Provence and Catalonia – Our 10 Day Tour

10 Day 10 Night Jewish Heritage Tour of Provence & Catalonia

June 20 to June 30 2016.

Whether it’s cruising the cliff-top roads, discovering romantic villages, or browsing for goodies at the weekly market,
Provence sums up the essence of France – sumptuous, sun-drenched and irresistibly seductive.
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Joining this tour as a scholar-in-residence will be Samuel Torjman Thomas, a professor of Sephardi Studies and Ethnomusicology at Hunter College and John Jay College, and the Artistic Director of the New York Andalus Ensemble. Dr. Thomas will provide exciting contextual learning in the form of several mini-lectures throughout, including introducing texts, poetry, and songs that will bring the region’s heritage to life.

Day 1
June 20 Monday – Aix en Provence

Overnight: 5 ★Vallon De Valrouge, Saint Remy de Provence

After meeting at Marseille airport we take the short drive to Aix en Provence: the town of water and art. Aix is a small, affluent, and classically Provencal town; famous for being home to Paul Cezanne, the 19th century Post-Impressionist painter who inspired a new and radically different world of art in the 20th century. Although very small Aix is charming with narrow streets lined with 17th century buildings, paved plazas, and tempting stores. The first reference to the presence of Jews in Aix-en-Provence dates from about 1283. After our visit and a short bus drive, we will arrive at our 5* hotel, the magnificent Vallon De Valrouge in the beautiful picturesque town of Saint Remy de Provence. The hotel is situated in the Alpilles Natural Park. After checking in and a short rest, we will be ready for our Welcome Dinner.

Day 2
June 21 Tuesday – Arles and Pont Du Gard

Overnight: 5 ★ Vallon De Valrouge, Saint Remy de Provence

We start our day with a visit to the Provencal town of Arles which is France’s largest municipality. Famous for its amazing Roman amphitheatre, it was a capital in Roman times and became a major religious centre in the Middle Ages. Above all Arles is a town overflowing with arts, and our tour will take us to the famous cinerary where Van Gogh painted some of his most well – known creations including Starry Night Over the Rhone. From Arles we will drive to Pont du Gard (Roman Aqueduct). Built shortly before the Christian era, the Pont du Gard is part of the 50 km long aqueduct of Nîmes which crosses the Gard river. Roman architects and hydraulic engineers designed this bridge which stands almost 50 m high with three levels – the longest measuring 275 m – creating a technical and artistic masterpiece.

Day 3
June 22 Wednesday – Saint Remy and Les Baux de Provence

Overnight: 5 ★ Vallon De Valrouge, Saint Remy de Provence

Today we spend our morning in Saint Rémy de Provence. This is Vincent Van Gogh territory; he produced over 150 paintings of the surrounding countryside. As it is Wednesday we cannot miss the local farmers market, renowned for the quality and freshness of the produce and a real culinary experience. We will visit an olive oil mill and discover the art of oil extraction before reaching Les Baux de Provence. This village is situated in the Alpilles Mountains offering wonderful views across the plains of Provence. And then a real treat as we uncover the secluded Kosher winery of David where we will meet the owner Frederique. He will give us a unique insight into Kosher wines, and of course we will taste his wines accompanied by local cheeses. With our bellies full and a little light headed a memorable day draws to a close.

Day 4
June 23 Thursday – Cavillon, Carpentra, Avignon

Overnight: 5 ★ Vallon De Valrouge, Saint Remy de Provence

Today we will feed our spiritual sides visiting the most remarkable synagogues in Provence. The first, the Cavaillon Synagogue, was built in 1774 and is home to a Judeo-Comtadin Museum. The second Synagogue we visit is in Carpentras, built in 1367 and the oldest active synagogue in France being a very visited Jewish Heritage site. In the 12th century Carpentras was known for the Jewish scholars and doctors who lived in the locality. We also visit the town of Avignon famous for its bridges on the river Rhone, the Pope’s Palace, and the petite Jewish community with its beautiful synagogue. In the 14th Century France expelled all the Jews, but the Pope offered refuge in Provence. Consequently the Jews of Provence became known as the “Pope’s Jews” and there they lived in relative freedom, enjoying the Pope’s protection.

Day 5
June 24 Friday – Cassis

Overnight: 5 ★  Hotel Intercontinental, Marseille

Our day begins with a visit to Cassis, a little gem of a fishing village, and exploring the Massif des Calanques, otherwise known as the French fjords. So, obviously we will be exploring by boat before we are back to dry land and the metropolis of Marseilles to visit the Grand Synagogue before checking in at our historic 5* Hotel Intercontinental. The magnificent hotel, awash with elegant and contemporary decor, was Inaugurated in 1866 by Napoleon himself. We will later visit the Notre-Dame de la Garde church which also served as an observation point during the Middle ages due to its privileged location perched on a hilltop overlooking the city. Kabbalat Shabbat and dinner will be prepared for us by the Michelin star chef Lionel Levy, who is recognized in France as a leader of modern and creative Marseille-style gourmet cooking.

