Have you ever wanted to fully commit to your 'rosé all day' mantra? Us too, and in honor of National Rosé Day we teamed up with Chelsea Johnson from Alair Travel to plan an incredible 72 hour trip through Provence, France to experience all things rosé!
Rosé: Bright aromas of lush red fruit balanced by a sophisticated floral undertone. Notes of rose petal, white peach, pink peppercorn, and crisp minerality complete this balanced, easy-to-sip variety.
Provence: With their fields of lavender, olive groves, rolling hills, thick cork-oak and pine forests, vineyards, mountains and dazzling blue sea, Provence is an embarrassment of scenic riches. The region is blessed with almost year-round sunshine and a divine light, making traveling to Provence a delight whatever the season.
Provence produces wonderful wines including a lot of rosé wines: Les Coteaux d'Aix en Provence, Les Cotes de Provence and a little bit further les Coteaux Varois. Rosé has been the focus of Provence winemaking for centuries. Ever since the Greeks brought wine to the area in 600 BC, the people of Provence have been perfecting the art of dry rosé production.
Provence, the site of France's oldest vineyards, is the world's largest wine region specializing in rosé. The region has a rich rosé tradition, and winemakers today are the beneficiaries of the region's collective knowledge and time-honored techniques. Since rosé is a delicate wine and one of the most difficult to produce with success, these long-established traditions remain entirely relevant. The rosés of Provence are distinctly different because of the unique character of the place where they originate – the soil, climate, and terrain of the vineyards. The physical environment of Provence – with its plentiful sunshine; its mistral winds; its Mediterranean Basin soils; and its hillsides covered with wild lavender, rosemary, and thyme – is reflected in the refreshing flavors and zesty aromas of the rosé wines made there.
Day 1: Arrive in Aix-en-Provence
The capital of Provence, Aix-en-Provence, is an enchanting town founded by the Roman Empire in 122 BC. It is also known as "Little Florence" with over one hundred fountains spread throughout the historical center of town.
Aix (pronounced like the letter X) is a unique city which inspired many of artist Paul Cézanne's paintings. Its charming boulevards are lined with 17th and 18th century mansions, churches, cathedrals, parks, libraries, shops and museums, and dotted with moss-covered fountains. Stroll the cafe-lined Cours Mirabeau, and purvey the local goodness at the open markets. The Mediterranean climate makes it a fabulous year-round destination.
Your hotel in Aix-en-Provence is a 30 minutes drive from Marseille Airport Marignane; 3 hours by train from Paris Gare de Lyon to Aix TGV railway station; a 1 1/2 hour drive from Nice Cote d'Azur Airport; a 1 hour drive from Cannes; and a 2 hour drive from Monaco.
Your driver will greet you at the airport/train station, assist you with your luggage, and take you to your hotel.
Check in at La Villa Gallici, a 5-star Relais & Châteaux property and 18th Century Residence
This enchanting Italianate Villa from the XVIII century is perched on a hill just a short walk from the city center, and surrounded by an elegant Florentine garden filled with the sweet fragrances of Provence. The stunning views over Aix and the Saint Sauveur Cathedral from the many terraces and gardens of Villa Gallici are impressive.
As you check into La Villa Gallici, you will be welcomed to the Provence experience with a delicious local beverage (insert your first glass of rosé here).
The hotel boasts 22 rooms and suites, each decorated to extravagant perfection in a "provincial boudoir fantasy" style. Facilities include an outdoor swimming pool, gardens, a spa, restaurant, bar, wine cellar, and car park.
Chelsea recommends staying in one of their magnificent Terrace Suites, which feature romantic interior decor comprising unique objects collected from around the world, ancient furnishings, and elegant fabrics like velvets, canopies, and damask, highlighted by filtered lighting. Some of the suites come with private jacuzzis or Roman pools, and all offer a private garden or terrace overlooking the gorgeous gardens surrounding the villa, bedroom with separate lounge, bathrooms with separate tub and shower, bath products reflecting the fragrances of Provence, flat-screen tv with international channels, direct-dial telephone, safe, minibar, free Wi-Fi, and courtesy tray.
You will also be greeted with an in-room tray with Calissons d'Aix candy and red roses.
Take advantage of the 5-star service designed to ensure that you have an exceptional stay. You will feel at home, cared for by the ever-available staff who are there to cater for your every need, all in absolute discretion.
