Our Provence Tours

About our Tours

Sunday, September 1 to Saturday, September 7, 2019

For more information and availability, please email us at Susan@TheModernTrobadors.com or
call us at 603-430-8694

Come explore Provence with us. We are intimately familiar with Provence through our travels to this wonderful corner of the world for nearly 20 years. We owned two homes in the charming village of Lourmarin, where we lived and our daughter attended the local school. Susan writes two blogs about Provence and Towny is an avid photographer eager to share his favorite photography locations. We have regularly traveled to France for over 40 years and, as is very apparent in the blogs, are passionate about this country, especially Provence.

We will share our favorite places with you—local markets, hill top villages, renowned wine châteaux where the world’s best rosés are produced, castles built in the Middle Ages, and some of the best preserved Roman architecture in Europe. Enjoy Provençal cuisine—lunch in a Michelin-star restaurant on one day, in the Luberon Mountains on another, and, on the June tour, along the Mediterranean (perhaps overlooking the Calanques) on another day. See where Cezanne and van Gogh painted. There will be short excursions dedicated to out-of-the way places to capture wonderful photographs of both iconic and out-of-the-ordinary scenes—in June, there may be glorious fields of blooming lavender and, if we are lucky, maybe the sunflowers will open, too, and, in September, we may see harvesting in the vineyards!


Lourmarin, where you will be staying, is a quintessential Provençal village, often referred to as “the cultural capital” of the Luberon Regional Natural Park.  It is the stomping grounds of Peter Mayle and, generations earlier, other literary giants like Albert Camus and Henri Bosco walked the same narrow lanes. Today, artists’ galleries, boutiques, and cafés line the streets but the small village, deemed one of the “Most Beautiful in France,” has retained its strong local character (and characters).

wine_tastingPart of the joie de vivre in Provence is the relaxed lifestyle. We offer options each day to enable your experience to unfold at a pace that allows you to savor it. There are no big buses or large groups trailing behind your hosts. On the contrary, we will be a small group that blends in with the local people (easily, because many are our friends). Our group will stay in a gorgeous home with beautiful grounds, an irresistible pool, ample space for privacy, and lovely walks nearby, including the short walk to Lourmarin.

We are thrilled to report that Patti Thornton will be accompanying us again.  She has made many trips with her family  to visit us in Provence and has traveled around the globe–solo and with Rotary as an active volunteer supporting teams delivering medical care and provisions to Mexico, Costa Rica and South Africa.  Patti works behind the scenes to ensure that things run smoothly and she assists us in making sure everyone is comfortable.

Our Philosophy about Traveling in Provence

There are places in this world that touch one’s heart and leave an indelible impression. Provence, for us, is one of those places. There is much to see and do in this beautiful area of France but, for us, the greatest single draw to la belle Provence is the measured pace of life.  When I put my feet down in the Luberon, the corner of Provence we know best, I feel myself begin to settle, to slow down, to nestle into the bosom of Mother Earth, and to fall under her beguiling spell.

Tour_Brochure-16To be sure, there is a long list of places to see and things to do in Provence and, after countless trips over two decades, we have not exhausted the possibilities (as hard as we’ve tried!). On this tour, we will take in many of the sights that define Provence, but we will endeavor to do so at a tempo that matches the slower pace of Provence.

We have hosted many groups of friends to this area, especially during our sojourn in Lourmarin, and chief among our goals has always been that our friends really experience Provence, not just “look at” the sights and “check off” the excursions. That is our goal for those who choose to travel with us on our tours.

We have  put together an enticing array of options—a feast for the senses—from which you can create your days; we have chosen a beautiful setting; and we will provide lots of guidance to encourage you to get to know Provence and savor your experiences. We want Provence to leave an indelible impression in your life.

“Try and see your next journey as more than an itinerary, to see it rather as the ‘slow accretion of details.’ The truth of a journey is there in the strange new voices, the alluring spices in the market you never knew existed, the thrilling moment when your longing is finally fulfilled.”

Phil Cousineau, The Art of Pilgrimage



Highlights of What We May See and Do (depending on which  season the tour takes place)

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    • Photos.jpgExcursions to the villages of the Luberon, including, for example, Vaugines, Cucuron, Ansouis, Bonnieux, Lacoste, Ménerbes, Buoux, Sivergues, Saignon, Gordes, and Roussillon
    • Excursions beyond the Luberon, including, for example, Aix-en-Provence, Saint-Remy-de-Provence, Les Baux, and into the department of the Var
    • Markets, for example, including Aix-en-Provence, Cucuron, Gordes, Lourmarin, and St Santurnin-les-Apt.
    • Exclusive visits to top wine châteaux in the Provence Wine Region and the Southern Rhône Valley Region
    • A truffle hunt 
    • Roman ruins
    • Dine, for example, in a Michelin-star restaurant, in one that Peter Mayle described as one of his favorites in the Luberon Mountain, or a popular restaurant with locals overlooking the Calanques (in the Mediterranean)
    • Lunch at a Chateau during the vendange (September tour)
    • Cooking demonstrations
    • Wine tastings of the best wines in Provence–this is where the world’s best rosés are produced and some outstanding whites and reds, too!
    • Pastis and Absinthe tasting
    • Olive oil tasting
    • Lavender fields (June tour)
    • The Nationale  Fête de la Musique—the World Music Festival—taking place throughout France, including Lourmarin (June 21, 2019)
    • The fête votive in Lourmarin (August 31 – September 4, 2019)
    • Photography excursions
    • A game of boules


The Setting for this Tour


This recently restored luxury villa, sitting behind the Château of Lourmarin, is less than a 5-minute walk from the beautiful village of Lourmarin. It is furnished in an appealing contemporary style with many works of modern art from the owner’s private collection. The bedrooms are air-conditioned and each of the 5 bedrooms and studio apartment is equipped with an individual safe, mini-fridge, and Nespresso coffee machine. (Twin beds can be brought in to replace the queen-sized beds.) There is also a large gorgeous pool. Plenty of space for privacy and for convivial gatherings.



Sample Itinerary for September 2019 in Provence

Bearing in mind the weather (although we’ve not had a rain-out day yet) and the fact that we are in Provence, the week will unfold something like this:

The tour officially begins on Sunday afternoon with a stroll through the village, learning a little history and perhaps meeting a few of the shop, gallery, and café owners. You will get the lay of the land so that you can quickly feel comfortable venturing out on your own. Then, we will have a wine tasting of the local rosés followed by dinner prepared by Muriel and Pierre Schott, previous owners of Le Thé dans l’Encrier, a popular local tea shop now closed, and a highly regarded bed and breakfast in nearby Mérindol. We have been fortunate to have them prepare one meal – with rave reviews – for every one of our tours.
As it happens, the annual fête votive rolls into Lourmarin on the last weekend in August. (All the local villages celebrate summer with these events that fall somewhere between a party and a festival.) You will see the rides for children and wine for adults and music and food for all. Barring the arrival of the mistral, the infamously strong Provençal wind that occasionally kicks up its heels (and everything else), the weekend’s events will we capped off with a magnificent display of feux d’artifice (fireworks).   With the 15th-century village château as the backdrop, this is a stunning scene.   
Monday morning (9:00ish), we will embark on a tour of the Luberon, the regional park area made famous to readers by the late British writer Peter Mayle in his books about local life in these picturesque villages. He wrote his first hugely popular book, A Year in Provence, from Ménerbes and most of the rest of them from Lourmarin where he lived for many years before moving to nearby Vaugines where he died in 2018. We will retrace his footsteps to many of the same places he wrote about. Some of the villages we will visit include Bonnieux, Menèrbes, Lacoste, and Oppède le Vieux as well as Château la Canorgue (where “A Good Year” with Russell Crowe was filmed). A wine tasting will precede our dinner which will be prepared by Viktorija Todorovska, certified sommelier, author of several cookbooks, including Provence Food and Wine: The Art of Living (with François Millo), and an excellent cook who, I am so pleased to write, has always prepared one meal – with rave reviews – for each of our tours. 
On Tuesday, it’s an early morning for photographers (and wannabe photographers) with a trip to the picturesque village of Cucuron where the weekly market will be setting up around the lovely l’étang. Around 8:30 we all will head north to a perched village called St Saturnin-les-Apt where another market will be in progress, although lots of other lovely sights will also beckon you. We will eat lunch in this village, after which we learn about the ochre business in this area of the Luberon with a guided tour of the Ochre Mines of Bruoux. You might be feeling a bit peckish after touring the mines, so how about some cheese? We will pop over to Banon, home of the renowned Banon cheese (you know the goat cheese wrapped in chestnut leaves and tied with raffia?) and, in that charming village, we will learn a little about how it is made at the Fromagerie de Banon (and, of course, assuage our peckish feelings!). Depending on time, we will make one or two other stops (e.g., at the two-thousand-year-old Roman bridge, Pont Julien, that was in use until 2005 – that’s 2000 years of continuous use! – and La Maison du Fruit Confit) on the way back to the villa. You wouldn’t want to miss the evening Farmer’s Market in Lourmarin where locally produced artisanal foods, wine, music, and camaraderie abound. You are on your own for dinner this evening – we will provide recommendations!

Wednesday is the day we pay tribute to Vincent van Gogh. Departing around 8:30, we will head west, via Mouriès (of olive oil fame), to Carrières de Lumières at the base of Les Baux de Provence. There – in an old limestone quarry with walls as high as four stories – an extraordinary multi-media art show set to music unfolds and we will be immersed in the work of van Gogh, one of the world’s most famous artists to be inspired by Provence. From there, we have lunch along the way and head to Arles, the city where, in the late 19th century, van Gogh lived – including a short but tumultuous time with Paul Gauguin — and painted before he was hospitalized in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. In Arles, we will walk in the footsteps of van Gogh and among some of the best-preserved roman ruins in Europe. Still keeping in the van Gogh spirit back at the villa, Herve’s coming over with his one-of-a-kind absinthe and pastis tasting followed by charcuterie and cheese plates with a big salad.

Thursday takes us east to Paul Cézanne country. Beginning in Aix-en-Provence, where Cézanne was born (in 1839) and died (in 1906), we will see his studio and have coffee or tea in Les Deux Garcons, where Cézanne was known to often hang his hat. Thursday is also Market Day in Aix, including the flower and flea markets – it is a photographer’s dream and, for the rest of us, a glorious place to ogle the gorgeous bounty. With so much to see, the morning will go by quickly and, then, we will be on our way for lunch, staying within the Cézanne theme. Before returning to the villa, we will take a peaceful stroll through the beautifully simple Silvacane Abbey, a former Cistercian monastery founded in the mid-12th century, located in La Roque-d’Anthéron, just 15 minutes from Lourmarin. We will cap the day off with a special dinner at one of our favorite Michelin-star restaurants.

If it’s Friday, it must be the Lourmarin market, widely considered the best in the Luberon. You will find everything here – from the best jams, hams, and cheeses to hand-crafted jewelry and beautiful fabrics (and socks and underwear, too!). You are on your own this morning, including lunch, to visit the market, poke around the village, paint, take photographs, or I suppose, pack. There are cafés and restaurants galore to choose from – many of which you will already know by this day – or pick up something from the market to eat under a big plane tree or at the house by the pool. In the afternoon, we will take a leisurely walk through one of France’s famous Jardins Remarquables (Remarkable Gardens). Our last evening will include one of our clients’ favorite events, a visit to a truffle farm where you can see “truffle dogs in action” and enjoy truffle hors d’oeuvres afterwards. Dinner will be pizza from our very favorite local pizzeria with salad in the villa, where we can reminisce about the previous days.

Saturday inevitably arrives, reminding us that all good things must come to an end. We will have breakfast, as usual, and perhaps have time – before departing for the TGV station or the Aix-en-Provence airport – for a quick stroll through this wonderful village that has attracted people throughout the ages.


Prices and Tour Details

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Lunch at L’Hostellerie de l’Abbaye de la Celle. A Michelin star restaurant owned by Alain Ducasse.

Prices for 2019

Six nights, six breakfasts, four lunches, five dinners, wine tastings, all admissions and gratuities, local transportation (including pick-up and drop-off at pre-determined locations), camaraderie, travel guidance, lots of personal attention, and much more. It all begins Sunday evening with l’apéro, a stroll through the village, and  and dinner at the villa.

Group limited to 8 people All Dates
Lourmarin Guest House Double Occupancy Single Occupancy
Studio apartment – Booked $3,775 per person $5,425 per person
En Suite BR & WC – Booked $3,525 per person $4,475 per person
En Suite BR, Shared WC – Booked $3,275 per person $3,695 per person
En Suite BR, Shared WC $3,275 per person $3,695 per person
En Suite BR, Shared WC $2,975 per person $3,275 per person
En Suite BR, Shared WC – Booked $2,975 per person $3,275 per person

Our group will have a maximum of 8 people.  For more information and availability, please email us at Susan@TheModernTrobadors.com or call us at 603-430-8694.

