Cuisine and Culture of Provence
Enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime cooking holiday in southeastern France! Provence has a history and culture as rich as its gastronomy, and they are all waiting to be discovered on this 6-night cooking vacation. Not only is Provencal cuisine distinct (and delicious!), it includes many of the most popular, flavorful, and healthy aspects of the Mediterranean diet: fresh produce, lots of seafood, olive oil, and wine! Provence is a foodie’s delight, full of open-air markets and artisan food producers, all of which you will explore on your culinary vacation. Each day your host will lead you in choosing a menu based on the delectable foods you discover on your journeys–a true gourmet delight!
Cuisine and Culture of Provence Itinerary
Please note that the itinerary can be customized to suit your interests, and the order of events is subject to change according to weather and the daily market schedule in the region.
- Arrival at Avignon TGV train station and transfer to Buisson, where you will meet your hosts at l’Ecole Buissionniere.
- In the afternoon, enjoy a visit to Vaison-la-Romaine, with its picturesque “upper city,” where refuge was sought during conflicts of the Middle Ages, and its “lower city,” which runs along the river. It has some of the most important Roman antiquities in France, and its ancient bridge dates back to the First Century!
- Next, enjoy an aperitif in the nearby town of Villedieu. Each evening during your stay you will have the chance to enjoy an aperitif of local wine, champagne, or cocktails with traditional Provencal snacks such as tapanades, pissaladieres, crudities with dips, anchoides, olives, and more.
- Return to l’Ecole for your welcome dinner.
- This morning visit one of the most famous markets in the world, that of l’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, a “mini-Venice” full of canals. It was originally a silk and textile-making center, and many of its quaint water wheels, which powered the mills, still work. L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is now the most well-known place in France to shop for antiques, and its market provides colorful arrays of fresh fruits and vegetables, sausages and jambon, cheese, meat, fish, in addition to textiles and pottery. During your morning’s excursion you will buy ingredients for your first cooking lesson back at l’Ecole, to be held later in the day.
- Enjoy lunch out, perhaps an elegant picnic.
- Next stop, the lovely Luberon Valley and its charming villages, where time seems to stand still. Visit the Chateau of the Marquis de Sade and walk through its sculpture garden and courtyard, and stop at the medieval moulin (windmill) in the village of Goult.
- Return to the inn, where you will enjoy a hands-on cooking lessons in which you prepare a full meal, including such items as amuse bouches, aperitifs, soups, appetizers, main courses, and desserts. You will also learn cheese and wine pairings.
- This morning, the Vaucluse, the southern part of the Cotes du Rhone wine region, beckons with its variety of superior private and cooperative wineries. The Cotes du Rhone wine region runs over 200 kilometers through the Rhone River hills, and boasts a hot, sunny, but constant climate. The milder climate translates to complex wines, as well as elegant sweet wines. You will enjoy tastings of many of these superb local vintages with the perfect accompaniment: cheese and local specialties.
- Next, enjoy a walk among the Dentelles (the French word for lace), whose jagged peaks were formed as the limestone strata was worn away to form sharp-edged spikes and ridges. Rising from the Dentelles Mountains is the famed Mont Ventoux, called the “Giant of Provence,” which affords one amazing views of the nearby hilltowns and surrounding vineyards.
- Return to the Ecole for dinner and overnight.
- This morning, visit Vaison-la-Romaine and its historic market, an internationally famous 600 year old market among the Roman antiquities and medieval architecture.
- After gathering supplies at the market, return to the Ecole for another cooking lesson, lunch to follow.
- A bit of time to relax, and dinner out tonight!
- Today you will visit Avignon, capital of Christendom during the medieval “Great Schism” that saw the French papacy established in this lovely town. Avignon boasts a unique architectural history that sets it apart from modern towns. Walk in the opulent square of the Palais des Papes (Popes’ Palace), enjoy the beautiful gardens of Doms, and explore the monuments along the ramparts.
- For lunch, taste traditional and original Provencal cuisine at one of Avignon’s many charming restaurants.
- After lunch, cross the Rhone River to visit Ville Nueve les Avignon, a picturesque medieval town where many cardinals of the 14th century chose to live. Enjoy stunning views of Avignon from the great French King’s charterhouse and its fortifications before traveling to the site of the former papal castle at Chateauneuf-du-Pape, a town famed for its wineries, which you will visit, including that of the Baron le Roi who founded the AOC wine-designating system.
- Dinner back at the hotel.
- Nyons is another quintessential Provencal town, lying at the foot of a rocky spur near Mont Ventoux and surrounded by hills and small mountains. Its location shields it from the Provencal winds and keeps it sunny and warm year round, making it an excellent producer of olives and one of France’s most famous olive towns.
- You will first visit an 18th- and 19th-century olive oil mill, as well as a lavender distillery, before venturing to the two hundred and fifty year old market to choose foods for your cooking class in Nyons.
- Lunch will follow based on your efforts.
- In the afternoon, journey to Suze-la-Rousse with its beautiful castle that was both a feudal fortress and stately Renaissance estate. The former chateau of the Dukes of Adhuerre, the castle now houses the French National Université du Vin, an institution dedicated to all things wine! After touring the building and its laboratory, stop for a tasting in its tasting room.
- This evening, dinner will be in the charming medieval village of Entrechaux, known for its production of cherries, melons, asparagus, grapes, and apricots.
- Today you will create as a group your own Provencal adventure. You may choose to stay at the Ecole and relax on the patio, or to walk through the vineyards to Villedieu for one last lunch. Or, you may prefer to take one last chance to explore more of the Rhone River valley with its quaint towns and ancient landmarks. You may search out another market to shop for specialties to take home, or simply visit with the new friends you have made during your stay. Your host will help you in deciding how to make the most of your last day in Provence.
- Transfer in the afternoon to the Avignon TGV train station. A bientôt!