CONTRAST TOURS

THE FRENCH RIVIERA TO THE RHÔNE VALLEY TOUR, MAY 2019

May 11-23, 2019

transatlantic flight, moon
Approaching Europe
rooftop, nice
View of Roof Top of Hotel in Nice
nice, place Gambetta
Nice
nice, chateau, baie des Anges
Le Démon sur la Baie des Anges
montagne sainte victoire
Montagne Sainte Victoire
Hotel camargue
Hotel Camargue
Chateau Romanin
Chateau Romanin
dentelles de montmirail
Dentelles de Montmirail from the extreme overlook
Our Hotel in the Rhône Valley
Our Hotel in the Rhône Valley
contrast tours meal
A Meal in Provence
Gorges de l'ardeche, belvedere
Gorges de l'Ardèche
pont d'arc
Pont d'Arc
pont du gard
The Pont du Gard
denis brihat
Denis Brihat and visitor
denis brihat print show
Looking at Denis Brihat's work
damien rozier, domaine Rose Dieu
Damien Rosier, Domaine Rose Dieu
route, chateauneuf du pape
From the Road to Chateauneuf du pape
valence, vallée du rhône
Chez Moi
La Palette, café, bistrot, paris
Des Amants dans mon Café
bleu, nice
Bleu de Nice
nice, place massena
Dans la Ville Baroque.
beach restaurant, nice
Lunch on the Beach in Nice
vignes sur fond de Sante Victoire
Domaine Richeaume
petite camargue
Petite Camargue
pink flamingoes
Pink Flamingoes in Camargue
rhone, camargue, flying cranes
Cranes Flying over The Rhône in Camargue
lunch, Provence
Vacqueyras White on the Beautiful Table
Route, provence, platanes
Thomas Jullien, Ferme Saint Martin
Rhone Valley, mont ventoux
Flirting with clouds at the top of the Mont Ventoux
Mont Ventoux, alps
Mont Ventoux, looking toward the Alps, Italy.
Mont Ventoux
Northern View from the Mont Ventoux
grotte chauvet
In the Grotte Chauvet.
Gorges de l'ardeche, belvedere
Gorges de l'Ardèche
dinner in Vacqueyras
The Joy of a Meal in Provence
arnoux et fils, François-Xavier Vidil, contrast tours
Glorious tasting off the barrel with my brother at Arnoux & Fils
rhone valley, vineyard, visit
Tasting at Maison Arnoux
Vacqueyras, vins
Vacqueyras
tgv
High Speed Train to Paris
paris, eiffel tower
Vue Imprenable
ITINERARY:
* Saturday May 11: Departure from RDU (or wherever you depart from) to JFK and then to Nice via direct flight.


* Sunday May 12: Arrival in Nice International Airport after a striking descent on the beautiful Bay of Angels.

This day will be dedicated to acclimating after the trans-Atlantic flight. Lunch at a restaurant on Nice's downtown beach and a relaxing stroll in Old Nice up to the Castle to capture the view seen on the photograph "Le Démon sur la Baie des Anges." Also lounge by the pool on the hotel's rooftop (see photograph on left).

Apéritif and dinner in the old town.
* Monday May 13: We'll leave the hotel by 10:00 and drive to Domaine Richeaume, see photograph on the right. The estate sits at the foothills of the Montagne Sainte Victoire, which was Cezanne's favorite subject, and mine too when I was living in a nearby village in pre-historic times.

The Domaine Richeaume is a ground breaking domaine which has innovated and set trends in the region for the past 35 years. Sylvain, the son of the founder, is a stupendous wine maker. The production of the Domaine is absolutely stunning, with reds that are rich, deep, strong in fruit, notably black currant, with completely melted tanins. All the wines are organic.

We will have a picnic at the Domaine with Sylvain, of course accompanied by his sublime wines.

After the visit we will first take a little road offering a stunning view on the Sainte Victoire, see photograph on the left, and then will head to our hotel in Camargue, where we will stay two nights. This hotel, was once owned by Victor Hugo's family. They received the luminaries of the time, artists, political celebrities like Jean Cocteau, Erik Satie, Leon Blum etc. The hotel has been modernized since, see photograph on the left.

