CITY, HISTORY, GENERAL & THEMED TOURS
All Over Provence...
Your Perfect Provence
No matter where you're staying, we can design the perfect day trip for you! We'll discuss your interests, choose the right guide (we work with all the best tour guides in the area) and create a wonderful day out for you and your companions. Depending on the season and the number of people in your group, these tours can include history, art and architecture, food and wine, local artisans, hiking, gardens, nature, scenery, time for photography, shopping and more. Tours typically last four hours (half day) or eight to nine hours (full day, with a break for lunch). Prices: Half days roughly 350€; full days 450€ to 650€ depending on guide, group size and driving distance. Available: year round.
Private Garden Tour
Tell us where you're staying and what sort of gardens you most love...and we'll plan a beautiful day out for you including at least two private garden visits. We know many extraordinary gardens, most of them not generally open to the public; the selection will depend on location and season. Your host will be a professional tour guide and/or garden expert. When possible, the homeowner or gardener will also be on hand to welcome you. We'll take a break mid day for lunch and round out the afternoon with a visit to a professional flower farm or a shop selling beautiful things (such as pottery) for your own home and garden. This is a custom tour for any number of people, available in spring, summer or fall. The cost of lunch is extra. Prices: Two people: 400€. Three to six people: 600€. More than six: 800€.
In and Around Arles, Les Baux, St. Remy and the Alpilles Region
Visiting the Rencontres d'Arles Photography Festival
The large international photography festival known as Les Rencontres d'Arles was set to celebrate its 51st anniversary this year, from June 29 to Sept 20, 2020. In early May, it was announced the event would be cancelled. But we'll definitely be offering this tour when the Rencontres re-appears in 2021. In addition to photo exhibits in venues all over the city and beyond (most of which run for the duration of the fest), there will be panel discussions, evening talks, slide shows, workshops and pop ups (mostly during the first week). For visitors who want to partake, it can all be a bit daunting: how to get tickets, which are the best shows, how to map out the day, etc. But fear not, photo lover! I've lined up a few great local guides who know all the ins and outs, who are eager to help you and host you! On whatever day(s) you choose to come to Arles, your guide will meet you in an easy to find location, go over the exhibit schedule with you, help you get tickets to the shows you most want to see, alert you to any special events...and then escort you for the day, translating as needed. Please note your guide won't be touring you through the actual exhibits themselves unless he or she has already seen the show with the curator or artist (sometimes this happens during the first week of the Rencontres). What he or she will do is take care of everything else so you can focus on the photos...and in between, provide background about the city (Roman sites, Van Gogh sites, etc.) which will make your day even richer. If you prefer not to get yourself to Arles, the guide can also provide transport from wherever you're staying (within reason!). Prices range from 250€ for a half-day walking tour (if you meet the guide in Arles) to 565€ for a full day tour with transportation to Arles. This is a flat rate for up to four people; lunch and festival tickets are extra. For larger groups, just ask.
In the Footsteps of Van Gogh
This full-day private tour, led by one of our most popular guides (an established Van Gogh expert), takes in St. Remy, Les Baux and Arles...with visits to the most-important sites where the Dutch artist lived and painted. We’ll make time for a visit to the art museum known as the Fondation Van Gogh, dedicated to Van Gogh’s work and legacy, which pays homage to his goal of establishing an international center of artistic creation and exchange in Arles. This private tour includes pick up and drop off at your lodging (within 15 km of St. Remy) or you can rendezvous with the guide in St. Remy. (Pick up in other locations available for a extra charge.) You’ll take in lots of gorgeous scenery, including a Roman site or two, and be treated to a delicious Provencal lunch with wine. Timing: 10 am to 6 pm. Pricing: 1-2 people: €550 total. 3-4 people: €750 total. Larger groups: pricing on demand. Available: year round.
History, Culture and More...
Following a long career in Hong Kong with a luxury hotel company, our guide moved to France, and – still in love with the world of travel and tourism – went back to school in Paris to study French history and heritage to get her official French Government tour guide license. Based in neighboring Nîmes, but a frequent traveler to Arles, she loves both towns and their unique mix of heritage, culture, architecture, food and wine. While both boast stunning Roman monuments and a rich historical heritage, she revels in Arles’ artistic side, ranging from Van Gogh to Frank Gehry and more, together with the exciting developments as Arles metamorphoses into a leading center of art and photography, spearheaded by the stunning LUMA Foundation initiative. Enjoy a three-hour walking tour for (2020 prices) €210 for two, or €280 for three to six people – and if you’d like a full-day tour, just ask (and she can also show you around Uzès, Arles and Saint-Remy if you’d like). Meals, refreshments and admission costs are extra. Available: year round.
A Walking Tour of Arles
Our American friend who leads this tour has had the good fortune to voyage extensively as a travel writer but it is in the city of Arles that she choose to put down her suitcases. It was as the French say, un coup de cœur (love at first sight) and she’d be delighted to help you discover the many monuments and wonders of this Provencal town, one that has also charmed Roman emperors, King Louis XIV and of course, Vincent Van Gogh. While Arles is home to one of the greatest concentrations of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in France, from the impressive Arena to the Romanesque wonder of the Saint-Trophime Church, it’s greatest charms can only be revealed by someone who understands its complex mesh of history, vitality and quality of life. She knows the city inside and out--its tiny passageways and secret stories—and regales clients with a mix of facts and humor, just as she does on her popular blog. Her goal is to bring the 2,500 years of history to life - including Arles' exciting future - in a fun and accessible manner, as well as to make her guests feel right at home by giving them "locals only" suggestions for their stay. Heather’s three-hour walking tour is 150€ for two people; 200€ for three to six people. Lunch and admission costs (if any) are extra. Heather is open to catering to your interests within Arles or expanding to an all day walk to taste the delights of Provence’s largest market on Saturday mornings or sharing the Roman treasures of France's second greatest antiquity museum for an additional fee. *Note: Should this guide not be available, we have another terrific guide, born and raised in Arles, who will be happy to offer you a similar tour at roughly the same prices.
