April 30, 2014


For those who love French food and wine, the outdoors and a touch of exercise, Tour De Vines new tours to Provence should appeal. Catering for those who aren’t hard core cyclists, but love the social aspect of being outdoors, as well as those who enjoy their cycling, they have tours to suit every level of cyclist.

An Australian wine cycle tourism specialist, Tour de Vines will set you along the lavender scented paths of Provence, one of France’s most idyllic country villages. Travel through picture perfect rolling hills, dotted with vineyards as you experience the charm of the area. They have created three new cycling itineraries in Van Gogh’s romantic home, where you can visit medieval castles, dine in incredible restaurants and sample the famed Chateauneuf du Pape wines.

Bikes 001-1The Provence tours adhere to the idea of discovering new routes and offering something a little different. Tour de Vines want to offer their guests a more authentic experience, and their three new Provence tours visit a number of the classic destinations such as St Remy de Provence and Les Baux de Provence, but the itinerary incorporates so much more of the areas that they feel give a better overall feel of this most enchanting of regions.

Sample the local food starting with a sweet Cavaillon melon or one of the classified goats’ cheeses accompanied with fresh figs, or order a selection of tapenades in this Spanish influenced district. There are truffles, bouillabaisse and the local daube (beef casserole) finished off with ambrosia of the gods made by Chocolatier Joel Durand in St Remy or the master Nougatier Boyer of Sault might provide a lighter option.

When exploring Provence, accommodation is in independent, privately run hotels that embody the charm and character of the region. All hotels are fully equipped with modern facilities and where possible, with swimming pools, as there is nothing quite like a dip after a day in the saddle. One of the benefits of keeping the group size small is that it enables you to stay in the smaller, family run establishments that add to the authenticity of the travel experience. Chain hotels are not included in the tour.

Tour de Vines’ three new programs, Provence Roman, Provence Luberon and Tour de Provence complement their popular Tour de Bordeaux and Tour de Loire Valley programs.

Every level of cyclist fitness, from easy to moderate and experienced, is catered for. There will be a tour to match your needs amongst the range of departures during May to October.

The Tour de Provence itineraries include all accommodation, bike hire and helmet, full breakfasts each day and gourmet dinners each night, fine wine and soft drink, two bilingual guides, entry fees to attractions and historical sites.

Sandra Tiltman



May 20, 2013

P1160779 (Copier)Noumea will be putting cheese in the spotlight when one of New Caledonia’s finest hotels, Le Méridien Noumea, celebrates the 10th anniversary of the French Cheese Festival.

The Festival runs from Tuesday 28 May to Saturday 8 June 2013, excluding Sunday 2 and Monday 3 June.

Back by popular demand, the 2013 edition of the French Cheese Festival will see the return of Mr Gerard Poulard, “Maître Fromagier”, Cheese Master.

Le Méridien Noumea’s French Cheese Festival is an annual rendez-vous where New Caledonia’s gourmet community and visitors can discover and enjoy a collection of no less than 130 varieties of cheese.  Selected by Maitre Poulard, the cheeses would not normally be available anywhere but in France.

For over twenty years, Gerard Poulard has travelled throughout the French countryside to encounter its varied history and culture.   His knowledge of the origin of numerous cheeses is extensive.

Behind the cheese buffet and face to face with guests, Gerard Poulard knows that he only has few moments to seduce and convince.  Mr Poulard’s histories and anecdotes about France and its cheese makers are so vast, that he sometimes knows the name of the goat or cow from which the precious milk has been drawn, to make his exclusive annual selection of cheeses for Le Méridien’s cheese festival.

In addition to the cheese selection, which is explained and served by the Cheese Master, that takes place over dinner at the Hotel’s Le Sextant Restaurant from 7 pm to 10 pm, guests will also be able to enjoy a hot and cold “Parisian bistrot” buffet.

