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Life is a picnic

13th October 2011

Founder of Picnics in Provence, Nikki Maxwell, shares her story about how her dream of hosting small, select and luxurious gourmet food and wine tours to Provence and to South West France became a reality.

Hailing from Scotland, I moved to Melbourne a fair few more years ago than I care to remember.  I have also lived in San Diego, Spain, France and Switzerland but am very happy to call Australia home.  I’ve had quite a varied background, studied languages and worked mainly in travel related industries.

I'm a mother of two, a huge foodie and I love travelling.

I especially love France. I spent a lot of time travelling through France when I was younger and I worked there when I was a student. Provence has always captured my heart; the landscape, the light, the bountiful Mediterranean delicacies and of course, a sublime local cheeky rosé doesn’t go amiss!

At Picnics in Provence, we provide fully escorted unique and luxurious gourmet food, wine and lifestyle tours to southern France, unspoiled France off the beaten track. We take small, select groups; a maximum of 10.

We also customise tours to guests' exact specifications so if there is a group of friends or a family travelling together, we find out exactly what they want to do and where they want to go and cater a trip for them accordingly.

In 2007, my family and I rented a villa in Provence during the northern summer for some months when our house in Melbourne was being renovated.

For many years my passion was to start a business taking gourmet food and wine tours to special parts of France and Spain and, having spent the summer in this idyllic spot; meeting, eating and drinking with the locals, I knew I had found the perfect place to base my tours.

I took my first trip in 2008 and haven’t looked back since.  It’s the best fun I’ve found I can have standing up!

We offer attention to detail and access to activities and locations that other tours don't. We stay in luxurious villas in gorgeous out of the way places in either the south east or the south west of France.  In fact, the house we stay in was rented by Barbara Streisand last year.

We visit colourful markets, great restaurants, stunning vineyards, perched hilltop villages, incredible galleries, enjoy an art class, cooking classes – we even have a picnic in a hot air balloon.   The food and wine on the trip is outstanding and we have a private chef who prepares exquisite meals everyday.

There is no substitute for spending time on the ground, forging good relationships with excellent producers whom are passionate about their wares.  The accommodation we stay in is a vital aspect of the trip; we don’t hotel-hop, so the villas we choose are outstanding.  The property in the South West of France is a bit of a Hollywood A-list bolthole – you have to be in the know and fortuitously, I came across it through some wonderful contacts.

 My experience is only half the story. Share yours in the comments section below.

- Nikki Maxwell

- Picnics in Provence