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Botanical Wonders of France, Spain & Southern England - Insight Vacations

Botanical Wonders Of France, Spain & England

Private Custom Group

Duration: 21 days • Countries visited: EnglandFrance, Spain
Group trip type: Gardening

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Day to Day Itinerary

  1. Day 1: Welcome to London

    On arrival into London's Heathrow Airport, you are transferred to your hotel, and have the rest of the day at leisure. Tonight we enjoy a Welcome Drink with our Travel Director.

  1. Day 2: Highlights of London

    This morning our sightseeing trip acquaints us with the vibrant West End of London. We explore Marble Arch, Oxford Street, Regent Street, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, the Cenotaph, Downing Street, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. We see historic Westminster Abbey and also Buckingham Palace, home of the Queen. A highlight of our trip is a visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum, the world's greatest museum of art and design, with collections unrivalled in their scope and diversity. Our guide will show us just some of the 3000 years' worth of amazing artefacts, ceramics, furniture, fashion, glass, jewellery, metalwork, photographs, sculpture, textiles and paintings.  After our excursion, Harrods is only a short stroll away. (BB)

  1. Day 3: Hampton Court Flower Show

    Today we visit the Hampton Court Flower show, the world's most vibrant flower show which welcomes us with colour and fragrance. The idyllic setting of Henry VIII's favourite palace is transformed for six sumptuous summer days. (BB)

  1. Day 4: Eurostar to Paris

    This morning you are transferred to Waterloo Station for our Eurostar Express train to Paris. On arrival in the French capital, join your Parisian guide who will show you all the fabulous sights. See Notre Dame Cathedral, drive through the courtyard of the Louvre to the Palace de la Concorde and the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower where you ascend to the second-level viewing platforms which give a spectacular view over Paris. Dinner tonight is at a typical Parisian Bistro followed by a glittering illuminations trip, to view Paris by night. (BB, HD)

  1. Day 5: Monet’s Giverny & Paris By Night

    This morning, a lovely drive takes you along the Seine to the village of Giverny, where Monet lived for the last 43 years of his life. The décor of the house itself is fascinating for its blend of colours, but it is the garden where the spirit of the artist is revealed. A spectacular array of colour is created by poppies, delphiniums, lupins, irises and roses, while the water garden is a wistful dream of bamboo, willow and rustic bridges sweeping over waterlilies which were one of Monet’s favourite subjects. Back in Paris, tonight is free for you to relax at a café on the Champs Elysees, or by night why not try one of the world-famous cabaret shows? (BB)

  1. Day 6: Garden Elegance in Paris

    This morning we visit the beautiful Jardins de Bagatelle. Thematic gardens reveal the art of gardening through the centuries - the rose gardens in particular are sublime. Used as a hunting lodge by Napoleon, the château was built in 66 days by the Comte d'Artois, following a wager with his sister-in-law, Marie Antoinette. The remainder of the day is at leisure. Perhaps ascend the hill of Montemarte by mini-train for superb panoramic views of the city, visit the Louvre or maybe take some time to shop in the Galleries Lafayette or the elegant designer boutiques of the Left Bank. (BB)

  1. Day 7: Wonders of the Loire Valley

    Farewell to the romantic city of Paris as we head southwards towards Chateaux Country passing Orleans, where Joan of Arc relieved the siege by the English Army. We view the Chateau at Chambord, set in rich hunting forests, and then return to the Loire River stopping to see the Chateau at Blois, a magnificent royal fortress with memories of intrigue and assassination. Then a scenic drive along the valley, past Amboise, where Leonardo da Vinci was to spend his final years, and on to the enchanting "Ladies Castle" at Chenonceau, the home of Diane de Poitiers (tragic mistress of Henri II) and later of his vengeful wife Catherine of Medici. After visiting the chateau we continue on to the beautiful Chateau de Rochecotte, once the home of Tallyrand, and now ours for a night! This evening we enjoy a highlight dinner with wine at the hotel. (BB, HD)

  1. Day 8: Limoges & Brive-La-Gaillard

    Southwards today, we pass Poitiers, an old town associated with the “Black Prince” and birthplace to the notorious beauty Diane de Poitiers. We continue to the town of Limoges, famous for its pottery and enamels, where we visit a porcelain showroom. Now we go onto our hotel in Brive-la-Gaillard. (BB, D)

  1. Day 9: Valley of the Dordogne Towards Albi

    This morning’s drive takes us into the stunning Valley of the Dordogne where we visit the town of Sarlat-la-Canéda with its fine historic golden limestone houses. Now on to the historic town of Cahors, located on a peninsula formed by a meander of the River Lot and famous for its ‘Black Wine’. There is time here to stroll along Boulevard Gambetta, the town's main street and lined with its principal buildings.  We then continue to the pretty town of Albi on the River Tarn, famous for its Cathedral and the birthplace of Toulouse Lautrec. (BB, D)

  1. Day 10: Medieval Carcasonne & Barcelona

    Today we visit the unspoilt medieval city of Carcassonne. Entering Carcassonne is like stepping back in time; the city has a complete set of ramparts, a medieval keep, even a sports ground for jousting! After time here we continue to the bustling port of Barcelona. (BB, D)

