CNH Tours - Cultural and Natural Heritage Tours Galapagos
Provence September 2025
Trip webinar 28 March - register here
We're giving a short webinar designed to tell you more about the trip and our operating philosophy. The 40 minute presentation will be followed by a Q&A session If you're at all considering this trip, you might find it useful to join us... and we'd be very happy to see you there.
WHEN? Thursday, 28 March 2024 at 7:30PM eastern time (Montreal / Miami).
Why join CNH Tours on a Provence discovery tour?
We think that before you decide to put your money down on a trip, you need to be confident that the people you're choosing really know what they are talking about. There are, after all, hundreds of travel companies offering all kinds of trips to this singular part of the world.
CNH Tours co-founder, Marc Patry, lived in Provence for a year when he was in his 20's, working at the Centre d'Études Atomiques (Atomic Research Center) at Cadarache. This was well before the famous author, Peter Mayle moved down and wrote is best-selling book "A Year in Provence". Marc bought an old car (Autobianchi A111) and spent most of his free time exploring the nooks and crannies of the region. He returned a few years later for several months, doing some research in the context of his Masters' degree.
During their 11 years in France, both Marc and his wife Heather Blenkiron travelled to the region many times when their kids were on school holidays. And most recently, they just spent five weeks there (Oct/Nov 2023) carrying out intensive research into the elements of this tour - meeting up and talking with all kinds of people - from luxury villa owners to specialty chefs. Their first-hand in-depth familiarity with the region combine to ensure a Provence Discovery tour that will expose you to the depth and breadth of all that Provence has to offer.
Marc & Heather at Gordes, Oct 2023
Where will we be going?
A group of 14 people will explore three of the principal regions of Provence:
1) The Lubéron: A more rural part of the region, stretching east from beyond Avignon to Apt, in the valley between the slopes of the Lubéron mountains to the south and the Vaucluse plateau to the north. There are no big cities in this part of Provence - only small villages and towns, many perched above the valley. Very green and surrounded by forests and mountains.
2) Les Alpilles: A rugged outcropping of snow-white limestone hills with the Rhône river to the west and rich farmlands all around. This region appealed to the Romans 2,000 years ago, and more recently inspired artists and writers such as Van Gogh and Alphonse Daudet. This is one of the most important olive producing regions of France.
3) Comtat Venaissin: Until (relatively) recently under the control of the popes, the Comtat Venaissin with the imposing Mont Ventoux to the east and the Rhône river to the west is where you'll find famous vineyards, ancient cities and some of the prettiest villages in all of France.
Dates & Prices
DATES: We'll be finalizing things in the next couple of months. Most likely 20 September - 4 October 2025 (14 nights / 15 days). Perhaps starting a week earlier or later.
PRICE: TBC - but we are working hard at keeping it under US$7,000 / person, shared accommodation
# PARTICIPANTS: 14 guests / villa
Sign up for advance notification
We are still finalizing the details of this trip. We expect to have the final prices and details on villas posted by about March/Aprll 2024, at which point we will open the trip up for bookings.
If you'd like to be among the first to be notified the moment we open the trip up for bookings, please let us know by signing up here to our "advance notification" form.
Trip operating philosophy
We've been contemplating the creation a "Provence Discovery" tour for nearly 20 years, motivated by a strong personal connection to this beautiful part of France. It is very important to us that we give you a very good opportunity to be exposed to the rich diversity of what this region has to offer, without overwhelming you with an over-programmed set of daily itineraries. It is not easy to find a balance between wanting to "do it all", and keeping to a civilized pace that takes into consideration the limits of human endurance! So, while it would take at least a year in Provence to begin to develop a fine appreciation for it, we feel that this "Provence Discovery" trip will help you understand what the appeal is all about.
WHAT'S ON THE ITINERARY?
We've identified a wide variety of sites to experience - four of which have been inscribed onto UNESCO's prestigious World Heritage list (what we like to consider as the "sacred sites" of humanity). These places celebrate a wide range of the diverse cultural and natural heritage of the region - Roman Provence, pre-historic settlements, medieval abbeys, famous artists, wineries and olive oil mills, fortified hill-top villages, colourful village markets, arresting landscapes and so much more. We've sought to integrate opportunities for light to moderate walks/hikes in the beautiful Provençal countryside (always optional), giving us a chance to stretch our legs from time to time.