From Van Gogh to Gehry: Meandering Arles with a Local
This popular guide has traveled extensively and also lived in the US but it's in Arles, where he was born and raised, where he decided to settle down, raise a family and launch his tour company. He is a professional licensed guide, particularly passionate about history, food and wine. His tours will meander from Roman emperors to Vincent Van Gogh to the architect Frank Gehry, who is busy at work on a new Arles cultural center for the Zurich-based arts nonprofit Luma Foundation. He knows the city inside and out and loves to share it with visitors. 2020 Prices: A three-hour walking tour is 180€ flat fee November to March, no matter how many people) and 240€ the rest of the year (no matter how many people). Lunch (if wanted, for clients and guide) and admission costs (if any) are extra. If you want the guide all day, just ask and we'll price it out for you. If you want to see the 2000-year-old Roman barge pulled up from the murky depths of the Rhone--and that famous marble bust of Julius Caesar, also pulled from the Rhone--tell him you want him to take you to "Museum of Arles and Provence Antiquities" as part of your tour. If you want to include one of Provence’s largest outdoor market in your Arles day, then come on a Saturday: do the market in the morning and your tour in the afternoon. And if you want to pair a 1/2-day walking tour with a 1/2-day car tour (to the Camargue, for example, or another nearby region), your guide will happily accommodate you, driving his luxury van that holds six passengers.
A Perfect Day in the Camargue
This is a wonderful, full day experiencing the best of the Camargue, the unspoiled très-nature region known as the Wild West of Provence. Your guide was born and raised in nearby Arles…and knows every inch of the Camargue as only a local can. The day starts around 9 am as we head off to toward the Vaccares Lake, where, hopefully, you’ll get to see plenty of pretty pink flamingoes. (Depending on the time of year, we might end the day at the lake to catch the stunning sunset.) For those of you who like to walk, you could enjoy the local biodiversity through a peaceful trail leading to the Gacholle lighthouse. For lunch, enjoy one of our favorite Camargue restaurants (guide will offer you choices). After lunch, we’ll see the famous salt dunes of Salin-de Giraud. The standard day is an 8 hour tour which costs 630€ for up to six guests, plus lunch. Then, add to it whichever options suit your fancy. Add ons include: *A two-hour jeep tour of a well known manade (ranch) to see the famous white horses and black bulls. Price: 50€ pp. *A more extensive visit to another well-known ranch, where you'll see the animals and learn about the work of the cowboys known as gardians. At the end of the visit, there's local wine and a tasting of local products. Price: 200€ for a couple; 350€ for 3 to 10 people. *A visit to the ornothological park, where you’ll definitely see pink flamingos…along with scores of other species of birds...A MUST. (8€ per person). *Private tour of the salt marshes of Aigues Mortes or Salin de Giraud (as opposed to the group tour on the tram.) Our guide is the only one allowed access to the salt marshes in his vehicle. "We can even drive down to the coast and enjoy miles and miles of private beach," he says. "It’s a pretty amazing experience. Price: 80€ per person. Available: year round.
Art and Artisan Tour
This half- or full-day tour will get you up close and personal with some of the finest artisans in the St. Remy/Les Baux/Eygalieres area or other areas with advance notice. These might include painters, sculptors, glassblowers, a silversmith and the makers of traditional Provencale clay figurines known as Santons. Book the full day tour and we’ll have time for a visit to the famous Souleiado workshop, museum and shop in Tarascon where you’ll learn all about the famous printed Indienne fabrics so closely associated with the South of France. (They were first imported from the Great Indies to Marseille in the late 16th century and they’ve been made by this legendary Provencale company since 1939.) Price: 350€ for a full day or 250€ for a half day for two people. 25€ per person for each additional person; four people max. Available: Year Round.
Meet and Greet…and Maybe Eat
Many of my clients tell me the best days of their trip were the ones where they got to hang out with fun locals. Well I know one of the most fun locals around…he’s the head of a nearby tourist office and one of the most popular tour guides in the region. Once you arrive and get settled—that day or the next, perhaps—he’ll rendezvous with you for coffee, a glass of wine or a meal. Together you can go over your plans for the week, spread out the map, ask all your questions. He’ll give you the insider scoops on driving, site-seeing, local festivals, the best markets and much more; he’ll help you pick your restaurants, make reservations if you want him to…and generally make you feel like you have a new best friend in Provence. Best of all, you can call him as the week goes on with anything that might arise. Available: year round. 2020 Price: 150€ (plus the cost of any food or drink).
A Walking Tour of St. Remy
A delightful 90-minute ramble through the cobblestoned heart of this historic village, with stops at Van Gogh sites, artisan food producers, artists’ studios, the home of the famous Nostradamus, our beautiful church with its relics from the 14th century and 5000-pipe organ… and much more. You’ll learn how the village has changed, from Roman times to the present, with an extremely charming and knowledgeable local tour guide leading the way. History, culture, food, gossip…and lots of fun. Available: year round. 2020 Prices: 75€ for the first person, 50€ for each additional person. Add a guided visit to the Clinique St. Paul (where Vincent Van Gogh spent a year and painted roughly 150 canvasses) for an extra 50€ pp. Group prices available.
