Politics and Prose in Provence featuring Mystery Writer M.L. Longworth

April 15 through 21, 2018

 
Politics and Prose invites you to join us for a delightful week in southern France. We’ll visit sites associated with artists Cézanne and Van Gogh and writer Émile Zola, as well as experiencing classic Provençal food, wine, and culture. We’ll settle in for three days in Aix-en-Provence, known for its abundance of beautiful fountains, and then three days in St. Rémy, with side trips to Arles and Les Baux.

 

This trip is designed to give you the best combination of guidance and freedom. Every morning you’ll set out in a small group with one of our two trip leaders, Donna Morris and Sheila Campbell. You choose where you’d like to go, and in your free time, they’ll help you decide what else you’d like to see – and how to see it. For example, in Aix-en-Provence, Sheila and Donna will help travelers use the excellent local bus system to move around the city. The other towns are small enough for us to walk from place to place.

In Aix, mystery writer M.L. Longworth, whose intriguing books are set in contemporary Provence, will give us a personal introduction to the city and share local settings used in her novels as scenes of the crime. We’ll stay at the 3-star Hotel St. Christophe, just off the Rotonde at the end of the famous Cours Mirabeau, where you can stroll under the plane trees and stop to sip a bit of wine or try a new French aperitif in the afternoons. Surrounding us will be references to Cézanne and his friend Zola—or, at least, they were friends until Zola wrote his novel The Masterpiece, which too closely depicted the obsessions of his artist schoolmate.

In St. Rémy, heart of the Alpilles region of Provence, we’ll stay at the charming 3-star Hotel du Soleil*, which offers an easy walk to everything in the town. If the weather’s nice, we can enjoy breakfast outside on the veranda.

Every evening, we’ll gather in the hotel to sample French wines and discuss the day’s experiences—and of course talk a bit about books and art. For dinner, you’ll be free to choose from a number of restaurants, depending on your tastes and desires, and dine with other group members interested in the same restaurant. No one will ever dine alone – unless you’re looking for a little solitude.

To learn more about the area and its culture, please see our recommended reading list (NOT required reading) at the bottom of this page for books that can give you both a sense of Aix and Provence in the past and today.

*Note: At our small hotel in St. Rémy, you must be able to walk up a flight of stairs with your luggage. There is no elevator at this hotel.

itinerary

Who should come on this trip?
Do I have to pay a single supplement?
I’m coming with a spouse or partner and we want to share a room. Do we both have to pay the full rate?
How many people will be on the trip?
Where do I fly to?
Why do you call this a “trip” and not a “tour”?
Tell me about the trip leaders.
What will the weather be like?
Is there internet access at the hotels?
What to wear?
Why aren’t lunches and dinners included in the price?
I don’t speak French. Can you help me figure out what to eat?
Is it safe to walk around by myself at night?
Some friends are going to be in Provence while I’m there. Can they come along with us?
When do I need to sign up by?
You mention that Donna and Sheila will always be available by phone, but what if I don’t have an international cell phone?
Do you require us to buy travel insurance?
If I want to stay longer than six days, can you arrange that?

Q. Who should come on this trip?
This is the perfect trip to take by yourself; you’ll make new friends and will always have people to do things with if you like. Or come with a friend or spouse or partner. You can spend time with each other and also have time to pursue your separate interests.

Do note that we’ll do a good bit of walking on this trip – often on old and uneven sidewalks. You’ll also need to be able to climb a flight of stairs easily.

Q. Do I have to pay a single supplement?
No. This trip is priced based on each person having his or her own hotel room.

Q. I’m coming with a spouse or partner and we want to share a room. Do we both have to pay the full rate?
For people who share a room, we offer a discount of $150 each. We’ve priced the trip primarily for people to have their own rooms, because French hotel rooms just aren’t as large as those in the U.S. But of course you can share a room if you prefer.

Q. How many people will be on the trip?
The maximum number of people is 18, so you won’t feel like you’re part of a huge group.