WHAT'S NOT ON THE ITINERARY?
Provence is a world-famous region - for good reason. Books have been written about it, movies take place here and many of the world's "rich and/or famous" people have established a pied-à-terre among the hills, vineyards and olive groves. It's no surprise that it attracts so many visitors like us. However, this affluence of visitors has led to situations we plan on avoiding. These situations include:
i) Overly trendy areas that are on the itineraries of visitors just spending a few days here (the "must see" places as defined by high volume tourism companies). The charm and appeal of these places are eroded by the number of people trying to enjoy them. While we will not avoid them altogether, they will not be the "front and center" of our experiences in Provence. When we visit, it will more likely be earlier in the day before things get too busy. Also, by visiting later in September, we will avoid the busiest time of year.
ii) The transformation of authentic places, where people used to live, into tourist destinations that have been excessively gentrified and turned into towns lined with boutiques catering to visitors, and not to the locals. You are hard pressed to find a cheese shop, a haberdashery or a typical cafe... or even a newspaper stand.
Thankfully, Provence still has many very charming small towns and villages where life remains much as it was 50 or more years ago. While we will not completely eschew the more popular villages during our visit, by spending 2 weeks in the region, we'll have the chance to visit places where you can more easily breathe, and feel like you are among the few, if the only visitors that day.
We've designed this trip to give you a good degree of individual versatility. Our itinerary design will often allow you to opt out morning or afternoon activities to pursue your own interests - or to just enjoy the comfort of the villa. On those days, our transport will come back to the villa at mid-day to drop off or pick up guests that wish to pass on morning or afternoon activities. If you're not averse to using the local taxi service (we can arrange that), you can easily head back to the villa, or join our group from the villa just about any time you like. We will rarely venture beyond 25km/15miles from our villa. You'll have generous amounts of free time for independent exploration in many of the sites we'll be visiting as well.
VERY COMFORTABLE VILLAS:
Your trip has been carefully designed after an extensive search of available villas throughout the Lubéron, Alpilles and Comtat Venaissin regions of Provence. The villas are strategically located so that you may get the most out of your visit, while spending the least amount of time on transports.
All guests will be accommodated in spacious bedrooms (queen or king sized beds, twins on demand) with private ensuite bathrooms. The villas will have a heated pool, indoor and outdoor dining areas, large living rooms and other nooks where one can go to relax. The villas are located in rural areas, affording you quiet nights and beautiful grounds. They will never be far from a nearby town - some will be within a 20 minute walk - while others will only be a 10 minute taxi ride away, should you wish to do some independant exploration.
Full breakfasts will be provided on a self-serve / buffet basis - they'll consist of a mix of pastries, yoghurts, fruits, juices, cereal and milk, toast and jams, tea and coffee. On alternate days, a more substantial hot breakfast will be served. Enjoy it on the terrace, by the pool, at the dinner table or in your room. Plan your mornings so that you may enjoy a relaxing start to your day, a swim in the pool - or sleep in if you like. Early birds can take time to explore the property.
Our transport will be leaving the villa each morning, usually at 8:30AM. A typical morning will expose us to 2 or 3 fascinating places. These could include a mix of Roman archaeological sites to explore on foot, a guided tour of an ancient hilltop village, a short hike though vineyards, or learning about ancient land-use practices in an eco-museum.
Our morning activities will generally end at a small village / town at about noon. You'll have about 1.5 -2 hours of free time to explore on your own and to find a relaxing place for a delicious lunch (lunches not included). Your tour leader may take the lead in this respect if you're having trouble deciding. On those days when it is feasible, during the lunch time our transport will do a return trip to the villa. If you prefer to take the afternoon off, you can join our driver. The driver will drop-off and/or pick-up guests at the villa (those who may have decided to take the morning off), and return to a designated meeting point at a designated time. You'll meet the driver there and continue with the afternoon discoveries. Those going to the villa at noon will be offered a light lunch there (sandwiches, soups, veggie plates, salad), ordered the night before and at their expense.
