France Cooking Vacations: Discover Provence
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Discover Provence
Avignon (Provence)

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About the location: Avignon is a city famous for its history, and not just because its often referred to as the “City of Popes.” After all, this city on the Rhone is one of the few places in France to preserve much of its historical center, ramparts around the city, picturesque bridges, and buildings such as the impressive Popes’ Palace. Whether exploring the ancient cobblestone streets on foot or by bus, Avignon’s charm and friendly atmosphere is everywhere, from beautiful private mansions hailing from the 18th and 19th centuries to its many parks and gardens. Avignon, too, is the center of Provencal food. With the oldest covered market in the city, Les Halles, along with cooking classes, visitors can discover Provencal specialties and local products, such as honey, nougat, chocolates, olive oils AOC, Côte du Rhône wines, and so much more. With its central location, Avignon is the perfect place to discover the surrounding Provencal countryside, including the Luberon mountains with their breathtaking views, Roussillon’s unique ochre landscape, and small villages like Chateauneuf du Pape that are famous for their wines.

Your accommodations for the week are at a lovely 4-star hotel in central Avignon very close to the Popes’ Palace and many cafes and small shops. Previously a 19th-century house, today the hotel offers 66 modern, cozy rooms decorated in warm colors, and offering individual air-conditioning/heating,WiFi access, plasma TV, and mini-bar. Top-floor rooms also offer a terrace with a beautiful view of the city.

About the cooking lessons: Your hands-on cooking classes will take place in a variety of kitchens throughout central Avignon and the Provencal countryside so you’ll discover all the different facets of the local cuisine. Visit Les Halles, a traditional Provencal food market full of farm products including vegetables, fruit, cheeses, honey, wines, flowers, and poultry, and learn how to create traditional Provencal cuisine. In one cooking class, set up shop in a 19th-century kitchen and work around a huge wood-block table. The kitchen’s original stove is fired up with oak wood three hours before class even begins, and you’ll discover authentic traditions as you prepare menus that feature traditional Provencal and French recipes. In Avignon, you'll also visit a charming restaurant and discover how to pair wines with your meals as you learn from Chef Jean Marc Larrue, who is passionate about using local flavors and infusing them with something exotic. Your fourth cooking class takes place in the charming Provencal commune of Carpentras with Chef Gina. In all four classes, local wines are included.

Discover Provence Itinerary

Day 1

  • Private transfer from Avignon TGV station to your hotel.
  • Check-in to your 4-star hotel in central Avignon.
  • Welcome dinner, featuring 3 courses, at a local restaurant (drinks not included).

Day 2

  • Breakfast.
  • After visiting the market with a chef, begin your first cooking class in his professional kitchen. Lunch to follow, with three courses and drinks included, based on your efforts.
  • Afternoon on your own to visit Avignon at your own pace. You will be provided with tickets for Popes’ Palace, the biggest gothic palace in all of Europe; the Pont d’Avignon, famous for the French song ‘Sur le Pont d’Avignon’; and a tasting in a wine shop.
  • Dinner on your own.

Day 3

  • After breakfast, depart for a full-day tour with an English speaking driver/guide on a shared mini-bus. First stop will be the Luberon hill range and picturesque villages, such as Roussilon with its ochre cliffs, and Gordes, completely built with dry stones called ‘lauze’. (If you are lucky enough to be in Rousillon on Thursday you can also go to the local market.)
  • Next stop is Fontaine de Vaucluse, where you will see the cave from which emerges the River Sorgues.
  • Free time for lunch on your own in either Gordes or Fontaine de Vaucluse.
  • After lunch it is on to the Unesco-rated Pont du Gard, which is the best preserved part of a Roman aqueduct that sent the water from Nimes to Uzes during the Roman civilization. From there head to Les Baux de Provence, a medieval hilltop village in the heart of the Alpilles hill range.
  • On Sundays only, we may substitute a stop in L’Isle sur la Sorgue, a village famous for its antiques and weekly market.
  • Return to Avignon for dinner on your own. Overnight.

Day 4

  • Breakfast.
  • In the morning, take a half-day tour on a shared minibus with an English-speaking driver/guide to Orange and Chateauneuf du Pape. Stop first in Orange to see the amazing Roman monuments including the Triumphal Arch and Theater, one of the best preserved monuments from Roman times. Next, it is time for a wine tasting in a Chateauneuf du Pape winery.
  • Lunch on your own.
  • In the afternoon, take part in a cooking class in a charming Avignon restaurant. During the apĂ©ritif, you’ll also learn how to pair wines with your meal. Dinner to follow based on your efforts, drinks included.

Day 5

  • Breakfast.
  • In the morning, meet your driver and depart for a cooking class with a local chef in the Alpilles area.
  • Lunch to follow based on your efforts.
  • In the afternoon, head to Villeneuve les Avignon, where you will visit an olive mill and have a tasting.
  • Return to Avignon and dinner on your own.
  • Overnight.

Day 6

  • Breakfast.
  • Enjoy the day exploring Avignon on your own. (Lunch is on your own as well).
  • In the late afternoon, your last cooking class is in a 5-star hotel in Avignon, followed by dinner with drinks included.

Day 7

  • Breakfast.
  • Check-out of the hotel and return to the Avignon train station.