15 days, from Tuesday, October 10, to Friday, October 24, 2022
A thorough exploration of France’s sunny southern region! Occasionally following ancient Roman roads and crossing Roman bridges, we travel from French Riviera to the Provencal interior high in the Alps, then explore natural and historical attractions such as the spectacular Gorges du Verdon, France’s Grand Canyon, the legendary Ventoux Mountain, and the medieval ghost town of Les Baux while descending back towards the Mediterranean, with visits to picturesque towns big and small, featuring Roman monuments and memories of great painters such as Cézanne and Van Gogh, including Aix-en-Provence, Arles, Nimes, Avignon, Orange, and the regional metropolis, Marseille. Comfortable 3-star/superior tourist-class hotels, excellent local cuisine, and history talks by your tour escort, historian Jacques R. Pauwels, PhD, author of books such as ‘Beneath the Dust of Time: A History of the Names of People and Places’.
Tour price, based on double occupancy: $5,29. Single room supplement: $995.
“Land only” (from Nice Airport to Marseille Airport): $4,295
Late evening departure from Toronto to Munich with Lufthansa.
Arrival in Munich at 10:15AM and connecting flight to Nice, departing at 11:20AM and arriving at 12:45PM. Immediate transfer to the highly rated 3-star/superior tourist class Hotel Casa Bella (https://www.hotel-casabella.com/en) in the centre of Mouans Sartoux, a community nestled in the hills between the world-famous jet-set resort of Cannes and the town of Grasse, the perfume capital of France, in the hinterland. Check in, and free time to settle in. Dinner in a typical restaurant.
After breakfast, exploration of Grasse, with a guided tour of one of the numerous local perfume manufacturies. On to Cannes for a sightseeing tour, by little tourist train, of the old town and the waterfront boulevard, La Croisette, backdrop of the city’s annual movie festival. After lunch we head for nearby Antibes, founded by the ancient Greeks, where we view the monument commemorating Napoleon’s return from exile on the island of Elba and visit the local museum focused on the work of Picasso, who lived for many years in this area; the Picasso Museum occupies the site of the Greek acropolis, which became a Roman and then a medieval fortress belonging to the Grimaldis, a famous Genoese family whose descendants still rule Monaco. Return to our hotel in late afternoon and free evening.
Full-day excursion along the French Riviera, a.k.a. the Côte d’Azur. The most beautiful and interesting stretch, between Nice, the “queen city” of this playground, to the Italian border, involves three spectacular scenic routes known as Corniches. We start out along the Lower Corniche, a stunning drive along the coast all the way to Menton, the last town before the border. En route we will pay a visit to the Principality of Monaco, with the old town and the Prince’s Palace as well as the Monte Carlo district with its famous Casino. Return via a stretch of the Grande Corniche, the high mountain road. In the village of La Turbie, an impressive monument, known as the “Trophy of the Alps,” was erected by the Romans to celebrate their conquest of this southern part of Gaul, as France was known then, turning it into a province of their empire, hence the name Provence. It was here that a major Roman road entered Gaul, an extension of the famous Via Aurelia, but known locally as the Via Julia Augusta. Descending to the level of the Middle Corniche, we enjoy spectacular views of the Mediterranean coast as we head for Nice for a panoramic tour of this magnificent city, including its old town as well as the world-famous waterfront boulevard, the Promenade des Anglais. Return to our hotel in the early evening.
Departure after breakfast. A short westward drive takes us to the small coastal community of Fréjus, which was a town of great importance in Roman times. Strategically located on the Via Julia Augusta and developed into a major seaport and naval base by the likes of Caesar and Augustus, the town boasts plenty of monuments and archaeological remains that bear witness to this glorious past, including a theatre, an amphitheatre, baths, harbour installations, and ancient churches, because this was also one of the early centres of Christianity in Gaul. Our sightseeing here will of course also include a visit to the very interesting archaeological museum. After lunch in nearby Saint Tropez, a seaside playground of the jetset ever since Brigitte Bardot was first seen there, sunbathing on the beach, we drive north and enter the highlands of Provence. Our destination is one of the prettiest villages of France, medieval Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, nestled at the foot of a gap in a steep rocky mountainside, unquestionably. Dinner and overnight in a 3-star property, the Colombier or similar.