P1160777 (Copier)A sommelier will also be on hand to suggest the best French wines to accompany the cheese selection.

The 10th anniversary French Cheese Festival at Le Méridien Noumea provides a unique opportunity, for both the novice and the refined palate, to taste an unparalleled selection of cheeses.

The hotel has four dining choices, each with their own cuisine.

Surrounded by landscaped tropical gardens and overlooking Anse Vata Bay, not far from the town’s vibrant centre, Le Méridien Nouméa offers guests an extensive range of leisure and recreational activities, such as a wellness centre with beauty and massage treatments plus a steam room and sauna, as well as a large swimming pool, the hotel has direct access to the beach, where guests can enjoy windsurfing and snorkeling.

Noumea is only 2.5 hours flying time from Sydney, with daily services on Aircalin.

Sandra Tiltman 

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May 6, 2013


No other location in the world seems to conjure up thoughts of a tropical island paradise more than Tahiti.  With its high mountainous terrain, black sand beaches and surrounding coral reefs, Tahiti is also famous for turquoise blue lagoons and palm fringed beaches as well as fine French cuisine, it ticks all the boxes for a holiday away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Tahiti offers the visitor everything from swimming, snorkeling, jetskiing, water skiing, wind surfing, parasailing, sailing between the islands by powerboat or catamaran to the art of just doing nothing and relaxing in one of the many luxury resorts dotted throughout the region.

Located in the Southern Pacific Ocean and formed from volcanic activity, Tahiti is the largest island in the Windward Group of French Polynesia and is the economic, cultural and political centre of French Polynesia.

Tahiti was proclaimed a colony of France in 1880, although the indigenous Tahitians were not legally authorised to be French citizens until 1946.  Originally settled by Polynesians, who now comprise about 70% of the island’s population, with the remainder made up of Europeans, Chinese and those of mixed heritage.

Part of French Polynesia, Tahiti is a semi-autonomous territory of France with its own assembly, president, budget and laws.  France’s influence is limited to subsidies, education and security.  Tahitians are French citizens with complete civil and political rights.

PA080866French is the official language throughout Tahiti, although the Tahitian language is widely spoken as is English.

Tahiti’s currency is the French Pacific Franc which is pegged to the Euro.

Tourism is one of Tahiti’s most important industries along with Tahitian black pearl farming and the export of vanilla, fruits, flowers and fish.

Average temperatures range between 21C and 31C having little seasonal variation.  November to April is the wet season with January being the wettest month and August the driest.

Tahiti is also famous their traditional dancing, where rows of grass skirt wearing dancers perform their fast hip shaking moves to the sounds of drumbeats.  Last year while sailing aboard Carnival Spirit from Hawaii to Sydney, I was fortunate to visit Papeete, Moorea and Bora Bora.  The ship spent a day in each port, giving us a perfect opportunity to sightsee, shop for the famous black pearl jewellery, tropical print clothes plus experience some of the local culture.  While docked in the capital city, Papeete, a local troupe of dancers and musicians came aboard Carnival Spirit to present a cultural performance, much to the delight of the passengers.

Holland America, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity are just some of the cruise lines whose ships visit Tahitian ports while on the voyage to and from Australia, at the beginning and end of each cruise season.

Paul Gauguin Cruises offers luxury small ship cruises of various lengths aboard their vessel Paul Gauguin, visiting some ports that larger ships can’t reach throughout the region.

Faa’a International Airport, located 5 km from the capital, Papeete, is the only international airport in the region.

Air Tahiti Nui offers regular one stop flights to Papeete via Auckland, in under 10 hours, from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, in partnership with Qantas.

Founded in 1996, Air Tahiti Nui commenced flight operations in 1998 and now operates five A340-300 aircraft from its Tahiti base. The airline has headquarters in Papeete and operates from Faa’a International Airport on the island of Tahiti.

Sandra Tiltman   PHOTOS: John Pond  Read my blogs at and website also