Get acquainted with your hotel
Once checked into your room, head to the hotel's elegant bar, which offers an exquisite range of typically Provencal aperitif, Cognac, Armagnac, wine (hello again rosé!) and champagne. Grab a drink (or three) and take a stroll through the stunning gardens of the Villa Gallici Park, with its many secret paths studded with sculptures and works of art created by the most famous artists of the region. Then head up to the rooftop solarium where you can further enjoy the views surrounded by olive trees and jasmine flowers.
Spend the afternoon getting inspired by the life and works of Paul Cézanne
Cézanne was born in Aix-en-Provence on Jan. 19, 1839. He lived there until 1861 when he joined his friend Emile Zola in Paris to practice his art. By 1880, he returned to Aix-en-Provence, set up a studio and stayed until his death in 1906. During this time, he painted some of his most famous canvasses. It can be said that Cézanne formed the bridge between late 19th century Impressionism and the early 20th century’s new endeavor, Cubism.
Aix-en-Provence has marked out a wonderful walking tour called “In the footsteps of Cézanne” that will take you through the places in Aix that are associated with the artist’s life and work. Visit his atelier, the Musee Granet's Paul Cézanne room that holds nine paintings depicting Aix en Provence as well as paintings from the artists who visited him in his Atelier, landmarks of his early years, places that inspired him, the addresses of his family and acquaintances, and cafés where he met his friends and other artists.
Villa Gallici Wine Tasting
Upon your return to the hotel, enjoy an early evening wine tasting hosted by local winemakers in the most prestigious Wine Cellar in the region, uniquely designed in the shape of a decanter and featuring over 180 exceptional labels on its wine list.
Make sure to taste some local Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence A.O.C. rosé wines during your stay (duh).
The Maitre d’Hotel has a passion for enology and he will be at your disposal for recommendations, or if you wish to select some bottles of wine to bring home to commemorate your visit to Provence.
Dinner Recommendations in Aix-en-Provence
Following your wine tasting head to one of these amazing restaurants for dinner; the concierge will assist in making reservations for you.
The Michelin-starred Mickaël Féval is a fabulous option for seasonal, locally inspired cuisine in the heart of Aix-en-Provence.
Also under the same ownership, is the recently opened Restaurant Molène which focuses more on local seafood dishes.
Day 2: Experience Provence and Wine Tasting
Enjoy Morning Pastries & Markets
In a country renowned for its pastries, it's hard to go wrong as you take in the sweet scents of fresh baked goods but don't miss a visit to Pâtisserie Béchard located on the town's main boulevard of Cours Mirabeau.
After breakfast, enjoy the Provencal Markets like the morning flower market on the Place de la Mairie, and then enjoy the seasonal goodness and local vendors around the Palais de Justice and Place des Precheurs.
Meet your English speaking driver and guide back in the lobby of your hotel and depart for a full day gourmet wine tasting experience arranged by your wine expert and sommelier.
Based on your preferences, you can choose such excursions as a visit to a reputed goat farm for a cheese tasting where the cheesemaker was awarded best cheese in France, or an olive oil tasting and presentation at a local olive mill as Provencal olive oils are excellent.
You will explore some of the best vineyards and cellars in the region for wine tastings where you can sample the regions reds, whites, and famed rosés.
For lunch, you may opt for a local restaurant recommendation or a picnic in a vineyard. Make sure to stop to view some of the lavender and sunflower fields in the area if you are visiting in the summer months.
Then on to explore Les-Baux-de-Provence, named one of the most beautiful villages in France. It is a medieval village that sits in in the Alpilles mountains, crowned with a ruined castle overlooking the Provencal plains. Aside from the village, try to check out Chateau-Fortress de Bau, Eglise St-Vincent, and the Musee des Santons.
The day would not be complete without a visit to one of the top French chocolatiers where you can expect unique chocolate recipes such as chocolate and lavender flowers from Provence or dark chocolate and fresh basil.
Some Recommended Vineyards for Wine-Tasting:
- Château la Coste: about 20 minute-drive from Villa Gallici and a stone’s throw north of Aix-en-Provence, between forests of green and white oaks, meadows of almond trees and swathes of wildly growing flowers. The rhythm of an eternal Provence.
- A vast land of wooded hilltops, olive groves and 250 acres of meticulously tended vines. The fields sweep into the distance, swerving as they follow the whim of the hillsides.