There is a beautiful pool there and we will have an aperitif, then dinner at the hotel.


* Tuesday May 14: Camargue is the estuary of the Rhône river, the largest river in France. It is a swamp, not unlike the bayous of Louisiana, only under a different climate. We will first visit a reserve on a beautiful marsh hosting a rich wildlife, including fishing birds (sometimes flamingoes) that characterizes the Camargue region. We will then have lunch in a charming seafood restaurant, home cooking style, in the Saintes Maries de la Mer, a cultural mecca dancing at the rhythm of the Flamenco. This is where the Famous band "The Gypsy Kings" are from.

After lunch we will take a stroll in "Les Saintes," absorbing its rather rare "Gardian" (cowboy from Camargue) atmosphere.

We will then head to Domaine Scamandre. Scamandre is a Domaine created from scratch by a couple of dentists who fell in love with the region and teamed up with an oenologue. They produce wonderful organic wines following a very thoughtful and scientific process. We will visit the domaine with Nadine Renouard who created the Domaine with her husband almost 20 years ago, and then will proceed for a festive evening at the domaine with a game of pétanque, apéritif and delicious food prepared by our hosts.
* Wednesday May 15: Today we head to the Rhône Valley, first driving through the Alpilles, the lovely mounts north of Arles that seduced Alphonse Daudet, Van Gogh and many other artists.

Our destination is Chateau Romanin, a 60 Hectares estate on the north side of the mountain range. We are there in the Baux de Provence appellation, a rather new appellation, but a very promising one, notably for rosés and whites. Chateau Romanin is an organic producer, and their white and rosés are stunning, extremely expressive, with an elegant balance and distinctive aromas.

We will visit the cave and vineyard and will have lunch there, in a gorgeous landscape that the photograph on the left may help you imagine.

After lunch we will visit the Baux de Provence, famous the world over for its beauty. Les Baux have been favored by humans for 8000 years, mostly because of the protective habitat it naturally provides.

From there we will drive to our hotel nested in a 16th century castle in the heart of the Rhône valley, see photographs. This hotel is nothing short of magnificent, with a gorgeous pool of course, and many luxurious amenities. Its organic garden is a model, and a good part of the food we will have there (all our dinners) will come from that garden.

The place will be an idillic location for many pétanque games.


* Thursday May 16:
Today after a first memorable breakfast in our enchanting castle, we are going to get a good grasp of the Rhône Valley. We first head to the Dentelles de Montmirail and through the small roads and tracks that penetrate it, we arrive to the hidden overlook tucked on a peak and from which one can enjoy a breathtaking view on the Dentelles and the Rhône Valley. See photograph on the left.

After nourishing ourselves with the rejuvenating beauty of this princess in lace of a mountain, we then will turn ourselves to the king of the region, the Mont Ventoux, famous for his testing ascent in the Tour de France, which often sorts the ultimate winner from the rest of the peloton.

Through some winding roads cutting though the stony landscape, we will arrive to one of the best tables of the area, at the foothills of the giant. The meal there will be, as always, a perfect reflect of provençale hospitality, creative, classy and delicious, and weather permitting, on the most inviting terrasse.

We will then drive to the peak, probably understanding what riders of the Tour de France endure in this legendary stage. From the top we will be cousins with the clouds, and will have a breathtaking 360˚ view on the Rhône Valley and also on the Alps, seemingly all the way to Italy on a bright day, see photographs on the right. Apart from its magnificence, the view really helps grasping the geography of the entire region.

We will then descend on the other side, and our way back to the castle we will stop at the Domaine Rose Dieu where Damien Rozier produces exceptional Plan de Dieu wines. These are characterized by a superior concentration and excellent balance, and deliver the almighty power of the Grenache wrapped in a velvet glove. The plan de Dieu is the epicenter of the Rhône Valley wine production.

Pétanque, pool etc. Dinner at the castle.


