Loading...
%AM, %06 %370 %2017 %07:%Sep

Cruise Ship Excursions

Unique Provence is renowned for its luxury custom made itineraries covering the South of France and beyond. Our intimate knowledge of the region allows us to offer made to measure programs designed for each of our clients.

The same care and attention is applied to the private day tours that we organise for guests arriving in the South of France aboard cruise ships. With over 1,5 million passengers arriving each year in Marseille alone, we have created a network of the best local driver guides, including our own of course, to be able to offer a one stop booking point for day tours across Provence and the French Riviera. 

Cooking classes, history tours, city tours, active touring in Marseille, Cannes, Nice, St Tropez and Monaco

City tours, wine tours, cooking classes, hiking and biking, the choice is yours. From Monaco, Nice, Cannes, Toulon, St Tropez, Marseille and Sete we have a selection of itineraries, activities and experiences to suit every taste. 

If you want to know more or would like to book a day tour with Unique Provence write to us using our contact form here

 

 

Published in News
%AM, %30 %041 %-0001 %00:%Nov

We're on the WOW List!

At Unique Provence we are delighted to announce that Philip Haslett has been chosen by Wendy Perrin to be one of her WOW list of Trusted Travel Experts for France with a specialisation for Provence and the Riviera.

Check out his page here : http://www.wendyperrin.com/contact/philip-haslett/ and read his reviews here: http://www.wendyperrin.com/reviews/philip-haslett/

Philip grew accustomed to witnessing the jaw-dropping awe of travellers as they experience once in a lifetime moments, from the moment his career started 30 years ago. Whether navigating the skies in hot air balloons, plying the waterways of France as captain of luxury hotel barges or leading tours on the roads of France, Philip has spent all of his working life accompanying travellers as they experience the unique and unbelievable. 

Philip Haslett Ballooning in Provence and Barging in Burgundy

Philip drew on those 25 years of experience in unique and outstanding travel experiences to assemble all the necessary ingredients for the creation of Unique Provence specialized in curated, luxury travel in Provence, which he launched in 2011.

 Philip brings a lifetime of experience “off the beaten track” to his agency specialized in luxury travel services in the South of France as well as all other regions of France thanks to his team of experts.

 Whether you need to create a unique tour for your clients, offer exclusive concierge services to clients residing in villas, or on yachts, Philip’s network with Chefs, artisans, cheese makers, yacht captains, hotel managers, guides and the locals goes well beyond a working one and it is this personal relationship that he has with his suppliers that adds the “human” element that creates the memories in a great travel itinerary.

 Specialised in in Provence and the Riviera where he is based, Philip offers his services across the country thanks to his team of experts, allowing for seamless itineraries from region to region. He can set you up with a wine tasting at Petrus, dinner at the Louis XV (and why not meet the chef!), afternoon tea with a marquis in the Dordogne and a flight in a hot air balloon over an extinct volcano in the Auvergne before heading to Cannes to board your yacht for a week long private cruise complete with shore excursions including behind the scenes touring, cooking classes, hands on workshops with local artisans and maybe a final party in a private vineyard in St Tropez before heading home!

 For unique itineraries and experiences and services in Provence and the Riviera and the rest of France, send us an email and we will reveal some of our secrets : This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Published in News

Now the sun has made its comeback after a long cold and wet winter, it is time for me to get back on the road to bring you some of the hidden secrets and some not so secret but so beautiful that they can't be missed when you come to visit Provence.

Dry stone construction is very commonplace across Europe. When man had to build a wall or a hut without cement, he soon figured out the way to master dry stone construction techniques.  In Provence dry stone construction is everywhere. In Gordes you can see the impressive walls as you drive up to the village, there is of course the Village des Bories, the word "Borie" being the name for a dry stone hut, usually round but sometimes square.  In La Haute Provence, especially around the villages of Forcalquier and Mane there are "Bories" (which locally they can Cabanons Pointus) scattered around the woods and hills and are often the surprise encounters of an afternoon walk, but as you approach the higher ground of the Montagne de Lure and its surrounding hills then things become serious! 

