Bordeaux To Provence

Overview

Trace an arc across southern France, from the green Dordogne Valley, famed as the world’s treasury of prehistoric art, to the wild uplands of the Massif Central, la France Profonde (“deep France”) of traditional ways and quiet farm villages. In the Dordogne, we’ll be joined by a celebrated expert in Paleolithic art as we view cathedral-like galleries of mystical paintings created by extraordinary artists 30,000 years ago (and see some special caves that few travelers ever discover). On our culinary explorations, we’ll sample all the regional delights (jambons crus, saucissons, wild boar, peppery Le Puy lentils, luscious bleu d’auvergne, and cantal cheeses), and savor two special dinners at Michelin-starred restaurants. Our walks bring us to hilltop villages and hidden realms scented with herbs and wildflowers, and we’ll spend a magical market day in medieval Sarlat, with its ancient honey-colored stone houses along the Dordogne River. One overnight in the Massif Central will be at the extraordinary inn of Michel Bras, one of France’s most famous chefs, and we finish our adventure with a day to kayak along the dramatic Ardèche Gorge. This unique journey will bring us into the heart of France. Allons-y!

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-4
Legendary Vineyards and Haunting Cave Visits

Meeting in Bordeaux, we walk through the region’s famous vineyards to Saint-Émilion, with a tasting at the Château Guadet wine estate, where we are welcomed by Guy-Pétrus Lignac, the proprietor and a descendent of the winemaker at Château Pétrus, one of Bordeaux’s legendary wineries. Our small group enjoys an exclusive private visit to remarkable Lascaux II, to see cave paintings by flickering torches as they would have been experienced 30,000 years ago. In Les Eyzies we’ll be joined by a specialist in Paleolithic art who will enhance our experience of the twists and turns of the magnificent cave galleries at Rouffignac, Font-de-Gaume, and a special lesser-known site.

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Days 5-7
Market Day in Sarlat / Clifftop Castle / Sacred Grottoes

We explore the lively market in Sarlat, sample local culinary specialties, walk along the Dordogne River, visit the stunning castle once inhabited by Richard the Lionheart, dine at a Michelin-starred restaurant, and visit the off-the-beaten-path gem of Grottes de Cougnac, twin caves with fairytale stalagmites and rare art.

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Days 8-9
Classic Laguiole / Pilgrimage Trail / Temple of French Cuisine

Crossing the wild moors of the Aubrac Plateau, we visit Laguiole—where renowned knives have been produced since the Middle Ages—and take a stroll across the herb-scented hills of the Aubrac. One evening, we stay at a chic boutique hotel and enjoy a very special dinner at Michel Bras' restaurant, known for its inventive world-class cuisine.

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Days 10-12
The Untouristed Ardèche / World’s Oldest Cave Drawings / Pont-d’Arc

In the deeply rural Massif Central, we sample famous cheeses (perhaps St. Nectaire or bleu d’Auverne), then explore the Ardèche Gorge, formed by the turquoise waters of the Ardèche River. We’ll visit the incredible Paleolithic paintings at Caverne du Pont-d’Arc, and kayak (or walk) along the river. Depart via Avignon on Day 12.

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Highlights

Highlights

Enchanting walks in southern France from the Dordogne Valley to the spectacular Ardèche Gorge
Visit fantastic galleries of Paleolithic cave art with a renowned expert
Savor dinner in a Michelin-starred restaurant, and another at the inn of one of France’s most celebrated chefs
Visit medieval Sarlat, one of France’s most beautiful villages
Explore the Caverne du Pont-d’Arc, with exact reproductions of the exquisite Chauvet artwork
Kayak serene waters in the dramatic gorge of the Ardèche River
Luxuriate at the 4-star Le Mas du Terme, idyllically situated near ancient olive groves and aromatic lavender fields

Details

Length: 12 days
Cost From: $7795  
Arrive: Bordeaux, France
Depart: Avignon, France
Lodging: 11 nights charming hotels and inns
Meals: All meals included except 2 lunches and 2 dinners (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Activity: Cultural Adventures, Walking, Culinary
Trip Level:

Easy to moderate walks, 2-4 hours a day, van support (for luggage or if you wish to skip a day’s walk)

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