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France, Belgium & The NetherlandsCountry Roads
Duration: 22 days Visiting: France
Welcome to Paris.
Airport transfers depart from Charles de Gaulle Airport for your hotel at 08:30, 11:00 and 13:30. Relax and settle in, or start exploring this great capital, before joining your Travel Director and fellow guests at 17:30 for a Welcome Dinner at a cosy Left Bank bistro.
Troyes, Chablis and on to Dijon.
Journey to Troyes, in the Champagne region, famous for its magnificent core of medieval buildings, appropriately shaped like a champagne cork. Continue to Burgundy, once a powerful duchy and synonymous with fine wine. Stop in the quiet village of Chablis which gives its name to one of the most famous French wines. Join an expert vintner for a taste and introduction to these refreshing, steely whites. Continue on to your hotel in Dijon.
Free Time in Dijon.
Enjoy the Burgundy capital of Dijon. Its many handsome buildings recall the time when the Dukes of Burgundy were more powerful than the Kings of France. Perhaps take the opportunity to visit the wine capital of Burgundy, Beaune? In the evening, don't miss the chance of an optional Burgundy wine tasting and traditional dinner in the Premier Cru village of Fixin.
Travel towards the Mâconnais and Beaujolais before turning east into the Alps. A scenic symphony awaits you as you ascend into the high Alps and climb towards Mont Blanc, Western Europe’s highest mountain. Your destination is the fashionable ski resort of Chamonix. In the evening you may choose to try a local pierrade at a local trendy eatery in a traditional chalet. This Optional Experience provides the chance to try a typical regional meal, cooked on a table barbecue using on a hot stone.
Lakeside Annecy and Chambéry.
In the morning, embark on a beautiful journey to the lakeside town of Annecy, dramatically situated between lake and mountains, it's a medieval spectacle and a summer getaway for the French and the Swiss locals. Enjoy free time for lunch in Little Venice, aptly named for the network of canals criss-crossing through the Old Town. Explore the city’s many lovely bridges at your leisure or perhaps embark on a boat trip on Lake Annecy? Continue on to Chambéry, appreciating views of woodlands, traditional villages and mountain peaks along the way. Enjoy a delicious Farm-to-Table Dinner, prepared with locally sourced ingredients, and served with wines from the local region.
The French Riviera to reach Nice.
Glorious mountain scenery will be yours to enjoy as you travel along a spectacular route, used by the Emperor Napoleon when he returned from his first exile to try to take the throne of France once more. Continue to the French Riviera to reach the elegant resort of Nice. The rest of the afternoon is free for you to explore as you wish. In the evening, why not walk through old town Nice, ending in Cours Saleya where dinner is at your leisure at one of the many lovely bistros?
Monaco and the Côte d’Azur.
Wake up ready to rub shoulders with the jet-set on the glamorous Côte d’Azur. Unlock the secrets of the French perfume industry with a visit to a perfumery, where fragrance experts waft exclusive scents from stoppered bottles. Then enjoy a drive along part of the Grand Prix circuit in Monaco and walk with your Travel Director through the old town to see the Royal Palace and yacht-filled harbour. Your exploration continues as you visit inside Monaco Cathedral, housing the tomb of Princess Grace. The rest of the day is set aside for you to enjoy the French Riviera at your own pace. Perhaps join an Optional Experience to visit to the medieval village of Eze and its hill-top Botanical Gardens for a spectacular view of the coastline?
Picturesque Provence to Avignon.
Visit the medieval village of Saint-Paul de Vence, perched high above the Riviera beaches. A walk through its winding streets reveals elegant fountains, vine-covered stone walls and views of mountains and sea. Continue to Aix-en-Provence to see the sumptuous mansions lining the Cours Mirabeau, before continuing to the pretty village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Enjoy a wonderful introduction to the famous wine, tasting the difference for yourself as you learn about the various grape varieties that are allowed into the final blend of the prestigious Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine. Continue to Avignon, your home for the next three nights.
Arles and Avignon.
Head to beautiful Arles, the ancient capital of Gaul, and trace the history of the town that was home to artist Vincent Van Gogh during an orientation tour with your Travel Director. See the greatest of the Roman remains, the incredible three-tiered Pont du Gard. View the remaining arches of the 12th century Pont Saint-Bénézet and the Pont d’Avignon of the famous song. Walk through the medieval battlements to the town centre, dominated by the fortified Papal Palace. The rest of your day is at your leisure.
