Walkers' World 
Guided Rambling Holidays in

Provence, France   

Itinerary:

 

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.
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Day One: Pick up at Avignon Rail Station at 4.30 PM and transfer by private coach to the town of Isle-sur-la-Sorgue (about 30 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.

 

Day Two: 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 afternoon.

 

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. 

 

Day 3: 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. 

 

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. 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

 

Day Four: 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.

 

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 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)

 

Day Six:  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 of 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.

 

Day Seven: 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 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 restaurant. 

 

Day Eight:  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. 

 

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: Tranquil and Sportif. 
Tranquil 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 still on having fun. There may be occasional steep ascents but they will be done at a
 moderate pace.
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