Afternoons will generally be reserved for a more in-depth visit / activity. This could be an in-depth visit of a winery and its grounds, a guided visit to a large Roman site such as Arles or Orange, a visit to a reputed museum, a visit to the ochre quarries, or a longer hike (up to 5kms/3miles). We could add on a quick stop at a local wine cooperative or olive press on the way home when time allows.
We plan on having everyone back at the villa by about no later than 4:30PM. Our intention is to give you some time to relax, freshen up, and gather your thoughts before happy hour.
Our chef-at-home will arrive later in the afternoon each day and part of his/her job will be to set up a selection of tasty hors d'oeuvres for the apéro. Happy hour will be served by the pool (weather permitting) at 6PM. A selection of wines, a "mixed drink of the day" and other non-alcoholic refreshments will be available. Of course, you will be free to bring your preferred drinks with you.
Dinner will be prepared and served on site - you are welcomed to watch the chef prepare and ask him/her questions. We expect to be sitting down by about 7PM, just before the late September sunset. While the chef will provide a selection of local wines with dinner, you will be welcomed to bring a bottle of wine you may have picked up during the day's adventures if you like.
Every night, the next day's activities will be presented by your tour leader.
YOUR TOUR LEADER: This person's responsibility will be to ensure that all goes smoothly, to address any of your concerns, to coordinate with the villa owners, the transport drivers and with the private guides that will be helping us understand and better appreciate some of the sites we'll be experiencing. The tour leader will be fluent in English and French.
What's Included? Not Included?
YOUR TRIP INCLUDES
- Accommodations (total 14 nights) in each of three very comfortable villas with heated pools. Rooms with private ensuite bathrooms
- 14 breakfasts and 14 dinners (selection of local wines with dinner)
- A fluently bilingual tour leader
- Local transport in a comfortable, air conditioned mini-bus for our daily explorations
- Entrance to sites, museums
- Services of specialized local guides
- Emergency medical evacuation insurance
- Carbon offsets
- Flights / travel to France and to your villa (we can arrange local transfers - we recommend flying to Marseille or via Paris with a train to Avignon)
- Tips (while tipping is appreciated in France, expectations are much more modest than in North America)
- Any visa fees or other fees for travel related purposes, including any health testing fees should these be necessary
- Emergency medical insurance, other travel insurance
- Anything else not mentioned in the "included" section
DAY 1 (20 September): Arrive in the Lubéron
Settle into your comfortable villa. Have a dip in the heated pool. Apéritif awaits at 6PM and an al fresco dinner (prepared by our chef-at-home) will be served at 7PM.
DAYS 2-5 (21 - 24 September): Exploring the Lubéron
Roussilon, Gordes, Ménerbes, Saignon... these are some of the picturesque villages we'll have a chance to explore on foot. We'll experience a village market day, we'll witness the grape harvest underway and then taste some "Côteaux du Lubéron" wines. What is a lavender distillery? We'll find out and we'll also get an idea of the frenzied exploitation of ochre that happened here 150 years ago.
DAY 6 (25 September): Moving to Les Alpilles by way of Avignon
We transfer to our next comfortable villa in Les Alpilles. On the way, we enjoy a thorough visit of Avignon - where we'll have a guided visit to the popes' palace (they set up shop here in the 1200's - now a UNESCO World Heritage site). Enjoy some free time - and perhaps go for a dance on the famous "Pont d'Avigon". Arrive at our villa with plenty of time to settle in.
DAYS 7-10 (26 -29 September): Exploring les Alpilles
So much is easily accessible from our home base. We'll spend at day at Arles - a UNESCO World Heritage site - and marvel at the Roman history here. Van Gogh will figure prominently (he spent a very productive year and half in this region). There's no avoiding Les Baux de Provence village and the marvellous "Carrières de Lumières" limestone mines, now transformed into a magical sound and light show celebrating Van Gogh's works along with those of others. Would you like to help launch a projectile using a reconstructed Roman era catapult? It can be done. Gentle hikes and more picturesque villages will also be on the local menu.