Q. Where do I fly to?
We strongly recommend flying to Marseille; it’s only a half-hour bus ride from the airport to Aix-en-Provence. Depending on where you live, you probably won’t get a direct flight to Marseille and will have to change planes in Paris. Generally, the airfares to Marseille are about the same as to Paris, even though you’re going farther.

If you fly to Paris, you can catch the TGV high-speed train from Charles de Gaulle Airport direct to Aix-en-Provence. It’s about a three and a half hour ride. BUT, if you’ve booked your TGV ticket in advance and miss the train, your ticket isn’t refundable and you’ll have to buy another one. That’s why we suggest flying into Marseille instead. If you want to add Paris on to your trip, you might do it at the end, when you can be sure to catch the train on time from Marseille.

Q. Why do you call this a “trip” and not a “tour”?
We’ve included the things we like best about group travel, including the convenience of having someone plan daily itineraries. But there are lots of things we dislike about tours, so here’s how this trip is different:
- You won’t follow a tour guide, trying to keep up through crowded museums.
- You won’t be seated at long tables for big group meals at “We accept bus tours” restaurants.
- You won’t have early morning calls to leave the hotel.
- There’s often a choice of two itineraries daily.
- You’ll have lots of support, but also lots of independence and choices depending on what you’re particularly interested in.

Q. Tell me about the trip leaders.
Donna Morris has lived in Paris for the last ten years. She founded her business, Best Friend in Paris, in 2009 with her signature tour, Follow Me, an experience for her clients that helps them see Paris with the same love and appreciation for the City of Light that she has.  She has developed and organized Politics & Prose trips to Paris, Provence, and the Loire Valley. She speaks fluent French.

Sheila Campbell of Wild Blue Yonder has been organizing informal groups of travelers for years – often on hiking trips in France, England, Italy, and Spain. In her day-to-day work, she’s a group retreat leader who understands how to ensure everyone is involved and having a memorable experience. She lives in Washington, DC, where she was a docent at the National Gallery of Art for many years – but she spends a couple of months a year in France and knows the area well. She speaks excellent tourist French.

Q. What will the weather be like?
Nothing’s even guaranteed with weather, of course. The days should be sunny and crisp, and the nights cool enough to need a sweater or jacket – overall quite pleasant for walking around and eating outdoors. But it can rain anywhere, so be sure to pack an umbrella or raincoat.

Q. Is there internet access at the hotels?
Yes, free wifi comes with your room.

Q. What to wear?
Dress is more casual in the south, so you can wear whatever’s most comfortable for you. Jeans are perfectly acceptable just about everywhere. We expect to have some cool days, so definitely bring a jacket or sweater (Provence’s legendary summer heat won’t have begun by then.) Beyond that, it’s possible, of course, to have an even colder day or two, so just make sure you have some layers if you need them.

What’s most important is that you pack comfortable walking shoes, because we’ll be exploring on foot every day.

Q. Why aren’t lunches and dinners included in the price?
Restaurants that accept tour groups are usually the last places we want to eat. And there are so many delicious choices for meals in Provence that we want everyone to be free to eat where and when they want. One day, you might eat a sandwich for lunch, sitting out on the Cours Mirabeau; or you might choose to browse the food stalls at one of the many street markets.

Alternatively, we often make lunch the biggest meal of the day, maybe even eating at a restaurant that would be too pricey at night. You’ll choose where you’ll eat, and with whom and how much you want to spend.

Q. I don’t speak French. Can you help me figure out what to eat?
Absolutely. We’ll provide a list of common menu terms, and let you know how to do things like ask for the check.

Q. Is it safe to walk around by myself at night?
Absolutely. You’ll feel quite comfortable in the neighborhoods of our hotels and throughout the two towns – Aix and St. Rémy – where we’ll spend our evenings.

Aix is a small city, so it’s prudent to keep an eye out for pickpockets in areas where there are lots of tourists – and at the markets, for instance. Just to be on the safe side, we recommend that you leave most of your money, credit cards, and passport in the safe in your room, just taking with you what you need for one day. A handbag that you can sling over your shoulder and tuck high under your arm (with a good zipper) works better than bags with long straps that dangle below your waist.

