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Cannes in late June wanting private tour guide lavender fields/culinary

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We (2 adults, 1 child-11yr old) will be in Cannes in late June. We would like to find a private tour guide to take us to see the lavender fields & then also some culinary destinations. I have found tour guides based in Avignon and some based in Nice, but no luck finding "custom" tour guides based out of Cannes. How far are the lavender fields from Cannes? I was under the impression it would be a nice day trip. How about renting a car? (but we would truly prefer a local to do the driving.) Any suggestions?
Thanks for any info!

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    The lavender fields closest to Cannes where you might see some lavender in late June are around Valensole. That's a 2 hr 45 min scenic drive from Cannes. That's farther than I would want to travel - but you can decide. Visit Moustiers & Riez and perhaps the Gorges du Verdun while in the Valensole area - but that would make it a REALLY long day

    - Cannes to Gorge du Verdun 8:00-9:45
    - explore Gorge du Verdun 9:45-11:45
    - Gorge to Moustiers Sainte Marie 11:45-12:00
    - Explore Moustiers 12:00-1:30 (shops & faiance museum will be closed for lunch
    - Moustiers to Riez 1:30-2
    - explore Riez 2-3
    - Riez to Valensole 3-3:30
    - Explore lavender fields 3:30-5:30
    - Valensole to Cannes 5:30-8:15

    Here is something about this area that's in my Provence/Cote d'Azur itinerary. If you would like the entire 27 page itinerary, e-mail me at [email protected] & I'll attach a copy to the reply e-mail. I've sent it to over 3,000 people on Fodors.

    This description is written as a day-trip from the Luberon or Aix - not Cannes.

    Valensole Plateau, Lavender & Poppy fields, Riez, & Moustiers allow a full day
    This excursion can be a day trip from either Aix-en-Provence or from the Luberon. The highlights of a drive through the Valensole plateau are the lovely lavender and poppy fields. We drove this route on June 14 when both the lavender & poppies were in full bloom, although I suspect the lavender was blooming early due to the hotter than normal temperatures encountered during the prior 3 weeks in ‘03. I would only recommend this trip if you are visiting during the lavender season (mid-June through July).

    Leave Aix north on the A51 and get off at exit # 17 – it’s probably marked Cadarache or Greoux. If you are departing from the Luberon near Apt, go east along the N100, then take the D907 through Manosque and then the D82 to Greoux les Bains.

    This drive is described in the Green Michelin Guide for the French Alps under “VALENSOLE”.

    I always try to plan my driving routes so that the sun is behind me if it’s late or early in the day. The prettiest section of this drive is along the D8 from Greoux through Valensole until the D8 hits the D953, and then the D953 to Riez. The best time to do this drive is in the afternoon on a clear & sunny day so that you can see the Pre-Alps to the east with the sun shining on them, and the sun will be at your back while driving.

    I’ll describe this excursion starting from Greoux early in the AM – try to get there by 9:00 on a Saturday or by 9:30 on Tues through Friday. Leave Greoux on the D952 toward Riez. There are some poppy fields along the way between St Martin & Allemagne (remember, poppies may be finished blooming by late June).

    Stop & visit Riez*, which has a wonderful Saturday AM market. As I have stated before, it took me about 15 years to realize that it’s never smart to visit or even drive through a town on a Sunday, Monday, or during the lunch closing (12:30 to 3:00 or so), because the town will be all “shuttered-up” with those ugly aluminum shutters & the town will look like it’s preparing for an invasion. We drove through Riez on a Sunday in ’99 & the town had no appeal at all. When we were there in June ’03 on a Saturday, the market was going strong, people were having coffee at the cafés under the plane trees, and the shops with their attractive window displays were open – quite a contrast from our prior (’99) Sunday visit. Explore Riez – see the Green Guide for a map (if you’re visiting during the Sat market, you can park in the large lot along Ave Fr. Mistral, just before you cross the river). Walk east along Allee Gardio to Place de la Colonne (where the fountain is located), and then turn left (west) & try to find City Hall (Hotel de Ville) in a lovely courtyard – poke your nose inside the Hotel de Ville a bit. Continue west along the narrow R Basse, which has some outdoor restaurants. When you hit the Church, curve right & go east on Grand Rue – which parallels R Basse. There are a lot of medieval mansions than have been turned into residences along this street.

    Contiune on the D952 to Moustiers** and get the cameras ready. In the afternoon sun, the view of Moustiers from the west is spectacular. Explore Moustiers – it’s not only a very cute village, but it’s one of the most famous faience (pottery) centers in France. My wife enjoyed the Musee de la Faience (I waited outside), and we also climbed up to the church. Wander around town & enjoy the shops, but beware of the lunch closings. In ’99 we had dinner at Les Santons (which was a Michelin 1 star restaurant), but I was very disappointed with the restaurant (a year later it lost its 1 star).

    If it is later in the day, and it’s clear & sunny, return to Greoux. I’ll describe the route from there, but if you don’t want to do any back-tracking, then start the route at Riez. Remember to look back for a great view of Moustiers when you leave. To get the best vantage points, we have driven on several of the roads that exit Moustiers to the west.

    Leave Greoux on the D8 toward Valensole. There are some nice lavender & poppy fields before you reach Valensole. Go through Valensole (stop if you have the time) & continue on the D8. There are more lavender fields along the way & a spectacular field just past the Brunet exit. When you hit the D953, turn right toward Riez. There are more lavender fields along this road and you will see some large “silos” – I don’t know if these are connected with lavender processing. Just before Puimoisson, turn left on the D108 toward St Jurs. Drive up to this village & get your camera ready. You should be able to see the Pre Alps in the afternoon on a sunny & clear day. The setting of St Jurs is very picturesque - my wife’s camera broke while trying to take a picture. Return to the D953 and continue toward Riez. Around Puimoisson, there are some spectacular lavender fields. As you descend toward Riez, the lavender fields stop. At Riez, turn northwest and take the D6 toward Valensole. Pass through Valonsole & continue on the D15 (northwest) toward Forcalquir/Manosque/A51. There are more spectacular lavender fields along the D15. When the D15 hits the D4, go north on the D4 along the Durance River & get on the A51 or N100 and head back to Aix or the Luberon.

    If you enjoy very unusual rock formations and have 30 minutes to spare, visit Rochers (rocks) des Mees*. When you get to the A51/N100 split off the D4 at Oraison, go north on the D4 toward Les Mees. Continue on the D4 to Les Mees (do not go into Les Mees). Turn left at Les Mees & go across the Durance & get on the N96 north towards Chateau Arnoux, where you will get on the N85 going south toward Digne. You should get some pretty good views of the rocks – they are quite interesting. Return by going back to Les Mees on the D4 (more views of the rocks) & pick up the A51 to Aix, or the N96 to the N100 for a return to the Luberon.

    Stu Dudley

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    Here is a little shorter trip to the Valensole lavender fields.

    - Cannes to Moustiers Ste Marie via the D6085 8:00-10:45
    - explore Moustiers - shops & faiance museum will be open 10:45-12:15. Lunch???
    - Moustiers to Valensole 12:15-12:45
    - explore the lavender fields 12:45-2:45
    - Valensole to Lorgues (interesting small town - we've spent 4 weeks near there) 2:45-4:15
    - explore Lorgues 4:15-5:15
    - Lorgues to Cannes 5:15-6:30 - back in time for dinner.

    Stu Dudley

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