DAY 11: (30 October): Moving to the Comtat Venaissin via le Pont du Gard
We head out to our next villa by way of the Pont du Gard - the tallest of all Roman aqueduct bridges as well as one of the best preserved. It was added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage sites in 1985 because of its exceptional preservation, historical importance, and architectural ingenuity.
DAYS 12 - 14 (1-3 October): Exploring the Comtat Venaissin
This is prime wine country and we'll be sure you experience the harvest, the vinification and of course the tasting. The Côtes-du-Rhône appelation is here, along with the more prestigious Châteauneuf-du-Pape. We'll spend a day at Orange (another World Heitage site), enjoy free time in Séguret (on the official list of the most beautiful villages in France), explore the busy market at Carpentras and spend some time wandering the streets of Vaison-la-Romaine - the former capital of the Vocontii - the Celtic tribe that occupied these lands before the Romans came along.
DAY 15: 4 October: Our trip ends...
You'll have time for breakfast and a last dip in the villa's heated pool. We can help with transfers to airports or train stations (not included).
CNH Tours has gone to great lengths to find ideally suited luxury villas located in such a way as to ensure you minimize the amount of time you spend in transport while on the tour. Our criteria included the following:
- At least seven comfortable rooms with ensuite bathrooms
- Architecture and interior design / decor reflecting traditional Provençal vernacular
- Heated pool
- Al fresco and indoor dining options
- Generous and diverse common areas
- Full kitchen facilities to support a "chef at home", who prepares the nightly meals
- Quiet environs - away from the noise of traffic / urban areas
- Strategically located to facilitate easy access to the various sites on our itinerary
Our selection has not yet been finalized (we expect to do so by May 2024) - but the following images are from villas we have visited / are considering:
Provence Reading List
Provence Discovery – partial reading / watching list
This list could contain hundreds of entries – what we provide here is just a sample. If you have a favourite book or movie featuring Provence, please share it with us.
“A Year in Provence" by Peter Mayle (1989) and sequels “Toujours Provence” (1992) and “Encore Provence” (2000)
Peter Mayle found fame after publishing his first book on Provence “A Year in Provence”. He knew a good thing when he saw one and went on to publish several more – a few of which we mention here. If you like his work, you’ll find more out there.
“A Year in Provence” is a classic and humorous memoir that chronicles the author's experiences of moving to Provence and adapting to the local way of life – from home renovation challenges, never-ending meals, goat races and quirky neighbours… Peter Mayle moved to a house just outside the town of Ménerbes and his stories takes place in the Lubéron – many of the places we’ll be experiencing on our trip are mentioned in his books.
"Confessions of a Breadmaker: : Breadmaking Secrets, Tips, and Recipes. (2005) Peter Mayle and Gérard Auzet.
Attention bread lovers! In the first of his famous books about Provence, Peter Mayle shared with us news of a bakery in the town of Cavaillon where the baking and appreciation of breads “had been elevated to the status of a minor religion.” Its name: Chez Auzet. Mayle joined forces with the owner Gerard Auzet, to tell us about breadmaking at its finest. If you want to experiment with breadmaking, you might be interested in this book. CNH Tours met Gerard’s (ex) wife Véronique Pardo while preparing for the CNH Tours trip there. Véronique lives in Robion – not far from Ménerbes – and has had the pleasure of serving Peter Mayle. She now runs a highly acclaimed family “chef-at-home” operation now – and it’s likely she will be preparing your meals during our Provence Discovery trip.
"The Châteauneuf-du-Pape Wine Book" (2009) by Harry Karis.
Five years of research, six thousand wines tasted, thousands of photographs taken, and five hundred pages of writing later, Karis has almost assuredly become the world’s foremost expert on the region and its wines. This is one of the most painstakingly detailed guides to an individual wine appellation that the world has ever seen. Karis, along with his son who is a designer, produced the entire book, including all its detailed maps, photographs, charts, and graphs. We'll be visiting this wine growing region of Provence.
