WALKING HOLIDAYS IN Les Iles d'Hyeres, UPPER Provence and THE French Alps
Our adventure begins in Aix-en-Provence where we meet and then drive to Cassis. We visit this picture postcard village on the Mediterranean and travel through the well-known wine region of Bandol before we reach Le Lavandou, our base for the next 3 nights.
Our first walk will be in the idyllic Iles d'Hyères. The islands have been known since the sixteenth century as the Golden Islands, on account of the colour of their southern cliffs. Their natural beauty makes them an ideal location for some spectacular coastal walking. Our second walk takes us to St. Tropez from where we explore a fairly steep stretch of the coastline before moving more inland across some very pretty vineyards.
Today we leave the seaside and drive towards the Montagne du Luberon. This mountain range is full of charm and runs east from Cavaillon towards Manosque. Today it embraces about 50 communities, which all appeared during the Middle Ages, clinging to the rock face. The tall houses with their imposing walls huddle close together at the foot of the castle or church. The inhabitants of this region lived from the cultivation of olive trees and lavender, rearing sheep and from silk worms.
Traces of these ancient traditions can still be seen in the little walls and enclosures of dry stones, and in the "bories", small stone cabins in which the peasants sometimes sheltered for weeks, during the time they were working in the fields.
We visit Roussillon and walk in the strange shapes and lurid colours of the ochre cliffs. The village dates back to the 14th century and is red from the dust of the ochre cliffs on which it stands. The different shades of the ochre are featured in the local houses and enhance the village and the surrounding countryside.
In the late afternoon we arrive in Forcalquier, our base for the next 5 nights. This sun filled corner of France is a sweet land, scented with lavender, dotted with olive trees, Roman remains and hillside villages with fountain-filled squares. Our splendid walks will lead you through hills, covered in wild rosemary, sage and lavender and the perfume promises some outstanding cuisine for which the French are so famous - Aioli, Daube, young rabbit baked in a honey and lavender crust, fabulous goat cheeses, olive oil and the famous melons.
Of course we shall visit the wonderful market in our hometown of Forcalquier, ancient abbeys, Europe's largest gorge, the Luberon Valley and the Lure Mountains - the setting for many of Jean Giono's novels. We walk in the Luberon Valley, and everywhere you will enjoy the typical scents of Provence, the fragrance from the region's wild herbs, the tang of pine trees and the perfume of lavender.
Relax in the beautiful gardens of our idyllic country retreat, take a swim or have a game of tennis. Before dinner, taste the award winning local Pastis or a homemade orange wine. Dinner tonight will be in a lovely restaurant near Forcalquier.
Our final stop is the beautiful alpine town of Barcelonnette in the remote Ubaye Valley in the French Alps. It is rich in history and offers the perfect location to explore the Mercantour National Park. The park stretches along the Italian border and surprises us to no end with some spectacular mountain scenery.;
OUR HOTELS & CUISINE
The first 3 nights are spent in le Lavandou on the Mediterranean. Our hotel is set in a lush garden surrounded by flowers, palm trees, swimming pool and spa. It is only 5 minutes from the beach and very close to the ferry harbour to the magic Ile de Port Cros.
In Forcalquier we stay in one of our favourite hotels. Located in a picturesque Provincial setting in Haute Provence, it has two swimming-pools and tennis courts. Here we have selected a number of individual restaurants, which offer truly gastronomic delights of the so famous "Cuisine Provençale".
In the French Alps our cozy hotel is situated in the magnificent mountain village of Barcelonnette. Here we can sample great food with a Mexican influence.