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France: Six of the Best for 2019



It makes us feel old to think about it, but in May 2019 the channel tunnel celebrates its 25th birthday! 


This ground-breaking development made France easier to reach than ever before, and changed the way we travel to the continent from the UK. To celebrate this approaching milestone, we’ve picked out 6 fantastic walking trips in France that you can book now for 2019.

 

Burgundy Vineyard Trails 

Whether you’re a wine connoisseur or not, on this trip you can wander through fragrant vineyards, meet local winemakers, discover vine-covered valleys and visit private cellars. Burgundy claims the highest number of ‘appellations d'origine contrôlée’ than any other region in the country. Chardonnay originated here, and it remains the most commonly grown white grape. The ‘Route des Grands Crus’ runs through many of the great appellations of Burgundy wine, punctuated by nearly 40 picturesque villages and little towns. Read more here

 

 

 

Secret France: The Ardeche 

On the Massif Central, above the broad valley of the Rhone, lies a walker’s paradise of hills where the Ardeche, Loire and Haute Loire regions meet. This little-known watershed for some of France’s great rivers is a land of steeply terraced slopes, half-hidden valleys and tumbling streams, where massive ruined farmhouses seem embedded into the landscape, and the bleat of goats and call of the wild birds are often the only sounds. This Ardeche ramble begins to unfold with breath-taking views across the enchanting Doux Valley from Le Crestet, a medieval fortified village built on a rocky hill. Read more here



 

 

Vineyard Trails of the Loire

Explore vineyards, wine estates and chateaux as you walk through the majestic Valley of the Kings, a region steeped in history – this is where Leonardo Da Vinci spent his retirement and Joan of Arc fought some of the battles of the Hundred Years’ War! The Loire is also one of the major wine producing areas of France: the ever-popular Sauvignon Blanc was one of the very first fine wines to be commercially bottled with a screw cap. With a cool continental climate that slows down the ripening on the vine, the region’s winemaking history dates back to the 1st century. Read more here

 

 

 

Medieval France: Tarn & Aveyron

This beautiful rural walk winds between the bastides or fortified towns that sprung up between the Cathar Crusades of the 1200s and the Wars of Religion in the 1500s. They are situated in spectacular settings on rocky promontories or broad hills and are rich in history. No fewer than 4 of the villages on this tour (Cordes, Bruniquel, Puycelci and Castelnau-de-Montmiral) are included on the unofficial but prestigious list of 143 most beautiful villages in France. The intervening countryside is a beautiful mixture of forests, fields and river valleys with a distinct lack of tourists. This has become not only one of our most venerated walks, but also one of the most popular tours in France. Read more here

 



In Van Gogh’s Footsteps

In 1888 Van Gogh left Paris for Arles in Provence where he started the most ambitious and productive period of his life. He worked under luminescent skies and the bleaching Provençal sun, painting the fields, drawbridges, cypress trees, cafés, local folk and ancient Abbey Ruins. This walk traces his footsteps through some of the places that he painted and would have known well. Here you will discover the many images of the landscapes he painted, from St-Rémy to the Baux-de-Provence and onto Arles. We are confident that you will have a better time of it than Van Gogh did; for a time he was in a hospital at Arles, he then spent a year in the nearby asylum of Saint-Rémy, working between repeated spells of madness. Just after completing his ominous Crows in the Wheat fields (1890), he shot himself on July 27, 1890, and died two days later. Read more here

 

 

 

The Way of St. James

This was one of our original hotel treks, and has been a consistently popular tour over the past 40+ years for those who love rural France and wish to visit some of its more unusual, less visited landscapes. The route covers a large swathe of the uplands of the Massif Central taking a path that the early Pilgrims walked on their way to Santiago de Compostela in Spain - one of the great journeys of history. This is a walk in deepest France, for those who really want a bit of peace and quiet away from it all, a flavour of the past with a dose of religious history and the echoes of The Hundred Year War. Read more here

 

 

 

This is just a small selection of trips that we offer to France. To browse all of our France holidays, click here.

