Eat it, drink it, paint it

12 best <i>Proven&Atilde;&sect;al</i> holidays
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The Independent Travel

1 Parlez-vous français?LSG Theme Holidays (tel: 01509 231713) offers French language weeks in Provence for students of varying proficiency, with the emphasis on practising conversational French in the village of Carqueiranne. A week starts from £569 per person for twin shares or single rooms in a two-bedroomed apartment. Transfers, full-board accommodation, and tuition all included.

1 Parlez-vous français?LSG Theme Holidays (tel: 01509 231713) offers French language weeks in Provence for students of varying proficiency, with the emphasis on practising conversational French in the village of Carqueiranne. A week starts from £569 per person for twin shares or single rooms in a two-bedroomed apartment. Transfers, full-board accommodation, and tuition all included.

2 Avignon city breakTravelscene (tel: 020-84274445) can organise Eurostar breaks to historic Avignon, one of the Cities of Culture for 2000. Centred in a hotel that was once a 16th-century Jesuit school, a three-night break starts from £349 per person in early July, based on two sharing. Eurostar and train travel from Lille, and b&b accommodation are included.

3 Lavender trailsThe Lubéron region of Provence is a special place to hike in. A nine-day self-guided walk with Headwater (tel: 01606 813399) will take you through the purple fields of lavender, the ochre-tinted village of Roussillon, and the verdant countryside around the Sorgues river. From £469 per person, based on two sharing and taking their own vehicle. This includes Dover-Calais crossings, transfers, half-board accommodation, and luggage support.

4 Cookery courseFeaturing local produce, An Invitation to France (tel: 020 75818946) runs cookery breaks to Provence. Its four-day courses teach wannabe Raymond Blancs how to master regional specialities like tapenade, and how to select the right wines. The courses start at £746 per person based on two sharing. Flights to Marseille, five nights' half-board accommodation, and tuition, are included.

5 Miniature châteauSomething Special Villa Holidays (tel: 01455 852228) has a range of attractive properties throughout Provence. Near the village of St Maximin, close to the coast at Cassis, the Château de Meyronne is a compact 18th-century property that sleeps seven, with formal gardens and four-poster beds. Available for £1,594 per week in June. A short sea-crossing is included.

6 Roman townsAndante Travels (tel: 01980 610555) explores the Roman influence in Provence, from the triumphal arch of Orange to the amphitheatre at Arles, in a seven-day tour departing 10 September and lead by Dr Denise Allen. It costs £980 per person based on two sharing. Flights to Marseilles, transfers, full-board accommodation, and entrance fees are included.

7 High horses The Alpes de Haute Provence are the setting for an equine adventure around the Lake Serre-Ponçon. Inntravel Riding Holidays (tel: 01653 629003) offers a selection of Andalusian and Arab horses for a week spent in the saddle. The trek crosses high mountain passes where ibex flourish. This seven-night holiday costs £998 per person, based on two sharing. Everything is included - BA flights, transfers, full-board accommodation with daily picnics, horses and guides.

8 Bon appétit!

VFB Holidays (tel: 01242 240310) offers a range of Provençal gastronomic short breaks, including one at the Hotel Montmirail in Vaucluse. A two-night break in April and May starts at £219 per person based on two sharing. Short Channel-crossings and half-board accommodation are included.

9 Cycling Belle France (tel: 01797 223777) offers a seven-day cycling tour in Provence. Leaving the small town of Graveson, just south of Avignon, its self-guided tour is a gentle way to explore the Provençal countryside, averaging 14 miles per day and including lengthy lunch breaks. From £479 per person based on two sharing, and including a short Channel-crossing, bikes, half-board accommodation, luggage transfer, and maps.

10 Painting holiday

Provence has always inspired artists, and An Invitation to France (tel: 020 75818946) runs four-day holidays in which learning to paint with watercolours is the central theme. Centred around the Hostellerie Bérard, courses start from £637 per person based on two sharing. Flights, five-nights' half-board accommodation, and tuition are included.

11 Glorious grapesThe southern Rhÿne region of Provence, birthplace of some of France's finest wines, is the focus of an eight-day escorted walk offered by Winetrails (tel: 01306 712111). Starting from Avignon, the tour uses chambres d'hÿtes and costs £745 per person based on two sharing. All transfers, mostly full-board accommodation, entrance fees and tastings are included, but getting there costs extra.

12 Going it alonePick your own Provençal paradise in Alastair Sawday's Special Places to Stay: French Hotels, Inns & Other Places (tel: 0117 9299921; net: www.sawdays.co.uk), out tomorrow (£11.95).

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