Experiences by the Sea
The Mediterranean Provence Experience • The Cornwall Experience • The Puglia Experience
Some of our most memorable Experience trips are our Experiences by the sea!
Join us on a virtual journey to the Mediterranean Sea, the Celtic Sea and the English Channel, and the Adriatic Sea, areas you can experience with us on a European Experiences trip.
The deep blue Mediterranean Sea
Europe’s largest and most famous sea is the Mediterranean, the “star” of our Mediterranean Provence Experience week. Our focus is the protected, lesser-known western area of the French Riviera, where la mer (the sea) meets la terre (the land). The landscape features a mix of natural Provence forests, rocky cliffs, coastal paths, discreet sandy coves, and the azure blue sea. The Greeks settled in this area 2500 years ago, followed by Romans and other sea-faring cultures, establishing ancient Mediterranean trading posts that are now colorful ports.
Jennifer Dugdale of our European Experiences team has developed and leads this special week on the Mediterranean. We welcomed three groups in 2022 and will host three this year, including a special Women’s Week each year. An American expat, Jennifer lives about an hour north of the sea in Aix-en-Provence.
She explained the appeal of this trip to our travelers: “They enjoy the historic associations of the rocky islands, the ports, and colorful fishermen’s villages, along with the local traditions and cuisine influenced by the sea. The Mediterranean also provides a sunny, warm climate, cooled by sea breezes, which is perfect for a relaxed vacation.”
Our base for this week is the lovely seaside town of Bandol. We stay in a traditional, locally-owned hotel in a quiet neighborhood just a short walk from Bandol’s port and seaside promenade; a lovely cove and beach are also nearby.
Eric from Oregon joined our Mediterranean Provence group in May 2022 and received special recognition for his photo from Bandol in our recent contest. “You won’t find the ostentatious glitz of the French Riviera in Bandol. What we did find was laid back charm and a perfect place to explore Mediterranean Provence.”
Cynthia from North Carolina was one of 11 women in our September 2022 Mediterranean Provence Women’s Week. “A holiday at the seaside, especially the Mediterranean seaside, is what dreams are made of. I especially enjoyed a coastal cliff walk, early on the first morning. Every place I looked, the beauty was beyond words. I still savor the scent of the salt air, mingled with the delicate flowers and unique foliage; the soft, sun-washed colors of the houses; and the sun glimmering on the surface of the vast expanse of sea that stretched for miles.” Cynthia also enjoyed the nature walk on the island of Embiez and the picnic on an adjacent island.
Our Mediterranean Provence week includes a variety of special experiences on the sea: day trips to Marseille and Toulon; visits to small villages, including Sanary sur Mer and Cassis; boat trips in Toulon and Cassis; a day trip to an outlying island… and everywhere, spectacular views! The views from high points on Mont Faron (above Toulon); the Route des Crêtes (above Cassis); and The Basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde (above Marseille) are especially memorable.
Another European Experiences trip dips down from the hillsides for a day on the Mediterranean Sea. Also led by Jennifer Dugdale, The Riviera Hillsides Experience bases for the week in the scenic foothills behind the famous French Riviera, just west of Nice and Cannes. The dramatic hillsides are dotted with homes and perched villages, with glimpses of the Alps in the distance and the sea down below. Although the main focus of this trip is the countryside, the group spends a memorable day on the Mediterranean, including one of Cannes’ offshore islands, Ile St Honorat, with its inhabited monastery. Our travelers enjoy a relaxing guided walk on the island through the vineyards and to the lighthouse, listen to the moving chants of the monks’ midday song, and relax over a picnic lunch.
Surrounded by the Sea in Cornwall
Let’s travel north to southwest England and Cornwall. My husband Charley and I have hosted Cornwall Experience groups since 2018, a unique 10-night adventure that includes seven nights in Mousehole or Penzance on Mount’s Bay; two nights on the magical Isles of Scilly; and a final night in the riverfront town of Fowey. Cornwall has a different climate and culture than the rest of England, very much impacted by its position on the narrow southwestern coast. The warm gulf stream currents bless the area with a semi-tropical climate… the mildest and sunniest area of England. Our groups are always surprised to discover palm trees and tropical plants in England!
Cornwall is bordered on its north coast by the Celtic Sea and on the south coast by the English Channel. The two seas meet at Cape Cornwall, with the Atlantic Ocean to the west. There are over 400 miles of coastline in Cornwall, much of it rugged, influencing a history of sailing ships, fishing villages, pirates, smugglers, and shipwrecks. From inland Cornwall, you’re never more than 20 miles from the sea. And at the narrowest area, opening to the Penwith Peninsula to the far west (where our trip is based), it’s just six miles from Mount’s Bay in the south to St. Ives Bay in the north. The Penwith Peninsula is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and is also a UNESCO World Heritage site for its mining heritage.
Keith and Sue from California were with us in Cornwall in April 2019 and still have special memories of this experience on the sea. “On our Cornwall Experience we were always close to the sea, and some days on the sea. From our wonderful hotel in Mousehole to our time aboard the Princessa motoring on the Fal and Helston Rivers, being close to the sea steeped us in the rich culture of Cornwall. Our seaward journeys held a sense of excited anticipation to explore new destinations and took us to fantastic places. The magical Isles of Scilly (surrounded by the sea!) were particularly memorable.”
Keith’s beautiful nighttime photo of the harbor at the historic fishing village of Mousehole was a runner-up in our 2020 photo contest.
Highlights of The Cornwall Experience include visits to coastal towns and villages (Mousehole, Penzance, St. Ives, Falmouth, and Fowey); explorations of lush gardens, including the unique Eden Project; a visit to the island of St. Michael’s Mount; and of course, our two days on the Isles of Scilly.