Loving Vincent’s Provence: The Most Colourful Times to Visit

The colours that inspired famous painter Vincent van Gogh for many of his, now world-famous, paintings are especially visible during the French spring and summer months of May, June, July and August. Naturally, this makes these months some of the best time to visit Provence. If you have seen the film Loving Vincent, you may have been inspired by these vibrant colours and you may have added to your travel bucket list a visit to the French region that the painter loved so much.

 

Lavender

best time to visit provence for lavender

 

Lavender fields are perhaps the most iconic image of Provence and if you are hoping to get that picture-perfect photo of the Senanque Abbey near Gordes (on our Rambling in the Luberon walk), make sure to be there in June. When you travel in this month, you are quite sure to find a glorious purple field of lavender surrounding the beautiful abbey.

 

Poppy Red

Loving Vincent red poppies (c)Gemeente Museum Den Haag

©Google Art Project via Gemeente Museum Den Haag

 

No less spectacular are the fields of coquelicots, perhaps better known as the bright red poppies of France. For some walkers, the best time to visit Provence is in May: when fields of poppies simply explode and paint the landscape a magnificent red. At the same time, May is also that time of year when the strawberries are at their sweetest and most delicious. Ah, and for asparagus-lovers, this is your time to visit as well, when they are prepared with omelettes for example.

 

Olive Green

Loving Vincent Provence walking holidays

 

Seen in one of Vincent van Gogh’s more famous paintings, ‘Olive trees with yellow sky and sun’ is a grove of olive trees. The olive forms an important part of life in Provence and feature in tapenades, pissaladiere, quality oils and of course in many varieties as cured olives. Although the harvesting season is in winter, the beautiful rows of green-leaved trees in April and May come with a white blossom. Take a little picnic stop and take advantage of the trees’ shadow during the warm summer months.

 

Sunflower Yellow

Sunflowers in Provence _ SHerpa Expeditions

 

From all over the world, visitors come to Provence to enjoy great weather, the delicious Provençal cuisine and of course the impressive surroundings. Add to that in late summer fields on end with sunflowers and it’ll be almost without effort to position yourself in one of Vincent van Gogh’s paintings. For some this is definitely the best time to visit Provence.

 

In Provence, Vincent van Gogh had the most ambitious and productive period of his life. Working under luminescent skies and the bleaching Provençal sun, he painted the fields, drawbridges, cypress trees, cafes, local folk and ancient Abbey ruins.

 

Why not theme your holiday for this year around Vincent van Gogh and combine our walking holiday in Provence with a visit to Paris and Amsterdam to visit the Van Gogh Museum, where the temporary exhibition Inspiration from Japan is on display until 24 June 2018.

 

For more information and booking requests, please contact our team of travel experts in our London office.

More Than Cannes in the South of France

4 active holidays to discover the other side of the French Riviera, behind all the glitz and glamour

There is more in southern France than the Cannes Film Festival and, especially beyond the seaside town, there is plenty of choice for active south of France holidays. Traditionally, the world-renowned festival takes place at the beginning of May and this is also a fantastic time to go out and explore some of the 60.000km stretch of tracks and trails that France is known for.

So, if the Cannes Film Festival has put you in the mood to discover the other side of France, behind all the glitz and the glamour, you can choose from a selection of self-guided week-long breaks across the southern part of the country…

 

The Ardèche

south of france holidays_Ardeche


On the Massif Central, above the broad valley of the Rhone, lies a walker’s paradise of hills where the Ardèche, Loire and Haute Loire regions meet. This little-known watershed for some of France’s great rivers is a land of steeply terraced slopes, half-hidden valleys and tumbling streams. Massive ruined farmhouses seem embedded into the landscape and the bleat of goats and call of the wild birds are often the only sounds you will hear on your hike. This active holiday in the south of France begins to unfold with breath-taking views across the enchanting Doux Valley from Le Crestet, a medieval fortified village built on a rocky hill, and is available over either 8 or 10 days, with the longer option taking in the hauntingly beautiful ruins of the Chateau de Rochebonne overlooking the River Eyrieux.