Full-day escapade into the Alps! We head northward towards the high Alps until at Ubaye-Serre-Ponçon we reach the Via Domitia, the second Roman road entering Gaul from Italy, but this time via an Alpine mountain pass rather than along the coast. From here we follow this ancient road to Sisteron, a town whose Citadel, perched high on a steep rock, served for many centuries as the gateway to the Provence. The road now runs through the Durance River Valley and is a section of the famous “Route Napoléon,” followed in 1814 by Napoleon, but in the opposite direction, to Paris – and eventually Waterloo after his previously mentioned return from exile in Elba. Your guide will tell you the tragic story! En route back towards Moustiers, we will probably view some Roman milestones and monuments, such as the columns of a temple in the town of Riez. Arrival back at our hotel in late afternoon.
Departure from Moustiers after breakfast. We motor through the scenic countryside of the Provençal interior to the village of Vauvenargues, situated in a green valley at the foot of a giant of a mountain, associated with important historical facts as well as fanciful legends and a major source of inspiration for the great post-impressionist painter Paul Cézanne, the Montagne Sainte-Victoire. Another famous artist, Picasso, lived in a chateau in this village and is buried here. On to the charming historical capital of Provence, which was once an independent kingdom: Aix-en-Provence. Upon arrival, leisurely walking tour of the medieval city centre, with as highlights the Cathedral and the magnificent plane tree-lined boulevard known as the Cours Mirabeau. After a break for lunch, visit to Cézanne’s workshop before we drive south to the beautiful Mediterranean seaside resort of La Ciotat, the comfortable 3-star Hotel Plage Saint-Jean, located at a stone’s throw from the beach. How about a swim in the hotel’s indoor pool before our group dinner this evening?
Full-day excursion to Marseille, one of the greatest seaports of the Mediterranean, founded by the Greeks and arguably the oldest city of France. Our local visit will focus on the old town, with the site of the original Greek settlement, and the colourful harbour, and include a visit to the MUCEM, the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations. Returning to La Ciotat, we will briefly visit another picturesque coastal resort, Cassis.
Leaving La Ciotat, we bypass Marseille and motor along the shores of the lagoon known as the Etang de Berre to the village of Saint-Chamas, where we pause to admire the Pont Flavien, claimed to be the most impressive Roman bridge outside of Italy. On through the Crau landscape, a kind of stoney desert, to Les Baux, an amazing medieval ghost town perched high on a hill in the curious Alpilles Mountains. Our next stop is the quintessentially Provençal town of Saint-Rémy, boasting twin Roman monuments known as Les Antiques as well as memories of Van Gogh, who spent time here in an asylum. Late afternoon arrival at our hotel in the pretty little town of Villeneuve, situated just across the mighty Rhone River from Avignon, where the charming and very Provençal Hotel L’Atelier will be our home for the next four nights. Dinner in a typical restaurant.
Full-day excursion to some more wonderful Provençal places: the town of Orange, featuring a fabulous Roman theatre and triumphal arch, a twin UNESCO World Heritage Site; Vaison-la-Romaine, famous for its Roman bridge; the big mountain of Provence, Mont Ventoux, with an altitude of nearly 2,000m; and the romantic village of Fontaine-Vaucluse, where a big, beautiful, and rather mysterious spring marks the source of the River Sorgue.
After breakfast we cross the Rhone and visit Avignon, one of the most famous cities in Provence, whose impressive medieval walls bear witness to its glorious past, especially in the Middle Ages, when the Popes resided here for nearly a full century! We start with a panoramic tour by little tourist train, then visit the mighty Papal Palace and, of course, the remains of the monumental St. Bénézet Bridge, celebrated by the song “Sur le Pont d’Avignon.” Unsurprisingly, Avignon too was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The afternoon is at leisure, and this evening we will enjoy our Au Revoir-dinner in a restaurant in Villeneuve.
After breakfast, transfer to Marseille Airport in time for the Lufthansa return flights Frankfurt and Toronto. Departure from Marseille at 1045AM and arrival in Toronto at 4:20 PM.
- Flight Toronto to Nice and back from Marseille, including one checked suitcase as well as taxes and fees. - Accommodation based on double occupancy in superior tourist-class (3-star) hotels; the single room supplement is TBA; - Breakfast daily and a total of six dinners or full lunches; - Overland transportation by private coach; - All sightseeing and visits as outlined in the itinerary, including admission to museums and monuments mentioned; - Airport lounge pass for use upon departure from Toronto.
- All items of a personal nature; - Beverages with dinners, and meals other than those outlined above; - A gratuity for the coach driver, 30 Euros or dollar equivalent, to be paid locally; - Travel Insurance -- available upon request.
October 14 - 23, 2023
Land only: $3,485 CAD based on double occupancy
November 16 - 30, 2023
$8,895 including air based on double occupancy
November 23 - December 07, 2023
$4,995 based on double occupancy