* Friday May 17:
Drive to Chateau Rochecolombe in Ardèche on the other side of the Rhône river. Rochecolombe is a stellar organic vineyard producing medal winning wines that bridge the northern and southern Rhône wines. The Estate counts 60 Ha of vineyard run very efficiently, and the wines are truly the best value one can find in the Côtes du Rhône appellation. We will have lunch at the Castle catered by a gem restauranteur from the surroundings.

After lunch we will drive to the Grotte Chauvet, and after its visit we will drive down the Gorges de l'Ardèche, stopping at several breath taking belvederes.

The Gorges are known as Europe's Grand Canyon, and are a magnificent site, where many caves can be found that were inhabited by our pre-historic ancestors, as early as 300,000 years ago. The most treasured of the caves is the Grotte Chauvet. It is registered as a Unesco World heritage site, and contains some of the earliest known and best preserved figurative cave paintings in the world: 36,000 years old. It is not possible any longer to visit the actual grotte, but French authorities have built a perfect replica, which is the world's reference for conservation of parietal art.

Pétanque, pool etc. Dinner at the castle.


* Saturday May 18:
This morning we head to Uzès, a beautiful little town that has preserved an historic center offering a rare collection of architecture from the 16th, 17th and 18th century, On Saturdays the town vibrates with its market, one of the nicest andmost authentic ones in France. We will loose ourselves in this colorful melting pot of vegetables, fruit, olives, charcuteries and other local produces.

We will then drive to, Le Pont du Gard. This Unesco World Heritage site presents the tallest Roman aqueduct in the world, built in the 1st century and wonderfully preserved (see photograph on the left). We will first enjoy a lunch with Roman wines at the restaurant there with a view on the aqueduct. A team of historians and oenologues have been able to reproduce wines like the ones Romans were drinking. We will have a tasting of these wines paired with food enhancing them. This mind shaking experience will allow us to go back in time with our palate and measure the evolution of wine over 2000 years.

We will then enjoy a guided visit explaining how and why this aqueduct was built. We will have a privileged tour of the third story of the bridge that will offer both a beautiful view and a captivating perspective on the history of this edifice and how it functioned.

Cooking class with the Chef who will fix dinner with us at the Castle.


* Sunday May 19:
Late start and relaxing today. We go to the Luberon, the legendary part of Provence subject of countless books notably the Peter Mayle ones, who by the way, was a fan of my mentor, our host today.

Our Destination is Bonnieux where I have arranged a special lunch at my mentor's house. Denis Brihat is a photographer of international recognition, and the current spiritual heir of Edward Weston, the West coast photographer who first promoted photography as an art form, and inspired Ansel Adams. Denis settled in Bonnieux in the 50's after living in Biot in the vicinity of Picasso, Jean Cocteau etc... His work is unique in the history of photography and has had a big influence on mine. His wife Solange will prepare for us a lunch that will be accompanied by some of the wines we visit. I can promise you a really exceptional treat, blending provencal wines with art and delicious home cooking.

After lunch we will stroll a bit in Bonnieux, and later in Roussillon, a lovely picturesque village on the other side of the valley.


Pétanque, pool etc. Dinner at the castle.


* Monday May 20:
Lazy late start as we are going less than 15 minutes away, to the tony estate of La Présidente. This is one of the largest estates in the Rhône Valley, where it became prominent with the work of Max Aubert who bought it in 1968 and developed it. La Présidente produces some excellent Cairanne, white and red, and a stunning Chateauneuf du Pape, by far the best one I know.

We will visit the estate, have a thorough tasting and enjoy a lunch on the property.

In the afternoon we will go to Chateauneuf du Pape and try to understand why it exercises such a domination on the Rhône valley's wines while exploring this mythic little village

Pétanque, pool etc. Dinner at the castle.