>> Find all active holidays in Ardeche

 

The Luberon

south of france holidays_luberon


Gain a unique insight into rural French life as you walk the secret hills and gorges of the Luberon – some of which plunge to depths of 30 metres. This region in the south of France brings holidaying walkers the pleasure of discovering mas (stone Provençal farmhouses) and ochre coloured hilltop villages. Starting in the heart of Papal Avignon, you will cross a revolving landscape through magnificent forests filled with oak, maples, cherry and fig trees, but also butterflies, owls and eagles. The famed Luberon Nature Park also includes a Geological Nature Reserve, whereas Buoux is one of the most famous rock climbing areas in Europe.

>> View our active and introductory walking holiday in the Luberon

 

Did you know? In France the carpooling app Bla Bla Car is a great way to cheaply and quickly travel between places if you like to save money on taxi rides and save time on train journeys.

The Cévennes

south of france holidays_Cevennes


In the autumn of 1878 Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Treasure Island, set out to walk across the Cévennes accompanied by “a small grey donkey called Modestine”. His journey inspired Travel with a donkey in the Cévennes, which has since become a travel classic. Starting in the Auvergne, this south of France holiday follows a winding route across a region that boasts great natural beauty, sad romantic ruins and is almost totally unspoilt.

>> Find out about two walking holidays in the Cevennes  

 

Provence

active south of france holidays_Provence


Along footpaths dotted with cypress trees, crumbling farmhouses and lone chapels, this trip follows in the footsteps of Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh. Take this southern France holiday to walk from St-Rémy to Les Baux-de-Provence and onto Arles, where the painter famously cut off his ear. Take in the sublime images of the region, with highlights including the Saint-Paul de Mausole monastery (where Van Gogh painted 150 paintings in a year!) and the painter’s much loved second home, the city of Arles, where he lived in the late 1800s.

>> Find all active holidays in the Provence or learn more about Van Gogh’s Provence

 

 

If these active south of France holidays have given you some ideas to add to your travel bucket list or if you have any questions on any of the above-mentioned suggestions, please feel free to get in touch with our team of dedicated travel experts.

 

 

Things to Do in Provence: 5 Reasons to Go for A Walk

things to do in provence - Sherpa Expeditions

 

In this quick read you can find ways to make your Provence holiday different. Read on for the 5 best things to do on a Provence walking holiday.

 

 

1

Do something different from the usual holiday and make great memories when walking in Provence: rolling hills, quaint little bistros, hilltop perched villages, stunning views, lavender fields, and passing by olive groves & vineyards.

No matter where you go, the scenery of this part of southern France will be stunning and expanded.

 

2

Get behind the touristy scenes, explore the backroads, chat with the local Frenchies, visit wine estates, olive oil producers and really get to experience the Provence unlike others.

 

3

Enjoy the great outdoors and burn at the same time some of those calories collected from the night before.

Whichever way you look at it – you are the winner.

 

4

The only pace that counts is yours!

Explore Provence when you walk at your own pace because you are not on a schedule, stop whenever you like, stroll on a market and move on when you want to.

 

5

It’s easier than you think with our well-written route note instructions and, completed with some of our favourite and hidden addresses in each place along the trail, you will not miss out on a highlight!

 

Interested? You have a choice of three different Provence holidays with us:

provence holidays on foot with Sherpa Expeditions

 

For more information and booking details, please contact our team of travel experts in our London office and they will be happy to assist you more. 

 

6 Things to Do in Provence – By an Enthusiastic Local

Things to Do in Provence, France - Sherpa Expeditions

 

Whether you are a seasoned hiker or a beginner, our walking holidays in Provence bring you an immersive experience of a region that is known for its lavender fields, charming hilltop towns, rolling vineyards, medieval chateaux, bright sunflowers and the nearby beaches of the Côte d’Azur. Being such a diverse region, there are many things to do in Provence. Enthusiastic hiker Sonja became a Provençal resident 14 years ago and therefore we asked for her top reasons to visit and besides discovering the French region on foot, what else there is to do.

