NEXT STOP – THE SACRED SOUTH OF FRANCE AND THE MYSTERY OF MARY MAGDALENE!

Interested in walking in the footsteps of one of the most iconic and historic female figures of all time – while basking in the incredible beauty of the South of France?

Next June, The Divine Destination Collection will be travelling to Carcassonne and Aix-en-Provence to uncover the 2,000 year-old legend of Mary Magdalene– who was believed to have been forced out of the Holy Land with other devout followers of Christ after his crucifixion, and arrived by boat to the South of France where she spent the rest of her life as a teacher and healer.

THE DIVINE FEMININE

The story is made even more fascinating by rumours that Jesus may have actually survived the crucifixion and secretly married Mary, and by tales of hidden symbols and codes concerning Mary found in churches in the ancient towns of the region. Mary is also regarded as an archetype of the Divine Feminine – possessing an energy that combines creativity, justice, awareness, and other strong feminine traits.

You’ll get the chance to decide what is fact and what is fiction as you travel the French countryside, visiting vineyards and sampling the excellent cuisine – all in the comfort and luxury that The Divine Destination Collection is famous for.

ANCIENT FRANCE

Your adventure starts off in the medieval walled city of Carcassonne whose beautiful hilltop castle is France’s second-most coveted tourist site after La tour Eiffel. You’ll spend three nights in this UNESCO World Heritage site at the celebrated Hotel de la Cité, a 19th century neo-gothic style five-star hotel built on the site of a former bishop’s palace. This will be your base as our expert guides take you on a journey into the lore of Mary Magdalene, with visits to Alet-les-Bain, a charming town full of hidden clues to her existence; Rennes-le-Château, a tiny hilltop town with a church dedicated to Mary Magdalene and believed to be the location of many historical mysteries, including one linked to Dan Brown’s book, The Da Vinci Code; and Rennes-les-Bains, where Mary is thought to have baptised and healed her followers in the pools of the Lovers Fountain.

While in Carcassonne, you’ll indulge in the amazing cuisine of the South of France, including a few surprising gourmet twists, such as a “hint of Italy” dinner at La Bourdasso, a famous family-run Italian restaurant in the countryside where they make their own buffalo mozzarella and grow the wheat for their delicious home-made pasta.

ON TO THE LAND OF THE IMPRESSIONISTS

The next stop is Aix-en-Provence, known for its glorious countryside full of vineyards and fields of lavender and sunflowers made famous in the paintings of Cézanne, Van Gogh, and Matisse. After stopping for a feast of local oysters, you’ll check in to the enchanting Hotel Le Pigonnet where Cézanne loved to wander the grounds and paint the neighbouring Sainte-Victoire mountain.

While at Le Pigonnet, you’ll enjoy a special “La Vie En Rose” evening in the garden. Just imagine dining on regional specialties and drinking a local rosé under a fragrant rose arbour while the songs of Edith Piaf fill the air.

The journey into the legend of Mary Magdalene continues with a visit to Saint-Maximin-La-Sainte-Baume, a beautiful town at the foot of the Sainte-Baume mountains where the tomb of Mary Magdalene was believed to be found in 1279. You’ll hike up to the grotto where they say Mary lived for 30 years, and then be transported back in time with lunch at a monastic retreat. After lunch the search for Mary resumes with a visit to the Basilique Sainte-Marie-Madeleine, built in the 13th century and dedicated to Mary Magdalene. In the crypt below you’ll find a shrine, containing what they claim is Mary Magdalene’s skull.

That evening you’ll get the chance to wander through the ancient streets of Aix-en-Provence and dine at one of its elegant restaurants. Full of boutiques, galleries and numerous fountains – the streets remain full of life long after midnight.

CHOOSE YOUR ADVENTURE

The next day you’ll have the delightful decision of choosing between spending the day in Marseille, France’s second largest city, and the 2013 European Capital of Culture – or in Avignon, full of medieval streets, and once the seat of the popes – or in Lourmarin, known as one of the most beautiful villages in France, and home of Nobel Literature Prize winner Albert Camus, who is buried in the local cemetery.

If you choose Marseille, you’ll go on a walking tour, with lots of opportunities to load up on the area’s famous lavender, olive oil, and Herbs de Provence, as well as drop by the many chic boutiques, before visiting the St. Victor Abbey where Mary Magdalene is believed to have preached, and have lunch overlooking the harbour.

In Avignon, you’ll visit the Palais des Pape, where the popes used to live, and then indulge in a private wine tasting and picnic at the celebrated Châteauneuf du Pape wine estates.

In Lourmarin, you can wander through the town’s quaint, winding streets, and browse through the weekly market full of delights from the local farms, olive groves, and orchards, finishing up with lunch and wine tasting at one of the area’s vineyards.

The day finishes off with everyone coming together for a culinary extravaganza at a Michelin Star restaurant.

A TRULY MAGICAL LIGHT

The final day is spent exploring Aix-en-Provence, which is always bathed in a magical light, whether it is from the brilliant sunny blue sky of the afternoon, or the golden glow at dusk. Pick the perfect terrace for lunch and stay a little longer with a glass or two of wine. You can spend the afternoon shopping or return to the hotel for a dip in the pool or a game of petanque – the local version of lawn bowling.

You’ll then bid au revoir to Provence with a final, incredible French feast at a private estate, complete with vintage wines and special entertainment.

Want to know more about this fascinating journey into the legend of Mary Magdalene, as well as some other once-in-a-lifetime adventures waiting for you in the South of France? We are finalizing all the last minute details to this amazing itinerary and will be officially launching the trip within the coming weeks. Here’s a teaser or click here if you would like us to contact you directly when we go live with all the details!

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