Foodie Market Tours
St. Remy and Eygalieres
What’s the difference between saucisse and saucisson? How do you tell a grossane from a bouteillan? Which cheese is stronger, the Banon and or the Picadon? The Wednesday market in St. Remy is one of the largest and most popular in the region. There you’ll find a fantastic array of seasonal local products including olives and olive oils, fruit and vegetables, cheeses, poultry, meat, sausages, herbs, spices, seasonings, breads, sweets, wine, fruit juices and much more. This 90-minute tour with a local food expert lets you meet the producers, taste...and learn a ton about the most-famous foods and dishes of Provence. Also available on Fridays in the smaller, very-charming market in Eygalieres, 15 minutes east of St. Remy. 2020 Price: 75€ per person, minimum two people, group size is eight max. Tours start around 10 am and are offered year round. (For lots more food tours, see "Food, Wine & Cooking.")
A Day Devoted to Photography
Available in Multiple Regions
Ever return from vacation disappointed with your photos? We all have! But we work with a wonderful local photographer with an international reputation (her work is published in magazines and books all over the world...and her first book just been published ) who can help in a number of ways. Let her spend a full or half day touring and shooting with you, giving you lots of wonderful tips and tricks along the way. She works with digital and film and is comfortable helping in both formats including phone cameras. These photo tours range within an hour or so of St. Remy so you could visit Les Baux, the Luberon, Avignon, Isle sur la Sorgue, the Wine Country around Chateauneuf du Pape, Aix, and more. 2020 prices: The fee of 400€ half day and 650€ full day for 1-4 people includes transportation in a 4x4 Dacia Duster with A/C. Lunch is not included. Or, hire her for a private portrait session. She'll help you choose a beautiful Provencal location—or a few of them—and then photograph you, your family and/or your friends to provide a precious, lasting souvenir of your time together in Provence. 2020 prices: A one-hour portrait session at your villa or hotel is 300€ and a two- to three-hour mini roadtrip for shooting your portrait in various locations around St. Remy is 600€. Portrait sessions include all post-production costs and a selection of high-resolution print-quality jpegs, available for download via WeTransfer /Dropbox. Available: year round.
In and Around the Luberon
A Day in the Lovely Luberon
Everybody loves gorgeous Gordes, the medieval hilltop Luberon village. On market day, Tuesday, our guide will tour you through the market, teach you a bit about Provencale food and, of course, hand out lots of tastes. All the while, he or she will be selecting delicious products for a picnic after the market. Then it’s time for a scenic drive and a visit to one of our favorite wine domains for a tasting. Or if you prefer, the drive can be replaced with a hike. Note: This day trip is also available on Wednesday (with a market visit in St. Remy) or Friday (market visit in Eygalieres). Price: 395€ includes market tour, picnic and wine tasting for groups….up to four people. Pricing for larger groups upon request.
A Day in the Lovely Lavender!
It’s hard to find a farmhouse in Provence without a lavender plant lurking somewhere and if it weren’t for Lavandula, many Provencal painters might go broke. Used for centuries in everything from soup to soap (the name is from the Latin lavare: to wash), the famously alluring flower has long been prized for its vibrant blooms, intoxicating aroma and soothing effects. It’s the rare gift shop here that doesn’t stock lavender linens, ceramics, sachets or sweets but the best way to experience the reigning beauty queen of Provence is out in the shimmering fields. The best time is in July, when all of Provence is blanketed and lavender perfumes the breeze; when lush rows stripe the countryside in pale-violet-to-inky-blue hues. In August you can see the actual harvest and visit distilleries at work…or perhaps take in a village festival like those in Sault, Valréas or Digne-les-Bain, where the streets are sprayed with lavender water and the town is awash in the magical summery scent. But anytime from mid June to early August, this one day private tour is a great way to get out into the fields, to see the gorgeous blooms in all their glory. You'll have plenty of time for photography...and possibly a picnic lunch too. The day will most likely start at the gorgeous Abbaye de Senanque, known for it's striking lavender fields. Then one simply must stop for a photo opp facing the fantastic medieval village of Gordes. Then it's off to Sault, the epicenter of lavender production in Provence, where we'll visit a working farm and distillery...lavender all around us in every direction. We might pop into a farm shop specializing in lavender goodies and, if there's time, visit the lavender museum in Coustellet. Price: 500€ plus any entry fees and lunch (picnic or restaurant), for up to four people. Larger group prices upon request. Available: As long as the lavender is in bloom, usually late June until early August.
A Day Devoted to Ochre, Painting..and Stunning Scenery
Your guide/host for this day is the charming tourism expert who has worked in Luberon tourism for years and knows the area better than anyone. You'll rendezvous with her in the village of Robion (or wherever you're staying if it's not too far), then head out for a fantastic, full and very-artsy day! Your guide will either join you in your car...or you can go in her car (3 guests max)...or we'll use a van holding up to seven guests. Your first stop will be the historic Ochre Conservatory, where she will lead your English-language tour. It's an art center, art school and museum (of sorts) on the grounds of an old ochre-processing plant. Ochre is what gives the earth around Roussillon its distinctive orange color. It was mined and processed for many years around the Luberon—at one point there were 20 ochre plants in the region--but today there's just one left, near Apt. This particular factory closed in 1963 and was later converted to its present use. You'll see a lot of the old equipment, learn how the process worked and have time to poke around the charming shop. Then you'll head for Roussillon, to see the gorgeous ochre cliffs up close. After a casual bistro lunch, you'll rendezvous with a local artist for an afternoon of outdoor sketching and painting. (You'll start with sketching and then complete your work with watercolors.) Your instructor will supply all materials including a sketchbook, pencils, watercolors and chairs if needed. Timing is flexible but best is 9:30 am to 6 pm. Available: year round but of course spring, summer and fall are best. Price: Depends on # of people in your group. Expect to pay roughly 400€ (guide fee) and 350€ (artist's fee and supplies), plus 20€ to 25€ pp for lunch. Should you need/want the van for seven, add 400€ to the price.
