Gardens of Provence
Venture beyond the rolling lavender fields of France’s Côte d’Azur and discover the grounds of Provence’s famed chateaus along with enchanting private gardens and homes.
Join gardening author Julie Kinney in the glorious Mediterranean springtime, to explore a selection of gardens along the French Riviera and the bustling university town of Aix-en-Provence.
From the Côte d’Azur, travel inland to riverside Avignon and discover the intimate garden design of Dominique Lafourcade as well as the papal city’s celebrated arts scene.
Visit some of the most famous and beautiful gardens in the world including a selection of superb private gardens seldom open to the public, combined with the spoils of Provençal spring produce and fine French wine.
Depart Australia or New Zealand in the evening on suggested Emirates flights to Nice via Dubai. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements.
Arrive at Nice International Airport on suggested flights and make your own way to the hotel in Menton, a charming town perched on the coast of the Côte d’Azur with stunning views of the French Riviera.
Enjoy the afternoon at leisure before joining Julie and fellow travellers for a welcome briefing and a special welcome dinner.
Begin the day with a visit to ‘Les Colombières’, which was designed and built by artist and writer Ferdinand Bac in the early 1920s. The verdant gardens surrounding the main house are heavily inspired by Mediterranean culture, plants and trees. Many of the garden ‘rooms’ (fabriques) feature Classical homages achieved through both natural and architectural references.
Enjoy time at leisure for lunch and to explore the portside town.
In the afternoon, continue to ‘Serre de la Madone’, a stunning terraced garden with a Mediterranean forest and a superb collection of unusual and exotic plants, before returning to Menton.
Today, travel along the Côte d’Azur to the pastel-hued streets of glamorous Monaco. Walk the streets of Le Rocher, where the Palais Princier de Monaco overlooks the marinas of this microstate. Spend time in the Princess Grace Rose Garden and enjoy a visit to the Le Jardin Exotique to discover how the city is embracing innovative green spaces.
Enjoy some free time for lunch in the old town streets of Le Rocher and return to Menton in the late afternoon before enjoying dinner along the colourful waterfront.
In the morning, visit ‘Clos du Peyronnet’. Redesigned after sustaining heavy damage in World War II, this family-owned garden features a terraced stairway of successive pools leading out to the Mediterranean Sea.
Continue to ‘Villa Boccanegra’, an extraordinary private garden just over the border in neighbouring Italy. Enjoy a guided tour of the expansive gardens, planted in the early 20th century by renowned horticulturist Ellen Willmott.
Then continue to the village of Ventimiglia and explore the Friday markets for which the town is famous, where everything from fresh produce to leather goods are on offer. Return by coach to the hotel and enjoy the remainder of the afternoon and evening at leisure.
This morning drive to the town of Eze and uncover the delights of the Jardin Exotique d’Eze, with its panoramic sea views and expansive collection of cacti and succulents from the Mediterranean region, Africa and the Americas.
Enjoy some free time in Eze to explore the charming medieval village before continuing to ‘Villa Ephrussi Rothschild’ for a guided tour. The grounds at Villa Ephrussi Rothschild were designed by landscape architect Achille Duchêne to mimic the shape of a ship, while each of the nine gardens features a different theme. Transfer by coach to Juan-les-Pins, an idyllic coastal town which has long attracted artists, musicians and writers, and enjoy the remainder of the afternoon at leisure before dinner at a local restaurant.
Start the morning with a visit to a local ceramics maker in the village of Vallauris which came to prominence in the 1950s when Picasso lived in the town. Visit the Museum of Ceramics housed within the chapel of the castle that contains Picasso’s War & Peace fresco.
After lunch at leisure in a local market, explore the Cap d’Antibes, known as ‘Billionaires
Bay’ where the larger-than-life villas of Château de la Croë and Hôtel du Cap Eden Roc hosted lavish parties frequented by the likes of Hemingway, Picasso and the Fitzgeralds.
Relax with a cocktail and dinner at the Hotel Belles Rives, a glamorous Art Deco building which evokes the decadent atmosphere of the Roaring Twenties. It was the house where Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald lived in while he wrote ‘Tender is the Night’ in the late 1920s.
Begin the morning with a visit to ‘La Casella’ and discover this beautiful private garden, with its terraced olive groves and enchanting blooms, including tree peonies, climbing roses and wisteria.
In the afternoon, visit two stunning private gardens with a picnic lunch and cheese-and wine-tasting surrounded by the countryside in springtime bloom.
Depart Juan-les-Pins in the early morning and pass through Cannes, with some time at leisure to explore the town. Continue to ‘Jardin la Pomme d’Ambre’, a cottage garden which features more than 700 species of both local and exotic flora. Enjoy time for lunch at leisure in the village of Frejus before arriving in Aix-en-Provence in the late afternoon before enjoying dinner at the hotel.