Day 6
June 25 Shabbat – Marseille

Overnight: 5 ★  Hotel Intercontinental, Marseille

After a typical French breakfast served on the terraces of our hotel overlooking the fishing port we will enjoy a walking tour of Marseille. The city had Jewish residents as early as the 5th century and a Jewish quarter, with its principal street, which was called “Carreria Jusatarie” and its lanes and byways, formed a kind of island designated “Insula Juzatarie”, and occupied a considerable area. Our tour will cover much of historic Marseille and then lead us to the MuCEM (Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée). This recently opened museum, built to celebrate Marseille’s role as European city of culture, is a celebration of Mediterranean civilisations through the centuries. No trip to Marseille is complete without a walk along the promenade to enjoy the panoramic views of the coastline surrounded by serene blue waters.

Day 7
June 26 Sunday – Provence’s Beautiful Villages

Overnight: 5 ★  Hotel Intercontinental, Marseille

Today starts with a trip to L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and its amazing Sunday market spread across the village and famous for its antiques. This region, known as The Luberon, is home to many exceptional mountain villages set amongst rolling fields of lavender famous for its therapeutic virtues. We then visit the romantic village of Fontaine-de-Vaucluse named after its gigantic spring water falls from which 630 million cubic meters of water flow every year. We also visit Roussillon with one of the world’s biggest ochre deposits, and the village of Gordes which has a worldwide reputation due to Peter Mayle’s book, A Year in Provence. Here we will find beautiful old doorways, arcades and walls of flat stone perfectly restored, and on the other side, there is the panoramic view of the valley and mountains of Luberon.

Day 8
June 27 Monday – Montpellier and Narbonne

Overnight: 4 ★  Hotel Can Xiquet, Figueres

Today we make our way to Spain. Our first stop will be the medieval town of Montpellier, renowned for its university of medical studies founded in the 13th century, and where the famous Nostradamus received his degree in medicine. The city’s handsome old town, also known as Ecusson has beautiful tree-flanked promenades, ancient monuments, and winding medieval lanes that lead to small cafe filled squares. Our second and very interesting stop will be Narbonne, a town which is rich in Jewish Heritage. Many rabbis and interpreters of the Torah and the Talmud once lived in this region, including the famous Rabbi Scholar and composer of Jewish literature Rabbi Solomon ben Isaac (1040–1105), known as RASHI. As we cross the border into Spain and make our way to Figueres we leave behind a day full of fascinating and informative history.

Day 9
June 28 Tuesday – Besalu and Gerona

Overnight: 5 ★  Gran Hotel Havana Silken, Barcelona

After a gentle start to the day we will explore northern Catalonia starting with a visit to the medieval town of Besalú. This magnificent town, renowned for its 11th century Roman bridge, is home to some unique Jewish Heritage including a twelfth century mikveh or Jewish ritual bathhouse and ruins of a ninth century Jewish quarter. Then we immerse ourselves into the world of surreal artist Salvador Dalí and the Theatre-Museum created by Dalí himself to house his works. Then its a short drive to the city of Gerona, once one of the most important Jewish communities in Spain, and the centre of a flourishing intellectual Kabbalah community. The Jewish quarter, known as the ‘Call’ still maintains its medieval atmosphere, and The Yeshiva of the Ramban (Nachmanides) was also recently uncovered here. The day ends with us making our way to Barcelona.

Day 10
June 29 Wednesday – Barcelona

Overnight: 4 ★  Gran Hotel Havana Silken, Barcelona

We will devote our last day to Barcelona, the capital city of the autonomous community of Catalonia, and Spain’s second most populated city. We will explore the famous Gaudi and his architecture including a visit to Güell, a public park composed of gardens and architectonic elements, and La Sagrada Familia, the world’s largest Cathedral who’s construction started in 1882 and has a completion date of 2026. Then of course we will learn about the Jewish History of Barcelona with our Jewish guide Architect Ms Dominique Tomasov Blinder. She will guide us to Montjuic and the old Jewish quarter and the oldest part of Barcelona. We will visit the sites where three synagogues once stood and be intrigued by the stones with Hebrew inscriptions in surprising locations. We then visit a recently discovered medieval mikveh before we head back to the hotel for our Gala Farewell Dinner with music.

Useful Information:

This tour offers you the perfect opportunity to visit Paris or Madrid either before or after the Tour. Yaya Tours can help you to arrange this. Excellent flight routes are available from JFK, Air France and Iberia offer perfect flights.

The price includes:
  • All accommodation costs
  • Ten breakfasts, light lunches, and full evening meals with wine
  • All transport costs including group airport transfers on June 20th & 30th
  • Local professional English speaking guides
Other Costs:

Tips for local service providers: $220 per traveller and will be collected at the beginning of the trip

Costs not included:

Flights, travel and health insurance, personal expenses, or miscellaneous fees (departure fees, visas, security, etc.)

All clients should be aware that while all efforts are made to avoid any problems before during or after your trip, Yaya Food and Travel carries no insurance for your health or luggage. While using the services only of registered suppliers, we recommend that you purchase fully comprehensive travel insurance, to include cancellation, as Yaya Food and Travel, cannot be held liable for any mishaps during your stay.

Price:

Based on 2 people sharing the tour is priced at $5,950

Single supplements are available priced at $1,550.

Our tours are Kosher friendly and respect Shabbat.