Provence Guru

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Provence Guru offers luxury small group tours of Provence. The tours are all lead by award winning author Jamie Ivey. Jamie has written 5 books about Provence, and he won the 2006 Gourmand Award Book of the Year on French wine. His latest book is the Moon Guide to Provence (Dec 2019) a comprehensive guide to all things Provencal. The company is committed to providing unforgettable real holidays that offer an immersive experience in the rich culture and food of Provence.
Member since: 15 Dec 2019

How the minimum criteria of the responsible travel standard was met...

Economic responsibility

Provence Guru is based in Provence. It is a registered French company and works exclusively with local residents and businesses.
All tours are led by Jamie Ivey a local resident for 14 years. All guiding inside the tourist sights visited on our tours is conducted by registered local tourists guides.
Provence Guru tours accommodate all guests at Chateau Constantin. The vineyard employs 4 local people on a year round basis and a larger seasonal workforce during the harvest.
Provence has a rich food culture and an abundance of fresh ingredients Evening meals provided at the Chateau are provided by a local caterer using local ingredients. All staff employed by the caterer are local. Breakfasts consist of croissants and pain au chocolat produced in the village boulangerie as well as a seasonal fruit selection sourced from local farms. Restaurant recommendations at lunch time are exclusively made to restaurants cooking fresh food from local ingredients.

Visitors to Provence will typically take away an impression of a wealthy prosperous region. However, as the description of the political situation above demonstrate, the local economy is a fragile one. The summer months of June July and August are boom times. In the winter the largely agrarian economy struggles to provide enough employment opportunities. Buying local products and supporting local businesses during your time in Provence provides essential stimulus. Such behaviour also helps nourish a profound sense of local identity and pride in all things Provencal. The Provencal are rightly proud of their food culture and the quality of artisan goods such as soap, and lavender oils.

Environmental responsibility

Provence Guru is a small company with one member of staff based in the Luberon village of Lourmarin. It operates out of a home office.
The company does not produce paper-based marketing materials. All tour information is provided on our website or in pdf form upon request.
Our small office is supplied with Luberon-source well water which is filtered and UV treated. All tour participants are provided with a re-usable water bottle at the beginning of their stay which can be replenished with the same Luberon-source water throughout the stay.
On arrival all clients are provided with a welcome package of artisan-produced local products including a re-usable shopping bag produced by Lourmarin school children. Sales of the bag support the school’s environmental educational projects such as the Classe Verte (Green Class) and Classe Velo (Bike Class). These 4-day overnight programs take primary school children out into the local nature park to stay in campsites/eco lodges and inspire a love of a nature in the future generation. By the end of 2021, through purchases of reusable shopping bags from the school association, Provence Guru will have contributed an estimated €1,000 to these programs.
Chateau Constantin where all clients of Provence Guru are accommodated is a local vineyard in the process of converting to organic production. By basing tours at the Chateau Provence Guru is helping to subsidise this more expensive method of wine production which in turn protects the abundant local flora and fauna. From 2020 all Chateau Constantin wines will be certified organic.

Tourism is an essential part of the economy in Provence. International visitors account for approximately 6 million out of 18 million tourist arrivals. Major new tourist infrastructure projects which provide much needed jobs are underway, including a new Picasso museum in Aix en Provence, a reconstruction of the Cosquer cave in the Villa Mediterranée in Marseille, and the blockbusting Luma Arles project. At the same time there is a growing awareness of the dangers of over tourism. Villages such as Les Baux de Provence have become overrun by coach parties and are no longer as enjoyable to visit as they once were. Provence Guru tours are part of growing trend to promote the new and the undiscovered, whether this be a sight, village or experience.

Be aware that Provence Guru tours are based in the Luberon Regional Nature Park and that during the week we will visit the Les Alpilles Regional Nature Park and the Les Calanques National Park. These are areas of outstanding natural beauty and all clients should take simple steps to minimise their own impact on the environment. Examples include avoiding the use of single use plastics and careful disposal of all litter and rubbish.

Despite the long hot summer months Provence does not often suffer water shortages as illustrated by the fact that the Provencal town of Cavaillon has the same average annual rainfall as London.
We ask Provence Guru clients to use the re-usable water bottles provided at the beginning of each week. These can be refilled on the coach from local well water which has been filtered and UV treated. At the end of the week clients can take these bottles home with them or leave them to be reused.

Social responsibility

Provence Guru runs small group tours outside the main tourist season. It’s period of operation is from April to the beginning of June and from September to mid-October. By doing so the company seeks to mitigate the effect of over-tourism on Provence’s main tourist attractions.
Provence Guru recommends all guests visit the Chateau de Lourmarin (see Traveller Information document) on their final afternoon. The Chateau is a local arts foundation that supports young artists and is key to the provision, performance and availability of arts in a rural area.

The French tend to be more quietly spoken than Anglophones. Apart from students, they rarely eat or drink when walking about in the street. They tend to dress smartly and take care with their appearance. Taking a shirt off in public, other than on the beach is not done. Wine is consumed slowly and in moderation.
Visitors are unlikely to cause great offence by contravening any of these conventions, but they may risk being commented upon. Both French men and French women greet each other by a kiss on both cheeks. In some Provence villages, two kisses rise to three or even four kisses. Unless visitors become close friends with a local, they would not be expected to kiss them when saying hello. A handshake suffices.
Most waiters, hotel staff, and people working in the tourist industry will speak enough English to enable them to perform their jobs. Speaking just a little bit of French will endear a visitor to locals, even if it is as simple as saying “Merci beaucoup” rather than “thank you.”
Bargaining in shops and markets is not normal practice in Provence and should be avoided unless you can genuinely only make the purchase if the price is reduced.

On the final Friday afternoon of their tour Provence Guru clients will have the opportunity to visit the Chateau de Lourmarin. Parts of the Chateau date back to the 12th and 13th century
In 1920, Robert Laurent-Vibert, an industrialist from Lyon and a member of the French School in Rome, bought the château, thus saving it from destruction as it was destined to be used as a stone quarry.
With the aid of his artist friends, he undertook its restoration based on archive documents and old engravings.
Killed in a car crash in 1925, Robert Laurent-Vibert  left the château and his art collection to the Academy of Arts and Sciences of Aix-en-Provence on the condition that they set up a Foundation to welcome young artists, painters, sculptors and musicians during the summer season.
This Foundation, one of the oldest in France, was set up in 1927 and has been welcoming artists in residence since 1929.
By visiting the Chateau clients will directly support this local arts project which helps ensure artistic performances are available to a rural community.

Provence Guru reviews its responsible travel policy on a yearly basis every December. The objective of the review is to seek ways in which the company can maximise the way it and its clients contribute to the local economy and minimise the negative effects of tourism.