"Provence 1970 M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard and the Reinvention of American Taste” (2013) by Luke Barr.
The story of the conjunction of the stars: Fisher, James Beard and Julia Child. They meet in Southern France and they go back and forth across the Atlantic, changing how Americans viewed and cooked food, expanding our horizons and also struggling with editors, wayward marriages, bad health and difficult partners and a life as a TV celeb. Julia Child had a house in Plascassier – near Cannes.
"Van Gogh's Ear: The True Story" (2016) Bernadette Murphy
Explores the life of Vincent van Gogh during his time in Arles, a town in Provence, and sheds light on the circumstances surrounding the infamous incident with his ear. “A compelling detective story and a journey of discovery. It is also a portrait of a painter creating his most iconic and revolutionary work, pushing himself ever closer to greatness even as he edged towards madness—and the one fateful sweep of the blade that would resonate through the ages.”
“Lettres de mon Moulin” (Letters from my Mill) (1869) Alphonse Daudet
This charming collection of short stories describe the daily life and experiences of a miller in Provence. Part fantasy and part autobiography, Letters from My Mill provides insight into the life and mind of one of France's greatest storytellers.
“Do you smell this smell? It’s lavender! Do you hear this wind? It’s the Mistral! And that noise in the distance? These are the hooves of donkeys! You are in Provence!”
In Les Lettres de mon Moulin, Alphonse Daudet pays hommage to his native Provence. The abbot forgets his mass before New Year's Eve, the sub-prefect botches his speech and rolls in the grass, Monsieur Seguin's goat seeks freedom and finds the wolf. Stories full of charm that continue to be appreciated from generation to generation – this is a classic in France. We'll be visiting this historic mill during our trip.
Perhaps Peter Mayle was inspired by Alphonse Daudet. Both tells stories of life in Provence and sometimes one wonders if some are fact or fiction…
Jean de Floret / Manon des Sources (1986)
A two-part 1986 period drama film directed by Claude Berri and based on a novel by Marcel Pagnol (written in 1963). The story takes place in rural Provence in the 1920’s where two local farmers plot to trick a newcomer out of his newly inherited property. The film stars three of France's most prominent actors – Gérard Dépardieu, Daniel Auteuil who won a BAFTA award for his performance, and Yves Montand in one of his last roles. Marcel Pagnol has written many lovely books that give the reader a good sense of Provence values and life in the early 1900`s.
A Good Year (2006)
Based on a book by none other than Peter Mayle and directed by Ridley Scott (who lives in the Lubéron – where he runs a winery near Ménerbes) and starring Russel Crowe. It may not have had great commercial success, but the settings in which it takes place are very evocative of life in Provence. The local characters are a bit caricatured – but we’ll forgive Ridley for it.
On HBO (Crave in Canada). While not focused on Provence, this series on Julia Child does focus on French cooking and Julia’s love of France and Provence. One episode takes Place in the Côte d’Azur – not really the authentic Provence – but close enough. A pleasant watch, focussing on Julia's return to the USA with husband after having spent may years abroad, and how she turned her now famous cooking book into a successful television show... Bon apétit!
The Man Who Planted Trees (1988)
This lovely story written by the famous (in France) Provençal author Jean Giono in 1953 won the Oscar for best short-animated film in 1988. CNH Tours co-founder lived in his hometown of Manosque for a year. A heart-warming tale of a solitary man who, alone and over decades, brings life back to the desolate hills of Provence. The setting for the story is just a few kms/miles beyond the town of Apt in the Lubéron, which is on our itinerary. The film is available at no cost on YouTube. You may find it worthwhile reading other books by Jean Giono.
Send us your recommendations for additions to this list.
Terms & Conditions & Insurance
Published voyage rates are quoted in US dollars and are based on passengers sharing accommodations. Once a deposit is received, your rate is locked in. The published rate may increase due to increased costs passed on by suppliers.
To confirm a booking a non-refundable 25% deposit per person is required. A second deposit of 25% will be due 6 months prior to the travel date. The final payment is due 90 days prior to departure. Within 90 days of departure, full payment is required to confirm a booking.