Discover the Vineyards & Villages of the Luberon
Your guide on this private tour is a professional sommelier, formerly of the Michelin three-star L'Oustau de Baumaniere. And she's got a great day planned, taking you to visit two of the most popular villages in the Luberon and two of the best wine domains. The tour departs St Rémy at 9 am. First stop is the famous perched village of Roussillon, where they mine ochre to make pigments for paint. Everyone who visits loves it. Then you'll explore beautiful Gordes, another historic hilltop village, and have lunch. After lunch it's all about the wine, with tastings and cellar visits at two of the region's best domains. The tour returns to St. Remy around 6 pm. (Note: Pick up and drop off is available within 10 km of St. Remy.) 2020 Prices: 2 people, 550€ total. 3/4 people, 650€ . 5/6/7 people, 750€. Lunch is extra. Available: Every day except Sunday, year round. Note: Pick up and drop off is available within 10 km of St. Remy.
In and Around Avignon
Avignon Walking Tour, with or without Brunch at Les Halles Market
We have a wonderful friend based in Avignon who guides extensively in the region. One of her most popular offerings is a four-hour walking tour of Avignon’s historical center (touring around but not in the Palais des Papes, plus the St. Benezet Bridge, churches, gardens, shopping streets and the Les Halles market). The tour ends with brunch in the heart of the Les Halles covered food market. She orders platters of delicious Provence specialties (olives, tapenades, local cheeses, cold cuts, oysters, bread, etc.) from the various market vendors... and the group eats together in a bistro near the market. Prices: The walking tour plus brunch in Les Halles is 230€ total for the tour (for up to 8 persons) + 25 € / person for the brunch. Available Tuesday through Friday. Tour starts at 9:30 am and ends around 1:30 pm. Meanwhile, she also offers a two-hour Avignon walking tour for 170€ total for up to 8 persons; it's available mornings or afternoons, every day, year round. Full day car tours in the region (in the Luberon, for example) and theme tours (food, wine, lavender, history, etc.) are also available.
In and Around Nimes
Nimes Walking Tour: History, Culture and More...
Nîmes brands itself as “the town with an accent,” with the accent firmly on a unique mix of heritage, culture, architecture, food and wine. It blends the very best that Occitanie has to offer, together with neighboring Provence and the Camargue, all with a dash of Spain. Nîmes’ unique heritage ranges from some of the world’s best-preserved Roman monuments to stunning landmark buildings created by internationally renowned designers including Lord Norman Foster, Jean Nouvel and Philippe Starck. The medieval centre offers winding streets, charming squares and tree-lined avenues with pavement cafes and bistros. Close to the center lie the beautiful Jardins de la Fontaine, France’s first public park, and Les Halles covered market, a gourmet treasure trove of the very best of French produce, including France’s official top cheese-monger! A textile powerhouse through the centuries, Nîmes was also the birthplace of denim! Following a long career in Hong Kong with a luxury hotel company, this guide moved to France, and – still in love with the world of travel and tourism – went back to school in Paris to study French history and heritage to get her official French Government tour guide license. Discover Nîmes’ highlights with a three-hour walking tour for (2020 prices): €210 for two, or €280 for three to six people – and if you’d like a full-day tour, just ask (and she can also show you around Uzès, Arles and Saint-Remy if you’d like). Meals, refreshments and admission costs are extra. Available: year round.
Marseille, Cassis and the Coast
From the Port of Marseille to the Heart of Provence:
Half and Full-Day Shore Trips for Cruise Passengers
In a luxury vehicle holding seven passengers, our guide will greet you at the Port for a glorious Provence tour. We'll customize your day as you wish, depending on your interests and timing, but we suggest starting with a nice walk around gracious Aix-en-Provence (the City of Fountains, hometown of Paul Cezanne, filled with Renaissance architecture, colorful markets and boutiques, Roman and Medieval antiquities and much more). Then, we'll head for the sea and the sun-splashed port village of Cassis to admire the breathtaking coves and cliffs of the Calanques. As the region is famous for great wine--with gorgeous rolling vineyards perched on hills--we propose a visit and tasting at one of our favorite domaines. Then we'll take the most scenic roads back to Marseille so you can experience its highlights such as the Old Port and Notre Dame Cathedral with its 360° views. We'll have a light local lunch along the way and get you back to your ship in plenty of time for all aboard. Price: A five-hour tour is 475€ total, for a max of 7 passengers, plus the cost of lunch. A seven- to eight hour tour would be 700€, plus the cost of lunch. Other popular Provence destinations for our shore trips include: St. Remy and Les Baux de Provence...the medieval hill towns of the Luberon...and the lavender fields of Valebsole, with Moustiers St. Marie and the Gorges du Verdon. Let us plan the perfect day out for you!
A Marseille Walk for Foodies
This popular 3-hour food tour is offered from 10 am to 1 pm with five stops to taste local specialties. You'll learn about French gastronomy and the delicious treats, savory and sweet, for which Marseille is known. We start at the Vieux Port and its famous fish market to meet the fisherman and learn about the daily cash, then move on to taste ham and cheese treats and a very special chocolate made with olive oil. Next it's on to the historic Panier to taste "black ice" and the city's famous cookies called navettes, made with olive oil and orange blossom. The tour ends in the new district Joliette to sip a (local) Pastis, that classic Provencal aperitif, on a sunny cafe terrace. 2019 Pricing: This is a private guided tour for a minimum of two people. The price drops as your group gets larger: it's 132€ pp for two, 100€ pp for four, 72€ pp for six and pricing on demand for larger groups. Available: Year Round.
