Walkers' World 
Guided Walking Holidays in
Provence, France    

On this walking holiday we stay in the pretty town of Isle-sur-la-Sorgue for six nights then stay our seventh night in magnificent Avignon.  From Isle-sur-la-Sorgue our private transportation takes us to the start of the walks and picks us up at the end to return to our hotel. Most days we divide into two walking groups - one easy (tranquille) and one more energetic (sportif).

Day One: Pick up at Nice Airport at 3.00 PM and transfer by private coach to the town of Isle-sur-la-Sorgue  (about 2 hours).  Criss-crossed by the Sorgue River, this pretty town is an artistic and cultural centre of the Luberon region and is noted for its antique markets, shops and art galleries. After checking in at our hotel we gather for a welcome reception with a refreshing glass of "kir" (sparking wine with blackberry juice - a local specialty).


Day Two:  Buoux and the Aiguebrun Valley - Today is a full day of walking with options of two levels. In the morning we transfer by coach a short distance to the beautiful Luberon National Park.  Our walk starts at the historic Fort of Buoux and we hear stories about how this fort  centred in the bloody religious wars of Southern France at the time of the Inquisition. 


From this vantage point we see the impressive canyon carved by the Aiguebrun River. Our walk begins high above the Aiguebrun Valley and gradually winds its way down rocky trails lined with wild orchids to a lovely wooded valley. We descend into the valley with its interesting prehistoric caves and troglodyte dwellings and relax over a picnic lunch in an idyllic setting by a cool  stream. Our afternoon walk ends at the tiny hamlet of Sivergues (six virgins) founded (according to local legend) by six nuns in the 5th century. After a day of history and spectacular hiking there is a chance to relax in the hotel's riverside garden before dinner.   Tranquille walk 10 km / Sportif walk 16 km


Day 3: Ménerbes to Lacoste - Our walk today includes the famous Luberon villages of Lacoste and Menerbes. The eerie village of Lacoste was once the home of the infamous Marquis de Sade and the remains of his castle still crown the top of the hill with his ghost rumoured to still be haunting the ruins. Rebuilt by the late Pierre Cardin to house a cultural centre, the castle now hosts fashion shows and concerts. From Lacoste we walk to the 12thC St Hilaire Abbey. One of Provence's best kept secrets, this private sanctuary has been lovingly restored and is a lovely place for a picnic in the lee of the abbey. We then continue by strolling along quiet paths through gently rolling terrain covered with vineyards to the village of Menerbes (made famous by Peter Mayle in his book "A Year in Provence"). In Menerbes there is wine-tasting at the "Maison de la Truffe et du Vin". Here one can sample AOC wines from the regions of Ventoux and Luberon.


Day Four: Abbey of Senanque and Gordes -  This is a lovely walk starting at a beautiful 11th century Cistercian Abbey, the Abbey of Senanque, set in a remote valley amid lavender fields. A community of monks still live here making lavender crafts and herbal cures that are for sale in the monastic shop. 
along with their delicious lavender honey.
From here, we head out on foot along old mule trails passing through wild "garrigue" and stopping to see "Bories" which are stone dwellings thought to have been inhabited by prehistoric man. By lunch time we reach the village of Gordes, one of the most spectacular of Provence's hill-top medieval villages.  History abounds. During WWII the town was a centre of resistance. Many villagers were killed and houses destroyed in retaliation for the resistance fighters killing a German soldier.  After the war the town became a chic place that attracted many famous artists.

After lunch we continue through Gorde's vaulted passageways, past the Renaissance chateau and back into the countryside along stony paths to the village of Roussillon. Classed amongst the "most beautiful villages in France", Roussillon  is a picturesque maze of alleys and small squares. Tranquille walk 6 - 7 km  Sportif walk 12 km.


Day Five: This is a non-walking day. You may choose to explore Isle-sur-la-Sorgue with its cafes, art galleries and antique shops.   Thursday there is a street market where wine merchants, fruit and vegetable sellers, bakers, craftsmen and artists fill the streets.  It is an opportunity to sample gourmet delicacies.   Or you may choose to take an optional tour (by train) to the interesting town of Arles. Here, one finds something for everyone. History buffs head for the Roman arena where Roman gladiators once fought and great spectacles took place. Shoppers enjoy the town's market and boutiques.  (train fare not included - approximately 20 euros)


Day Six:  St Rémy and Les Baux - Full day walk - After a 30 minute drive we arrive at the flower-filled town of St Remy which was made famous by the painter Van Gogh. Just outside the town we find the Roman archaeological site of Glanum. Nearby is the St-Paul-de-Mausole asylum where Van Gogh was interned and where he painted many of his famous works.  Later converted to a psychiatric clinic,  there is a fascinating exhibit on the evolution of psychiatric medicine.
From here we walk up a long slow incline amid pine and oak forest to the top of the Alpilles hills. Once at the top the route is spectacular as we head to the medieval village of Les Baux-de-Provence. Here we explore the village with its castle and dungeon and listen to legends about the "Court of Love". We then have an optional short walk in the lower regions of Les Baux amid its famous olive groves. The Alpilles region is noted for producing some of the finest olive oil in France. Tranquille walk 8 km Sportif walk 13 km.


Day Seven: This morning we go to the sleepy, unspoiled hamlet of Sauman, nestled in the woods above Fontaine-de-Vaucluse. On our walk we see landscaped terraces and cratered patches of rock where millstones were carved.  At Fontaine de Vaucluse we see the Vauclusian spring with its mystical origins and unique geological features. Water gushes from a source so deep that no man or machine has been able to fathom its depths. In medieval times Fontaine de Vaucluse was a retreat for the wealthy of Avignon to escape from plague and our walk takes us by parts of the "plague wall" built to keep out infection.  At the end of our walk we continue by private coach to Avignon where we stay for the night.  After checking in we have time for a walking tour of this fascinating city, Our hotel is near the medieval walls as well as the famous Pont d' Avignon and the Papal Palace . Built in the 14th century, the magnificent palace was home to six popes who lived in luxury. In the evening we enjoy a farewell dinner at an Avignon restaurant.


Day Eight:  Buffet breakfast (at your leisure) and the holiday ends. If you are travelling later in the day you may leave your bags in the hotel's luggage room. There is plenty to do and see in Avignon with its gourmet food market, shops, museums, the famous bridge and the interior of the Papal Palace. 
From Avignon there are trains to Paris Airport as well as to other major centres in France.


Final selection of walks is made by the guides. It is possible that the itinerary may vary due to weather, local conditions and the abilities of each group.


Each day our walkers divide into two groups:
Tranquille walks - are leisurely walks done at a relaxed pace with lots of stopping to appreciate the views. Although the walk lasts most of the day, this group walks a shorter distance than the "sportif" group thus often reaching its destination first. There is time to have a drink at a café and to explore small villages. Distance is less than 10 km per day with 300 metres of ascent or less. Walking is on country roads, stony mule paths, quiet woodland trails and farm tracks.

Sportif  walks - are more energetic than the tranquil group. Maximum distance could be up to 16 km with up to 500 metres of ascent. These are not athletic events and the emphasis is on having fun. There may be occasional steep ascents but they will be done at a moderate pace.
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