Who could not be seduced by the landscape of Provence ? This is the part of France where medieval hill towns rise among olive groves and vineyards, where fields of lavender and sunflowers soak up the sunshine while away to the south, white horses and black bulls roam the salt marsh pastures of the Camargue. Seeking out the finest gardens in the region, we follow dusty roads fringed with pines that loop through the jagged Alpilles, giving way to banks of wild cistus, rosemary and thyme – plants typical of the upland garrigue. And hidden away behind old iron gates or an avenue of ancient cedars, we find old country estates, elegantly rejuvenated in recent years, revealing gardens of sensuous formality, each in its own way responding to the spirit of place. We stay in Aix-en-Provence, which lies at the cultural and historic heart of Provence and the newly refurbished four-star Hotel Aquabella & Spa, with its delightful gardens will be our very comfortable base for this tour.
Our expert guide - Kirsty Fergusson
Kirsty exchanged a career in academia (she is a PhD specialising in French philosopher-novelists) for a life in gardening. Trained at Capel Manor, she was head gardener at Mapperton in Dorset during the early nineties, where a series of fortunate encounters opened the door to garden writing. As well as writing a weekly column for The Express, for many years she was a frequent contributor to Gardens Illustrated, House and Garden, Country Life, The Times, The Telegraph and The Independent. In 2003 she moved to SW France, where she continues to explore the possibilities of her own (very forgiving) garden – when not travelling, writing or leading tours.
Day 1 London – Marseille - Bastide de Romégas
Fly with British Airways from LHR – Marseille 09:55 -12:50, where you will be met by Kirsty Fergusson, your Tour leader. Transfer to Aix-en-Provence for a light lunch at a classic brasserie, La Rotonde, in the historic heart of Aix-en-Provence. A short drive takes us to the privately owned Bastide de Romégas for a guided tour of the award-winning gardens that includes a grand, formal parterre, set against a sheltering backdrop of Aleppo pines and the looming presence of Mont Saint-Victoire. We return to Aix to check in at our hotel, with time to settle in before meeting for a welcome drink and dinner in the hotel’s restaurant, L’Orangerie.
Day 2 La Louve - Ménerbes
We depart at 9 am, heading northwards into the Alpilles to Bonnieux, a charming provencal village, perched on the edge of a deep valley. Here we discover La Louve, the much-admired garden made by Nicole de Vésian, over 30 years ago. Recently sold, we are delighted to be welcomed by new owner, Olga Faure for a guided visit and coffee. It’s a short drive on through the Alpilles to Ménerbes, where we will be dropped off to explore the delightful village (made famous by Peter Mayle) and enjoy lunch together in a local bistro. Following lunch, we continue on foot to visit at least one other private garden in the village, much influenced by Nicole de Vésian’s design and planting at La Louve. We return to Aix for an evening of independent exploration and dining.
Day 3 Abbaye St André - Le Mas de Benoît - Pomone
Leaving our hotel at 8.30 am, we head to Avignon and cross the river to find the Abbaye St André, a medieval Benedictine monastery enjoying some of the loveliest views in Provence and its spectacular formal Italianate Garden, created in the early part of the 20th century by the abbey’s two former owners, Elsa Kœberlé and Génia Lioubow, on the site of an abandoned orchard. Dropping down to the lovely riverside, we enjoy lunch at La Guingette du Vieux Moulin. looking across to the Palais des Papes in Avignon. We continue to Le Mas de Benoît, outside Eygalières for a guided visit of a contemporary garden, designed by the late David Idoux for owner, Gilles Colas. Head gardener, Guillaume Laguna will be on hand to guide and answer questions. A short drive takes us to St Rémy de Provence to meet Dominique Lafourcade at her home and design studio on the edge of town. She and her late husband, Bruno an architect, were for many decades almost synonymous with traditional Provençal Garden design. Now with son Alexandre, Dominique continues to dominate the landscape design scene. We are privileged to have an exclusive view of the gardens she designed for the studios and her adjacent private villa Pomone, where a more playful side of this creative superwoman may be discerned. We will enjoy sundowners with her before returning to Aix for dinner at our hotel.
Day 4 La Chassagnette – Marseille - London
We check out of our hotel at 10 am and head west towards Arles to visit the superb kitchen gardens at Michelin starred La Chassagnette, deep in the Camargue. A wonderful lunch still leaves us with time to transfer to Marseilles airport for our flight to LHR departing 17:55 arriving at 18:55.
This trip is arranged and run by Arena Travel on behalf of EBTS UK
When it comes to getting you to your destination. Arena Travel make it easy, with a selection of travel options for you to choose from
Return flights with transfers to and from your holiday are included on specific departure dates. We also include one item of checked in luggage per person.
If our included flight Airport is not suitable, alternative flights may also be available from other airports. These may have an additional supplement and are subject to availability at the time of booking.