The Magic of Marseille
Marseille is a thrilling, fast-changing city, the second largest in France. Dozens of shiny new attractions opened in 2013--when Marseille was the center of the European Capital of Culture--and the momentum continued into 2017, when it was named European Capital of Sport. Today Marseille buzzes with an energetic, artistic and very-international vibe...and we want to share that with you alongside its rich and ancient history. We'll likely start around the Old Port and the winding streets of the Panier (the Old Town, with its shops and galleries and craft shops), taking in the Vieille Charité, the Hotel Dieu and the MuCEM, Marseille's bold and dazzling museum, along with the historic Fort Saint Jean, which has become its annex. Depending on timing and preferences, other visits could include Marseille's colorful street markets... the Maison du Pastis, which stocks nearly 100 different types of Provence's classic aperitif... a workshop/museum of santons (iconic Provencal terracotta figurines)... an artisan making Marseille's traditional Savon de Marseille...and a bakery where the city's beloved boat-shaped biscuits called navettes are made. A short hands-on soap-making workshop is also possible. Depending on timing, this tour could also include Notre Dame de la Garde; the beautiful, ancient Saint Victor Abbey and the Jardin du Pharo. This tour is designed to be done on foot and may use public transport as well. 2020 Pricing: Half-day tour, morning or afternoon, for up to six people: 215€ flat fee. Full day tour for up to six people: 360€. Half-day tour, morning or afternoon, for 7 to 12 people: 250€. Full day tour for 7 to 12 people: 400€. On weekends and holidays, there’s a 25% surcharge. The cost of lunch, public transport and any entry fees are extra. Available: Year-Round.
Aix, Cassis...and the Calanques by Private Boat
Cassis is a charming seaside town but quite crowded in summer...and it's hard to find parking nearby. Don't worry, we've got that sorted out! Our guide will pick you up at your hotel or rental anywhere in Aix or nearby. If you want a one-hour walking tour of Aix, he'll be happy to do that with you. Then, in his large touring vehicle, you'll head for Cassis, where he enjoys special parking privileges at the port. You'll have an hour or so to explore the village, with or without your guide. Then you'll all lunch together at what many consider the best seafood place in Cassis. Or, buy a basket of local delicacies to have a picnic at sea. Next it's onto your private boat you go, with your guide as the caption. You'll take a 2.5 hour boat ride to explore the world-famous Calanques. You can swim, you can sun, you can drink wine...and at the end of the day, you'll drive the famous Route des Crêtes, with some of the most spectacular scenery in France, or perhaps do a quickie "drive by" of Marseille. Return to your hotel or rental somewhere around 5 or 6 pm. A client who did this recently said: "We had a really exceptional, perfect day. Your guide was such a pleasure to be with-- so pleasant and positive, easy going and knowledgeable. Really loved being with him! He had fun, we had fun. This day was a highlight of the trip for us. I think finding our way and renting a private boat on our own would have been WAY too confusing and not relaxing. And seeing the Calanques on one of those big tour boats looked like no fun at all to us. We had SO much fun doing it our way." Price: 1000€ total for up to six guests, plus the cost of lunch. Pick up and drop off is available in the Aix/Marseille area. For pickups further afield (Luberon, Avignon, St. Remy, Arles, etc.) add 100€ to the price. If you want the full-day tour but not the private boat rental, you can substitute a trip on the public Calanques sightseeing boats (16€ to 27€ pp depending on length of trip) or a snorkeling excursion or other fun options. For those who want the private boat ride only--along with a short guided stroll around the village of Cassis before or after--the price is 600€ total for up to six people.
In and Around Aix en Provence
This tour guide has been fortunate to have called southern France home since 2010; today she offers totally customized guided walking tours of Aix for groups of 1 to 12 people. Aix is a wonderfully diverse city that is steeped in history and tradition. From its settlement by the Romans more than 2,000 years ago to the vibrant city of today renowned for its culture, art and music...there's something here for everyone. For those who only have a short time in town, this tour is the best (and most fun!) way to soak up the feel and the flavor. A typical tour is 2 to 2.5 hours and the route can be customized to your specific interests. You will get great overview of this special city on and off the beaten track and if you’re wanting to spend more time at the fabulous market or maybe browse through some of the many deco shops and chic boutiques along the way, the guide will cater to you completely. 2020 Prices: €180 flat fee for 1-4 people, €30 for each additional adult. Available: year round.
Rambling Around Aix like a Local
As one of the most enchanting cities in France, Aix gets under your skin. Our favorite foodie in Aix, a transplanted Californian, can vouch for that. More than a decade after arriving for a family adventure, she’s still here, enjoying the daily farmers markets, sidewalk cafés, and seductive lifestyle every day. During these relaxed walking tours, you'll stroll the aristocratic, tree lined streets, spotting trickling fountains and sharing stories about people, past and present. She'll tailor the 3-hour tour to your family or group, including Aix’s famous markets, the beautiful noblemen’s homes lining the Cours Mirabeau (built during the reign of King Louis 14th), the Mayor’s Square with its 16th-century bell tower, the winding Medieval streets and the sites of the city's most famous son, Paul Cezanne. No visit to Aix would be complete without a stop for a coffee or glass of wine at an outdoor café and your guide will take you to one of her favorite spots. Plus you'll taste the famous locally made candies called Calisson, crafted from a recipe going back 700 years. “We’ll get off the beaten path, look up, take in the ambiance and experience it like a local," your guide says. "Just like me, my guests end up never wanting to leave!” 2020 Prices: A ½ day tour (2.5 hours) is 200€ flat fee for 1 to 6 people and 250€ for more than 6. Available: Morning or afternoon, year round.
New in Town or Moving to Town? We can help!
