Jewish Heritage tour of Provence for cruise or land clients

Day 1. Arrival Avignon . Transfer from port, airport or train station. Free time (or we can provide a local guide for Jewish Avignon).

On the 14th century, the countryside of Provence became the home of many Jews who were exiled from the Kingdom of France by Philip the fair and Charles VI.  When Provence became part of France in 1481, the Jews found refuge in Provence - Avignon and the Comtat Venaissin. See Jewish quarter in Avignon. The Jewish community in Avignon has roots that go back as the first century after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem (70 AD). However, there are no written records for anything prior to the 12th century. The first Jewish quarter, or carrière, faced the Palais des Papes on Rue de la Vieille Juiverie. By the early 13th century, the carrière was on Rue Jacob and Place Jerusalem, where the present-day synagogue stands. This tiny area, barely 100 square yards, was home to over 1,000 people. Living outside the carrier was forbidden by law for Jews. Walls surrounded it and three locked gates kept Jews from leaving without permission. Even when permission was granted the Roman Catholic Church collected tolls and life within was subject to many restrictions and regulations

Overnight Avignon. We recommend  Hotel Cloitre Saint-Louis or Le Mirande . 

Day 2, Avignon, Pont Du Gard, Orange and Carpentras. 

Meet your guide at 9am at hotel for full day tour.

Drive to Pont du Gard, to see the Roman bridge/aqueduct.

The Pont du Gard is a 50 kilometer (31 miles) aqueduct that stretches between Uzès and Nîmes. It is located in Vers-Pont-du-Gard commune in the South of France, and UNESCO made the aqueduct a World Heritage Site in 1985.

The famous aqueduct was constructed by the Roman Empire in the mid first century/ The bridge is almost 50 meters high (164 feet) and has 3 levels, the longest being 275 meters (902 feet). Its first level carries a road and its third level carries a water conduit. 

 The Pont du Gard is currently one of the most visited attractions in all of France.

Continue to Orange, exceptionally well preserved Roman theater. Situated in the Rhone valley, the ancient theatre of Orange, with its 103-m-long facade, is one of the best preserved of all the great Roman theatres. Built between A.D. 10 and 25, the Roman arch is one of the most beautiful and interesting surviving examples of a provincial triumphal arch from the reign of Augustus. It is decorated with low reliefs commemorating the establishment of the Pax Romana.

Lunch in Orange (reservation only , pay at restaurant)

Afternoon visit Carpentras, walk through the old center to visit the synagogue, oldest in France (14thC), with an 18thC inside decoration.  Carpentras is the oldest synagogue in France. The plain façade conceals a Rococo sanctuary similar to Italian synagogues of the same period. Regulations in force at the time made it illegal for synagogues to have exterior decoration. Built during 1741–1743, the structure contains parts of a 14th-century synagogue that was on the same site. The present building was partially restored in 1930, 1953, and 1959 and it has been designated an historic landmark. Inside, the Bimah, the raised reading platform, is at the opposite end of the room from the Aron Kodesh, the Holy Ark, the cabinet where the Torah scrolls are kept. This is also characteristic of the same Italianate style. In Orthodox Judaism women are not permitted to pray in the same room as men. Here and in most synagogues of that era this separation was effected with a balcony or mezzanine that you see today. But here in the 18th century, women sat in the basement where a small window allowed them to hear the chants and prayers. In addition there was an official known as the rabbi of women. The basement also contains remnants of a matzo oven and mikvah, a ritual bath. 

The medieval Jewish cemetery was destroyed in 1322, and the grave markers were used to build the town’s ramparts. The present-day cemetery was established in 1367, but as papal edict forbade tombstones in Jewish cemeteries, the earliest stones are from the 18th century.

On the way back to Avignon if time permits and interested, stop for wine tasting (regular wine, or we will try to make reservation for kosher wine (with advance planning).

Overnight Avignon.

Day 3. Avignon, St. Remy de Provence, Les Baux de Provence

First visit  Saint Rémy de Provence, where Van Gogh spent the last year of his life in a mental hospital.   Stop at the Roman monuments of Saint Rémy de Provence (Triumphal Arch and funeral monument) located in a field of  olive trees, landscape painted several times by Van Gogh.  

Admire the landscapes that he painted and walk through this pretty little town. See the nearby Jewish cemetery

Following that, a visit of les Baux de Provence, a village located upon a rock at 245 meters high, with its historical centre : the Museum of Santons, the Hôtel des Porcelets, a beautiful house of the 16th century, and  the St Vincent Church, a pretty Romanesque building.

Lunch in Les Baux (reservation only , pay at restaurant)

Afternoon Continue to Arles, Walking tour in Arles, a Roman city with its famous amphitheatre, theatre and its ancient sites that Van Gogh painted: La maison jaune, Le café, la nuit, and Le jardin de l’hôtel Dieu.

Back to Avignon around 6pm

Day 4, Avignon , Luberon villages, Gordes, Cavallion

Meet your guide in the lobby, drive to Luberon villages.

 Morning - drive to L’Isle sur Sorgue.

This compact medieval town is built on the islands of five branches of the Sorgue river, 7 km downstream from its source at Fontaine-de-Vaucluse. The river flows through, past, in and around the town, in its many natural beds and several canals. Even without gondolas, water adds a special beauty and character to a town. Sorgue has its many river branches and canals, huge overhanging plane trees and several large, lovely waterwheels. Even if the many mills are no longer working, some of the waterwheels still turn.

Visit Sunday Market and fleamarket.

Followed by visit to Gordes, one of the most famous and spectacular villages in the area. Walk in the village.

Gordes is a very beautiful old village, perched on the southern edge of the high Plateau de Vaucluse. The stone buildings built in tight against the base of the cliffs and those perched on the rocks above, including the 12th-century castle, are made of an beige stone that glows orange in the morning sun. The view from the village is a southern panorama out across fields and forests and small perched villages to the Montagne du Luberon.

Lunch in Gordes (reservation only, pay at the restaurant).

Back to Avignon through Cavaillon, visit the Jewish museum and former synagogue.

Bearing witness to the life of the Jewish community during the 17th century, Cavaillon was a place of refuge just like the other French cities of Avignon, Carpentras and L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue.

The life of the city revolved around the synagogue. It was rebuilt in the 18th century (1772-1774), showing Provençal and Jewish cultures living together, as befitting one of the few Jewish communities to be tolerated.

The lower hall, the former assembly hall for women, now houses the collections of the Judeo-Comtadin Museum. This masterpiece of Comtadin art dating from the 18th century is one of the most remarkable Jewish places of worship known today. The synagogue was rebuilt during the 18th century, occupying the first floor. It contains authentic Louis XV style furniture, as well as a Judeo-Comtadin Museum.

Back to Avignon around 6pm.

Day 5. departure to French Riviera , on the way, visit Aix en Provence and Milles deportation camp.

Meet your guide at reception for a
tour-transfer to Nice. Approximately 2.5 hour. On the way stop at

Aix de Provence. has interesting medieval Jewish quarter in Rue Verrene, visit synagogue, the Lapidary Museum with Judaica collection.

Visit Les Milles, the memorial site of deportation. Between 1939 and 1942, Les Milles was an internment camp for political dissidents, artists and intellectuals and, finally, Jews about to be deported to Auschwitz. It has now been restored as a Holocaust memorial. Over 10,000 people were interned at the former brick factory on the edge of Aix en Provence under increasingly harsh and over-crowded conditions during this three year period at the beginning of the Second World War.

This is a suggested itinerary and customized for each client.