Look up “epicurean” in any modern dictionary and you’ll find the following definition (or something like it): “Adj. Devoted to the pursuit of luxury and sensual pleasure, especially that of eating and drinking. Hedonistic, self-indulgent.” The word’s meaning has wandered considerably from its source during the past 2,300 years. To Epicurus—the Athenian philosopher who frowned upon bacchanalia while championing wholesome pleasures, fellowship, and temperance—sharing a meal and lively conversation with friends in his garden was the most reliable path to happiness, and then to virtue. He insisted it really was that simple. Let’s test it, shall we?
Epicurus put great stock in good food because he believed our best conversations, our best friendships, take shape and flourish at the dinner table. In that light, this seven-day journey through Provence—curated by The New York Times, which dispatches a Times journalist or subject specialist to accompany travelers—is your most successful dinner party, deployed on a heroic scale. Full days are designated for the vineyards of Châteauneuf du Pape, the markets of Avignon, and the traditional farms of the Alpilles hills, and plenty of time is set aside for tastings of market produce, wines, local cheeses, olive oils, and fresh chèvre. Every stop is a chance to learn from a local expert, and every adventure is fueled by the artisanal farmhouse food for which Provence is famous. The trip ends with a day in Saint Rèmy and the landscapes that inspired Van Gogh’s art, and a final, leisurely dinner: bouillabaisse, wine, and convivial conversation. As Epicurus observed, with whom a person eats is of greater importance than what is eaten. The cost of this tour is $6,395 (there is a $1,400 single supplement), with six departures scheduled from now through October. Visit www.nytimes.com/times-journeys/travel/the-flavors-of-provence/ for more information.