The Isles of Scilly, a group of over 100 small islands approximately 28 miles off the mainland, are the most southwestern point in the British Isles. Only five islands are inhabited with a total population 2,200. With settlements dating back to the Stone Age, the Isles of Scilly are described as “outstandingly beautiful, uncrowded and unspoilt” and offer a tranquil and laid-back way of life. The water is a Caribbean blue and there are miles of white sand beaches and an abundance of birds, marine animals, and exotic plants. Our groups enjoy a boat trip around the islands, when we usually spot seals and (with binoculars) tiny puffins. The main agricultural product in the islands is cut flowers, grown on small family farms.
We travel to the Isles of Scilly by ferry and return on small planes. We travel between three of the inhabited islands on small ferry boats. This is truly an experience on the sea, surrounded by sea!
Charley and I are looking forward to being back in Cornwall with two groups in 2023. Our April trip is coming up soon and begins our 2023 European Experiences season; the September 2023 trip is full. In 2024 we’ll host a group in late April.
Our newest trip, The Normandy Experience, also includes time on the sea, on the south side of the English Channel, called La Manche by the French. We’ll explore the famous D-Day landing beaches, where over 4,000 Allied troops lost their lives in the fight to end World War II. Another day we’ll enjoy lunch in the coastal village of Port-en-Bessin with its traditional fishing harbor. We’ll spend a day by the sea in the historic harbor town of Honfleur in an area of Normandy known as La Côte Fleurie, the flower coast. The River Seine meets La Manche here, and our group will enjoy a boat trip from the old port out into the Seine estuary.
Puglia – the “heel of Italy’s boot” on the Adriatic Sea
We’ll end our journey on the seas in southern Italy and the region of Puglia, often called the “heel of the boot,” with its entire eastern border along the Adriatic Sea. The tip of that heel—the Salento Peninsula—sits between two seas: the Ionic Sea to the west and the Adriatic Sea to the east. The Adriatic Sea extends from the clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea and is noted for its many shades of blue, warm temperatures, and calm currents.
Our Puglia Experience week is based in the “white city” of Ostuni, sitting high on a hill 750 feet above sea level, less than six miles from the Adriatic coast. Puglia is known for its unique cone-shaped stone houses (called trulli), 60 million olive trees, excellent wines, outstanding cuisine, and beautiful beaches.
I’ve now hosted five groups in Puglia, beginning in 2021, and I’m looking forward to returning with two more groups this October.
Our Puglia groups enjoy experiences in the countryside, in the lovely city of Lecce, and on the sea. Our seaside highlights include a morning in the historic port town of Otranto and a day north of Ostuni at Polignano a Mare and nearby villages. Everyone especially enjoy a seafood lunch in the coastal fishing village of Savelletri.
Kelly from Texas captured the beautiful Adriatic sea in this photo from our 2023 photo contest. “This view from the Otranto coast has more shades of blue than I’d ever seen at one time. The water was so clear I could see the Adriatic sea bottom. I also loved the relative stillness of the water inside the rocky barriers compared to the waves beyond.”
I asked Kelly why she was drawn to the sea. “I sense so many possibilities when gazing at the sea. Something about the salty air, the sea breezes, waves, and color makes me feel very alive and ready for adventure,” she told me.
Her husband Matt remembers the hour our group spent one morning in the quiet little village of San Vito, just a few miles north of popular Polignano a Mare. We stop to explore the coastline and enjoy a beverage by the small, natural port filled with colorful boats.
This past October many in our group watched a fisherman returning from the sea in his small boat, preparing an octopus for market. For Matt this was a “timeless moment.” It’s unexpected moments like this that we cherish on our European Experiences trips.
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All our European Experience trips focus on beautiful places… in the countryside, in special cities, and on the sea.
We love our Experiences on the sea! We’re big believers that a vacation in nature has a great impact on our travelers’ ability to relax and refresh and to return home with an enhanced sense of well-being. Research has now shown that spending time in “blue spaces” (by the sea, lakes or rivers) does improve our physical and mental health. And our approach of one week in one place is also relaxing and less stressful than moving from place to place.
We’d love to have you join us… on the sea, in the countryside, or on one of our city trips! We still have openings in several 2023 trips. And stay tuned… we’ll be announcing our 2024 schedule on March 1!
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Enjoy our other blog posts focused on Experiences on the sea and on rivers:
Other members of Slow Travel Tours also offer trips on the sea:
The Cinque Terre — Charming Vintage Italy on the Ligurian Coast by Jim and Magrit Baurecht Nilsen of Photography Travel Tours
Island Hopping in the Adriatic by Anne and Kirk Woodyard of Music and Markets Tours
6 Reasons to Visit Barcelona this Fall by Regina Winkle-Bryan of Bold Spirit Travel
Kathy and Charley Wood founded European Experiences in 2006, offering week-long “slow tours” in some of the most beautiful areas of Europe. Their trips include The Luberon Experience in Provence, France, named one of the top 50 tours in the world by National Geographic Traveler magazine.
Kathy has personally organized and hosted over 150 Experience groups. She hosts Experience weeks in the Luberon, the Chianti region of Tuscany, Puglia, Alsace, the Dordogne, the Cotswolds, and Normandy. Charley is now mostly retired but continues to co-host The Cornwall Experience and our Christmas trips with Kathy.
Kathy has been traveling in Europe for 30+ years and loves sharing her special places in Europe with other travelers. The Woods have a second home in their beloved village of Bonnieux in the Luberon. Read more about Kathy and Charley here.
Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.