Few destinations offer the combination of bright sun, rolling hills, incredible food, wine, and the enjoyable "provincial" pace as the Provence region in Southern France for group travel. Rent a picturesque villa and get deeply immersed in all the region has to offer.
Villas often come lined with cypress trees, oleander, and sunflowers, and are set among vineyards, lavender fields, or in a rustic village. Stay near a market town, and you'll have the opportunity to cook in your villa with an impressive bounty of fresh food.
Provence is known for the many wonderful, scenic, and historic villages that are usually accessible via day trips or to make your home base. The Vaucluse is often referred to as the Napa Valley of France (evne though Vaucluse came first), and its generally more charming and less crowded.
Consider towns such as La Fountaine de Vaucluse, with its flowing river coming right out of the ground, its natural springs, ancient buildings, and fun shops. Avignon, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a great walking city to take in the history, life, art, and music of the area. Gordes, perched on the rocks in the Luberon national park, famous for its stone that seems to glow orange in the morning sun and the nearby Abbey of Senanque. Historic and beautiful Saint Remy is still an active village, with a good selection of places to eat and stay and is the birthplace of Nostradamus, where Van Gogh painted Starry Night, and where Albert Schweitzer was imprisoned. Visit Isle Sur la Sorgue for its bustling Sunday market day and over 300 antique shops.
Along with a beauty that inspires art, Provencial towns host a wide range of colorful festivals, such as the Fete de la Musique, a unique free music festival taking place across France on June 21 that encourages participation. The Avignon Festival in July, France's oldest festival, is a celebration of street and stage theatre. The Fete de la Tarasque, a four day wild street festival dedicated to a mythic child-eating dragon in Tarascon. There's also the Fete medievale de la Veraison, a Medieval celebration of when grapes change colour in Chateauneuf du Pape. Along with unique celebrations, these festivals are celebrated in and amongst the beautiful castles, churches, cathedrals or amphitheatres of the towns.
Try to visit Provence during June or early September, when the weather is warm with lots of daylight, with fewer tourists, and everything is generally open. Consider whether to rent a car or rely on public transportation. If staying mostly in main cities, public transportation is a good option, but exploring the smaller towns and more out of the way areas, renting a car can provide a lot of flexiblity (and the roads are easy to navigate).
Whether looking to stay in a rustic farmhouse or a modern, fully staffed villa, on the coast or up in the mountains, a Provencial home will get you up close as a part of history, culture, countryside and the famous Provencial sun light.