du Ventoux. Of course all of these will be available for degustation (tasting).
 
From the Mas we will stop at a ceramics outlet where you will be able to buy many of the colorful Provençal bowls, plates and other items you see in the markets.

After, we will take a short trip to the top of Le Crestet and enjoy the majestic view over the valley to Mont Ventoux from a charming little stone village.

Activity:Rhone Dinner/Cruise

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Take a scenic tour along the Rhone where you can see the Medieval walls of Avignon as you dine on classical Provençal cuisine and wine.  If you are up to it, hang around after the boat docks and join the fun for a dance party that will go until 1 AM.  The boat is not far from the hotel so there will be no transportation issues.


Day 5

Activity: Visit to Pont du Gard

pont%20du%20gard%20low%20res.jpgWe will start the day by visiting a truly unique historical site. The Pont du Gard is a vestige of a Roman aqueduct that carried fresh water to Nimes in the late 1st century BCE. It is over 750 feet long and over 150 feet tall and spans the River Gardon.  It is a stunning example of Roman engineering part of an aqueduct than ran 31 miles but only dropped 56 feet in height over that length. The bridge is open to visitors and if the weather is nice, you can go down to the river and wade in the fresh water and watch the kayakers move downstream under the bridge. Lunch will be at Le Moulin des Artistes, a restaurant on the River Gardon that affords you a magnificent view of the Pont du Gard as you enjoy your Provençal lunch and wines.

Activity: Beaumes de Venise/Vacqueyras

beaumes%20de%20venise%20muscat.jpgBeaumes de Venise is a beautiful village famous for its Muscat sweet white wines, which have been made here since the 14th century. They were granted their own controlled appellation in 1945.  No trip to Provençe is complete without tasting this creamy sweet white wine, used both as an aperitif and a digestif and found in nearly every restaurant and supermarket in this area.  
From Beaumes de Venise we will travel a short way up the Route des Vins de Cotes du Rhone to the little hamlet of Vacqueyras, where we will visit a cooperative which bottles and sells wines made from the collective grapes of  small vintners in the area.  These vintners will sell their grapes to the cooperative, which will put the grapes through the vinification process and bottle wines for the small farmers.  
Lunch will be in the center of Beaumes de Venise



Day 6

Activity: Wine Museum/ Chateauneuf du Pape Ruins

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In addition to offering tastings, the Wine Museum in Chateauneuf du Pape will offer an historical look at winemaking over the centuries including tools and methods  Le Fiole du Pape is an oddly shaped bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape wine deliberately made to look very old.  The translation is the flask of the pope.

Chateauneuf du Pape literally means the new castle of the Pope.  In the  fourteenth century, Pope John XXII grew tired of the noise and bustle in Avignon and wanted a quiet place in the countryside and so had this castle built.  In ruins now, its location on a small promontory yields some lovely views of the valley and the river Rhone
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Activity: Lunch at Verger du Papes

verger%20rest.jpgA short walk downhill towards the village from the castle sits a part of the original castle that has been made into a restaurant, named Les Vergers du Papes (orchards of the Pope).  The outdoor terrace overlooks the village and then the Rhone Valley beyond.  We will have a typical Provençal lunch, again with the customary glass of wine.

Activity: Chateauneuf Tasting 



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Chateauneuf du Pape is unquestionably the most respected of the Cotes du Rhone wines.  Thirteen different 'cepages'  (varietals) are allowed to be used in different proportions and its production is strictly controlled by the apellation system in France. There are over 300 vintners in the Chateauneuf du Pape area, some of which, such as Mont Redon, are well known even in the US.  We have selected this particular cave because of its charm as well as the quality of its wines and the overall experience.  The cave is part of the ruins of Pope John XXII's castle and has an authentic Roman wine press in the back.   After the tasting take some time to explore the beautiful village center.


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Day 7

Activity: Les Baux

village-baux-provence.jpgLes Baux is another of the marvelous perched villages of France.  It offers spectacular vistas from its walls overlooking the valley as well as quaint shops on steep narrow cobblestone streets and a wonderful castle ruins at the top that has some impressive displays of medieval armaments, catapults and more.  Entrance to the castle is additional and optional, as there will be plenty to do in exploring the winding charming streets of Les Baux.

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Activity: Arles Arena and Van Gogh 


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The Romans built many Arena, whose name comes from the spanish/latin word for sand, which was spread on the floor. They were designed as places of combat to provide enterntainment for the populace. Arles has a beautifully preserved Arena which is still used today for bullfights (the French variety where the bull is spared) and other events.
Vincent Van Gogh, along with numerous other famous painters such as Cezanne, did much of their work in Provence.  Arles, in particular was the subject of many of Van Gogh’s works. Take a guided walking tour of the sites where Van Gogh did his paintings.  His famous Café de la Nuit, with the large yellow awning still exists. 


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Activity: Final Dinner

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The Rhone is split in two by an island, Ile de la Barthelasse, where we find a wonderful restaurant called Le Bercail. We will have one last Provencal meal, again Prix Fixe including an aperitif, an entrée, a plat and a dessert, and again accompanied by the famous Cotes du Rhone wines. From Le Bercail you will see a wonderful view of the walls of Avignon and the huge boulder upon which Avignon was founded known as the Rocher des Doms (If we are lucky we will see a spectacular sight as the sun sets and bathes the walls with a wonderfully golden light.)






Day 8

Hotel to Airport transfer