France has a long and rich history with a past that is full of legends and tales. Some are so old and lost in the mists of time that it’s often impossible to confirm fact from fiction. One of the most enduring tales of southern France involves the story of Mary Magdalene, a disciple of Jesus who it is said took refuge in France after his death. A unique tour seeks to discover more about the saint whilst also discovering the most beautiful parts of southern France…
The spiritual side of the south of France
Long, long ago stories began to circulate in France and beyond that following the death of Jesus, his disciples dispersed. Some said that France became a haven for some of them. The details have been lost in time. But generally the legend is that three women named Mary, or sometimes two women named Mary, along with Martha, Lazarus and a servant named Sarah had been set adrift in an open boat from Palestine after Christ’s death. They arrived in the south of France and landed either at Marseille or Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. The Marys were said to be Mary Magdalene, Mary Salome and Mary Jacobi.
The Divine Destination Collection tours aim to create life-changing travel adventures, combined with wellness, luxury accommodation, great food and wine, plus uncover the magic and spirituality of a destination. They run tours all over the world. And in June 2023 they will head to the south of France to follow the path of Mary Magdalene’s journey. She became a much-revered saint in France with many churches dedicated to her. The unique trip isn’t about Mary Magdalene as a religious figure but as an archetype of the divine feminine. And as you explore her story, you’ll also be immersed in the beauty of France.
The journey starts in UNESCO-listed Carcassonne where you’ll stay at the famed Hotel de la Cité. The ground floor of the hotel is a listed historic monument. If you leaf through the guest book you’ll find the signatures of Winston Churchill, Princess Grace of Monaco and Colette the great French writer. The hotel is seriously special and very luxurious. As you sip the local sparkling wine on the terrace of the hotel and watch the sun set over the citadel while soaking up the stunning views, it’s a goosebump, memorable moment as you learn about the mysteries and history of this ancient place.
Carcassonne is surrounded by beautiful villages and tiny hamlets like Rennes-le-Chateau and Alet-les-Bains, Rennes-les-Baines and Cathar Castles. So many of the local sites are off the beaten track, authentic and missed by most visitors. You’ll visit private gardens, enjoy a live piano recital at a castle and get to learn more about Mary Magdalene and her journey in the area.
Aix, as the locals call it, is one of those places that steals your heart. It is an elegantly cultured city, mellow and laid back, sun-kissed and sensuous. One of its most beautiful hotels is the 18th century mansion, 5* Le Pigonnet which has gorgeous gardens with 20 fountains, a grand pool, and glorious rooms – fit for nobility, and your second home on this tour. It’s a stone’s throw from the famous and picturesque Cours Mirabeau main thoroughfare which splits the city into two halves. On one side of this Champs-Elysées of southern France is the Renaissance district. One the other side is the Medieval district. Both areas are home to streets lined with glorious mansions, café terraces, galleries and boutiques. On Saturdays a lively market spreads along the Cours Mirabeau, tempting you to fill your case with souvenirs.
This is the former home of artist Cezanne. Traces of him are everywhere, from the museums to his former atelier a short walk from the city centre. Smocks, hats and still-life props, recognisable from his paintings, clutter the place where Cézanne captured his obsession with Mont Sainte-Victoire mountain on canvas, and completed his last Grandes Baigneuses.
From Aix it’s a short journey to Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume and the Basilica of Saint Mary Magdalene. It’s said that she was buried here in the 1st century though the earliest part of the church, the crypt dates to the 4th century and it is famous for being said to hold the skull of Mary. A grotto nearby is where the saint is said to have meditated. Surrounded by glorious countryside, castles, monasteries and vineyards, this is a very special, not well-known part of southern France.
Along the route you’ll have the chance to meet “Mary experts”, trace the path of Mary Magdalene or simply relax and enjoy this luxurious adventure.
From the ancient marble-paved streets of the Bastide of Saint-Louis, the lower town of Carcassonne, and the upper towns cobbled streets, to the winding lanes of Aix, the countryside of southern France, it’s monuments, castles and churches, its spiritual places, this is a unique tour that reveals a little-known and extraordinary side to France. This small group tour (limited to 22 maximum) will be hosted by Deb Niven and Allison Frame who have decades of travel industry experience between them. You’ll enjoy fine dining, private unique venues, visits to wineries and the finest hotels.
Find out more about this unique and seriously special tour (suitable for couples, friends, solo) at: divinedestinationcollection.com