  1. Day 11: Highlights of Barcelona

    The lively and vibrant city of Barcelona boasts an impressive old town, but it’s the daring architecture from the modernist period (1890-1920) that sets it apart. Sightseeing with a local guide begins in the narrow lanes of the Gothic Quarter, centred around the old Cathedral. Then pass the leafy Las Ramblas to enter the Eixample District. See Gaudi’s extraordinary unfinished Sagrada Familia Cathedral before free time this afternoon to explore on your own. Perhaps visit Park Guelle, Gaudi’s famous example of Art Nouveau landscape architecture. Tonight you may wish to take in a dazzling Flamenco Show with dinner. (BB)

  1. Day 12: Zaragoza & Madrid

    We leave the Mediterranean behind, as we head inland. Lunch time finds us in the historic city of Zaragoza with its cathedral, our lady of the Pillar. We continue through Castille, where the legendary Don Quixote 'tilted at windmills', and along the Jalon Valley, dotted with Mudejar Towers - survivors of a bygone era of Moorish domination. We pass Alcala de Henares, birthplace of Catherine of Aragon, to reach Madrid. (BB, D)

  1. Day 13: Highlights of Madrid

    A guided excursion this morning takes us along the leafy avenues of the city, where we see the Plaza Espana with its Cervantes Monument, the grandiose Cibeles Fountain, Parliament and Puerta del Sol. We then visit the Royal Palace. The palace was built between 1738 and 1764. Madrid's Royal Palace is considered by many to be one of the finest palaces in Europe. It is not the official residence of the King of Spain, yet official banquets and other important state events take place here. The remainder of the day is then free. Perhaps visit the Prado museum, one of the great art galleries of Europe. Tonight, we enjoy dinner at a local restaurant to the sound of traditional 'tuna' musicians. (BB, HD)

  1. Day 14: Segovia & Santander

    We head to the northern slopes of the Sierra de Guadarrama this morning to Segovia, perched on its triangular rock. We see the Roman aqueduct, one of the finest in existence; however, it was during the 15th century that Segovia reached its golden age. There is time to explore the old town, before continuing across the infinite horizons of the northern Meseta and over the Cantabrica Mountains to the sophisticated resort of Santander. (BB, D)

  1. Day 15: Santander & Bilbao

    We drive along the ‘corniche road’, with views of the great bay of Santander, before a short drive brings us to Santillana del Mar, which many writers have called ‘the most beautiful village in Spain’. Here we stroll through the rustic cobblestone streets with stone houses decorated with carved heraldic symbols and reach the delightful church square. After time to explore we continue to Bilbao where we visit the striking Guggenheim - a modern and contemporary art museum. Designed by Frank Gehry and opened to the public in 1997, the Guggenheim was immediately vaulted to prominence as one of the world's most spectacular buildings. (BB)

  1. Day 16: Mini-Cruise to Plymouth

    This morning is at leisure in Santander.  Perhaps take advantage of the sandy beaches or perhaps a little shopping? This afternoon we board our mini-cruise bound for Plymouth - a holiday in itself! Crossing time is less than 24 hours, and while on board the ship’s facilities are at our disposal. These include a superb pool and leisure area, cinema, wrap-around promenade for pleasant deck strolls, and evening entertainment. (BB)

  1. Day 17: Overnight Boat – Cornwall Area

    This morning we arrive at Plymouth, where Drake played bowls while he waited for the Spanish Armada, and where the Pilgrim Fathers began their historic voyage. On arrival we will see the New Town Centre, Barbican and Citadel and the famous Hoe. Then it’s on to our hotel where we are at leisure. Tonight we have dinner in quaint English style pub. (BB, HD)

  1. Day 18: Heligan & the Eden Project in Cornwall

    Today we journey west to visit Heligan, one of the most mysterious estates in England. We explore the ‘lost’ gardens which were at their peak at the end of the nineteenth century but fell into disrepair by the First World War. After decades of neglect they have been brought back to life in every sense. From the old to the new – we visit the ultra-modern Eden Project, a large-scale environmental complex including two giant, transparent domes, emulating tropical and Mediterranean-type environments. (BB)

  1. Day 19: Cornwall to Georgian Bath

    This morning we journey across part of the rugged area of Dartmoor, with its sinister memories of the remote Prison and 'Hound of the Baskervilles'. We cross 'scrumptious Somerset' towards Glastonbury Abbey, reputedly the site of King Arthur's grave. We make our way to elegant Georgian Bath, built in an amphitheatre-style on surrounding hills. Our visit shows us the impressive Royal Crescent and Pultney Bridge, both built in local stone. Included is a visit to the Pump Room and the ancient Roman Baths, perfectly preserved even after 18 centuries! Then we go to our hotel. (BB, D)

  1. Day 20: Blenheim Palace, Bladon & London

    An enchanting day takes us across the beautiful Cotswold Hills, a chocolate box scene of golden stone villages with roses round the door! We visit Blenheim Palace, the greatest building of the English Baroque, residence of the Dukes of Marlborough, and birthplace of Winston Churchill. After our guided visit to the state rooms there is also time to explore the beautiful gardens and extensive grounds.  En route back to London we stop at the village of Bladon to see Winston Churchill’s grave. This evening we enjoy a highlight dinner with wine at one of London’s top-rated restaurants! (BB, HD)

  1. Day 21: Farewell London

    This morning our memorable trip comes to an end, we bid our Travel Director farewell and are transferred to the airport for your return flight home. (BB)

Meal guide: CB = Continental Breakfast, BB = Buffet Breakfast, HD = Highlight Dinner, D = Hotel Dinner, HL = Highlight Lunch

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