* Tuesday May 21st: This morning we head to Vacqueyras and all along the way will be graced again with the sight of the Dentelles de Montmirail that we visited a few days ago. In Vacqueyras we will be offered a very privileged visit of the Maison Arnoux, which is one of the largest winemakers in the southern Rhône Valley. The visit will be conducted by my actual brother who runs the whole operation, and is very involved in the wine making because of his extraordinary palate and understanding of wine. François-Xavier will offer us a very exclusive technical and comparative tasting from the barrels, allowing us to understand the alchemy of barrel wine aging, and what parameters the winemaker plays with in order to develop the aromatic nobility of the wine. Here is a post about the flagship wine from maison Arnoux, the 1717 which ages in some of the very barrels that we will study during this tasting.

We will then have lunch in a quaint manor 10 minutes away and one of the best tables of the region, old time French atmosphere and hospitality.

Our senses well satisfied we will visit Séguret, a lovely village perched on the flanks of the Rhône valley, and offering the intense beauty of of a provençale village-fortress now living in peace.

Pétanque, pool etc. Dinner at the castle.


* Wednesday May 22nd:
Today we have to say our "adieus" to the beautiful castle and the lovely people who hosted us. But we will leave our castle to see a papal one in Avignon. Today we indulge in a visit of this superb town, nested behind its ramparts, and where the popes lived in the 14th century. The town is one architectural marvel after another, and displays a constant festive southern feel.

We will have lunch in Avignon which is technically the capital of the Côtes du Rhône. After a post lunch stroll we will say leave the Rhône Valley in a high speed train for Paris where we will arrive a little more than two and a half hours later.

We will go to our hotel in Saint Germain des Près, close to the Seine, the perfect location.

Dinner and stroll in Paris.



* Thursday May 23rd: Taxi to Paris Roissy Airport. Delta direct flight to RDU, or any other flight that will get you to where you came from.


Those wishing to book additional nights in Paris can do so through me, either touring the town with me or on their own. See here all the options for Paris, including my Paris itinerary and room options in Paris.
paris, montmartre, selfie
In Montmartre
La Tartine, café, bistrot, paris
La Tartine
St Etienne du Mont, Paris, chuch
Church in Paris near the Pantheon
ABOUT THIS VOYAGE:
Jean-Christian Rostagni, Monsieur Contraste
Jean-Christian Rostagni

This is Your Hosts
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to learn more about these characters, click on the thumbnail and then on "Open" in the lightbox in order to see what they are up to.

René Tanguy, marin
René Tanguy


This trip is for those seeking an authentic French experience exploring the French Riviera, Provence and the Rhône Valley, which saw the start of the wine production in France during Roman times. I have designed this itinerary with the hope of providing an exceptional journey through the legendary wines and food of the region. I am proud to say that the wines I am lucky to represent and import, are unparalleled due to the connections that I am lucky to enjoy in that industry in that region. You may expect a trip that will take you in stunning comfort, quite further than what you may already know about Provence and the South East of France in general.

We will travel through history with important "time-machine-like" site visits, going back to Roman and even pre-historic times. Such experiences have changed my perspective on many aspects of life.

DATES: May 11-23, 2019 with a possible extension in Paris with me if you'd like, or on your own. See the Paris options here.

Limited to up to 12 travelers*, plus René Tanguy and myself, your travel companions, drivers, guides, interpreters and hopefully entertainers.

$6,085 per person in accommodations for two, + airfare. Ten spots at this price, 2 spots or more in DeLuxe rooms with terrace at a cost of $6,350 per person plus airfare. The single accommodation supplement is $1,050. Price includes hotel, meals, including the meet and greet dinner at a fine location to be determined, wine during meals, transportation, entrance fees when applicable, and should be considered all-inclusive, save for beverages in your room or at the bar and other services you might want to enjoy that are not part of the group activities. Contrast Tours purchases the Group Protection plan, which offers benefits for Trip Cancellation/Trip Interruption and more, on behalf of all travelers. If interested in the optional Cancel For Any Reason* coverage please contact Contrast Tours for rates and information. A copy of the plan document will be provided.
*CFAR is not available to residents of NY.

Photography: I will happily provide photographic assistance and share my photographer's perspective throughout the tour. You will even be able to get a second opinion from René Tanguy, who will co-host the trip. He was in photography school with me during antiquity, and is also a photographer with a several decades-long career and an impressive list of customers, shows and books.

