Delicious fruit and vegetables, aromatic herbs and olive oil, towers of fresh seafood, the sweetness of honey and lavender: Provence and the Riviera offer up a cornucopia of fresh ingredients that have brought this local cuisine world renown. Explore the famous markets of Antibes, Cannes, and Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and taste acclaimed wines in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Meet chefs and farmers, and dine al fresco on crusty bread, pungent cheeses, and fine charcuterie. Take part in a cooking class and explore the vegetable garden of a well-known chef in the Lubéron, and sit down to delightful meals and tastings at farms, country inns, and celebrated restaurants.
After an overnight flight, arrive in Nice and travel along the Mediterranean coast to legendary Cannes. Stretched along an elegant seaside promenade known as La Croisette, Cannes has lured royalty, fashion mavens, and cinema stars for well over a century. Set out on a walking tour of the town, and then check into our hotel, just steps from La Croisette. Gather tonight for an introduction to the cuisine of the Riviera and a welcome meal at one of the city’s best restaurants.
Start the day surrounded by beautiful displays of local produce at the town market and discover seasonal treasures such as ronde de Nice squash, fresh figs, and locally made goat cheese. Head to the hilltop village of Grasse, whose fragrant herbs and blossoms have made it a center of the perfume industry since the Renaissance. Here, we’ll encounter a wealth of Provençal specialties, and visit an aromatic garden to learn how flowers like roses, violets, jasmine, and lavender are used in food and drink. Sit down to a picnic lunch of local specialties. This afternoon, return to Cannes where dinner is at your leisure this evening.
Hotel and Spa Montaigne (B,L)
Fishing boats teem in the harbor of Antibes, just around the Cap d’Antibes from Cannes. In the heart of the old town, a covered food market entices with long rows of colorful fruits and vegetables, piles of savory spices, loops of cured sausage, and dozens of varieties of cheese. Venture into the market with a local expert, stopping to taste artisanal cheeses and crusty breads. Later, visit a well-respected producer of organic fruit, vegetables, and flowers and savor the lushness of the seasonal offerings—whether it’s cherries in June or grapes in September. Sit down at one of the most acclaimed tables of the region at the Moulin de Mougins, where chef Erwan Louaisil, student of Roger Vergé, applies his considerable talent. After lunch, take a “marche digestive” through the restaurant’s gardens and enjoy time on your own to explore the village of Mougins.
Hotel and Spa Montaigne (B,L)
Travel from the Côte d’Azur to the heart of Provence today, pausing to visit the Château Val Joanis in the Lubéron. Tour the wine cellar and test your oenologist’s palate during a wine tasting with an expert. Then stroll through the château’s magnificent three-tiered garden, where medicinal herbs and fruit trees intermingle with rare vegetables. Enjoy a typical Provençal lunch at the château before continuing west to the village of Noves, not far from Avignon. Settle into our charming hotel, a traditional country manor perched on many acres of parklands and boasting one of the area’s most celebrated restaurants. This evening try out the restaurant at the auberge on your own, or take advantage of a shuttle into Avignon to eat at one of the historic town’s fantastic restaurants.
Auberge de Noves (B,L)
In the foothills of the Lubéron, the rocky, mineral-rich soil produces abundant fruit: plump black figs, almonds, cherries, myriad varieties of apples and berries, peaches, and melons, not to mention olives and grapes. Visit a confectioner specializing in nougat, take a short stroll through the family's almond orchard and learn about traditional methods used to harvest honey on site. Stop in the delightful village of Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and wander the tranquil banks of the Sorgue River. Enjoy time at leisure to explore the auberge and its surroundings this afternoon. In the evening, tie on an apron for a lively cooking class in the historic kitchens of La Mirande in Avignon’s old city, followed by dinner at the elegant restaurant.
Auberge de Noves (B,D)
Drive through the vineyards and hamlet-topped hills to another glorious farmers market in Arles, an ancient port city of great importance to the Phoenicians and Romans, and where Vincent van Gogh spent some of his last years. At the foot of Les Alpilles, a range of limestone crags, take a walk in the sculpture-filled gardens of the Mas des Figues and learn about the owner’s philosophy on cultivation. Visit the potager (vegetable garden), the herb and flower gardens, and a field where truffles are produced. We’ll cap off the visit with a farm-to-table meal al fresco, featuring ingredients fresh from the gardens we’ve visited. Next up: an olive mill set amid twisting, silver olive trees, where a tasting will reveal the many subtle flavors this vital oil can embody. End the day with a visit and tasting of wines at Domaine de Beaurenard, one of the world-class vineyards in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Celebrate your discovery of the farms and tables of southern France at a farewell reception and dinner at the Auberge de Noves, where chef Robert Lalleman presides in the kitchen.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport in Marseille for your flight home.
Chef Xavier Deshayes was born into the restaurant business. Having watched his parents run a restaurant while growing up in France, he went on to receive formal culinary training from Lycée Hotelier Jeanne D'Arc in Aulnoye Aymarie. He then came to the United States in 1989 and began delighting patrons of Soho Restaurant in Santa Barbara, San Ysidro Ranch's Stonehouse Restaurant, the Four Seasons, and Michel Richard’s Citrus in Los Angeles, before moving East. In Toronto, Chef Deshayes led the kitchen at Truffles, the award-winning restaurant at the Four Seasons. During his tenure, Truffles captivated critics, making it the only restaurant in Canada to receive the coveted AAA/CAA five-diamond designation. For this achievement, he received accolades in Bon Appétit, Gourmet, and Esquire magazines. He then opened Senses in Georgetown, which was promptly named Best New Restaurant by Gourmet magazine. Chef Deshayes is now the Executive Chef at Washington, D.C.’s, Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, one of the nation’s largest buildings. Just blocks from the White House and Capitol, it hosts some of the city’s most notable meetings and special events and is often recognized for its distinguished catering services. Chef Deshayes is committed to seeking out, serving, and educating his guests about sustainable food choices and environmentally responsible dishes. He is a member of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation’s Advisory Committee and on D.C. Central Kitchen’s Board of Directors.
Xavier will join the following departure:
Sep 20 - 27, 2015
Price is per person, double occupancy. For a single room, add $1,540.
International airfare to Nice and return from Marseille is not included in the expedition cost.