The construction of dry stone huts was at its high point in the 19th century. Shepherds would build them to keep their stores, tools and even a sick sheep, the huts would keep them dry and warm in the winter and keep them cool and give them protection from the powerful sun in the Summer. The ones around Forcalquier and Mane didn't need to be too big as they were only really used during the day but as you went further from habitations the huts became barns and marvels of dry stone architecture.  On the area around the Montagne de Lure around 130 of these constructions were built. The main construction was either of several Cabanons alongside each other with an arch way between each instead of a solid wall. They were big enough to shelter the flock, alongside was a smaller one for the shepherd, which had a fire place to cook and keep warm. A wall was constructed with one or two entrances to keep the flock in at night and the predators out.

The photo shown are of the Bergerie de la Gardette near the village of Saumane, scene of my familly picnic yesterday. In the summer Mr Vinatier, the owner brings his flock of 600 sheep up to graze and the Bergerie relives its past. 

There many other Bergeries in the area, notably on the Contadour. In association with local hotels and hiking guides we have put together a unique programme with a discovery of the buildings followed by a  candlelit supper in side one of the larger ones. This can be followed by a star gazing session with Slim Hamdani the astrophysician.

  Don't hesitate to contact us for more information.

Published in Experiences
%PM, %30 %622 %2013 %13:%May

Hot Air Ballooning in Provence

I never thought I would ever write an article on Hot Air Ballooning in Provence! Don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't like it, au contraire, I have been flying hot air balloons commercially in France since 1991 and I continue to do so on an occasional basis as it is in my blood!
However there is one thing that I do not enjoy, or at least I had convinced myself something to that effect, and that is being a passenger. This is why I have only ever been in the passenger seat two or three times in the last 22 years and that is why I could never write an article on the joys of a Hot Air Balloon ride in Provence, because my perspective is that of a pilot. 
Last week all that changed...

I had booked places for a balloon ride in Provence as I was receiving a journalist and there is no better way to admire the region than on a hot air balloon ride and of course this meant that I would have to  fly as well. 
I met the balloon team at 06:15AM and remembered another reason why I had stopped ballooning full time! The balloon we were flying in was the biggest of France Montgolfières balloon fleet and the latest of the L'Occitane en Provence hot air balloons. 
The pilot was Max Duncomb who I have known for a long time (we both worked as ground crew for Buddy Bombard's balloon adventures in 1990) so I knew I was in good hands. 
Max has a vast experience and has flown all over the world, but watching him prepare the balloon, inspect it and inflate it as a mere onlooker just seemed a bit strange, but very soon a bizarre transformation occurred and I became a passenger, I listened to the pre flight safety briefing instead of purposely chatting to the crew just to show that I knew it all. I felt strangely excited as the huge balloon left the ground and slowly took the skies, even though I had done so as a pilot well over a thousand times. I marvelled at the Alps, silhouetted in the distance, photographed the Mont Ventoux and the Montagne de Lure for the umpteenth time. I even think I went "wow" as Max demonstrated  his skill as he played in the gardens of the Prieuré de Salagon, barely brushing the treetops. I waved to onlookers and I nearly clapped at the perfectly smooth landing (some claim that I did, but that is pushing it a bit!).

I really enjoyed it, and will do it again, as a passenger but only if I am sure of the experience of the person flying the balloon, which is a no brainer! Luckily France Montgolfières has the strictest rules for pilot selection in the country, every pilot has experience outside of France stretching across the five continents. The in house training is rigorous and the company has been around and has an unblemished record for over 25 years which in itself is almost enough. Of course I have worked for them for many years and so my appreciation could be considered biased by some. It is not. However I do work with other balloon companies in Provence whom I have flown with and can vouch for personally. Their links are at the bottom of this post.  Hot Air Ballooning in Provence is magical, the weather is more often than not perfect (OK this Spring has been wet windy and generally awful, but it is very green!) and you really can see the Alps and the Mediterranean from the basket on a clear day. Flights are only programmed in the mornings so be ready for a ridiculously early wake up call, but it is worth every minute! When I was flying I used to get asked questions on the best times of the year to fly etc. and my answers would be fairly vague as we needed passengers all year round, so I would sell the merits of all the seasons, never putting one ahead of another. But there are a few moments in the year not to be missed, and these are mine in order of preference. 

