The Heart of France Tour

13 day culinary wine extravaganza in beautiful Burgundy and magical Provence

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The Heart of France Tour

13 day culinary wine extravaganza in beautiful Burgundy and magical Provence.

This unique itinerary will show you the heart of two of France’s most endearing regions. Starting near Dijon, the capital of Burgundy, you will spend a lavish week aboard the Saroche, one of the finest examples of a converted working barge in the whole of Europe. Owners, Captain Jason and chef Dawn will cruise you through unspoilt canals, mooring up in quaint hamlets and villages, enjoying fabulous food and Grand Cru wines along the way. You will visit the world famous vineyards of the Côte d'Or, indulge in private wine tastings, truffle hunting and Medieval history. However it doesn't stop there.

Next we transfer you to Avignon on the high speed train where your second week in Provence begins at a Provencal mansion just outside of the « Venice » of Provence, Isle sur la Sorgue, known for its antique market and canal-lined streets. The mansion, or « Bastide » as we would say in Provence, is privately reserved for your group. Throughout the week you will be immersed in Provencal cuisine with local chefs coming to cook for you and sipping rosé in the garden while playing a game of Pétanque. Everyday will be an opportunity to explore the region that is so famed today. Imagine driving down the scenic roads in the movie« A Good Year » by Russell Crowe or walking through the much talked about villages in the books by Peter Mayle. With your local guide and host Emily, your discoveries go beyond the known and enter the lesser known; the magical elements of Provence that leave you feeling that you have stepped back in time.

Burgundy

Sunday: Escommes

Be met by your private chauffeur in Dijon for your group’s transfer to the Saroche, moored at Escommes on the Canal de Bourgogne. This canal, an historic monument, was conceived in 1605, completed in 1774, is 150miles long and has 189 locks. It’s a feat of amazing engineering that has survived The Revolution and two World Wars. Upon arrival you will be welcomed by the owners, Jason and Dawn, together with their crew. Be introduced to Saroche with a Champagne reception and have plenty of time to settle in before Dawn, your personal chef, presents you with the first of many gourmet meals.

Monday: Escommes - Chateauneuf

Today's cruise takes you down the flight of locks from the summit pound to our unique mooring at the foot of beautiful Chateauneuf en Auxois. Saroche is the largest vessel that cruises these waterways and squeezing her into the locks is an impressive experience to behold, with plenty of opportunity to walk or cycle as we cruise. After lunch Jason will drive you to the UNESCO world heritage site of the Abbey of Fontenay founded in1118 with its nearly intact Romanesque architecture, magnificent forge and serene gardens. Fontenay holds a special place in Dawn and Jason’s hearts as this is where Jason proposed to Dawn. A relaxing drive home takes you past Alisia, famous for the battle of Alisiain 52 BC where Julius Caesar defeated the Gauls. We arrive back at Saroche with time to freshen up before cocktails on the deck in the shadow of Chateauneuf en Auxois. Tonight dinner is at the simple creperie of L’Oree du Bois, run by a young couple who have revolutionised this simple formula into an art. Jason will take you to the restaurant and for hose with energy you can walk back to the barge afterwards.

Tuesday: Chateauneuf en Auxois - Pont D'Ouche

This morning’s visit is to Chateauneuf en Auxois. This 11th century chateau is a famous landmark in the area and hides a quaint hamlet behind it. Classified as “one of France’s prettiest villages”, the views of the surrounding areas are breath taking. The Hamlet of Chateauneuf is home to artists, potters, sculptures and weavers – there is plenty of time to visit and explore the small labyrinth of houses. On the way back to Saroche, Jason will stop off at a small artisanal chocolate maker for a visit and of course, a tasting! For those with energy to expend, you can enjoy a walk back to Saroche where lunch on deck awaits. In the afternoon we set sail and head down stream to Pont d'Ouche, with more opportunity to enjoy the scenery from the deck, or by foot or bicycle, along the towpath, as we navigate downstream through 10 locks. In the early evening Dawn will demonstrate the art of pâté and terrine making. This evening you are dining out in the small family restaurant of the Auberge St Martin in the village of Bouilland. Chef Didier and his wife run this small, quaint, very traditional Burgundy Auberge, which Jason will drive you to and pick you up from when you are ready.