Free Time in Avignon.
Enjoy a full day at leisure to relax and soak up the atmosphere of Avignon. Why not take the chance to visit Les Baux-de-Provence, one of the most picturesque villages in France, where you can visit an Olive Mill and sample some of the finest olive oil in France? During your free evening, perhaps visit Villeneuve-les-Avignon and enjoy a delicious meal served in stunning surroundings?
Carcassonne and to Albi.
Cross the fertile Languedoc region, before journeying inland to the fortified town of Carcassonne. Travellers are often amazed at their first sight of this medieval gem, known for its fortress - a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with a complete set of ramparts and a medieval keep. Travel on to Albi, the birthplace of Toulouse Lautrec. During your orientation with your Travel Director, marvel at iconic sites including the views of Toulouse Lautrec Museum and the famous awe-inspiring cathedral, before spending the remainder of the evening at leisure.
Cahors, Rocamadour and Sarlat.
Stop in Cahors, famous for its Black Wine, and see the Pont Valentré. You'll also have the opportunity to explore the open air market - full of fresh, seasonal produce and local delicacies, it's an experience to delight all of the senses. Travel to Rocamadour and enjoy free time to explore this medieval town perched on a cliff side above the Alzou River and known as a resting place for pilgrims on their way to Spain. Continue to the beautiful town of Sarlat-la-Canéda, its medieval core blessed with fine historic golden limestone houses.
Exploring the Dordogne Valley.
Start the day with a morning drive into the stunning Valley of the Dordogne to visit Lascaux II where the world-famous prehistoric cave paintings have been faithfully reproduced. On return to your hotel, sample some of the local Dordogne specialties when you visit a local farm.
Paris, The City of Light.
Travel onwards to immerse yourself in the beautiful city of Paris where on arrival you are free to explore this fascinating city as you wish. As evening descends, the City of Light lives up to its name as the monuments, buildings and bridges are lit up in all their glory.
Romantic Capital on the Seine.
During your time in Paris your Travel Director introduces you to all the sights including Notre Dame Cathedral and the facades of the Louvre. See the Place de la Concorde and travel down the Champs Elysees to Napolean's Arc de Triomphe. After dark, the City of Light really lives up to its name when the monuments, buildings and bridges are lit up in all their glory. In small groups, venture into areas where Parisians go about their daily lives, with your local foodie guide. Explore small shops such as a patisserie, boulangerie, fromagerie and chocolatrie, all tiny, but wondrous and a treat to all senses as you sample the delicacies along the way. You are in for a memorable evening starting with a delicious Highlight Dinner at the historic restaurant La Coupole, serving delicious French cuisine and wine.
Rouen, Honfleur and Deauville.
Follow the River Seine to Rouen, capital of Normandy, to admire its ancient cathedral - a masterpiece of the Gothic style and the subject of a series of paintings by Claude Monet. Wander through the narrow streets beneath the Great Clock to the Old Market Square. Here, a superb modern church commemorates the burning of Joan of Arc on this very spot in 1431. Continue to the charming fishing town of Honfleur and to your luxurious hotel located in the chic seaside resort of Deauville.
Normandy Beaches and D-Day Landings.
2019 marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day, which occurred on the 6th June 1944. Following the route of the Rangers and visiting the bunkers and the Rangers Memorial at Pointe du Hoc. Then with a Local Expert, spend a few reflective moments at the American Military Cemetery of Saint-Laurent near Omaha Beach before a visit to the D-Day Museum to see the remnants of the artificial port in the bay of Arromanches. There are poignant reminders of World War II as you travel past Juno and Gold beaches, which both played a part in the Normandy landings. This evening you are treated to a sumptuous dinner, which promises creative cuisine, seasonal ingredients and local wines.
Mont-Saint-Michel and Saint-Malo.
Journey through Bocage country for an exploration of the hilltop abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel with your Local Expert. The abbey stands on an island and is reached by a causeway across the shining sands. Behind the outer ring of defences huddles the small town - it's one street containing shops, cafes and hotels. Continue along the Emerald Coast to stunning Saint-Malo, situated on the Rance Estuary and one of the most charming places in France. A Local Expert will take you on an exploration of the City of the Corsairs. Walk through the maze of streets of Intra Muros, the walled city, to the cathedral, the burial place of Jacques Cartier and other celebrated voyagers. At your leisure, you can wander around the ramparts of the thick city walls, offering fantastic views over the old town and the bay. By night, the town’s medieval maze of winding streets is abuzz with quaint bars and restaurants. Alternatively, you may wish to join an Optional Experience to Cancale, known throughout France of its oyster beds, for a delicious meal of fresh seafood and other Breton specialties?