Anyone contemplating--or already in the process of--moving to a foreign country will surely feel overwhelmed by decisions and details. But if Aix is where you've chosen to land, we can help! Whether you're coming for a few months on sabbatical, relocating with your company for a few years or making the city your permanent home, this guided "sabbatical and relocation"tour will help you hit the ground running. "This is the tour I wish existed when our family moved here," says our terrific guide, who moved here from Seattle with her husband and two kids in 2010. "I’ll provide you with an overview of the city while focusing on the essentials for quickly getting settled. Drawing upon the experiences of my family and other expats, I’ll share insights on the best places to acquire life’s daily necessities, the different neighborhoods and schools, how to participate in community activities and much more. I'll tailor your tour to your unique circumstances, which we'll discuss together beforehand, and I'll leave you with a takeaway packet of helpful info including addresses, phone numbers and important dates." The sabbatical and relocation tour typically lasts 4½ hours, including a cafe lunch (9:30am – 2pm). Available: Tues to Sat year round. 2020 Price: €300 for the 1/2 day tour, plus lunch.
The Art & Artists of Aix
This relaxed and very informal tour is led by an American photographer based in Aix, who loves to lead clients in and out of studios, galleries and the occasional museum, talking to local artists about their lives and work. Along the way, you’ll learn about the history of Aix…and of course its most famous son, Paul Cezanne. The full day tour includes a visit to Cezanne’s studio, which looks just as it did when he died in 1906. (Of the studio, Marilyn Monroe wrote in the visitor's book in 1955: "a wonderful visit.”) Half day walking tour for up to four people: 150€. Full day walking tour: 275€ for up to four people. Not included: lunch and museum admissions if applicable. Available: year round.
In the Footsteps of Cezanne
A great day out, fully escorted, to explore the life and work of the painter Paul Cezanne (1839–1906), Aix’s beloved native son. You’ll rendezvous with your guide around 9 am, with pick up at your hotel or villa...or at a meeting point in Aix. On foot, you’ll set out to explore the famous “City of Fountains”: the historic center, the tree-shaded squares, the colorful market, the shops and galleries. You’ll definitely have time to pick up a few souvenirs: the famous Savon de Marseille, Provencal linens, art, lavender, olive oil or what have you. And we’ll want to pop into the charming cafe La Brulerie, said to have the best hot chocolate in town. Next, you’ll visit the park surrounding Cezanne’s family home, the Jas de Bouffan, along with his studio and the church where his marriage was celebrated. Walking along the beautiful tree-lined Cours Mirabeau, we’ll visit the Deux Garçons, the legendary cafe where Cezanne would meet with his dear friend Emile Zola, and perhaps share a coffee...or a drink...or some delicious briny oysters. Then it’s time to head out into the countryside to discover Cezanne’s favorite subject, the monumental Mont Sainte Victoire. Together we’ll explore the area from the painter’s favorite vantage points: the quarry of Bibemus, Tholonet and Vauvenargues villages. If you want to hike, you can hike a bit. If you want to visit a vineyard, the guide knows the best ones to choose from. Lunch could be in town...or en route to Mont Saint Victoire...or at a stunning “starchitect” winery ten minutes from Aix. We’ll return to Aix...or drop you at your hotel or villa...around 6 pm. Price: 600€ total for the full-day tour, for up to 3 people; 720€ total for 4 to 7 people. The cost of lunch is extra. Available: year round.
Half or Full Day Photo Safari/Workshop:
White Camargue Horses, Medieval Carcasson, the Luberon, Avignon and More
After organizing multi-day photo tours for ten years, this company recently began offering half- and full-day photo workshops nationwide...with Provence being a particular specialty. This means you can spend a half or full day shooting with a pro photographer, improving your skills considerably and getting a view of Provence that many travelers miss. Whether you want to visit Carcassone, Avignon, the Luberon or the Camargue, you'll be paired with a fully bi-lingual pro who'll work with you to plan the perfect day of shooting. One of the most- popular offerings is a day built around the famous white horses of the Camargue ("the real ones, not the Spanish ones") and the cowboys (gardians) who look after them. A typical day might begin with breakfast on the beach and a two-hour animal shoot, with five to ten horses and two or three gardians galloping in the salt marshes for roughly two hours. After a typically Camarguaise lunch and a review of the morning's images, you'll head out for more shooting, possibly in the village of Aigues Mortes. You'll end the day with exclusive access to a vast bird park at sunset for shooting flamingoes, egrets and more. But that's just one of many options...we can happily customize a day for you or your group. Workshops are available year round, suited to all levels, from beginner to professional, using smart phones to DSLRs. Pricing: The photographer/guide is 400€ for a half day, 650€ for a full day. The horses and gardians cost another 550€ with discounts offered for multiple sessions. Meals and any entry fees are also extra.
Rambling Around Vaison la Romaine
Our favorite American guide in Vaison-la-Romaine offers popular walking tours of this bustling Provencal town, where she has lived since 2006. Vaison claims the largest archeological site in all of France, with its well-preserved 2000-year-old Roman ruins. Wander the sites and see the exteriors of the Gallo-Roman ruins, the ancient, restored theater and the newly discovered Roman forum. Then cross the Roman bridge and climb the hill to the still-inhabited, restored 17th-century village and learn all about its origins: why the locals moved and abandoning their life on the plains; what their daily lives were like; what the religious struggles were in the area and much more. As you wander, Sharon will point out some of the best shops in town, particularly those selling cheese, chocolate and wine. Note: Vaison’s famous market, established in the Middle Ages by the Pope, is held on Tuesday mornings. Price: A three-hour walking tour is 125€ for two, a little more for up to eight people. Available daily. Sharon also offers tours in the wine villages of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas, Vacqueryas and Cairanne, as well as in and around St Remy, Arles and Aix.
