Le Joie de Vivre! Côte d’Azur & Provence

Just the name – Côte d’Azur or French Riviera – is synonymous with dazzling Mediterranean views, magnificent beaches and luxurious villas. This trip will take you on a joy ride from Marseilles to Nice with numerous stops along the way to enjoy the Riviera lifestyle with its distinctive cuisine and local wines. As an extra bonus, a day trip to Aix-en-Provence will add a dash of Cézanne-inspired color, Provençal cooking and a chance to shop for handicrafts produced by Provence’s famed artisans.

Day 1
You will arrive in Marseilles, where we will meet you and then drive to our villa near Cassis — one of the loveliest spots on the Riviera. After a glass of Champagne, we’ll visit the village of Cassis and feast on a dinner of freshly-caught seafood while enjoying views of the sparkling blue marina.

Bill Pinson, Joe Horsman, Preston Gough and Michel Thibault enjoying Champagne andthe views at Cassis.

Day 2
We’ll continue our exploration of Cassis, this time driving up the Soubeyran Cliffs, with plunging views over miles of terraced vineyards. We’ll stop in the best-known vineyard, Clos Sainte-Magdeleine to sample the excellent Blanc and Rosé wines. Later, we’ll take a boat ride through the famous calanques, small inlets along the coast with gorgeous aqua green water and secluded beaches. Back on land, we’ll have dinner at one of the excellent cafés, with more spectacular water views.

Sailboats docked within a sheltered calanque at Cassis. Photos by Marla Norman.

Steep, terraced vineyards overlooking the Mediterranean. Photo courtesy of Clos Sainte-Magdeleine.

Deliciously grilled fresh fish at Le Gran Bleu.

Day 3
Today is devoted to Aix-en-Provence. This vibrant city is a fascinating meld of Roman antiquities, Medieval churches and contemporary architecture. Brimming with outdoor cafés and boutiques, Aix offers endless diversions. Art lovers will want to visit the Musée Granet to view the paintings of the city’s much-loved native son, artistic genius, Paul Cézanne.

We’ll spend time at the farmer’s market, filled with luscious vegetables, flowers and all the extraordinary local products: lavender soaps, scented pillows, sea salts, authentic Herbs de Provence in hand-painted jars or brightly colored Provençal tablecloths. After exploring Aix, we’ll be ready for a long, leisurely lunch possibly beginning with a Pastis, since the anise-flavored spirit was first concocted in Provence.

Only in Provence – fountains filled with Rosé! Photos by Marla Norman.

Lunch at La Villa Gallici, Aix-en-Provence: Raj & Rene Sachasinh, Marie & Kenny Daniels, Marla & Michel, Melissa & Mike Shelton

Day 4
We drive to Bandol to enjoy the region’s unique wines, prized by collectors and connoisseurs. “No wines anywhere resemble the red wines of Bandol!” says Eric Asimov, New York Times wine critic. We’ll find out exactly what he means. We’ll also explore this pretty seaside resort surrounded by limestone hills and enormous groves of pine trees.

Day 5
We pack up and head for Nice. Along the way we’ll stop in ultra-glamorous Saint Tropez for an early cocktail and walk along the harbor to be amazed by the mega-yachts. Our next stop is Antibes, famous for the many artists who succumbed to its charms, Picasso and Monet being the most illustrious of the group. Here, we’ll visit Château Grimaldi, Picasso’s last home and now a museum devoted to his work. Lunch will be at one of the superb local restaurants.

At Saint-Tropez, mega-yachts fill the harbor; artists display colorful landscapes. Photos by Marla Norman.

Seafood specialists at Le Don Juan Chez Florent, in Antibes.

From Antibes we have a quick drive to Nice where we’ll check into our hotel, with panoramic views of the the appropriately named Baie des Anges (Bay of Angels). Later that evening, we’ll join the locals to stroll down one of Nice’s top attractions – the Promenade des Anglais. The spectacular walkway stretches over 4.5 miles along the Mediterranean and frequently offers one of the world’s best sunsets.

The Promenade des Anglais – one of Nice’s top attractions. The spectacular walkway stretches over 4.5 miles along the Mediterranean. Photo by Marla Norman.

Day 6
We begin our day in Nice at the Cours Saleya, heart of Nice’s Vieille Ville (Old Town) and the exotic local markets, with rows and rows of extravagant flowers. Cases of beautiful cheeses are shown off like fine jewelry, and appropriately so! We’ll grab a few choice rounds of Reblochon and Morbier to munch on as we continue our walk. Ambitious guests will want to climb the Colline du Château (Castle Hill) the highest point in Nice with sweeping views of the city and coastline. Other guests will want to shop at Place Masséna, where brightly painted 17th century buildings line the promenade.