CANCELLATIONS / PAYMENTS
Payments are not reimbursable once the deadline for that payment has passed. In cases where payment is late, we reserve the right to treat the booking as canceled by you. All payments may be made via cheque, direct deposit or wire transfer.
ELIGIBILITY / PHYSICAL FITNESS
Our trip will have you spending several hours a day on your feet on a regular basis - walking and exploring. You will have regular opportunities for the most part to sit down at a local café, in public benches and more. The trip also includes a few optional moderate hikes through footpaths that will be usually well-worn, but on occasion may be over loose rocks / roots. These are not likely longer than 5kms/3miles. If you feel that a walking stick would be useful, do not hesitate to bring one. Your tour leader reserve the right to deny a guest participation in an activity if he/she feels that the guest would be at undue risk to him/herself or to others.
COVID / COMMUNICABLE DISEASES
CNH Tours strongly urges its guests to be full vaccinated for any common communicable diseases such as COVID and the flu. Should you come down with symptoms of such diseases in the two weeks prior to the trip date, we ask that you inform us and keep us posted on the situation. Should you come down with such symptoms while on the trip. we will require that you see a doctor (at your expense) for an examination. Your tour leader will help to arrange a visit.
All CNH Tours guests benefit from a US$200,000 emergency medical evacuation coverage. Any additional insurance, such as emergency medical to cover medical costs related to accidents or sudden illness while on the trip is recommended. You may also want to consider acquiring trip cancellation / interruption insurance, which would reimburse all or part of your trip costs under certain circumstances. There are other insurance products sold by travel insurance providers that you may want to consider.
The tour leader will do everything possible to complete the trip as outlined. However, all kinds of situations may conspire to make this impossible (extreme weather events, labour strife). In such circumstances, the tour leader will be responsible for making alternative arrangements. In the event of such a change no refunds or price adjustments are possible. Placement of a booking with CNH Tours amounts to an acknowledgement that itinerary changes are possible.
In the unlikely event that a trip is cancelled by CNH Tours for any reason, CNH Tour's liability will be limited to the payments it will have received by the participants.
Our trip will be conducted in English. Our tour leader and local guides are fluently bilingual (English/French).
All guests are subject to instructions or regulations given by the tour leader.
Smoking is not allowed inside any of the villas nor in the transport.
CNH Tours, the tour leader and participating local service providers shall not be held liable for (A) any damage to, or loss of, property or injury to, or death of, persons occasioned directly or indirectly by an act or omission of any other provider, including but not limited to any defect in any vehicle operated or provided by such other provider; and (B) any loss or damage due to delay, cancellation, or disruption in any manner caused by the laws, regulations, acts or failures to act, demands, orders, or interpositions of any government or any subdivision or agent thereof, or by acts of God, strikes, fire, flood, war, rebellion, terrorism, insurrection, sickness, quarantine, epidemics, theft, or any other cause(s) beyond their control. The participant waives any claim against CNH Tours or its service providers for any such loss, damage, injury, or death.
By participating on a CNH Tours trip, the participant acknowledges these terms and conditions and certifies that he/she does not have any mental, physical, or other condition or disability that would create a hazard for him/herself or other participants. CNH Tours and its designated representatives reserve the right in their sole discretion to accept, decline to accept, or remove any participant from a voyage. CNH Tours and its representatives / tour leader / service providers reserve the right, without penalty, to make changes in the published itinerary whenever, in their judgment, conditions warrant, or if they deem it necessary for the comfort, convenience, or safety of participants. The tour leader has the right to restrict the activities of any guest whose behaviour results in a loss of enjoyment or the safety of other guests.
Neither CNH Tours, nor its service providers shall be liable for any air carrier’s cancellation penalty incurred by the purchase of a non – refundable ticket to or from the participant’s departure city. Baggage and personal effects are at all times the sole responsibility of the participant.
Terms and Conditions subject to change.
Advanced notification for bookings
We are finalizing the last details of the trip and anticipate opening it up for bookings by about March/April 2024. If you'd like to be among to first to be notified, sign up here and we'll let you know the moment we start accepting bookings.