 

  1. The end of Spring/ beginning of Summer. (end of May and beginning of June... ie. Now)  After the spring showers (this year it's downpours) the nature in Provence comes to life like nowhere else. Wild orchids, flowering thyme, the bright green fresh leaves on the local stumpy oaks, little lambs gambolling in the fields (they go great with the wild thyme!), the last snow on the Alps and because the temperatures are not at their maximum there is less haze and the visibility is often very good. 
  2. Mid-Autumn. Haute Provence, indeed Provence in general,  is a very wooded area, and the trees are mostly deciduous. The colours of Autumn are stunning and the other added advantage is that the sun rises later so the morning wake up call is a bit more civilised! To see what I mean about the colours see this post : Autumn Colours of the Luberon
  3. The Lavender season. First of all let me issue a warning. Since Hot Air Balloons cannot be steered, there is no guarantee that you will fly over a Lavender field. But to tell you the truth it doesn't really matter. The pilot will always try to choose a take off spot which will allow you to fly over the fields but as you climb up into the sky you don't look down, you look around you, and there you will see the purple fields making up the patchwork of Provence. Once you have flown and have been able to appreciate the importance of the lavender harvest, then I recommend you get in your car (or book a tour with me!) and discover the lavender close up. Ballooning allows you to see things from a different point of view, and to approach things from a safe distance (like lions in the Masai Mara). But when it comes to a crop like lavender in Provence, or vines in Burgundy you get an overall vision of the beauty of the region before discovering it by yourself  on the ground, which is not as easy with the lions in the Masai Mara!
  4. The rest of the year! Yes, although the highlights of the season are listed above ballooning in Provence is always a magical moment and is a "must do" when you next visit.

Published in Experiences

In 2014 we have a new tour programmed based on Fiona McIntosh’s novel The Lavender Keeper , a story that takes place in occupied France and notably in Provence where the main character, Luc Bonet, is a lavender farmer before becoming a resistance fighter. I started searching for resistance related sites in the region and during my foray into this passionate, tragic and heroic part of France’s history I heard of an event that took place near the beautiful hilltop village of Simiane La Rotonde. 

L'AVION Not far from Simiane is the hamlet of Chavon and close to there is an area hidden from view once used by the local Resistance fighters, who went under the name “Abatteur” (Slaughterman), for the reception of weapons and supplies parachuted by the allies. These weapons were then used in actions against the Nazi occupiers during which many resistance fighters lost their lives. The Abatteur group comprised 7 men and their main role was the reception of weapons for the resistance movement. They were under the control of the section for landings and parachuting known as the  S.A.P. (Section Atterrissage Parachutage).  The drop zone area is now covered in lavender and a rather forlorn sign indicates its whereabouts. On the night of the 10th May 1944 a tragic event took place that would profoundly affect the Abatteur group and to this day leaves no one indifferent to the horrors of World War II and indeed any war. The section chief had received a coded message on Radio London that a parachute drop of weapons was to take place on the night of the 10th May 1944. He summoned his group and they lit the three beacons for the plane on the drop zone. Unknown to them a British bombing raid was taking place over Valance that night and one of the Wellington Bombers from this raid saw the beacons. The bomber in question had probably been severely damaged by anti-aircraft fire and was looking for somewhere to land as the return home seemed impossible. Seeing the beacons and mistaking them as a Resistance landing strip they decided to give the landing a go. On the field the seven men from the resistance group saw the plane fly over at 2am, disappear and then come back at low altitude and seemingly at full throttle only to watch it crash into the valley below, now named “La Combe de L’Avion”, The Airplane Valley. After the crash there was a moment of silence and the men hurried down to see if there were any survivors, but the silence was brief and a series of explosions and detonations followed and the zone was too hot to approach.

At dawn the wreckage revealed the carbonised remains of the four crew at the front of the plane where the heat was such that even their identity plaques had melted. The identity of the fifth crew member, the gunner, Eric Howell,  in the tail section was readable and it was this name that allowed the authorities to later identify the rest of the crew. What shocked the resistance group was that Eric Howell was only 22 years old, the same age as them. The burial of their remains was overseen by the section chief René Char and the rest of the plane was dismantled and hidden from sight under branches and forest debris. The men then returned to their duties receiving weapons as the war raged on. But that night was never forgotten and as soon as the war ended a monument was put up in valley in their memory. In 1994 a team from the BBC found the families of the lost airmen and took them to the site, but I cannot find any information on this event, if any one knows anything use the comments below of send me an email. Every year on the 10th of May a commemoration ceremony takes place in the Combe de l’Avion to remember those who died there on that tragic night.

