Lavender field in Provence
Lavender field in Provence

Garden Tours

Highlights of Provence

7 days From £1,495

8 June 2019

Early summer in Provence and the lavender fields have taken on their distinctive hue as flowering begins. Stand close, run your fingers over the buds and breathe in one of the most gorgeous scents in nature. Reflect on two thousand years of history since the Romans colonised this most alluring province of France. Look forward to your evening meal of Provençal specialities and a glass or two of Châteauneuf du Pape. Aah, la vie est bonne!

Taking advantage of the direct Eurostar train service which whisks us from London to Avignon in just six hours, Provence is within easy reach yet is a world away, with its ancient ruins, lavender fields and vineyards, superb cuisine and that peculiar quality of light that attracted so many great artists.

Among the many highlights are the Roman wonders of the Pont du Gard, Arles, Nîmes and Orange; the Gothic Palace of the Popes and the famous truncated bridge in Avignon; the wild wetlands of the Camargue, home to pink flamingoes, white horses and black bulls; a cheese and wine tasting on the terroir of a distinguished wine. But it’s the lavender that steals the show, with a tour of the fields and the distillery where the ‘blue gold’ is transformed into myriad different products.

What's included?

  •  Accommodation
  •  Services of a professional tour manager
  •  Comfortable coach travel throughout
  •  Meals - as per the itinerary
  •  Train travel

Led by...

Michael Gill

Michael Gill

Michael Gill is one of Brightwater’s most popular tour managers with a loyal following among regular guests.

Call for availability £1,495

Deposit: £200 Single supplement: £300

Tour highlights:

  • Direct high-speed train from London to Avignon
  • Lavender field tour and distillery visit
  • Tranquil gardens at the Abbey of Saint André
  • Roman amphitheatres, triumphal arches and an amazing aqueduct
  • The mediaeval splendours of Avignon, former residence of nine Popes

Tour details

Dates 8 June 2019 - 14 June 2019
Duration 7 days
Cost £1,495 Deposit: £200 Single supplement: £300 Balance due by 16 March 2019
Activity Level Easy-Going
Tour code BWGPR19A

Call for availability

8 June 2019: Itinerary

We depart from London St Pancras International on the early morning Eurostar service via the Channel Tunnel to Avignon. With a journey time of just six hours, this is a great way to travel, watching the French countryside whizz past from the comfort of your seat.

On arrival at Avignon TGV station we are met by our local coach and transfer to our hotel, conveniently located in the centre of Avignon. In the evening we will enjoy a welcome drink followed by dinner.

Meals include: Dinner

Hotel: Mercure Pont d'Avignon Centre

Following breakfast this morning we depart on a guided tour of Avignon on board the road train that winds its way through the streets, past the many monuments and places of interest in this historic city, including the ‘Hanging Garden’ which decorates the north wall of the covered market. Also included is a visit to the Palais des Papes, one of the largest and most important medieval Gothic buildings in Europe. From 1309 until 1377 Avignon, rather than Rome, was the seat of the Papacy and the centre of Christianity, and was much enriched during this period. (Please note that access involves a climb up about 70 steps.)

We continue to the Pont St Bénezet, the famous truncated bridge on the River Rhône as celebrated in the song ‘Sur le Pont d’Avignon’. According to legend, the bridge was constructed as the result of a vision had by a young shepherd boy named Bénezet in the 12th century and it has suffered a succession of collapses and rebuildings over the centuries.

We then visit the gardens at the Abbey of Saint-André. A mosaic of flowerbeds, parterres and terraces, the gardens are designed in Tuscan Renaissance, Mediterranean and Provençal styles. Rose bushes, wisteria, hundred-year-old pines and olive trees, flowering plants, in short more than 100 varieties of vegetation intermingle between the ruins and the tombs of the former abbey.

Evening at leisure, an opportunity to dine out in one of Avignon’s many fine restaurants and enjoy some Provençal specialities.

Meals include: Breakfast

Hotel: Mercure Pont d'Avignon Centre

After breakfast this morning we cross the Rhône by the modern road bridge and travel west through the vineyards for a visit to an outstanding World Heritage site, the Pont du Gard. If this were a 19th century railway viaduct it would be impressive enough, but the fact that it was built two thousand years ago makes it quite staggering. The three-tiered aqueduct was part of an extensive network of canals built be Agrippa to bring water to Nîmes and was designed to carry 20,000 cubic metres of water a day. The Romans built the aqueduct with stone from nearby Vers quarry, the largest weighing over five tonnes.

