An attentive reader asks: did I do France on my own, or on tour? The answer is yes to both—Paris on our own, and Provence on tour, a point which invites a bit of expansion. The operator is an outfit called Archaeological Tours out of New York—a one-woman organization (well; with a small but devoted staff). We don't carry pickaxes but we do tend to favor assorted ruins. The trips are well-organized and imaginatively planned, but the real draw is the professor/lecturer; AT has a high-quality stable of these, well suited to their particular assignments.
It's a niche market, with a loyal following: some people have taken 20-30 trips with AT; we've taken nine. Part of the fascination is wondering how the heck she stays business: lots of her tours go to places a lot gnarlier than Provence, and she seems to have a political crisis or a natural disaster (or both) on her hands somewhere all the time (most recently, she had a tour set for that part of China where the earthquake hit; they revised the itinerary, and went ahead).
Yes, yes, I know what they say about packaged tours; I have said most of them myself. But there is a great deal to be said for walking the territory in the company of someone who really knows what s/he is talking about. And for a traveler, there are few things sweeter than sticking your bag outside the door in the morning and having it reappear as if by magic in a distant city that night. For the right taste, highly recommended.