 

The site can be reached on foot from Chavon though it is not easy to find the start of the sign posted trail. I asked a farmer who, like everyone in the hamlet showed me immediately where it was.

Once you see the signs that read “Avion”, Airplane,  you are on your way. It is about a mile walk from the first sign. As you walk you pass the drop zone (photo above) and the beauty of provence is all around. Lavender fields, dry stone ruins, wild thyme and a myriad of butterflies reveal themselves as you walk. When you reach the site you first see the monument with the inscription which translates “To the five airmen from the Royal Air Force who fell on the 10th May 1944 for the triumph of liberty. Simiane is grateful”

 

Just beyond the monument is a statue made of the remains of the plane, some melted all held together by bits of wire, but despite its somewhat rustic aspect, one can’t help but be moved by the reality of the events  that took place here all those years ago.  The names of all the members of the crew are on a plaque below the statue and five plaques can be found spread around the site with their names repeated, maybe symbolising where they were found on that tragic night.

Below are some details of the remains of the plane, note the melted piece in the centre photo.
Their names were John Huggler 29 years old, pilot ; Harry Lane 28 years old, navigator ; Neville Green 21 years old, radio; Walter Jackson 21 years old, bomber ; Eric Howell 22 years old, rear gunner.

The names of the Resistance Group Abatteur were Raoul Aubert ; Edmée Carretier ; Héloïs Castor ; Kléber Guillermin ; Pierre Inderkumen ; Léon Michel and Norbert Vincent. If you would like to see this and other sites dedicated to the resistance movement in Provence contact me using the link on the left. Also I recommend reading Fiona McIntosh’s novel “The Lavender Keeper” . You can visit her web site here. http://www.fionamcintosh.com/

 

Published in Experiences

I could not wipe the smile off my face for the first two hours of my cooking class with Michelin starred chef René Bérard in his beautiful domain in the Var region of Provence, la "Bastide des Saveurs". 

This first class chef is in the business of transmitting the real Provence experience with utmost authenticity … and, like the other 5 novice students participating that day, I was under his spell.
My equally as entranced colleague Linda enjoyed capturing the details of Mr. Bérard’s rustic kitchen décor, from its jarred herbs and spices to its copper pans and Provençal tiles... not to mention Mr. Bérard's very attentive little spaniel named Gribouille.
Mr. Bérard organizes his classes by theme and our session was focused on dessert. More than six different desserts were concocted by our group of 5 novice students, from lemon meringue pie to crème patissière, chocolate moelleux cakes and caramelized apples. Learning (just a few of) the tricks of Mr. Bérard’s trade was fascinating. And as if weren’t enough to be swept off our feet by Mr. Bérard’s jovial nature and continual joke-telling, the moment of ultimate enjoyment came when we wrapped up our fourth hour of cooking and walked outside to the most quintessentially Provençal table setting my imagination could have depicted.
Giving classes in La Cadière d’Azur, this charming small town of 5,000 inhabitants, is a feat Mr. Bérard particularly takes to heart as this is where he was born and raised. Having celebrated his 70th birthday not too long ago, Mr. Bérard ensured the transmission of talent and family cooking secrets, via his son Jean-François who now runs a nearby restaurant also owned by the family.
Many thanks to Stéphane Zanarelli for organising this opportunity for Linda and myself. If a cooking class with René Bérard interests you, don't hesitate to contact us using the link on the right.

Published in Experiences
%AM, %20 %041 %2016 %00:%Feb

Private Events

Let the Party Begin!

%AM, %20 %041 %2016 %00:%Feb

Helicopter and Private Jet Charter

Avoid the Traffic and Queues

%AM, %20 %041 %2016 %00:%Feb

Luxury Yacht Charter

Discover the Big Blue

%AM, %19 %041 %2016 %00:%Feb

Unique Experiences and Tours

Private Luxury Excursions

Page 1 of 2
 Back to the site