Enjoy a guided tour of Carrieres de Bibemus, an old quarry on the western slope of Montagne Sainte-Victoire. The orange-ochre coloured rock shelves here are framed by vibrant pines and eucalypts which create a scene of dynamic contrasts that formed the inspiration behind a series of works by Cezanne, and ultimately resulted in the beginning of the Cubist movement.
Spend the afternoon at ‘Chataeu Val Joanis’, a vineyard and garden located in Pertuis. On arrival, enjoy a guided tour of the winery followed by a wine tasting and lunch. Afterwards, visit the beautiful gardens of the estate. Laid out over three terraces and designed in the style of an 18th century French garden, the grounds of ‘Val Joanis’ combine both ornamental plants and a selection of fruits and vegetables beneath an elegant arbour hung with climbing roses.
Today, venture into the wild, untouched landscape of the Camargue. Visit, one of the oldest working properties to be greeted on horseback by the Camargue guardians riding their famed creamy white steeds. Take a guided tour of the manade, the traditional working farms where the region’s renowned black bulls are still an important part of local traditions. Enjoy lunch on the property before continuing to Arles for a brief visit. Return to the hotel and enjoy the remainder of the evening at leisure.
Enjoy a morning at leisure to relax or to explore Aix-en-Provence at your own pace. Then embark on an afternoon excursion to the town of Bonnieux for a visit to ‘La Louve’, a private contemporary garden begun in 1986 by Nicole de Vésian, a former designer for the Paris fashion house Hermès. The gardens are laid out in a series of terraces and are designed to blend in harmoniously with the surrounding landscape. They incorporate the existing natural features, such as rocks, stones and trees, with foliage trimmed into geometric shapes and wooden benches placed for meditation and contemplation. Return to Aix-en-Provence for dinner at a restaurant near the hotel.
This morning enjoy a walking tour of Aix-en-Provence, followed by time at leisure to explore the Saturday Markets before visiting the beautifully restored Hotel De Caumont gallery.
In the afternoon, transfer to Atelier Paul Cezanne for a guided visit of the esteemed artist’s studio. Cezanne spent the last four years of his life, between 1902 and 1906, producing some of his most well-known works here. The original plaster models, still life sets, books, props and paintings which fill the studio make it feel as if Cezanne had never left. The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure.
Depart Aix-en-Provence for Avignon. Along the way, stop at the tranquil town of L’Isle -Sur-La-Sorgue, famous for its antiques market and mill-wheels on a series of canals.
Continue to Avignon for an afternoon walking tour including a visit to the Palais de Papes, one of the largest and most important medieval Gothic buildings in Europe. Conclude the walking tour at Les Halles Market, where an expertly designed vertical hanging garden by Patrick Blanc adorns the market’s north wall. Return to the hotel and enjoy dinner at a local restaurant in the old town.
Spend a full day exploring a series of private gardens in the picturesque village of Le Barroux. Perched on a rocky outcrop, the village’s fortified chateau looks over the Comtat Venaissin plain, the Vaucluse hills and the towering Mont Ventoux.
Enjoy the morning at leisure to explore this ecclesiastical town’s thriving art scene before travelling to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence to visit renowned landscaper Dominique Lafourcade’s private gardens. Enjoy a homemade farewell lunch in the verdant grounds ‘Jardin de la Pomone’ that feature all the hallmarks of Lafourcade’s famous style, including pottery, fountains and sculptures which are masterfully integrated into a lush natural landscape.
Return to Avignon in the late afternoon before joining Julie and fellow travellers for farewell drinks.
Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast.
Suggested Emirates flight departs from Nice International Airport in the afternoon. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements, including any additional nights’ accommodation, either before or after the tour.
Single travellers may request to share.
Please advise at time of booking.
Room category upgrade available on request; please enquire with us.
Final payment due
05 March 2020
Please see Terms & Conditions for fitness level definitions.
Please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for current airfares and flight reservations.
Australian and New Zealand passport holders do not require a visa for France or Italy.
Tour price includes
- Accommodation in 4-star hotels with breakfast daily (B)
- Meals as per itinerary (L = Lunch, D = Dinner), including drinks with dinners
- Comprehensive sightseeing, including local guides and entrance fees as per itinerary
- Transportation throughout on comfortable, air-conditioned coaches
- Talks with your tour leader, Julie Kinney
- Gratuities for local guides and drivers
- Hotel porterage (one piece per person)
Tour price does not include
- International airfares (please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
- Transfers on arrival and departure
- Items of a personal nature (e.g. telephone, laundry, mini-bar, taxis etc.)
- Airport porterage
- Travel insurance (a condition of travel; please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
Menton – Hotel Napoleon ****
Juan-les-Pins – AC Hotel Ambassadeur Antibes-Juan les Pins ****
Aix-en-Provence – Grand Hotel Roi René (M Gallery) ****
Avignon – Hotel Cloitre Saint Louis ****
N.B. Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted.