DAY 1: WTMJ Listener Trip to Paris, Provence, and Monte Carlo – arrived Charles de Gaulle on time. Met Philip, our Insight Vacations tour director and made our way to our hotel. We walked around Bercy, the neighborhood adjacent to the hotel until rooms were ready. Many of the shops and restaurants are housed in old wine warehouses. Had dinner in one of them; Chez Bruno. Delicious.
Day 2 UPDATES: WTMJ Paris, Provence, and Monte Carlo trip – Paris City tour including a Seine River cruise. Then some of us took the funicular railway to Montmarte Village & Artist Square. Had lunch at la Cremaillere. It was divine.
More Day 2 UPDATES: Had dinner at the oldest restaurant in Paris – A La Petite Chaise. Apertif: Kir ah vin blanc (black currant liquor & white wine), French Onion Soup, Steak with peppercorn sauce and for dessert dark chocolate cake with custard cream sauce. Fantastic! Then a little night tour our Paris.
Day 3 Updates: WTMJ Paris, Provence and Monte Carlo – free day in Paris. About half of the group took the optional excursion to Giverny, Monet’s home for 43 years. The gardens were in full bloom – poppies, delphiniums, lupine, peonies, irises, and roses. And of course the water garden with its bamboo, willow, rustic bridges and water lilies, one of Monet’s favorite subjects.
DAY 4 Updates: We have arrived in Nimes. Hemingway, Ava Gardner, and Frank Sinatra stayed at this hotel. Very traditional European hotel (which is code for charming with a tiny bathroom)
Day 5 Updates: – WTMJ Paris, Provence, and Monte Carlo – fabulous day! TGV (fast train) from Paris to Chateauneuf-du-Pape. We made a stop for a little wine tasting. Next stop was the Pont du Gard, the three- tiered aqua duct built in Roman times.
Philip, our tour director and Chris, our coach driver surprised us with what Insight Vacations calls a “flourish”; some lovely wine, olives, sausage and other treats. It made our experience so special! Then it was on to Nimes and our hotel, The Hotel Impertor, a charming hotel with a rich history which includes famous guests like Ernest Hemingway, Ava Gardner, Frank Sinatra and Pablo Picasso.
Day 6 Updates: WTMJ Paris, Provence, and Monte Carlo trip. Left at 8:30am this morning to beat the heat and travel to Arles, the ancient capital of Gaul. We had an orientation tour and followed in the footsteps of Van Gogh. Then it was on to Avignon, which became the papal residence when the Popes were driven out of Rome. Here the rapidly flowing river passes under the few remaining arches of the 12th century Pont Saint-Benezet, the Pont (bridge) d’Avignon of the famous song ( I will sing it to you if you like). We spent about two hours walking through the medieval battlements and the town centre dominated by the Papal Palace. We even had time for a little snack and beverage at one of the many sidewalk cafés.
Day 7 Updates: What a great day in Southern France! Perfect weather for our excursions. On our way to Les Baux we stopped at Moulin des Barres, an awarding-winning, family owned olive mill. We went to the groves to learn about the agriculture and growing of olives. Then we visited the mill to learn about the pressing and processing of the olives. Our group is becoming so spoiled. In addition to the tasting of the olive oil, figs and other treats provide by the family (www.masdesbarres.com), Philip had a little libation for us; Henri Bardouin Pastis, a popular drink in this area. It tasted a bit like Ouzo. Thankfully he diluted it with water as it as quite strong. Then it was on to Les Baux, a picturesque village set atop a rocky outcrop in the Alpilles Mountains. We explored the winding streets, did some shopping, had a bit of lunch and then headed back to Nimes. Tonight we are going to Aigues Mortes for a Gypsy dinner with live
Afternoon of Day 7 Updates: Finally had a chance to walk around the hotel neighborhood in Nimes. Visited the Carre d’Art and walked through the Jardin de la Fontaine.
Evening of Day 7 Updates: Made our way across the flat plains to Aigues Mortes ( yes, those are flamingos who summer in the south of France and migrate to Africa for the winter), a walled city that rises from the marshes and lagoons of Petite Carmargue. We had dinner at the oldest restaurant in town featuring Carmargue cuisine. Exposed beams, rustic paintings and a touch of El Toro set the tone for the live music – frenetic guitars and passionate vocals inspired by Gypsy Kings. We celebrated Jim and Joan’s 49th wedding anniversary in a very special way!
Day 8 Updates: Fun in Eze with Diane and Carol – two new friends on the WTMJ Paris, Provence and Monte Carlo trip. Stopped in Eze on the way to Monaco. We had an opportunity to visit a perfumery but Diane opted for something a little more adventuresome; a drive in a Ferrari!! We combined a belated birthday celebration for Carol and a toast to Diane’s adventure and shared some bubbly.
More Day 8 Updates: Had time to visit the Grand Casino after dinner last night. Our hotel is right next door. Got to sleep in and enjoy the fabulous hotel this morning. Walked through the old town of Monte Carlo and went into the Royal Palace, and the Cathedral which houses the tombs of Prince Rainier and Princess Grace. Then went to Villa Ephrusi Rothchild one of the finest buildings on the French Riviera. We explored the nine gardens and marveled at the musical fountains and spectacular views of the Riviera.
AND… More Day 8 Updates: Thank you to Philip from Insight Vacations, all of my friends on the WTMJ Paris, Provence and Monte Carlo trip and Chez Cotton for the surprise birthday party. I will never forget this special birthday. PS – thanks to Colleen Alsberg, Fox World Travel Tour Manager who helped arrange this while traveling with a group in Alaska.
Day 9 Updates: Our last day. We spent the morning in Nice. Busy day at the open market. Spices, marzipan, lavender sachets, flowers, fruits, vegetable, and so much more. Then a photo stop which (SURPRISE) turned out to be another birthday celebration with wine, macaroons, and nougets. Thank you Philip, Chris, and my fellow travelers for making this the best birthday ever. Celebration dinner tonight (no, not for my birthday but for our farewell) and then we leave tomorrow from the Nice Airport. What an amazing and memorable this trip has been.
This really was a spectacular vacation. I highly recommend researching our upcoming 2015 Select Group Vacations and join us as we explore new adventures! I invite you to join me in 2015… I’ll be traveling to Israel, on a Burgundy and Provence River Cruise and one more destination to be announced soon! Or join any one of these group trips we have available with other hosts and tour managers!