The final night of the extension is spent in Marseille. Our hotel is right on the Vieux Port, and, again, it’s fine for you to walk around without worry – so long as you’re alert to any pesky pickpockets.

Q. Some friends are going to be in Provence while I’m there. Can they come along with us?
Because we want to keep our groups small, we can’t invite your friends to come with us on our daily excursions. But you can bring them to our evening get-togethers. Please give us a day’s notice, and there’s a €10 per person charge for the wine and snacks.

Q. When do I need to sign up by?
The sooner you put down your deposit, the better. We’re limiting the size of the group, so it’s best to reserve as soon as you think you’d like to come. We do have a minimum group size for this trip of twelve people, and five people for the extension.

Q. You mention that Donna and Sheila will always be available by phone, but what if I don’t have an international cell phone?
You can rent international phones at many major airports, or you might want to check in with your cell provider to see if you can buy an international calling package for the time you’re here.

Of course, you’re not required to have a phone while in France; that’s up to you. If you bring a laptop, smartphone or iPad, you can always use Skype over wifi; that’s one of the least expensive ways to reach people in the States.

Q. Do you require us to buy travel insurance?
Yes, we strongly encourage purchasing trip insurance. Please read our Terms and Conditions carefully to see our cancellation policy. Please be aware that trip insurance companies are very strict about what they will and won’t reimburse you for, so read their policies closely. For many policies, you need to sign up when you pay your initial deposit.

Q. If I want to stay longer than six days, can you arrange that?
If you’d like to stay on at one of the trip hotels, we can certainly take care of that for you. And do consider the trip extension to Avignon, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and Marseille; seeing these historic towns adds another whole dimension of Provence.

Please read this information carefully, as payment of a deposit represents your acceptance of the following Terms and Conditions.

Trip Prices
Trip prices include hotel accommodations on a single or double occupancy basis, breakfast at the hotel, transportation to locations as outlined in the itinerary, evening social events to plan the next day’s activities, and the services of the trip leaders as outlined in the trip description.

Not included in the trip price are entrance fees to museums and other attractions not mentioned in the itinerary; airfare and airline baggage fees; lunches and dinners; hotel, restaurant or airport tips; costs of passports and visas; personal expenses such as beverages, laundry or room service; internet wifi except as established in the trip description; airport transfers or any other services not specified in the trip description.

Please note that we cannot guarantee any special requests for hotel rooms.

Registration and Payment
A deposit of $550 per person confirms your reservation. Deposits may be paid by check made out to Wild Blue Yonder, Inc., or credit card via PayPal. There is a 3% surcharge for PayPal.

Your deposit is refundable for two weeks from the date it is received by Wild Blue Yonder, except for deposits made less than 90 days before a trip departs; those deposits are completely nonrefundable. Two weeks after the receipt of the deposit by Wild Blue Yonder, deposits are not refundable for any reason and will be forfeited if you cancel your trip reservation. Cancellations must be in writing by either letter to Wild Blue Yonder or email to scampbell@wildblueyonder.biz. Cancellations become effective on the date they are received by Wild Blue Yonder.

Once your reservation deposit has been paid, you will receive a confirmation email and further information to help you plan your trip.

We reserve the right to cancel any reservations that are not paid in full at any time after the final payment is due. If you make your reservation after the final payment due date, payment in full will be required immediately.
 

Full final payment is due January 7, 2018.


Cancellations and Refunds
For any cancellations made before January 7, you will forfeit your deposit but will be refunded 75% of other payments you have made. If you must cancel your trip, the effective date of cancellation will be upon our receipt of your notification, which must be made in writing either by email or letter. After January 7, no refunds are possible. Should you have to cancel your trip at the last minute, we cannot offer refunds, because we will have already paid the costs of your trip to our vendors.

