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
Get 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.
Activity: Palace of the Popes
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
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
Activity: Sarrians Vineyards
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
Activity Vaison Market
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
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).
Activity: Orange Arc de Triomphe
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
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
will be combined with a wine tasting in the lovely village of Gigondas. As
with many things 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
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).
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.
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
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.
Activity: Visit to Pont du Gard
We 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
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
Activity: Wine Museum/ Chateauneuf du Pape Ruins
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.
Activity: Lunch at Verger du Papes
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
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.
Activity: Les Baux
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.
Activity: Arles Arena and Van Gogh
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.
Activity: Final Dinner
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.)