Your tour commences this morning in central Paris. After meeting your Tour Manager, board the coach and make your way south-west to the verdant Loire Valley where, during the 15th and 16th centuries, the Kings of France and their courtiers created their grand holiday palaces. What better way to be introduced to the wonderful Loire Valley than an afternoon stop at Chambord to view the magnificent château.
This enormous château was created by King Francois as a hunting lodge within the surrounding grounds, which consisted of over 5000 wooded hectares. Later we continue to our wonderful Château hotel where we spend the next three nights. This evening we enjoy a welcome drink before dinner in our hotel.
This morning, enjoy a visit to the magnificent Château Chenonceau, spanning the River Cher on a series of graceful arches. Possibly one of the most photographed of the Loire châteaux this was the former home of Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Medici. Explore the stunning gardens and interior of the château.
Later, explore the charming riverside town of Amboise, on the banks of the River Loire, with its Royal Palace, where Leonardo da Vinci once lived as a guest of King Francois I.
Visit da Vinci’s residence – Château du Clos Lucé. Here in the underground rooms you will see on display, forty machines designed by this amazing inventor. This evening will be free in the old town of Tours around Place Plumereau, to discover your own provincial bistro for dinner.
First stop of the day will be a guided visit of the Royal Abbey of Fontevraud. The romanesque abbey church with its royal tombs and the renaissance cloister, have all been beautifully restored and the complex is now a museum and cultural centre. Lunchtime will be spent exploring Chinon, with its massive castle looming over the narrow cobblestoned streets of this riverside town. In the afternoon, visit the gardens of Château Villandry. Inspired by the classic gardens of the 16th and 18th century, different levels of the gardens include ponds, topiary, ornamental hedges and an extraordinary kitchen garden covering 12,500 square metres.
This morning, visit to the ‘ghost village’ of Oradour-sur-Glane. In June 1944, without apparent provocation, soldiers from the 2nd Waffen-SS Panzer Division massacred all the inhabitants of this quiet, little village. The village was then destroyed. The village was never rebuilt and has been preserved as a memorial to this awful atrocity. We have included entrance with audio guides to the museum ‘Centre de la memoire d’Oradour’.
Later, continue to Lascaux, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, famous for its magnificent Palaeolithic cave paintings. Whilst the actual caves themselves are now closed to the public, visit the nearby Lascaux IV museum to see the superb replicas of the cave paintings found in the Great Hall of the Bulls and the Painted Gallery. As a finalé, continue to the Dordogne Valley with its sleepy villages, medieval châteaux, meandering rivers and lush landscape that so epitomises French rural life. Stay the next three nights in the perfectly preserved Sarlat la Canéda, one of the most stunning towns in France.
First, explore the medieval, architectural time capsule village of Sarlat. Noted for its gourmet food, cheeses, pâté and foie gras, Sarlat is also famous for its beautifully preserved old town with its café filled squares and delightful cobblestoned alleyways. In the afternoon, you’ll go to the nearby village of La Roc Gageac, set beside the pretty Dordogne River. Here, board a barge and drift slowly down the River Dordogne past medieval castles. Later, visit the incredibly picturesque village of Domme. Ride on the petit train up through the ramparts to the town square. You will have time at leisure to explore the sleepy village and enjoy the sweeping views across the Dordogne Valley.
This morning, visit the ‘pilgrimage town’ of Rocamadour. Incredibly picturesque, this town sits on a tributary of the Dordogne. High above the old town are churches and monastic buildings, whilst below is an old town dating back centuries, and which once welcomed those on the ‘Pilgrims Trail’. In the afternoon, change your focus from man’s creations to that of nature, as you enjoy a visit through the astounding caves of the ‘Gouffre de Padirac’. This 25 kilometre underground system boasts massive galleries and chambers. A visual feast and beautifully lit, you’ll also experience a 500 metre boat ride inside the caves
to emerge into the spectacular ‘Grand Dome’. Tonight, in Sarlat, enjoy dinner in local restaurant.
Today, visit the vibrant city of Toulouse. Set on the banks of the Garonne River, this beautiful city is nicknamed ‘La Ville Rose’ or Pink City, due to the extensive use of terracotta bricks and tiles. Your time will be at leisure in the magnificent main square flanked by the 120 metre long façade of the ‘Capitole’ – a grand 18th century town hall fronted with pink and white marble columns. Make sure you spend time wandering amongst the shops and pavement cafés of the Vieux Quartier (Old Quarter).
Enter the land of the Cathars, in the lovely Languedoc Roussillon region. Here, in the village of Couiza, stay three
nights in the wonderful 16th century, castle style, Château des Ducs de Joyeuse. Dinner is included in your château.
This morning, a local guide will join you as you explore the ramparts and old town of Carcassonne. The medieval castle, with its gigantic double walled fortifications and 53 watchtowers, is the 2nd most visited site in France outside of Paris. Dating back to the 13th century, Carcassonne is an extraordinary timepiece and after our guided tour we have quality time to explore this magnificent castle city.
Mid-afternoon, return to your château hotel to relax and enjoy our delightful surroundings. Here, you can try your hand at Pétanque (Boules), the traditional French village sport. Playing Pétanque in front of our 500 year old château – this is the real France at its very best! Dinner tonight will be in the village at the traditional bistro, Le Carnotzet.