Deposit and Payments

A $1000.00 deposit (per person) is required to secure your reservation, payable within one week of your booking.  You will receive a 10% discount if we receive the deposit by June 15, 2019 and full payment by July 15, 2019 for the September 2019 Tour.  We accept checks (drawn on US bank accounts), PayPal, all major credit cards, and wire transfers.

Cancellation Fees

September Tour

  • Cancellations before June 15: $250 per person
  • Cancellations on or before July 15: 50% of the full price
  • Cancellations on or after August 1, 2019: 100% of the full price

We are responsible for:

  • Accommodation for 6 nights in a beautiful villa, just outside the center of the village of Lourmarin. (No hotel hopping.)
  • Almost all meals—6 breakfasts, 4 lunches, 5 dinners—and selected wines and apéritifs
  • Transportation—all local transportation during the tour and pick-up (before 4:00 p.m.) and drop-off (before 2:00 p.m.) at predetermined times and locations (i.e., Aix-en-Provence TGV or Marseille Airport) at the beginning and conclusion of tour.
  • All admissions, local taxes, and gratuities
  • Travel advice and support (prior to and during the tour)

You are responsible for:

  • Airfare and any other transportation before the pre-determined pick-up and after the drop-off locations
  • Transportation costs to Lourmarin after 4:00 p.m. on arrival day or to airport/train station after 2:00 p.m. on departure day
  • One lunch, one dinner, and any beverages not already included/provided
  • Personal expenses (like laundry, phone service, and any food/beverages you choose to buy and keep in the communal refrigerator)
  • Personal excursions separate from those included in the tour Any incidental expenses incurred as a result of booking or canceling
  • Personal Travel insurance (we strongly recommend you purchase this)

Unsolicited Advice:

    • We recommend that all travelers consult their doctors regarding vaccinations and medications before any overseas travel.
    • We strongly recommend that you purchase travel insurance.  We recommend that you visit InsureMyTrip
    • We encourage arriving in France at least a day or two in advance so that you can adjust to “jet lag” from time changes and sleep disruption and in case there are any travel delays. Paris, Nice, Avignon, and Aix-en-Provence are just a few of the wonderful places to visit before our rendezvous.
    • Make sure to pack your camera, sketch book,  and walking shoes.
  • Be prepared for rain. (It does happen…even in Sunny Provence!)


Why Choose This Tour?

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We know this part of Provence intimately. Through nearly two decades of travel and over 150 blog posts written about Provence, we know this area. You can lean back and relax with all the details of the week handled for you by knowledgeable and competent organizers, one of whom speaks fluent French.

IMGP7119.jpgWe know the wines of Provence and have visited many of the top wine châteaux, tasting their wines, meeting the proprietors and wine makers, and learning about each of the appellations. Susan has written about some of these experiences in ProvenceWineZine.com and TheModernTrobadors.com.

You will be treated to some of the region’s best wines and cuisine.

We will cover much of what is quintessentially Provence at the measured pace for which Provence is renown.

We have organized several small group visits to France with friends and welcomed many more visitors to Lourmarin (for whom we have planned their itineraries) and have just returned from leading our first tour, which was a resounding success (see testimonials below).

Currently, a euro costs $1.09 compared to the $1.30 and higher that it has cost for over 10 years!

June tours will be at the start of lavender season! September tours are quiet and, in many areas, the harvest season.


Each traveler receives this notebook to inspire a little writing, capturing experiences to create memories

It was for me a perfect introduction to the region.  HD

I am not much of a tour group person, nor a group person in general, so the limited smallness was perfect for me, and I think that most of the people in the group were attracted by that feature as well, which is why we probably all got on so well together.  HD

I had a great time and continue to realize how much I saw and enjoyed as the time passes and I have the time to catch my breath and ruminate about our time together.  I particularly enjoyed being with the both of you and also with meeting your other guests.  They were the kind of people who were interesting in each of their own rights and with whom it would be nice to stay in touch. DT

Our hosts allowed us to come the afternoon of the day before the tour
actually started, enabling us to settle in, explore the village on our
own, and to begin to get to know one another.  I believe this may have
been key to the conversation flowing easily at our first dinner together
on the evening of the official start date of our tour.  And, the
conversation continued throughout the evenings to come!