Tour of Vaison-la-Romaine and Perched Mountain Villages with Wine Tasting
Haute (Northern) Provence has a "country" feel and has kept its ancient charm intact, far more than many other regions have. Many small villages here have narrow cobblestone streets, old stone houses, and virtually no shops designed to cater to tourists. Vaison-la-Romaine--a large town--is unique because it claims the largest archeological site in all of France, Roman ruins, a beautifully preserved medieval village and a modern town combined. Other exquisitely preserved villages—Séguret, Crestet and Brantes, for example--are perched on pretty hillsides. Your host for the day is a professional guide, an American who has lived in Vaison for 9 years and has been traveling all over France and studying French wines for over 20 years, a passionate food-and-wine lover. She offers lots of flexibility, depending of what you love to do and see, but the general focus of this tour will be on tasting terrific Côtes-du-Rhône and up-and-coming Ventoux wines (if you want them) stunning scenery, fascinating history and local color. This private tour is for three guests max. The guide will pick you up around St Remy or Avignon, or you can rendezvous with her in Vaison. Available: Year Round. Price: 400€ total for up to 3 people.
Jewish History Tour
All Over Provence
Jews came to Provence as early as the 1st century AD. In the Middle Ages, the Pope admitted them into the territory known as the Comtat Venaissin, today part of the Vaucluse department. There are quite a few sites in the Vaucluse where the Jews lived and worshiped. Our guide became intrigued about the origins and history of the “Comtat” when she moved to Provence, so she began researching Jewish history and sites—and she loves to share them with clients. Your tour can include two restored Medieval synagogues; one is the oldest in France and is still used for services; the other is within an ancient ghetto. Avignon has a 19th-century synagogue as well. Vaison-la-Romaine and Pernes-les-Fontaines have small Jewish quarters inside their medieval towns...and many other towns have vestiges of Jewish occupation. Or, your guide can include Jewish history as part of a general Provence tour. Available: Weekdays (in order to see both Medieval synagogues), year round. Prices range from 500€ to 650€ for a full day tour, depending on guide, distances and number of people in your group.
Down on the Farm
Provence is known for the quality and flavour of its farm-raised food and the sustainable methods used to grow it. This ½ or full-day tour is led by one of our favorite Provencal food experts, who just happens to be married to a tomato farmer! Join her for a great day visiting local farms, meeting the producers and of course, sampling. Depending on the season and your interests, your tour could include a dairy farm and milk producer, a sheep farm, a goat farm where you can sample just-made cheeses, an olive farm, an olive mill, a tomato grower, a farm producing the famous melons of Cavaillon, a fig farm growing 25-plus varieties (where you’ll taste a wide range of confitures made from the fruit)...and perhaps a flower farm that exports vast quantities of blooms to Northern Europe. A half-day tour is three to four hours; a full-day tour is eight hours with a break for lunch. This tour is based in the St. Remy/Eygalieres/Les Baux area. Prices: 300€ half day, 475€ full day, for up to 6 people. For larger groups, please inquire.
A Day of Food & Vines
Avignon & Wine Country
Les Halles in Avignon is a large, loud, colorful indoor marketplace, with rows of vendors selling every edible imaginable: meat, seafood, shellfish; fruit and vegetables; prepared and packaged foods; olives and tapenades; a fantastic array of fresh cheeses; herbs and spices; and every type of sweets imaginable. The market is open every morning except Monday and this is where the locals-- and the local chefs—come to buy the freshest foodstuffs, gossip with friends, catch up with their favorite purveyors...and then eat and drink together in the market cafes. A great way to experience the scene is with a local food/wine expert and I’ve got just the guy: a sommelier who worked for years at the top restaurant in Avignon. “I spend thousands of dollars at Les Halles and should own the place by now,” he says. “It’s a wonderland of tastes and people just go crazy for it.” You’ll meet at the market around 9:30 or 10 am and get free tastes of a wide range of local products. All the while, you’ll be picking up this and that to assemble a fantastic lunch. Then you’ll find a table and enjoy a splendid indoor picnic, with a glass or two of wine. But don’t go crazy on the wine...because after lunch you’ll pile into a big comfy SUV for an afternoon of wine touring around the Southern Rhone. You’ll hit two to three wineries, meeting the winemakers if possible, tasting a range of top labels and getting a crash course on the grapes and wine styles of these famous appellations. Return to Avignon around 6 pm. Price: 440€ for a couple; 660€ for four; 880€ for six. Because some clients want a sandwich and others want fois gras, oysters and Dom Perignon, the cost of the lunch is extra. Available: Year Round, every day except Monday.
Shooting the Lavender Route and Gorges du Verdon
Tour starts from Aix or nearby
Provence produces nearly 80 percent of the world’s lavender and the famously alluring flower blankets the landscape every June and July. Lush rows stripe the countryside in pale-violet-to-inky-blue hues...and traffic slows to an escargot’s pace as travelers leap from rented Renaults to snap just one more photo. Given how everyone wants great lavender photos, we’ve put together a full day devoted to shooting lavender, aka the famous “Blue Gold.” No matter what type of camera you have, you’re guaranteed to come home with amazing shots…and beautiful memories. Your guide for the day will be an American photographer based in Aix, who specializes in portraiture, documentation and landscape photography, both digital and traditional. “Being based in Provence has given me opportunities to explore this astonishingly beautiful region,” he says. “A particular favorite is the lavender fields of the Valensole Plateau, a short hour’s drive from Aix, and the Gorges du Verdon, an hour or so further on.” (The Gorges du Verdon is the deepest canyon in Europe: 250m-750 meters deep but only 80 to 90 meters wide. The water flowing through it tends to be oddly, beautifully green, spilling into the lovely Lac Saint Croix. The Gorges is the #1 attraction in Provence.) This is a full-day guided tour--starting around 9 am and ending around sunset--visiting both locations, with photo tutorials throughout. Your guide will either pick you up (in Aix, near Aix or near Moustiers Saint Marie) or you can rendezvous with him in either place. Your first stop will be for breakfast in Moustiers, a village known for pottery and ceramics, with the designation “one of the most beautiful villages in France.” You’ll spend the late morning and early afternoon photographing the Gorges both from above and below. From there you’ll travel to the town of Valensole, gateway to the famous Plateau. Before continuing on to the lavender fields, you’ll take a short break for lunch…then spend the remains of the day exploring and shooting the fields, all the while immersed in the heady summery scent. Available: Roughly June 20 until July 20. 2020 Price: 450€ total for 1-4 people, plus meals.