Art lovers can again view the paintings of some of the world’s greatest artists. Matisse spent over 37 years in Nice and his villa is now open to the public, where a massive collection of his paintings, sculptures and cutouts are on display. Marc Chagall also lived near Nice, his work is on view at Musée Marc Chagall.

At the end of the day, we’ll enjoy an honored French tradition, the evening apéritif, from a rooftop bar. Later, we’ll make our way to one of city’s best restaurants, to toast the extraordinary coastline and villages referred to as The French Riviera.

A large fountain depicting Apollo and Greek mythology at beautiful Place Masséna in Nice. Photo by Marla Norman.

The legendary Hotel Negresco recently celebrated its 100th birthday.

Day 7
We’ll escort you to either the train station or international airport in Nice — the 2nd largest airport in France.

TESTIMONIALS
Preston Gough: My wife and I spent a week with Michel and Marla in Provence. We took two special couples with us and it was one of the best trips we have ever had! Michel and Marla were fantastic hosts and really gave us a special first-hand look at this part of the French wine country. We sure hope to return again with them on a visit to one of the other regions.

Holden Hayes: Our travel with Marla and Michel was a trip of two lifetimes! The wine, the food, and the countryside were spectacular and it has opened a whole new world for my wife and I. Did I mention how great the wine was?

Robert Hamilton: Anyone thinking about a trip to Bordeaux should rush to book with Michel & Marla. They will be thrilled with the five star treatment and experience. Everything was extremely well organized, thought out and executed, from transportation, hotels, vineyards to restaurant selections. Between Marla’s travel knowledge, excellent palate and Michael’s incredible wine knowledge and personal connection with the winemakers, we could not have asked for a better trip!

Leah Broussard Hayes: We traveled with Marla and Michel to the Bordeaux region of France last fall and were blown away by the trip. The term “a trip of a lifetime” is so overused that I hate to invoke it, but I feel that is the only true way to describe this vacation experience. From access to first growth vineyards (not typically open to the public) to personal tasting, dining and shopping planning services and the best part – a chauffeur! – there is quite literally no way to recreate it. It is an experience we will look back on fondly for many years to come as we further expand our wine knowledge and cellar. A must do for any Francophile or wine lover!!

Michelle W. Reed: If we didn’t just have the “Trip of a Lifetime” I can’t imagine what one would consist of! Michel and Marla absolutely outdid themselves in hosting us for a fabulous Bordeaux experience. Although the amazing pedigrees of the wines speak volumes about their planning, I have to say the personal elements they provided will stay with me and with John from now on — dinner and a personal tour with a winemaker, fun tapas evening and the cooking school were truly experiences that we could never have had without their kind and thoughtful arrangements. I am amazed now that I am home and writing my trip journal that we were so royally welcomed in such hallowed halls.

THE PACKAGE
This is an all-inclusive trip for three couples, featuring:

  • Six (6) nights, seven (7) days in Cassis and Nice, on the French Riviera for three (3) couples at 4-star hotels and/or luxury villas.
  • Private tour guides, Michel & Marla, for 6 days: The tour includes all planning, reservations, bookings, guiding, driving, organizing of wine tastings and visits, plus all hotel accommodations.
  • Boat ride in Cassis along calanques.
  • Visits to Cassis and Bandol vineyards.
  • Day trip to Aix-en-Provence with regional cuisine, famed sites and shopping at open air markets for Provençal handicrafts.
  • Visits to Saint-Tropez and Antibes, location of Picasso’s last studio, now a world-class museum.
  • Two nights in Nice to enjoy the city’s attractions, museums and restaurants.
  • Airport and train station transfers

PRICE:
$25,500 for 3 couples during October-November and April-Ma. or $27,000 for 3 couples during June-July-August (high season) Please contact us to discuss pricing if your group is smaller.

A FEW NOTES
Not included are any personal expenses.

  • A 50% deposit will be required 120 days before departure, with the balance due 30 days before the actual trip.
  • Changes in schedules, hotels, excursions or wineries visits may result due to weather or other unforeseen occurrences. Comparable accomodations and/or properties will be arranged as necessary.

Marla & Michel enjoy a sunset on the Promenade des Anglais.

ADDITIONAL TOURS

We also offer tours to Champagne, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Italy and Portugal. For more information on available tours, see our travel site: Travel Curious Often.

To book a tour call 850-687-1370 or write mthibaultwine@gmail.com.

Michel Thibault
 & Marla Norman, owners, Michel Thibault Wine & Travel Curious Often

2018-11-15T21:59:49+00:00August 17th, 2018|0 Comments