During this journey you will be able to compare wines from many different appellations from France's south east, see what the differences are, and get to understand why there are such differences. Our meals will typically be paired with wines from the wineries that we visit. Most wines are imported by Contrast Wines, a division of Contrast Tours, and are available in wine stores and restaurants in NC.

A "Carnet de Route" will be published about this trip and a copy will be provided to you prior to departure. This booklet will include a detailed itinerary with a description of sites and wineries that we will visit, as well as descriptions of the wines we will enjoy, with enough space for you to take notes and keep a diary should you wish to.

The exact itinerary is subject to modification due to scheduling considerations. Please note that this is an epicurean journey, and while I will gladly satisfy special requests when possible, I cannot guarantee being able to accommodate all dietary needs. Please inquire if this is a matter of concern.

Please email me (use Contact Us button below) if you want to book or have any questions. You may also call me: 919-416-1111.

* If we have one an odd number of participants, the number of travelers could go up to 13.
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eric hodge, wunc
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Jean-Christian Rostagni

a.k.a.

Monsieur Contraste


My name is Jean-Christian Rostagni, I am a photographer, and as such the subject of Rodrigo Dorfman's film Monsieur Contraste. Here is my photographer's website.

I am French and I have been living in the Triangle, North Carolina, since 1993. Over the years several gracious people expressed that they would like to travel with me as a guide in France. I wanted to see if that was true, and this is how Contrast Tours was created. You might want to read this article that explains the genesis of Contrast Tours as well as its philosophy in which art and wine get married.

We specialize in wine tours in France that provide an authentic French experience of voluptuous quality. I started with a tour of the Rhône Valley and its wines, as that is the region that I am from, and I know it very well. It is also a region that lands itself to this type of travel due to climate, geography and history. I am currently developing a tour of Bordeaux and one of the French Riviera and Corsica that will be launched in 2018.

I hope to have the pleasure to transport you.

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eric hodge, wunc
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René Tanguy


I have known René for 40 years. We were both in the second school of photography that I attended. It was a great school, in the Unité de Recherche in Chemistry at the Faculté des Sciences Saint Charles in Marseille, totally unique, Some of the greatest French photographers of the time taught there, and it is where I met my mentor, Denis Brihat. It was such a great school that both Denis and I were fired, Denis became even more the revered photographer he already was and me, well, I am here! René stayed, finished his courses and had a long and often enviable career, notably working with major French corporations.

I have always loved René, everybody does. He is a better looking Gerard Depardieu, without the theatrics, more real, often with an irresistible sparkle in his eyes that have toured the world. René is from Brittany (can you tell?), about 2/3rd the polar opposite my mostly latin self, and we complement each other well. He is easy going, well spoken, very natural and thoughtful. I am very happy that he has accepted to tour with us and I know that you will find him a kind soul.

Here is René's website.
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nice, beach lunch
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nice, place massena
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nice, chateau, baie des Anges
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domaine richeaume, montagne Sainte Victoire
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montagne Sainte Victoire
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petite camargue
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pink flamingoes, camargue
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rhone, petite camargue
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chateau romanin, alpilles
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dentelles de montmirail
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chateau romanin, alpilles
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vacqueyras, vins
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route, provence, platanes
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rhone valley, mont ventoux
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Alps, mont ventoux
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mont ventoux
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Meal, Provence
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Gorges de l'ardeche, belvedere
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Grotte Chauvet
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Pont d'Arc, Gorges de l'ardeche, belvedere
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Gorges de l'ardeche, belvedere
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dinner vacqueyras
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Pont du Gard
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denis brihat
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atelier denis brihat
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Wine tasting off the barrels
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rhone valley, maison arnoux, wine barrels
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damien rozier, domaine rose dieu
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vacqueyras, vins
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rhone valley, mont ventoux
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valence, Vallée du Rhône
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tgv
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La Palette, café, bistrot, paris
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Paris, eiffel tower
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paris, montmartre, selfie
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St Etienne du Mont, Paris, chuch
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La Tartine, café, bistrot, paris