Scenic drive along the Loire Valley to the Chateau de Rochecotte.
Head south to follow the valley of the Loire, passing the moated Angers Castle. Cross the Loire to Saumur, where a local vintner will guide you through tastings of the region's delicious wines. Journey to the fairy-tale Château d'Azay-le-Rideau, considered one of the best representations of French Renaissance architecture. Having recently undergone extensive restorations, take your time to admire the subtle blend of French tradition and innovative Italian decor within this 16th century icon of the Loire Valley. Continue to your chateau hotel, where you can relax like royalty in sumptuous surroundings.
With a Local Expert, head to Château de Villandry, the jewel of the Loire, to visit the glorious gardens. Ensure you don't miss the water, ornamental and kitchen gardens – a stunning sea of fragrant green herbs, silvery cabbages, and purple basil. Return to your own superb chateau for relaxation and free time. At night, your Celebration Dinner starts with a glass of local sparkling wine and continues with excellent service and delicious Farm-to-Table dishes in the most wholesome setting, ensuring the memory of your meal will linger long after you've returned home.
La Beauce and Chartres to Paris, City of Light.
Travelling through the vast wheat fields of La Beauce, Chartres Cathedral looms large on the horizon. Auguste Rodin called it the 'Acropolis of France,' and once inside you can marvel at the beautiful stained-glass rose window which floods the cathedral with colour and light. From here, return to the French capital, don't miss the chance to experience one of the world-famous cabaret shows.
Au revoir Paris.
Your departure transfer will arrive at Charles de Gaulle Airport at 08:00 or 11:00.
Most Insight trips already include a host of bonus highlights and comprehensive sightseeing. There may also be an exciting array of Optional Experiences which will turn an already amazing experience into the trip of a lifetime! These are entirely optional and can be booked through your Travel Director/Local Representative at the commencement of your trip. Please note, many Optional Experiences are operated by independent third party suppliers, not Insight Vacations.
Prices and availability of Optional Experiences are subject to change.
Paris (Contemporary) - France
Located on the Left Bank of the River Seine is the Paris Marriott Rive Gauche Hotel. This modern, recently renovated, property offers luxurious accommodation and close proximity to the Latin Quarter and Saint-Germain-des-Pres.
Dijon (Traditional) - France
The 5-star Grand Hotel Dijon La Cloche boasts a supreme view over the prestigious Place Darcy and has been welcoming prominent world figures since the 15th century. The luxurious refined decor and timeless interior garden offer guests every comfort and privacy.
Chalet Hôtel Le Prieuré, Chamonix.
Mercure Chambéry Centre Hotel.
Nice (Traditional) - France
The Radisson Blu Hotel, Nice is set on a stunning seafront location along the famous Promenade des Anglais.
Avignon (Traditional) - France
Avignon Grand Hotel is sat at the foot of medieval ramparts close to the historical town centre.
Hôtel Saint Antoine, Albi.
La Hoirie, Sarlat-la-Canéda, Dordogne.
Paris (Contemporary) - France
The Le Méridien Etoile is centrally located in the 17th arrondissement and just a short drive from key sights such as the Arc de Triomphe and Champs-Elysées. Contemporary, yet comfortable furnishing bring about a homely sense throughout the hotel and guest rooms.
DEAUVILLE (Traditional) - FRANCE
Hotel Barrière L'Hôtel du Golf is located just 10 minutes from Deauville Beach, known as a weekend getaway for Parisians. With it's Tudor-style facade and tasteful, modern interiors, relax in comfort during your stay. Perhaps play a round of golf on one of the three 9-hoole courses, known as some of the most beautiful in France.
Hôtel Le Nouveau Monde, Saint-Malo.
Saint Patrice (Historic) - FRANCE
Stay two fabulous nights at the Château de Rochecotte in the Loire Valley, the former private estate of Prince Tallyrand and the Duchess of Dino. Sit with a drink on the terrace and enjoy the beautiful setting or take a stroll through the magnificent gardens.