We stay in
the town of Isle-sur-la-Sorgue for six nights. From here, our private bus
takes us to the start of the walks and picks us up at the end to return to
our hotel. We divide into two walking groups - one easy and one more
energetic. We spend our seventh night in Avignon.
Pick up at Avignon Rail
Station at 4.30 PM and transfer by private coach to the town of Isle-sur-la-Sorgue
minutes). This pretty town is criss-crossed by the Sorgue River. It is an
artistic and cultural centre noted for its antique markets, shops and art
galleries. After checking in at our hotel we gather for a welcome reception.
Sunday is market day in
Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and this bustling event. Wine merchants, fruit and
vegetable sellers, bakers, craftsmen and artists fill the streets and town
square. Strolling musicians, jugglers and mimes entertain while locals meet
and gossip over a coffee and a beignet. It is a cultural experience not to be
missed and the perfect opportunity to sample gourmet
delicacies. We spend the morning at the market and go walking in the
Fontaine-de-Vaucluse - this afternoon we go to the sleepy, unspoiled hamlet
of Sauman, nestled in the woods above Fontain-de-Vaucluse. On our 6 km walk
we see landscaped terraces and cratered patches of rock where millstones
were carved. Our walk ends at Fontaine de Vaucluse. The Vauclusian spring
with its mystical origins and unique geological features attracts many
visitors. This is the place which moved Petrarch to pen sonnets about his
unrequited love for Laura in the 14th century.
Buoux and the Aiguebrun
Valley - Today is a full day of walking with options of two levels. In the
morning we transfer by coach to the Luberon National Park where we begin our
walk at pre-historic Fort of Buoux. We hear stories about the historic fort
which centred in the bloody religious wars of Southern France at the time of
the Inquisition. Many walkers describe this as a "high point" of the week.
Here, layers of history, from the neolithic age through religious wars and
the Inquisition, have been preserved.
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. On our
descent we circle the valley with its prehistoric caves and troglodyte
dwellings. We 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 we have earned our dinner. Amble 10
km / Ramble 16 km
Abbey of Senanque and
Gordes - This is a lovely walk starting at a beautiful 11th C Cistercian
Abbey, the Abbey of Senanque, set in a remote valley amid lavender fields.
From here, we head out on foot for the town of Gordes along old mule trails
passing through wild "garrigue" and stopping at "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. 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», this is a picturesque maze of
alleys and small squares. Amble 6 - 7 km Ramble 12 km.
This is a non-walking
day. You may choose to explore Isle-sur-la-Sorgue with its cafes, art
galleries and antique shops or take an optional tour (by train) to the
interesting town of Arles. One leader will accompany the group by train. In
the bustling town of Arles 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)
St Rémy and Les Baux -
Full day walk - After a 30 minute transfer by coach we arrive at St Remy
which was made
famous by the painter Van Gogh. Just outside the town is a famous Roman
archaeological site of Glanum. Nearby is the St-Paul-de-Mausole hospice
where Van Gogh was interned and where he painted many of his famous works.
Van Gogh's room has been restored and the walls lined with descriptions of
his life, work and illness. There is a fascinating exhibit on the evolution
psychiatric medicine. From here we walk up a long slow incline amid pine and
oak forest to the top of the Alpilles. We walk a
spectacular route to the hilltop 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 AOC olive oil in France. Amble 8 km,
Ramble 13 km.
Ménerbes to Lacoste -
Our walk today includes the famous Luberon villages of Lacoste and Menerbes.
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 continue by
strolling along quiet paths through gently rolling terrain covered with vineyards to
the village of Menerbes (made famous by Peter Mayle). In Menerbes there is
an optional wine-tasting at the Luberon's "Maison de la Truffe et d
Vin". From Menerbes we continue by coach to Avignon where we stay for the
night. Our hotel is short walk from the famous Pont d' Avignon and the Papal
Palace. After checking into our hotel we have a stroll through the city to a
Buffet breakfast (at
your leisure) and then 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 Papal Palace.
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.