Wednesday: Pont d’Ouche

Today we leave the Saroche and head over the hills to Beaune. This is the capital of wine production in Burgundy, however it all hinges around the Hospice du Beaune, which Jason will expertly guide you around. Famous for its wines as much as it is for the traditional tiled roofs, this bastion of Burgundian history was constructed in 1443, and whilst not the oldest monument you will see this week by far and away its most impressive. It was still a functioning hospital as late as 1973! Today is also market day in Beaune and before lunch there is time to wander the stalls and lovely cobbled streets enjoying this very French of towns. Lunch today is at your leisure. Choose from one of the many excellent restaurants in the centre of Beaune or pick up some cheese and pate, a baguette and enjoy a picnic in the gardens of the ramparts of the city. Beaune is really two towns; one above ground and one below, made up of a labyrinth of cellars dating back to Roman times. With this in mind Jason takes you on a comprehensive wine tasting at the house of Patriarche. The largest wine house in Burgundy with 3 miles of cellars and well over 2million bottles of wine, it goes without saying it could be a long afternoon!You will taste sublime whites and rich complex reds from some of them most famous Grand Cru fields in the world. As a personal friend of the cellar master, Jason enjoys unrivalled access to the wines. We finish in a small private cellar surrounded by rare vintages which are normally reserved for the higher echelons of the wine world – this is a privilege which Jason enjoys sharing with guests. As a trained sommelier, he is on hand to guide, explain and advise. Return to Saroche to freshen up before Dawn presents you with another sumptuous dining experience.

Thursday: Pont D’ouche - La Bussiere

This morning we set sail and head into the famous Ouche Valley, with the towpath running alongside. The steep sided valley is covered in original deciduous forest which is teeming with deer, wild boar and game birds, and is home to some of the most beautiful cruising in Europe. We moor up in the village of La Bussière and enjoy lunch on the terrace of the Abbey of La Bussière. This 11th century Cistercian Abbey has been converted into a Relais & Chateaux and has a fine restaurant with a well deserved Michelin star. In the afternoon Jason will drive you into the Côte de Nuits. First we visit Clos du Vougeot, the 11th century Cistercian monastic winery, now home to the Knights of the Round Table of wine tasting. Next we set off to the vineyards for a wine tasting hosted by Jason, where he explains the idiosyncrasies of French wine making and what truly makes the wines of Burgundy so special. Before returning to Saroche, we stop at a ‘truffle specialist’ and join the family dog for a truffle hunt, followed by a tasting of this mysterious fungi. Dinner tonight aboard Saroche is a simple rustic French affair of Dawn’s homemade pâtés, terrines and local cheese.

Friday: La Bussiere - Gissey

Market Day in Dijon. The capital of Burgundy, once home to the Dukes of Burgundy and birthplace to Gustave Eiffel, who designed the market square. After a walking tour of the old town, founded in the Roman era, you will have plenty of time to experience and explore one of the best markets in France and join Jason in selecting produce to accompany your lunch aboard Saroche. We will have time to enjoy the classic French shops or relax in one of Dijon’s many cafes. We return to Saroche for lunch before setting sail for Gissey, our final destination for the week, and Jason and Dawns home for the last ten years.

This beautiful village nestled in the heart of the Ouche valley is classically French and no trip would be complete without exploring it. Before aperitifs, join Dawn in the galley for the final time as she demonstrates the art of canapés. Jason will join you for pre-dinner drinks on deck this evening and recount tales of barging folklore, many of which he and Dawn have been part of. Tonight’s dinner is the pinnacle of culinary excellence where Dawn and Jason will round out your gastronomic wine experience with another gourmet delight and Grand Cru wines.

The Provence

Saturday: Dijon to Avignon

After breakfast Jason will take you to Dijon train station where you will board the high speed train to Avignon. This marvel of modern technology will whisk you south to the Provence region and you will see the subtle change the landscape makes as you move from Burgundy and into the Rhone valley. Your host and guide, Emily, will pick you up at the Avignon train station and drive you to your Provencal Bastide where you will spend the next 6 nights. Enjoy sun-bathing next to the outdoor pool or maybe take the bikes out for a little tour of the countryside to stretch the legs after your journey. An evening apéro with rosé, olives and a game of pétanque (the Provencal games similar to bocci ball) will start around 6pm. Then be treated to an exceptional dinner prepared by a local chef who has come to the Bastide to amaze you with his talents.

