Full disclosure, right off the bat: I’m a travelaholic. None of the details of packing, airport security, delays, lost luggage and the like bother me. I know I’m on my way to someplace special and that’s all I care about. Bring it on!
I also love to share my travel experiences, whether through photographs or by having friends come to visit when my husband and I are staying in a foreign land. We always enjoy acting as the tour guides.
When Debbie Ross, owner of the Womens Travel Network in Toronto, asked if I would be interested in leading a ten-day tour through the towns and villages in the south of France visited by the characters in my novel, ‘The Promise of Provence’, I didn’t hesitate to agree!
And so it was that last June I had the distinct privilege of taking not just one but two groups of women on a magical tour of the breathtaking south of France. My friend, author Susan Sommers, joined me as a co-leader and the tours sold out in no time flat! The women were keen!
There were mother/daughter, best friend, sister, and book club combinations as well as adventuresome women traveling on their own. Camaraderie was quick to develop over delicious meals in enchanting settings.
It’s one thing to share my love of that part of the world through my novels. To actually introduce other women to the south of France and watch them fall in love with that part of the world was a thrill. Added to the physical beauty and breathtaking vistas, there’s something about the history that exudes from the tiled rooftops, shuttered windows, ancient doors, and narrow winding streets that adds up to magic.
We began in Nice for four days at my favourite Hotel Beau Rivage, the location of which could not be better: down the street from Cours Saleya, with its colourful daily market and plethora of restaurants, and across the street from the Mediterranean Sea and the hotel’s private beach facilities. Paradise!
Day trips included Monaco, Eze, Antibes, Grasse, and Saint Paul de Vence, along with a full day to discover and appreciate the beauty and ambiance of Nice la Belle. The dazzling shades of the sea and sky in variations of blue, turquoise, and azure are unique to this jewel on the coast. The stunning array of colours found in the architecture of the Côte d’Azur is breathtaking.
Our transition to the countryside of Provence took us, by luxury coach, to Aix-en-Provence on Sunday when its market was in full swing. We followed in Cezanne’s footsteps, explored the market, and paused for a scrumptious lunch.
Now we were drawn into the embrace of the countryside of Provence. Endless rows of lavender in full bloom perfumed the air and contrasted with the golden glow of sunflower fields set amidst olive groves, vineyards, and orchards. Overlooked as this is by picturesque hilltop villages and stunning rock formations, a visual feast was served daily. Camera shutters were steaming.
Settled in Avignon for five nights, we enjoyed visits to the Popes’ Palace and other local areas of history, with memorable side trips to Les Baux de Provence, l’Abbaye de Sénanque, Bonnieux, Roussillon and Gordes. We followed the spirit of Van Gogh in Arles and Saint Rémy de Provence, as well as discovering treasures at the exceptional Wednesday market in Saint Remy. Somehow we also found time for a visit to the Musée de Lavande, an olive oil tasting, a wine tasting, and a marathon cooking class with a delightful chef.
Oh … and shopping. Yes, there was some very fine shopping! From the colourful local provençal markets to sophisticated boutiques, there was something to please everyone’s tastes.
Our perfect timing in June/July guaranteed the best photo ops in fields of sunflowers and lavender, to everyone’s great delight.
Provence and the Côte d’Azur stole our hearts…
And I can’t wait to do it all over again in June 2015! This time the trip will be 12 days!
For more information about travel in France, contact Patricia at the links below.
A confessed travel-addict, best-selling author Patricia Sands lives in Toronto, Canada, when she isn’t somewhere else, and calls the south of France her second home.
Find out more at Patricia’s Facebook Author Page, Amazon Author Page or her website. There are links to her books, social media, and a monthly newsletter that has special giveaways and sneak peeks at her next book.