In Van Gogh's Footsteps

In Van Gogh's Footsteps

Trip Highlights

  • Walk Through Painted Provencal Landscapes
  • Interesting Hiking in the Alpilles
  • Stay in Beautiful Avignon and Arles
  • The vineyards and olive groves
  • Retracing the life and brush strokes of Van Gogh
  • The cafes and restaurants of Saint Remy de Provence
  • The perched medieval village of Les Baux de Provence

Trip Summary

In 1888 Van Gogh left Paris for Arles in Provence where, after a 16-hour train journey, he started the most ambitious and productive period of his life. He worked under luminescent skies and the bleaching Provencal Sun painting the fields, drawbridges, cypress trees, cafes, local folk and ancient Abbey Ruins. Here he exclaimed ‘My God! If only I had known of this country when I was 25, instead of coming here at 35!’ Living at Arles, his technique modified as he began to use the swirling brush strokes and intense colours that you see in works like ‘Bedroom at Arles’ (1888), and ‘Starry Night’ (1889). He seemed to imbue visible phenomena with vitality. In his enthusiasm he encouraged the painter Paul Gauguin to join him, but within weeks they began to have violent disagreements, culminating in a quarrel in which van Gogh threatened Gauguin with a razor. It was that night, in deep remorse, Van Gogh famously cut off part of his own ear. This walk traces his footsteps through some of the places that he painted and would have known well. More specifically you will be strolling in Les Alpilles, a small massif standing out as its white peaks rise apparently sheer from the plain of the Rhône valley, its slopes covered in vineyards along with olive and almond trees. Along paths dotted with cypress trees and lone chapels. Here you will discover the many images of the Alpilles' 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.

Suitability

Fitness is a very subjective matter, Sherpa walking grades presume a certain standard common to similar tours and an individual’s perception of their own fitness in relation to a grading will vary. The walking on this tour is mainly: Easy - some of the days are short, and most are on gravel forest and mountain roads. Note however that some trails are quite rough and stony. The third day we would class as ‘moderate’ as you follow the GR6 for a while along the roller coaster Alpilles ridge, although you can avoid the hardest part of this section if you really want to! You don’t have to be super fit to do this tour, but you should be able to walk for a few hours each day, with some steep ascents and descents. Carry plenty of drinking water and adequate protection against the sun, including a sun hat. Day stages: 3.5 – 6 hours of easy- moderate walking.

Itinerary

Make your own way to Avignon. Hopefully you will have time to explore this medieval bastion of religion and power politics. Try to visit the Palais des Papes one of the largest and most important medieval Gothic buildings in Europe. Once a fortress and palace, the papal residence was the seat of Western Christianity during the 14th century. There is also the famous 'pont' in Avignon, sung about by generations of French children. Its narrow design was in order so that no more than one or two riders abreast could cross the River Rhone at a time and could be controlled. The city is also filled with interesting cobbled streets churches, gardens and of course plenty of restaurants. Accommodation: Our normal hotel is an attractive two star residence very close to the train and bus stations and in a quiet street close to the town's ramparts . It offers rooms designed with different cultural universes in mind: Provencal, Moroccan, African, Indian.

Meals:  Nil

Transfer with your luggage from Avignon towards the Alpilles to Saint Remy. On your warm-up walk, discover Saint Rémy de Provence, the adopted home of the Marquis de Sade and Van Gogh. You can visit the Greco-Roman site of Glanum (closed Mondays). Accommodation: Set only a stone’s throw from the old city gates of Saint Rémy de Provence our 3 star hotel where we stay for two nights is hidden in a quiet courtyard, and whose old buildings surround a swimming pool. A simple and very comfortable hotel within a short walk of Saint Rémy’s monuments and quiet landscapes immortalized by Van Gogh.

Meals:  B

Walk from St. Remy into the Alpilles, with great views of the Rhone Valley all the way to the Luberon. This is the hardest walk of the tour with some steep, stoney sections but the views are terrific! Walk up to a mountain cliff wall with weathered holes for a different view of Provence. The day can be made easier and a couple of hours saved, by missing out the circular ridge section of the walk. Take the time to visit the Saint-Paul de Mausole monastery where Van Gogh created 150 paintings in a year.

Meals:  B

A beautiful day from Saint Rémy to Les Baux, back into the Alpilles and good hill top tracks to Les Baux. You’ll be staying in the heart of the Baux de Provence (10th century AD) at the edge of the Alpilles with views across to the Camargue. (baux means escarpment in Provencal). A wonderful hilltop town that belonged to the Grimaldi family until 1790. Today, Prince Albert of Monaco retains the honorary title of Marquis of Les Baux. Visit the château ruins for approx. €8.00 Accommodation: For two nights we use a small, charming 3 star hotel in the heart of the Baux de Provence, overlooking the valley below and the Medieval Castle above. Restaurant with panoramic view, lounge with period fireplace and traditional Provencal cuisine using local produce.

Meals:  B

A walk in the Baux Valley to the typical village of Maussane. Forest trails take you down through gardens and then farmlands of the Les Baux firld ‘apron’. Once in Maussane maybe visit the central cafés, morning market (on Thursday) and producers of local wonders like the 17th century Cornille mill where you can taste one of Provence’s best olive oils or try a tapenade at ‘Jean Martin’. Return to Les Baux via olive and vineyards and woody paths.

Meals:  B

Morning walk from les Baux de Provence to the 12th century Romanesque Saint Gabriel Chapel, a stroll on good forest trails out of the western edge of the Alpilles massif. Afterwards, a short transfer (included) to Arles (25 minutes) and your hotel in the heart of the city to discover Van Gogh’s second home and the city’s Roman centre. It has important and well-preserved Roman and Medieval sites, including Amphitheatre and baths. Accommodation: In Arles stay at a charming 3 star family run hotel. A beautiful restored old house with an inner courtyard and a swimming pool.

Meals:  B

Depart Arles after breakfast.

Meals:  B

What's Included

  • 6 breakfasts
  • 6 nights accommodation in 2 & 3 star hotels with ensuite facilities
  • Taxi transfers on day 2 from Avignon to St Remy and on day 6 at the end of the walk from St Gabriel Chapel to Arles
  • Luggage transfer
  • Information pack including route notes & maps
  • Emergency hotline

What's Not Included

  • All lunches & dinners & beverages
  • Entrance fees
  • Travel insurance
  • Travel to the start and from the end point of the trip
  • Personal expenses such as laundry and phone calls
  • Unscheduled transfers required during the trip

Upcoming Travel Dates

Reviews

Well organised and enjoyable trip, lovely flowers. High points circular long walk on Summit of Les Alpilles. Staying in Les Baux and walk back from Maussane. Visit to Saint Paul de Mausole Monastery

J Blackwell, Germany, 30 Apr 2017


We enjoyed our walk very much. The accommodation was perfect, food fantastic. Staying overnight meant we were able to wander around without the pressure of time. Avignon and St Remy were terrific, as were Les Baux and Arles. It was wonderful seeing all the places Van Gogh had painted.

R. Allsop, NSW, Australia, 20 Jun 2014

AT A GLANCE

Duration:7 Days
Countries:France
Starting Point:Avignon
Finishing Point:Arles
Activities:Self-Guided Walking
Grade:introductory to moderate  Click for more information
Trip Code:JPV
Prices From:GBP£820 Per Person
Solo Traveller:GBP£440  Click for more information
Please do not book any flights or extra arrangements until such time that your booking is confirmed by Sherpa Expeditions by phone or email.