Another appeal of your trip was it was flexible, allowing people to come or go as they wished, participate or not, as well as leaving us to our own devices once we reached a destination allowing us the time to wander, explore, spend time in a church, shop, sit in a cafe, be busy or not as the spirit moved us.  The respectfulness of us, and for us, as individuals was one of the many reasons this trip was so successful. HD

There was thoughtful personalized attention to details which I so appreciated and considered to be unsurpassed by any other type of group tour in which I have participated. PT

Providing the little blank notebook was a brilliant idea….For someone completely new to Provence and to paying specific attention to wines, it was a great help.  We saw so much and had the opportunity to learn so much that I never would have been able to wrap my head around all the information, let alone keep it straight in my head….In addition, your website gives a continuous and library-like-way of learning more about what I saw, what it meant and what I want to know more about and to go and see…. DT

It was fantastic, an experience of a lifetime. BQ

It was amazing. JP

Now, would you please organize a tour to Tuscany? JP


About Us and Our Connection to Provence


Having inherited a deep love for France from our respective families—Towny being the product of Foreign Service parents who lived in Paris in the 50s, and Susan being the eldest grandchild of a man who, with his beloved wife, traveled frequently to Paris and spent the last half of his long life studying everything French—we have traveled widely and often in that country.

It should have been a short leap of faith that Provence would be included among our travels and that we would be passionate about this region, arguably France’s most popular.

But, we must confess that we were reluctant travelers to Provence. We had prided ourselves on seeking out rather off-beat places—not necessarily exotic locations, but those more likely to be found along roads “less traveled by,” those that were “grassy and wanted wear.” That was not the road to Provence.

P10009961For well over a decade before we arrived, tourists, particularly after reading Peter Mayle’s widely acclaimed A Year in Provence, had been flocking to the area like a stampede of sangliers.

We did not want to be counted be among the trendy travelers who base their itineraries around the Travel section of The New York Times. But,  clearly, articles about the region were popping up everywhere.

It was certainly not that Provence was undiscovered. Artists and writers have been drawn to the slow pace of life, rugged beauty, and stunning light for well over a hundred years: Van Gogh, Cézanne, Matisse, Chagall, Zola, Hemingway, and Fitzgerald, to name a few. The Papacy chose to take up  residency in Avignon during the 14th century.

TMT_Tour_2015-62216401And even earlier, the Romans extended their empire to this area (which they called Provincia), building several of the most important Roman settlements outside of Italy and leaving behind what has become some of the best preserved Roman architecture in the world. This was indeed a popular destination long before Mr. Mayle penned his warm-hearted and humorous novel about his sojourn in Provence.

So, by the time an opportunity for a trip to Provence surfaced in 1998, we had shed our reluctance and in fact seized the opportunity. We were enchanted immediately by everything our predecessors found so infinitely appealing: The incredible, incomparable, and truly glorious lighting highlights a natural beauty that is unique and as diverse as anything we have ever had the good fortune to see; architecture spanning over two thousand years, carvings, paintings, and other remains from prehistoric settlements as old as a million years; and a pace of life that is all about how life should be lived.

We discovered Lourmarin on that first visit. The village, dominated by its Renaissance Château and 17th century clock tower, lies in the midst of groves of olive trees, fields of sunflowers, wild lavender and rosemary, and vineyards galore, many of which make up the increasingly impressive Côtes du Luberon appellation.

P8313266The people who inhabit the village – amiable and yet not above some of the most colorful conflicts we have ever been privy to – immediately captured our hearts. Against this exquisite bucolic backdrop, Lourmarin has a cultural-arts community that rivals any in the area; it has been called the cultural capital of the Luberon. There are several nationally acclaimed restaurants, among other fine eating establishments, many galleries, and charming shops. Peter Mayle and his wife made Lourmarin their home when they returned to Provence from Long Island. What more could one want?

We have returned every year (and more) since then, including a six month stay in 2002 and have made wonderful friends, some of whom have come to visit us in New England.

We kept wondering when our passion for Lourmarin and Provence would wane and we have finally given up anticipating it. The allure is magical.

Our love affair with this area of the world began late, almost twenty years ago, and we have been making up for it ever since—we were reluctant travelers, yes, but not reluctant lovers. We love to share our favorite corner of the world with others.