Would you like to explore Provence with a local, driven in the comfort of an air conditioned minivan ?
Each private tour is tailored to suit your interests and needs, so we can go where you wish and at your own pace, or we can follow well-tried and tested sightseeing itineraries. Just sit back and enjoy the beauty of Provence !
Service available 7 days a week from 2 to 6 passengers.
I provide private tours in French, English, Spanish and Portuguese. No language surcharges apply.
Luberon is the name of a mountain range and regional park. This is where Peter Mayle found inspiration for his best-seller novel "A year in Provence" and where "A good year" was filmed by Ridley Scott.
The best way to start your tour is by wandering through a typical provencal market, where you can let yourself be drawn by the colours and wonderful smells coming from the stalls. We can then stroll through beautiful hill-top villages such as Gordes, Roussillon and Oppède le Vieux. Have you heard of Fontaine de Vaucluse and its authentic water wheel ? It still produces paper with recycled cotton nowadays and is a must-see !
We could then finish our trip by stopping off in a traditional farmhouse for a taste of delicious homemade icecream… This is only a suggested itinerary as any alterations to your daily plan are more than welcome !
Have you ever dreamt of walking through lavender fields and smell this delicate flower ? I will show you different fields and we will see a traditional distillery where they produce fine lavender essential oil. Did you know that oil had amazing medicinal properties such as relaxing, soothing or anti-inflammatory ? But that's only true for fine lavender which only grows in the mountains of Provence around the village of Sault.
Then we could head up to the Abbey of Senanque, a 12th century cistercian abbey with its beautiful lavandine field (most common type) and finish the tour visiting one of the most beautiful villages in France : Gordes (stone-perched village).
Who doesn't know "The Sunflowers" painted by Van Gogh ? Van Gogh had fallen in love with Provence and he was pretty much inspired by everything around him : the local café, olive trees, the Alpilles mountains, sunflower fields (blooming in july and august) and so many other picturesque sceneries. He first came down to the trendy Arles for 2 years and then got institutionalised in Saint Remy de Provence for a year.
I recommend we make a walking tour of Arles and then drive to the psychiatric institution to follow his footsteps and appreciate the unchanged spots that he painted. You will then walk through the charming stone village of les Baux de Provence and may be we could have a wine or olive oil tasting.
NB : two very interesting traditional markets (both food and handicraft) take place every saturday morning in Arles and every wednesday in Saint Remy.
The Rhône Valley wines have a complex personnality, different from Burgandy, Bordeaux or Loire Valley wines. North of Avignon are produced amongst the best wines in the region such as Tavel for rosé wine and Chateauneuf du Pape for white and red. We will go through the vineyards to learn about the particulars of the local production and then to one or several cellars for a tasting. And as the old say goes : « we drink to forget but we taste to remember !»
What perfectly goes along with wine ? Chocolate of course ! Lucky us there is a chocolate house nearby where we can taste local chocolate specialities (chocolate-making classes available – please get in touch with me)
The Roman presence in Provence started in the first century BC and last for about 500 years. 2000 years later we can still appreciate how great this civilisation was and how amazing architects and engineers the Romans were. We will see an amphitheatre (« colosseum »), an antique theatre, an aqueduct and more :
* Orange – great antique theatre with an amazing acoustics (entrance ticket not included)
* Pont du Gard – Highest aqueduct ever built in Roman time
* Uzès – a city that used to be a Roman oppidum (little fortified town) which displays an oustanding variety of architectural styles (NB: beautiful traditional market on saturdays morning)
* Nîmes – one of the major cities in Roman time. You will visit the very well-preserved amphitheatre and feel like a gladiator ! (entrance ticket not included)
Camargue is a marshy region in the delta of the Rhône river (From Arles down to the Mediterranean) which is sparsely populated. The region was once entirely wild, with free-roaming herds of bulls and white horses; such herds can still be found in the regional park. It is also a sanctuary for waterbirds such as egrets and pink flamingos. We will make as many photostops as you want so you can capture that wild life.
We will also visit the unusual church of Les Saintes Maries de la Mer, where the remains of Saint Sarah (gypsies patron saint) are preciously kept. From there to Aigues-Mortes (« Dead waters »), a middle-age town that used to be a port of crusaders that was later silted up.
Marseille is a port on the Mediterranean and happens to be the 2nd largest city in France. We will start by the Old Port up to Notre Dame de la Garde, a unique basilica with a stunning viewpoint over the whole city. Then we will have a lunch break (not included) in a fish restaurant by the sea before going to Cassis.