We strongly recommend that you purchase trip cancellation insurance when you pay your deposit for this trip.                                               

Changes to Your Reservation
After January 7, if you make any changes to your reservation, a $100 per person administrative fee will apply. Changes are subject to availability and cannot be guaranteed. If your reservation changes from double occupancy to single occupancy, you will be charged the single occupancy rate.

Travel Documents
You are responsible for securing your own passport, valid for at least six months after the completion of your trip, and with at least two blank pages for French entry and exit stamps. No visa is required for visits to France.

Health and Medical Issues
We welcome most travelers, but you must be in good health to participate in our trips. This trip requires a reasonable amount of walking – up to a mile, possibly uphill or on uneven pavements or cobblestone streets and streets without curb cuts. You must be able to climb several flights of stairs and board buses on your own. We regret that we cannot provide individual assistance if you require the use of a wheelchair or have other personal needs; in such cases you must be accompanied by a companion who will assist you, and you will have to incur the costs of taxis or other special transport.

If you are unable to navigate this amount of walking, you will not be able to participate fully in the trip, and we suggest you choose another type of trip. We cannot provide individual alternatives to the planned group activities. If your fitness level does not allow you to keep up with the group and/or travel on public transportation, you will be responsible for planning your own activities and for any additional costs incurred (for instance, but not limited to, personal taxis, train tickets and entrance fees).

Trip Insurance
We strongly recommend that you purchase both trip cancellation insurance and traveler’s medical and evacuation insurance for your trip. Please note: Medicare is not valid outside of the United States.

Arrival and Departure Dates
It is your responsibility to make sure you arrive on the specified trip start date. We cannot refund part of your trip if you arrive late or leave early, unless you have notified us of your different start or end date by January 7.

Responsibility
The liability of Wild Blue Yonder and Politics & Prose, individually or jointly (referred to hereafter as Trip Planners), is strictly limited. In no event will the Trip Planners be liable for amounts in excess of the amounts payable to the Trip Planners in accordance with the terms hereunder, nor will Trip Planners be liable for any consequential indirect or incidental damages arising from this agreement. Trip Planners purchase accommodations, transportation and other services from independent suppliers not under our control. We serve only as agents for these suppliers in securing trip arrangements, and therefore will not accept responsibility and liability for wrongful, negligent or arbitrary acts or omissions of these independent contractors, their employees, agents or representatives.

Trip Planners are not liable for injury, damage, death, loss, accident, or delay that may be caused by events not within our control, including but not limited to, without limitation, acts of terrorism, war, strikes, defects of any vehicle, adverse weather conditions, natural disasters or the negligence or default of any third party, nor for personal accidents.

In consideration of, and as part payment for, the right to participate in the trip, the undersigned, on behalf of himself, his dependents, heirs, executors, administrators and assigns, agrees to release Politics & Prose, Wild Blue Yonder and their officers, employees, representatives or agents, and the tour operator and its officers, employees and agents, from liability for personal injury, death, property damage or loss suffered by any person in connection with this tour, even if caused by the negligence (but not the reckless, willful, or fraudulent conduct) of tour staff or other related persons or entities. In addition, by registering for this trip, the applicant certifies that he or she is mentally and physically capable of full participation in this tour. By registering for this trip, the participant agrees to all of the Terms and Conditions herein.

Trip Planners reserve the right to correct errors in advertised prices. We reserve the right to cancel an advertised trip, decline to accept a reservation or remove a person from a trip if it is determined by us to be in the best interests of the health, safety or general well-being of other trip participants. Should you be removed, you will not be entitled to any refund for unused or missed services or costs incurred as a result of termination of your travel arrangements, including, without limitation, return travel, accommodations, meals and incidentals.

We will make every effort to conduct our trip as planned, but we reserve the right to make itinerary and other changes as necessary. If unforeseen circumstances require us to change a hotel, we will make every effort to select alternative accommodations of the same quality. The forgoing terms and conditions and all aspects of the relationship between Trip Planners and you shall be governed by the laws of the State of Maryland.