Your Personal Shopper for Design and Decor
My favorite decor-shopping maven Karen has more than 15 years experience doing residential interior design...and her taste is exquisite! She knows all the best shops, vendors, dealers antique shows and brocantes in the area...and loves to help clients find the most-perfect pieces for their own homes. You tell Karen what you need and she'll help you source antiques, modern pieces, smalls, lighting, fabrics, linens, art and more. She can also help arrange shipping. Even if you buy rien, you'll have a fun day out seeing beautiful things...and enjoy this charming Australian's tale of moving to Provence and renovating her own 14th-century apartment and 19th-century village house top to bottom. 2020 Price: 450€ for two shoppers in Karen's car. For larger groups or when a van is needed, please request price. Available: year round.
In and Around the Cote d'Azur/Riviera
Whirly Bird Special
Why sit in traffic when you can lift off from Nice Airport, enjoy a breathtaking helicopter ride along the stunning coastline and land at Monaco Heliport just 7 minutes later.? This terrific company, in business since 1976, has 12 single- and twin-engine helicopters and an impeccable safety record providing transfers and site-seeing throughout the Riviera region and beyond. A one-way flight between Nice and Monaco (or vice versa) is just €135 per person. Private transfers range from €775 to €1180 depending on the size of your group. If you’re landing at Nice and heading elsewhere in France or to Italy, you can helicopter to many cities and villages, landing at heliports, on golf courses and in the gardens of some restaurants and hotels. The company also offers panoramic site-seeing flights, departing from Monaco or elsewhere. The most popular flights are 10 minutes (€60 per person), 20 minutes (€115 per person) or 30 minutes (€150 per person)…but of course the sky’s the limit: this summer, a client of mine booked a one-hour site-seeing flight for her family of four, with pick up and drop off on the lawn of her hotel in Vence (total cost: €2500). Depending on the length of the flight, you may see Monaco, Eze Village, Juan les Pins, Cannes, St. Jean Cap Ferrat, Beaulieu, Villefranche, Menton, Roquebrune and the Lerins Islands. Seriously, you deserve this! Packages are also available, such as a one-night gambling jaunt to Monaco, including heli transfers from Nice, shuttle to your 5-star hotel, room and a casino gift card (€ 475 per person).
Touring the Cote d’Azur with Elegance and Ease
Explore the glorious Côte d’Azur in a luxurious vehicle, with an English-speaking driver/guide. I work closely with this company to custom-design glorious days out, depending on what interests you most, whether it’s stunning scenery, historic sites, gardens, vineyards, museums, markets, shopping or all of the above! Explore the famous seaside cities and villages (Nice, Antibes, Cannes, St. Tropez, Villefranche, etc.) and the stunning hill towns above them (Ezes, St. Paul de Vence, Mougins, etc.) ...and of course Monaco’s best sites...without the hassles of driving and parking. 2020 pricing for sedan or minivan (up to 7 ppl): four hours is 450€; eight hours is 700€. 2020 pricing for Mercedes Class V (up to 6 ppl) : four hours is 550€; eight hours is 850€. All prices include pick up and drop off at your hotel or rental, as long as it’s within 20 km of Nice. Pick up further afield is available for a small surcharge. Available: Year Round.
The Stress-less Riviera and Cote d'Azur:
Day and Evening Siteseeing Trips
Whether you have your own car or not, exploring the Cote d’Azur on your own can be a bit tricky, particularly for first-timers. But I work with a terrific company that offers a wide range of sightseeing tours up and down the coast…and in the hills. Tours range from three to nine hours, in a deluxe air-conditioned late-model Volkswagen Caravelle minivan (eight guests max) and are priced 55€ to 139 € per person. Best of all, you’ll be picked up and dropped off right at your hotel or in a very-nearby village. Half- and full-day private tours are also available, priced at €320 or €560 per eight-seat vehicle (or €720 for Provence lavender tour).
Tours for the 2020 season include:
*Monaco, Èze and La Turbie (includes Cathedral, Casino, Gardens, Formula One Grand Prix Circuit and Fragonard perfume factory).
*Full Day in Monaco (includes Villefranche Bay, La Turbie and best of the Principality including the changing of the guard, Cathedral, Prince’s Palace and free time on “the rock”).
*Nice (includes Promenade des Anglais, Castle Hill, Cimiez, possibly the Russian Orthodox Church, Old Town and Cours Saleya flower market).
*Cannes, Antibes and Saint-Paul-de-Vence (coastal road, Antibes harbor and ramparts, La Croisette and Palais des Festivals in Cannes and hilltop Saint-Paul-de-Vence).
*Provencal Tasting (Wed and Sat only) includes olive mill visit and tasting in Opio, Mont Alban and its fortress, and a wide range of Niçoise specialities such as socca and pissaladière.
*French Riviera (includes medieval hilltop Èze, Fragonard perfume factory, La Turbie, Monaco, Saint-Paul-de-Vence, Antibes, Cannes).
*Saint-Tropez and Port-Grimaud.
*The Countryside with Wine Tasting (includes perfume capital Grasse, medieval Valbonne, Loup River to Gourdon and tasting of red, rosé and white wines at a winery in the heart of a vineyard of Bellet above Nice.
*Art Tour (includes three well-known Riviera museums: the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, and the Chagall and Matisse Museums in Cimiez Hill in Nice).
*Monaco by Night.
*Italian Market Tour: Ventimiglia or San Remo.
Camargue horses photo by Hervé Hôte, courtesy of Mas de Peint.
Palais des Papes photo (top right) courtesy of Empreinte d' Ailleurs