Cassis is 30 minutes from Marseille and offers a very different atmosphere. Picturesque little village and fishing port, Cassis is the departure point for boat trips to visit the coves alongside the shore.
There is no better way of understanding the French food culture than strolling the streets of an open market. The atmosphere of an old town, the scents of the fresh produce and tapenade, the beautiful display of cheeses, cured meet, spices & herbs will soon make you salivate ! Then we will make a journey through some of the mouthwatering local wines & foods :
Wine - vineyards or cellars to get a taste of the local terroirs and sample the local production.
Nougat – a traditional delicacy mainly composed of almonds and honey. I will take you to a Nougat maker's house and we will see the people make it before sampling the fresh production (yummy!)
Chocolate – little introduction to the origin of chocolate and how cocoa beans are transformed into a capital sin ! Followed by 2 or 3 chocolate samples. On site production.
Candied fruits – this old Provencal way of preserving fruits into sugar has reached its perfection with the best local artisan. Visit of the house and tasting.
Goat cheese – visit of a goat farm with the farmer and sampling of her production
Olive oil – the base of the Provencal cuisine. Visit of a mill followed by an olive oil tasting.
Truffle – the most hidden gift of mother nature. Truffle hunt and meal around the truffle.
Tapenade – stop in a specialized tapenade shop to taste the different spreads.
The travel plan will depend on the season, the day of the week and your specific expectations.
There are so many jewels in Provence one can easily forget that golf is widely played in the region with a number of beautiful courses.
This tour can be arranged with non-golfers too ! While golfers enjoy a 9-hole at one of the courses listed below I will take the others to a local market. After a leisurely lunch we would stop at a couple of vineyards to sample the local wine before heading back to base.
Check out my selection of courses if you stay in the Avignon or Aix en Provence area :
Open in 2016 the Chauvet cave is the perfect replica of an original cave discovered in the late 1990's and now a World Heritage site.
Upon entering the cavern in the midst of stalagmites and stalactites, you will discover the world as it appeared to men and women 36 000 years ago.
The artworks reveal an interplay of light and shadows, bringing the walls to life and draperies from out of the darkness. The outstanding perspective techniques used by our ancestors make the hunting scenes come to life. Hundreds of animals of 15 different species appear engraved with flint, drawn with charcoal or ochre pigments.
The tour will take an hour and can be combined with other two exceptional sites for a day trip from Avignon : Orange & Chateauneuf du Pape.
The Jews have a heritage in Provence dating more than two millenia.
In 49 BC when Julius Caesar took command in Gaul, he granted beneficial conditions to the Jews and exempted them from submission to foreign gods. Later in history the Jewish communities found a shelter in the Comtat Venaissin (Papal territory extending from Avignon to the Luberon & Vaucluse hills). The Popes indeed tolerated them while persecuted throughout Europe. Eventually the Jews were to settle in the 4 communities of Cavaillon, l'Isle/Sorgue, Carpentras & Avignon.
Depending on the day of the week & your personal interest I can organize tours around :
A/ The synagogue in Cavaillon & the hilltop villages of the Luberon
B/ The synagogue in Carpentras & the villages around the Ventoux mountain
C/ A Kosher wine tasting & the Pont du Gard (2000 years old Roman aqueduct)
"Laurent took a group of 4 of us out for the day around Provence. Professional, friendly, knowledgeable and very likeable guy. Tailored the day perfectly around our preferences and was flexible as the day unfolded. Highly recommended to anyone wanting to maximise their time in Provence! Thank you!"
My wife and I booked a one-day customized tour of the Luberon region with Laurent Catoni and were extremely satisfied and appreciative of his services. Mr. Catoni is a native of the Provence area, knows the top sites AND off- the-beaten-path sites that would be unknown to and unvisited by the novice traveler. He was very customer service-oriented, was happy to modify his proposed plan based on our interests of the day, and provided a memorable, unhurried, full-day and enjoyable tour of the Luberon. I recommend him whole heartedly.
We had a full day excursion with Laurent, and our only regret is that we could not spend the whole week exploring Provence with him! The great experience started with the email exchange prior to the tour: Laurent interviewed me about our interests and proposed two options for the tour itinerary! I was very impressed with the intelligence and flexibility of his approach, especially in contrast with many other private tour companies. Laurent is extremely knowledgable about the region, and he shares his knowledge and love for Provence in an engaging, easy manner that allows you as a visitor to feel close to the region.