A leisurely start today as you head across the vine covered hills to enjoy lunchtime in the perfectly preserved time capsule of Mirepoix. Without doubt this is one of the most beautiful medieval town squares in Europe, with its colourfully painted, half-timbered houses that date back to between the 13th and 15th centuries. Sitting atop centuries old wooden rafters carved at the ends with monsters, animals and gargoyles, these rows of shuttered houses provide shady covered walkways for cafés and shops.
In the afternoon , visit the Bérenger Saunière Museum and Domain in the nearby hilltop village of Rennes-le-Château. This village and its church are famous for so many conspiracy theories surrounding the treasures of the Knights Templars, the secret location of the Holy Grail and even the remains of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Early evening, meet in your Château’s old vaulted chapel to enjoy a tasting of the excellent local wines, before dinner.
This morning, take a scenic drive past the dramatic, mountain perched, ruined Cathar castles of Puilaurens and Quéribus and then on to the outskirts of Béziers where you stop to marvel at the Ecluses de Fonserannes, a unique staircase of locks on the Canal du Midi. Created in the mid 19th century, and still working perfectly, these seven wooden locks stretch over 300 metres and raise the leisure boats and cruisers up over 21 metres. An extraordinary engineering feat! Later, your coach will drive you into the famous Camargue region and enjoy a visit to Aigues-Mortes. The 13th century walls of this historical town form a striking contrast to the vast salines (salt flats) that encircle it. Take the chance to climb the ramparts and walk around the city. Later, continue to medieval Avignon, beside the River Rhone, where you stay three nights.
Today, visit Nimes, where a local guide will join you for a walking tour of this remarkable city. Dating back to the bronze age, the central part is traffic free and right in the middle you will find the Maison Carrée Roman temple, and the giant Arena of Nimes – the best preserved amphitheatre in the Roman Empire.
On your way back to Avignon this afternoon, you have included a visit to walk across the spectacular Pont du Gard – an imposing 2000 year old Roman aqueduct which was built with giant stones weighing up to six tonnes. In a beautiful setting, this remarkable structure spans 200 metres between the craggy hillsides of the River Gard. Your evening is free to discover your own little restaurant or bistro in Avignon’s old town.
A leisurely morning in Avignon. Do as much or as little as you wish. Mid afternoon we journey to the crumbling castle and once deserted village of Les Baux to discover the craft shops and cafés scattered throughout the ruins. Set on the craggy hillside, this rejuvenated town is an extraordinary sight. We have also included entrance to enjoy a stunning audio visual art show – the Carrières de Lumières. Inside an abandoned quarry you will have a totally unique sound and vision experience as classic works of art are projected as massive fresco all around you, onto the walls and ceilings. Then continue to the romantic town of St Remy to explore and enjoy a special Provençal dinner in a local restaurant.
First stop today will be in the old fishing village of Cassis, on the Côte d’Azur. From here, enjoy a morning cruise to explore some of the incredibly picturesque Calanques. These rugged inlets with steep cliffs tumbling into the crystal clear, azure waters are best viewed by boat. Lunchtime will be at leisure in the picturesque harbour of Cassis. Later, continue to Nice, nicknamed the ‘Queen of the Riviera’, where you stay the next three nights.
Your morning is entirely free in the elegant resort town of Nice. Take time to stroll and shop amongst the winding streets and perhaps enjoy lunch in one of the attractive seaside restaurants. Nice also boasts a number of art museums. Make sure you visit the wonderful fresh food, local produce and flower markets which are amongst the best in France!
In the afternoon, will visit Saint-Jean Cap Ferrat and the fabulous Villa Ephrussi – home of the Rothschild family. Tour through this exceptional villa, perhaps the grandest on the Côte d’Azur, to see Béatrice Ephrussi’s grand apartments, tapestry and porcelain collections, and the magnificent gardens. We have also included afternoon tea in the restaurant, which boasts enormous views along the Azure Coast.
Late afternoon, go on an excursion to Monaco. Following the scenic drive along the ‘Moyenne Corniche’ to the city of Monte Carlo you will see the Royal Palace before time in the old town to enjoy dinner at leisure.
First stop this morning will be in the hill town of Grasse where you will enjoy a visit to a local perfumery. Then, dropping down to the coast, stop in the extravagant seaside resort of Cannes. Famous for its movie stars and the Cannes Film Festival, take the time to explore the old port town and ‘La Croisette’ – the seafront promenade lined with palm trees, upmarket boutiques, cafés and grand hotels.
As a finale, you will drive in to the foothills of the Alpes Maritimes to the old town of St Paul de Vence. With its imposing ramparts, overlooking the Provençal countryside, the wonderful natural light attracted an artists’ colony. Soon they were followed by film directors and movie stars, then galleries and shops. We enjoy a farewell dinner in a local restaurant.
Your tour ends today after breakfast.
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Advertised prices are person twin share, tour only and correct at time of publication and are subject to availability and change at any time without notification due to fluctuations in charges, taxes and currency. Offer is valid on new bookings only. ^Bonus is included in the advertised price. A non-refundable deposit of $500 per person is required within seven days to secure your booking. Deposits represent a booking fee and are non-refundable and non-transferable. A charge of $250 applies to each amendment made on deposited bookings. Unless otherwise stated, full payment is required 90 days prior to travel. In the event full payment is not received by the required date, an additional charge of $200 may be applied to cover extra courier fees for travel documents and tickets. Other conditions apply. Please contact your personal travel manager for full terms and conditions.