After an opportunity for lunch here (not included), we continue to Nîmes, one of the most important Gallo-Roman towns and home to the best preserved Roman amphitheatre in France, which we shall visit, along with the Jardin de la Fontaine – the first public garden in Europe.

We return to Avignon, where the evening is at leisure.

Meals include: Breakfast

Hotel: Mercure Pont d'Avignon Centre

After breakfast today we depart on a full day excursion to Arles which has been called the ‘soul of Provence’ and attracts art lovers, archaeologists and historians. The town has strong associations with Vincent van Gogh, who left Paris for Arles in 1888, and painted some of his most celebrated works in the town. Arles is also famous for its Roman remains, an we will visit the fine Amphitheatre and Constantine’s Baths which date back to 64BC when Julius Caesar established a colony here. We will also visit the Eglise St Trophime, so characteristic of Provençal architecture. The beautifully preserved 12th century portal is widely acclaimed as one of the finest achievements of the southern Romanesque style. In the adjoining Cloisters pillars alternate with columns, the capitals of which are decorated with fine sculptures of biblical scenes.

After an opportunity of lunch (not included) we continue south with an afternoon tour of the Camargue, an area of desolate beauty at the mouth of the Rhône. Along with a varied selection of birdlife including pink flamingos these wetlands are famous for their wild herds of cream coloured horses and black bulls that roam free under the watchful eyes of mounted gardiens, the Camargue cowboys. Circling round the Étang de Vaccarès, we reach the seaside village of Stes Maries de la Mer, whose Romanesque church has been a place of pilgrimage for centuries.

We return to the hotel, where this evening we have arranged a farewell dinner with wine.

Meals include: Breakfast

Hotel: Mercure Pont d'Avignon Centre

Enjoy your breakfast. We depart this morning on an excursion to the ‘maison de vin Bouachon’ in Châteauneuf du Pape, where we will have a tour of the cellars followed by a tasting which includes three wines, three AOC cheeses and three artisanal breads. Châteauneuf du Pape is one of the most famous wine appellations in the world, with a distinctive terroir of pebbly soil which retains the heat of the day during the night and hastens grape ripening.

In afternoon we continue to Orange, where we will visit the Roman Theatre, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the best preserved of all the great Roman theatres, with a façade over 100 metres long. We will also see the Triumphal Arch, built between A.D. 10 and 25, and one of the most beautiful surviving examples of a provincial triumphal arch from the reign of Augustus. It is decorated with low reliefs commemorating the establishment of the Pax Romana.

Evening at leisure in Avignon.

Meals include: Breakfast

Hotel: Mercure Pont d'Avignon Centre

Following breakfast we depart on a circular tour that takes us through the Luberon, a mountainous region of strikingly picturesque hilltop villages. On the way we will see some of lavender fields, which are in flower from June to August, and visit the Lavender Museum at Cabrieres d’Avignon, which has a rich collection of lavender stills from the 16th century to the present time. We will learn all about the fragrance and virtues of lavender and there will be a chance to purchase natural cosmetics and essential oils of fine lavender.

We continue to the town of Apt, where there will be time for lunch (not included), followed by a visit to the Distillerie des Agnels, including a guided tour of the lavender fields and the distillery itself, where the ‘blue gold’ of lavender flowers is transformed into a range of products from bath oils to soaps and perfumes.

We return to the hotel, where this evening we have arranged a farewell dinner.

Meals include: Breakfast, Dinner

Hotel: Mercure Pont d'Avignon Centre

Following breakfast our last day has been left free to enjoy the special ambience of Avignon with plenty of time for sightseeing and souvenir hunting. Please note that Saturday is market day, a good place to buy presents and foodstuffs. In the afternoon we transfer to Avignon TGV station for direct train to London, where arrival is due in the late evening.

Meals include: Breakfast

8 June 2019: Additional Info

8 June 2019: Accommodation

Featuring free WiFi throughout the property, Mercure Pont d’Avignon Centre is located in Avignon, just 100 yards from Pont d'Avignon and 500 yards from Papal Palace. Guests can enjoy the on-site bar with outdoor shaded terrace.

Every room comes with air conditioning, a safe, a desk and a flat-screen TV. The private bathroom comes with a bath or shower.

Breakfast is served each morning in the breakfast room under a glass roof. A thematic brunch is organised every last Sunday of the month.

There is a 24-hour front desk at the property and meeting rooms that can accommodate up to 120 people.

8 June 2019: Enquiries

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