Next Meetup

Holiday in beautiful sun-soaked Provence, France. 8 nights. Aug 29 to Sept 6 Provence, in the south of France, is such a special place! I have been hosting guests here for 14 years and have put together for my fellow ‘Meetupers’ a trip containing all the very best things to see, do and enjoy: things to thrill the heart, mind, body and soul. The holiday consists of four full ‘special activity’ days interspersed with three ‘at home’ days of pure relaxation in the sunshine of the south. We will explore ‘Europe’s Grand Canyon’, visit medieval villages and towns and their craft markets, cruise the Gulf of Saint-Tropez on our own motor launch, walk amongst the olive groves and vineyards, and throughout, enjoy the culture and culinary delights of the Mediterranean cafes and restaurants. And when all of that is too much we’ll just sit in the garden under the fig tree by the pool or on a park bench outside the front door of the house and chat to the locals. Luxury accommodation is offered by ‘La Maison du Faiencier’. Built in 1609 and renovated in 2004 it offers six large double bedrooms each with their own walk-in shower rooms. It has flagstone floors, vaulted ceilings, exposed stone walls and huge wooden-beamed ceilings. Situated on the main ‘Place’ of the hill-top village you walk out of the front door and it’s instantly ‘France in your face’ with the café-bar, boulangerie and village fountain just meters away. During the holiday I will be your host, guide and driver and Sophie, a local professional chef, will prepare our ‘at home’ day three-course suppers prepared in the traditional Provencal way. The itinerary below lists the places we plan to spend our time. An internet search will supply a plethora of detail and photos on each. On YouTube under the channel title ‘LaMaisonduFaiencier’ there is a photo montage of the accommodation and 12 interviews with previous regular clients. You will see that the direct flight to Marseille is from Gatwick. I’ve investigated all the options and this arrangement is by far the best. Wednesday 29th August Depart Gatwick airport 17:35 arrive Marseilles 20:30 Meet and greet and drive an hour north into the hills to the village of Varages. Settle in and light supper. Thursday 30th August A day at the Gorges du Verdon. The ‘Gorges du Verdon’, is known as the ‘Grand Canyon of Europe’. It’s a series of lakes and rivers in total 25 kilometres long and in some places 700 meters deep. Nestled at the foothills of the Alpes it’s about 30 minutes drive north of our village. Our first stop off will be the little lake-side village of Sainte-Croix-du-Verdon where we can swim, paddle a boat or just enjoy a walk along the beach. After a picnic lunch by the lake-side edge we’ll drive through the lavender fields of the Plateau de Valensole to the medieval village of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie. This is France’s ‘capital of Ceramics’ and understandably classed as one of it’s ‘most beautiful of villages’. When we’ve had enough of exploring, sightseeing and shopping in the many craft shops we will settle into our comfortable restaurant for our aperitif and … eventually supper. Friday 31st August ‘At home’ day. A chance to kick back and relax. Saturday 1st September A day in the city. According to ‘Lonely Planet’ Aix-en-Provence is “A pocket of left-bank Parisian chic … all class”. And we’re going on one of the best days possible … market day, when the centre is given over to milling crowds enjoying the sights and smells of artisanal workmanship and fresh produce from the south’s near neighbours … Spain, Italy, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia. After a leisurely light lunch in one of the many brasseries in town, we will be taken on a guided tour of the city and introduced to it’s history, monuments, architecture and most famous residents … Paul Cezanne the painter and Emile Zola the novelist. The tour costs €30pp. Then it’s time for tea in ‘Le Café Grillon’ with its magnificent murals and oval first floor gallery. We sit at the tables on the street people-watching whilst the bourgeois of Aix promenade up and down the tree-lined ‘Cours Mirabeau’. Before supper there’s still time to visit the town’s museum or art gallery or shop for gifts of Lavender or ‘Calisson’ the local sweet made from ground almonds and candied fruit. Our evening is spent in a small back street restaurant called ‘Le Bistro’. We’ll book early as it’s very popular with the locals. Sunday 2nd September ‘At home’ day. Monday 3rd September A day of culture : The day will be centred around a visit to the ‘Carrières de Lumières’ and (a short walk away) the Château des Baux-de-Provence. The ‘Carrieres’ is a former limestone quarry and is of a size to rival any cathedral. It has been transformed into the most amazing sound and light ‘art gallery’. In 2017 they featured the fantastic and wonderful work of the 16th century artists Bosch, Brueghel and Arcimboldo and a short film that pays tribute to Georges Méliès, an ingenious filmmaker and inventor of the twentieth century. They have not yet published which artist’s work will be featured in 2018. Friends who’ve visited on previous years were reduced to tears by the exposition! The combined ticket to the ‘art gallery’ and Castle is €18 pp On the way there we will visit Chateau Vignelaure, a producer of some of the finest red and rosé wines in the South East. We will be shown around the domain, have the growing and production process explained to us, sample their various wines and then have the chance to buy a bottle or two. Early evening we travel a short distance from Beau to the village of Maussane-Les-Alpilles for our evening meal in the main square of this gorgeous little village. Tuesday 4th September ‘At home’ day. Wednesday 5th September A day on the Riviera : I have the opportunity to charter a ‘Hagg’ motor launch which is moored in Sainte-Maxime on the Côte D’Azur. Having welcomed us all aboard the skipper will head off into the Gulf of Saint-Tropez, take us to and through Port Grimaud (the Riviera’s version of Venice with a labyrinth of water ways and traditional French fisherman's houses, each with a personal boat mooring space at the end of the garden) and then on, dropping anchor at the skipper’s favourite place to swim and picnic. It happens to be a stone’s throw from the water-side residence of Bridget Bardot. Our picnic over, the skipper will take us into the old port of Saint-Tropez, famous since the ‘60s when the fishing village became a ‘jet set’ favourite, drop us off and wait till we’ve had our fill of sight seeing and shopping. The last time we were there we ‘bumped into’ Karl Lagerfeld (creative director of Chanel) and his ‘entourage’ taking photos in one of the backstreets. Late afternoon we’ll motor back to the port of Sainte-Maxime, settle ourselves into a nice little sea-front café for pre-dinner drinks and then wander up into the heart of the village to our hugely popular local restaurant ‘Maison Bleue’, where we’ll spend the evening. Boat trip €50pp. Thursday 6th September Pack and leave for Marseille airport Depart Marseille airport at 11.25am arrive at Gatwick 12.15pm. Holiday cost : £775 per person based on two people sharing a twin room. There is a single supplement of £150. The non-returnable deposit (as detailed below) is £100. The payment balance of £675 (plus single room supplement if required) is due eight weeks before the holiday. Flight cost : £67.00 return Easyjet flight Gatwick to Marseille (based on the cost for the June holiday. Flights for Aug-Sept were not yet published at the time of writing) Included : luxury accommodation, all ‘at home’ day meals and drinks including Sophie’s suppers, continental breakfast with fruit and yogurt, beach and boat picnics, fully organised itineraries for the ‘activity days’, full-time general guide, ground transport with driver when in France. Not included : Meals and drinks when out on ‘Special activity’ days. The cost of the three activities mentioned in the itinerary. Booking details : Please indicate your interest in an email to me at [masked]. You can reserve a place with the payment of a deposit of £100 by bank transfer. As soon as the minimum number for the trip have booked I will let you know that it is okay to book your flight. In the unlikely event that the minimum number do not book, the holiday will be cancelled and (if paid) your deposit of £100 returned. Otherwise your reservation will be carried forward to the same dates in 2019. Please don't forget to RSVP on this site.