 

Local Markets & Provençal Specialties

Visit the French markets in Provence - Sherpa Expeditions walking holidays

 

In France, make sure you do visit one of the lively local markets. It is the perfect place to purchase delicious Provençal specialties for your picnic break from walking. In the route notes that we provide, you can find an overview of the exact market days and of course the best places to get fresh goat cheese, charcuterie, quiche lorraine, wine, olive oil and where the baguettes are the best. With so many delicacies at hand, it’s easy to let the outstanding Rhone Valley cuisine and wine do the pampering for you.

 

Doze Off

walking holidays in Provence - Sherpa Expeditions

 

After your picnic along the trails, why not stretch out on one of the lavender or thyme-laden hills? Slip your backpacks behind your heads, hat over your eyes, and enjoy the chant of cicadas soothe you into a quick nap. If you go between March until May, you'll experience the thyme in full bloom and between mid-June to mid-August, the lavender fields colour beautifully purple.

 

Avignon

visit Avignon in Provence - Sherpa Expeditions walking holidays

 

Discover Avignon, the papal seat before it moved to Vatican City after the French Revolution. Avignon is the ideal place to visit ahead of your walking holiday and both the In Van Gogh’s Footsteps trip and Rambling in the Luberon holiday start just outside the historical town. Meander through its cobbled streets and walk on the famous St Benezet bridge – remember to sing the famous song: “Sur le pont d’Avignon, on y danse, on y danse…”

 

Van Gogh Legacy

visit Provence for Vincent van Gogh legacy - Sherpa Expeditions walking holidays

 

In 1888 painter Vincent van Gogh moved from Paris to Arles in Provence. The move was the start of his most ambitious and productive period of his life and he loved the region with so many things to do. Follow in Van Gogh’s footsteps to some of the places that he painted and knew well: cross historic Arles – the painter’s hometown, charming Les Baux, the Alpilles landscapes made famous by his paintings, and visit St Paul de Maussole and St Remy where Van Gogh spent his last years.

 

Provençal Wines

Provence wines on a walking holiday in France - Sherpa Expeditions

 

Learn more about the famous Côtes du Rhône Wines on a visit to Provence. Stroll through the vineyards in Châteauneuf-du-Pape and walk from one wine estate to another, perhaps with a wine expert who can unveil the secrets of the mysterious concept of terroir. Châteauneuf-du-Pape is without a doubt the most prestigious of the Rhône Valley’s wine-making villages. The best part about a tour is getting into the heart of the countryside: cycling or walking along farm tracks between the vines of Grenache and Syrah, taking you past some of the most fabled estates. And of course, a wine-tasting.

 

The Colorado in Provence

Explore the Colorado of France in Provence - Sherpa Expeditions

 

Colorado Provençal nearby the village of Rustrel (finishing point of the Rambling in the Luberon walking holiday) is a real surprise to first time visitors. The area covers a wide area right in the heart of Provence which have featured in many films including Cliffhanger and Westerns. Visit this part of Provence to see the canyon-like quarries dotted with pillars in all kinds of forms and shapes. 

 

The best thing to do in Provence, we believe, is to walk its timeless hiking trails far from the crowds and at your own pace. The self guided walking holidays in Provence come with well-written and easy-to-follow instructions and practical information. Learn about the villages along the way, where to buy your picnic fare, where to go to get the best bottles of wine and olive oil. Of course, we also asked Sonja for some of her most favourite addresses and have included a selection of restaurants, wine estates, olive oil mills, and other places of interest and “must see” visits.

 

We also include historical & cultural information about the towns visited, monuments passed, as well as information about local plants and wildlife, geology, agriculture, and all sorts of other interesting topics along the way.

 

Provence is a fantastic place to go for a walking holiday, whether you’re an experienced hiker or a beginner.

 

Interested in a Provence Walking Holiday Yourself?

  • For another walking holiday, the 7-day Rambling in the Luberon trip starts and finishes in Isle sur la Sorgue and takes in places like Fontaine de Vaucluse, Bonnieux and Buoux.