Sunday: Market day!

Start your day with a Provencal wicker basket in hand (supplied by your guide), filling it up with goodies at the market in Isle sur la Sorgue. Your market produce will be brought back to the B&B and artistically put together for you to enjoy the popular "apéro dinnatoire" (cocktail dinner party). But before indulging in a relaxing evening with your market specialities, your private tour guide will take you to two charming villages, Gordes and Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, for two enchanting historic tours that are sure to capture your imagination with past legends and unbelievable anecdotes.

Monday: Rhône valley wine tasting

Provence is the region of many well-known and prestigious wine appellations; Cotes-du-Rhone, Gigondas & Chateauneuf-du-Pape to name just a few. Today is your day to discover the people and places behind the wine in your glass. The day will unfold like a story book, giving you the opportunity to explore first-hand the different cultural, historic and agricultural steps to making wine. Your discovery tour will start in Chateauneuf-du-Pape at Chateau La Nerthe with a private tour of the ancient cellar and of course a gourmet wine tasting. The afternoon will be divided between the appellations Seguret, Gigondas, Vacqueyras and Beaumes-de-Venise. Depending on the weather, lunch at a village bistro or picnic style in a vineyard. A fabulous dinner awaits you this evening at Isle sur la Sorgue’s Michelin start restaurant - Le Vivier.

Tuesday: Classic cars & classic Provence

Grab your chic French scarf and your French beret and step into your iconic 2CV for an exclusive tour of the Luberon villages. « First Lady » and « Marguerite » (these cars have names!), will take us off-the-beaten track in the Luberon. The sensation of seeing Roussillon and its ochre facades with the wind blowing through your hair or Goult as you wind up the narrow Medieval streets to the windmill is indescribable. Depending on the weather, lunch will either be elegant picnic style in the lush countryside or at a village bistro. Your sensational day is not over yet, with a 2CV tour this evening. Enjoy sipping rosé and munching on olives as you watch your private master chef put together a succulent dinner just for you.

Wednesday: Medieval Avignon

"Simply amazing!" is what you say when you stand below the UNESCO world heritage site, the Popes’ Palace. The Popes knew how to live lavishly - so lavish it will be. You will be guided by Emily through Avignon to better understand the historic atmosphere and will also have the option of exploring Europe’s largest river island next to Avignon where Emily’s husband is an apple & pear grower. Her secret surprise for you here is an artisan distiller who makes the best pear brandy in the world. An elegant lunch awaits you at La Mirande; a 14 century cardinal’s palace turned into a luxury hotel and restaurant. Dinner this evening will be tapas style at Isle sur la Sorgue’s popular wine bar.

Thursday: the slow southern French way

It’s farmer’s market day in Isle sur la Sorgue and we are meeting up with a local chef for a private market tour. After picking up our produce we’ll head back to the chef’s kitchen for a fun and informative cooking lesson. A pleasant lunch together after our hard work and a bit of rosé may call for a nap in the garden afterwards - Provence is known for its siesta time. The afternoon is free for you to either relax at the Bastide or ask your private guide to take you out on a moderate hike to discover some hidden ruins. Dinner is at your leisure this evening either at the B&B with some catering items picked up at the local specialty shop or your guide can drop you off in Isle sur la Sorgue for dinner at your leisure.

Friday : Artists and memories

Before leaving Provence, one must discover the eyes of the artist Van Gogh. En route to the Avignon TGV train station we'll stop in Saint Remy de Provence to trace the steps of Van Gogh and stroll past artistic shops in the village. Whether it be the boutique shopping, the artistic eye, the Roman influence, or the people watching - Saint Remy is sure to put the cherry on the top your Provencal travel adventures.
Return train to Paris around 3pm.

Price per person $12,500

This itinerary includes : 12 nights / 13 days made up of:

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