La Maison du Faiencier

Place de la Liberation, · Varages

What we're about

This is an extension of 'The Bournemouth French & English Language Exchange' which I started at the end of last year when in Bournemouth. The group was intended for all who wanted to practice their French (for the first hour of the evening) and then for others in the group to practise their English (in the second hour).

It was great fun and within no time there with 47 members. Typically each of the English speaking members had some kind of link with France … a longing to move one day down south, needing to perfect their languages skills for a job, holidaying often in the south of France and wanting to keep the vocabulary fresh in their heads. When I left one of the new members, Dany, took over the group.

The aim of this new group "The 'in-love' with all things Mediterranean Group" is just the same as the ‘Exchange’. The ideal member will be someone in love with the south of France and who would welcome the opportunity to spend time ‘in the thick’ of the rich culture and language to be found there.

The ideal member wants to ‘jump in at the deep end’ and be exposed to a variety of in-depth French experiences. All the time whilst having a fun holiday and learning the inside story about the place, the people, the life-style and the language from those - locals or expats - who live and work there.

We will ‘kick off’ with a late summer holiday which will give an ‘overview’ of the stunning countryside, history, architecture, culture and language of this amazing area.

For later on, there are planned activities which will include in-depth experiences of the fauna and flora of the Gorge du Verdon and Camarge, the architecture of the cities of Aix-en-Provence and Nice, the process of wine growing in a selection of specialist wine domains, and the history of the medieval villages and the Riviera.

Join with us and share your love of all things Mediterranean and meet lots of new friends along the way!

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