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The Huguenot Tradition in Southern France

Bourdeaux depuis le sentier


We'll travel through the villages and cities known to the Huguenots in this late spring tour through the Rhône Valley and Provence in southern France. We start in Lyon, at the confluence of the Sâone and Rhône rivers and a center of Huguenot resistance, with its riverwalks, its sixteenth-century residences and passageways, its eateries and the people-watching in the city's main squares. We continue in our private minibus to the province of Drôme, visit the tower at Crest, the Museum of Protestantism of the Dauphiné at Le Poët-Laval, stroll below the castle walls at Bourdeaux, and talk a short walk through the woods, wheat and lavender fields on the Huguenot Trail. We'll visit the castle at Grignan, where Madame de Sévigny wrote her letters about French life and politics in the 1600s, and continue to Avignon to see the fourteenth-century Castle of the Popes, where the papacy remained in a century-long exile from Rome. We visit Roman era architecture, including the aquaduct of the Pont-du-Gard, and the arena at Arles, plus the medieval walls and the Tour de Constance at Aigues-Mortes, where Huguenot women, including Marie Durand, were imprisoned in the 1700s. We spend two nights at Marseille, France's second largest city with a history dating to the ancient Greeks, and take a cruise to the island of the Château d'If, the site of the fictonal emprisonment in Alexandre Dumas's Count of Monte Cristo and the real site at which hundreds of Huguenot men were incarcerated and then sent to row in the royal galleys. We'll enjoy a mix of villages, cities, castles, quaint streets and good food.


Lyon mairie


Monday, May 15, 2017

Participants arrive on overnight flights and are met by Mark McMeley, the tour conductor, at the Antoine de St.-Éxupéry Airport in Lyon or at the Lyon railway stations for those connecting by high-speed train from the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. Rest of the day and evening to relax and enjoy a stroll along the rivers with our group.

Dinner and lodging in Lyon.


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

All breakfasts during the trip, including this morning's, are self-serve continental style and are included in the program price. After breakfast, we'll take a guided walking tour in English of the Presqu'île, the heart of Lyon, to the Hôtel de Ville (city hall) and the edge of the old silk merchants' district, then to the Fourvière on the opposite side of the Sâone River, where we'll visit a few of the traboules, the sixteenth-century passageways linking residential buildings. We'll take the funicular railway to the Basilica of Fourvière, with a panoramic view of the city. The rest of the afternoon is free, or you may join Mark to explore the Tête d'Or Park and the many food shops and small restaurants all under one roof at Les Halles de Lyon.

Dinner and lodging in Lyon.

Lyon Rhone nuit



Wednesday, May 17, 2017

We depart in our private minibus this morning for the department (province) of Drôme, a rugged area of hills and forests that provided refuge to Huguenots during periods of persecution in the 1600s and 1700s. The first stop is the tower at Crest, the tallest medieval defensive structure in France and a prison for religious minorities and political opponents until the 1800s, now open to the public with a panoramic view of the countryside. We see the twelth-century church at Comps, enter the village of Bourdeaux for lunch and walk around the town's historic district, visiting one or two of the family cemeteries that were typical of periods when Catholics and Protestants buried their dead separately. Next we'll drive to Le Poët-Laval, a beautiful hilltop village and the location of the Museum of Protestantism of the Dauphiné, housed in a former church from the early 1600s, then take a short walk on the Huguenot Trail.

Dinner and lodging in Grignan, or nearby.

Le Poet Laval champ de lavande Grignan chateau Comps champ de ble


Arrest de la Souveraine Cour


Thursday, May 18, 2017

This morning we will visit the Castle of Grignan, a medieval fortress turned into a sumptuous residence in the 1600s and fully restored in the 1900s. Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, the Marquise de Sévigné, wrote many of her letters here on the life of the French aristocracy in the 1600s, letters which are important to French literature.

Avignon rose

After lunch we continue to Avignon, and visit the Palace of the Popes, the official residency of the papacy during the 1300s. We'll walk along the stone ramparts which protected the city since the Middle Ages, and get a view of the Rhône River and the remains of the Bridge of Avignon from the Rocher des Doms park. We'll stop at the Pont du Gard, a masterpiece of ancient Roman engineering and one of the best preserved examples of ancient architecture in the late afternoon.

Dinner and lodging in or near Nîmes or Arles.


Pont du Gard


Friday, May 19, 2017


This morning we visit Arles, near the mouth of the Rhône River, a regional capital of the Roman Empire which still retains its impressive Arena and the remains of the ancient baths much appreciated by the Emperor Constantine. Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh spent two of his most important years here, capturing the light, the landscape and the people of Arles and the surrounding countryside, until his increasing mental illness required his hospitalization at nearby Saint-Rémy.



We'll continue to Aigues-Mortes, the naval port built by King Louis IX (Saint Louis) to extend his realm to the Mediterranean, among the marshes and salt ponds that still make up the landscape. The town's ramparts are well preserved, and we'll visit them along with the Constance Tower, a fortification best known as the prison for the leaders of the Knights Templar (after the king feared they had become too powerful) and for Protestant women during the 1700s, most notably Marie Durand, emprisoned here for 38 years and perhaps the one who etched the word "Résister" ("Resist") on the dungeon wall.

Dinner and lodging in or near Nîmes or Arles.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

After breakfast we'll head to Mérindol, the site of the 1545 massacre of Waldenses ordered by King Francis I. A small monument memorializes the hundreds or thousands killed. We'll continue to Aix-en-Provence, the hometown of post-impressionist painter Paul Cézanne, who depicted the light and colors of the surrounding hills and initiated the move to modern art. We'll visit the old quarter, stop at the cathedral, and enjoy a picnic lunch with a view of the Sainte-Victoire hill, one of Cézanne's favorite subjects.

Dinner and lodging in or near Marseille.




Marseille Vieux Port

Sunday, May 21, 2017

We spend today exploring Marseille, from the Basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde, with its imposing view from the city's highest point, to the island of the Château d'If, the fortress and prison memorialized in French history and in the fiction of Alexandre Dumas. We'll enter the new Museum of the Civilizations of the Mediterranean, pass through the Fortress of St. Jean protecting the city, and walk through the Old Port. In the afternoon we'll take a drive to the Calanques, the limestone cliffs and inlets that cut into city's southeast coastline. We'll enjoy the cooking of Marseille that derives its flavors from the sea and from the cultures that have crossed paths here.

Dinner and lodging in or near Marseille.

Marseille port entree


Monday, May 22, 2017

We leave Marseille and Provence on our minibus this morning to make our way back to Lyon, roughly three hours driving time away. We'll check into the hotel and enjoy a last evening in the city before departure the next day.

Dinner and lodging in Lyon.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Mark will accompany tour participants to one of the Lyon train stations or to Lyon's St.-Éxupéry airport. Those returning to North America should arrive home the same day.



Fees and payments

Bourdeaux pizza

Costs for this eight-night program are 2900 U.S. dollars per person for a double-occupancy room, and 3400 U.S. dollars for a single occupancy room. Fee includes lodging in tourist class hotels and lodges with continental breakfast buffets, all local transportation in France as described in the itinerary, museum entrances as detailed, accompaniment from arrival in Lyon to departure in Lyon by a multilingual guide, and local bilingual guides as detailed. Fee does not include international airfare, lunches or dinners, travel insurance, or tips.

A deposit of 500 U.S. dollars is due on March 1, 2017. The balance is due on April 1, 2017. Fees are to be paid by check or interbank wire transfer to River Plate Seminars.