- Farm buildings and workers’ houses come together around a square, shaded by an ancient plane tree, giving a village-like feel. At the heart of the domaine, a lovely Venetian villa of rose pink hue has stood since 1682.
- Visitors here will receive an introduction to all the steps of wine making and learn how organic principles are implemented at Château La Coste. They will also have the opportunity to taste the white, red and rosé wines produced on the domaine.
- Domaine d’Estoublon: about 1 hour-drive from Villa Gallici in the Baux Valley at the heart of Provence, Château d'Estoublon enthusiastically carries on the tradition of exceptional olive oil and sun-drenched wine. From the cultivation of fruit - olives and grapes - each of the steps of the process is carried out by Estoublon. Grapes and olives are grown and processed using organic farming techniques and manufacturing processes.
- Domaine de Calissanne : about 1 hour-drive from Villa Gallici
- Domaine Pey Blanc : about 1 hour-drive from Villa Gallici
Cooking Class Dinner
Return to Aix-en-Provence and further your discovery of French Gastronomy with either a public or private cooking class at Atelier de Mathilde located just a 10 minute walk from Villa Gallici.
The public cooking class is already planned by Mathilde, but for private classes, you can create your own menu.
You have the option of cooking a full menu with starter, entree and dessert, or only dessert- it's up to you! It makes for a fun dinner, and you can bring the tastes of Provence home with you to recreate in your own kitchen.
Day 3: Marseille
Grab an early breakfast at your hotel
Provence by Balloon
Start your day off early with hot air balloon ride over Provence. This is an amazing way to see its landscape of hilltop villages, lavender fields, wild sage and other hidden treasures.
*Balloon rides only take place in the morning, as in the afternoon weather conditions are not favorable
Off to Marseille
Founded by the Greeks 2600 years ago, Marseille is France’s oldest town and second largest city. Today, the city is still dependent on the port for its revenue and is dominated by fishing boats and people selling fresh produce.
Marseille is cut in half by La Canebière, one of the main shopping streets, which runs west to east from the Vieux Port. The city is divided into 15 arrondissements, ranging from gentrified to run-down, and is famed for its fish-dominated culinary menu and its potent aniseed tipple called pastis.
The exclusivity increases as you head further south to the corniche and Prado, the city’s best beach.
Your driver guide will take you to the Old Port, where you can visit the 100 year old fish market and grab a light bite, or head to a waterfront cafe for a quick croissant and cafe au lait before you board your boat for a cruise.
Boat Cruise of Marseille
Discover Marseille and the wonders of the Riviera from a beautiful boat. Starting from the Old Port of Marseille you will enjoy the Calanques National Park, the Bay of Marseille, the charming town of Cassis, the Frioul Archipelago and the Château d'If castle.
Dinner on the Water
Enjoy a fantastic dinner with a view at Péron where you can enjoy the sunset and an amazing Bouillabaisse if you are a seafood fan.
*Have your concierge book this in advance to ensure you get a table with a great view!
If you'd like to grab a cocktail before your drive back to the hotel, I recommend La Petit Pavillion.
Head back to your hotel
Your driver guide will take you back to your hotel in Aix.
Day 4: Relaxing in Aix
Enjoy Breakfast on the Terrace at Villa Gallici
Villa Gallici's renowned restaurant serves Provençal, French and Mediterranean specialties — ask to dine on the tree-lined terrace for a special experience (weather permitting).
*In summer, breakfast, lunch and dinner are served on the terrace or the nearby pool; in winter, meals are served in intimate and elegant dining rooms with fireplaces.
Head to the Spa
The best way to wrap up your trip is with a visit to the Spa at Villa Gallici where a “doctor en Beauté” will tailor both beauty and wellness experiences to your individual needs. The brand-new Spa, housed in a beautifully decorated 18th Century Pavilion is located in the heart of the magnificent French Style Gardens of the Villa Gallici, next to the swimming pool.
Feel free to enjoy a refreshing dip before or after your treatment!
Shopping in Aix
Before you head out of town, enjoy the charming shops along the Cours Mirabeau and the Allées Provencales. You'll find everything from local boutiques to jewelers such as Agnes Pelllegin, Rolex, and Bellini and department stores like Longchamps, Eres, Yolaine Messali, Corneliani.
Your Guide Will Escort You to the Airport/ Train Station for Your Departure
* All images of La Villa Gallici are courtesy of Relais & Châteaux, all other images are courtesy of Chelsea Johnson/Alair Travel.