More than French sophistication, city grandeur and bucolic landscapes of olive trees and fields of pale blue lavender as far as the eye can see, Provence is a feast for the senses. Experience the wonders of Provence on a Regent Seven Seas Explorer cruise from Lisbon to Venice or Rome to Lisbon and visit three of the region’s most unique areas – Aix-en-Provence, Avignon and Marseille – come for the art, history, scenery and the flavors as there is something for every interest and palate.
From ochre-colored 17th and 18th century mansions to cathedrals with gothic bell towers and palatial courtyards, the Provencal town of Aix-en-Provence (Aix is pronounced like the letter X) is a study in charm, beauty and elegance. Best seen on foot, a stroll down the 200-year-old tree-lined grand concourse of Cours Mirabeau will provide a view of private mansions (known as hôtel particulers), cafes, confectionaries and stores not to mention some of France’s most spectacular fountains such as the city’s largest, La Rotonde (hence its nickname “City of a Thousand Fountains”).
Home to the Quatre Dauphins Fountain (Four Dolphins), the historic Quartier Mazarin District is best known for its aristocratic 17th-century buildings and the birthplace of the Post-Impressionist painter Paul Cézanne. A visit to the famous artist’s atelier where he painted dozens of works and spent the final years of his life will be of interest, as displays of still life arrangements and gardens show just a few of his influences and tools. It is also here where Cézanne painted “The Woman with The Coffee Pot” (the tin pot is on display).
All of this and more can be experienced on the Aix-en-Provence Cheese and Wine tour.
Located on the banks of the Rhône River, the World Heritage site is most notable as the home of the Roman Catholics for over seventy years. The medieval streets, ecclesiastical architecture and culture make Avignon a popular destination. Some of the more interesting sights include the Petit Palais (a former cardinal’s home turned museum), the historic Notre-Dame des Doms Cathedral and the Rocher des Doms for a spectacular view of the city.
No visit to Provence would be complete without a wine tasting so a tour of the Maison Bouchon winery is in order. Offered by the Chateauneuf-Du-Pape and Wine Tasting tour, the 100-year-old winery is home to a wide range of wines from the southern valley and heralded by oenophiles as one of the best-known wines for its base of Grenache grapes. A three-course lunch at Auberge de la Treille follows the tour along with a visit to the Palais of Papes (Palaces of Popes) and the remains of Saint Bénézet’s Bridge, one of the most famous medieval bridges, known because of the four arches which are icons of the city.
The multicultural port city of Marseille is France’s second largest city after Paris with roots stretching back to its founding by the Greeks in 600 B.C. Today the vibrant city offers a variety of cultural things to see and do made easy with the Marseilles Highlights & Cassis tour.
Filled with charming streets, museums and churches, a drive through the city’s Old Quarter’s Le Panier colorful neighborhood showcases the historical part of the city. The most famous landmark is Notre Dame de la Garde, one of the most recognizable sites in Marseille, built in both the Neo-Byzantine and Romanesque sitting on a hill atop the city with incredible sea views.
A visit to the sea resort of Cassis is next where you can take picturesque cliffs and unique up and down streets and squares of this charming fishing village but the herbal aromas synonymous with all that is Provence as well. And yes, it is the home of the white and rosé wine Cassis.
Enjoy the Pleasures of Provence yourself on board Regent Seven Seas Cruises.