Day 1 - Paris
Bonjour. Welcome to Paris, France. Your 'Highlights of France' adventure begins with a welcome meeting, which is usually at around 6pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. After the meeting, head out for dinner with your new travel companions for your first taste of renowned French cuisine in a local Parisian restaurant. If you arrive early into the city, Paris offers a wealth of major sights and things to do. Simply walking through the pretty little lanes of the Latin Quarter, lazing in the elegant shop-lined streets of St Germain, wandering down the opulent Champs-Elysee and meandering through the winding bohemian streets of Montmartre will also give you a wonderful overview of the city.
Notes: If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend the meeting. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).
Day 2 - Paris
After breakfast this morning, the rest of your day is free to explore Paris. From incredible art galleries and imposing monuments, to world-renowned shopping, quaint cafes and hidden treasures, Paris is a wonderful city to explore. Discover the artistic treasure trove housed in the world-famous Louvre, where you can see the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. Join the Thinker in his eternal contemplation at the Rodin Museum. Visit the Musee d'Orsay, home to some of the most famous Impressionist paintings. Climb the Eiffel Tower (or take the lift) for some impressive aerial views of Paris. Study the Notre Dame Cathedral with its vast rose window and menacing gargoyles. Take a trip out to the vast and opulent Palace of Versailles. Head underground to experience the atmospheric spider-web of catacombs. Hop on two-wheels to glide around the city or take a walking tour of the major sites. Maybe while away a few hours sitting with a baguette and cheese in the Luxembourg or Tuileries gardens and watch the French go about their daily life. Whatever you choose, today is sure to be packed full of memorable sights and attractions.
Notes: To avoid queuing at the ticket windows of the Louvre you can buy your ticket in advance, but pre-sold tickets can't be collected at the Louvre. The ticket is valid every day except Tuesday (when the museum is closed) and certain bank holidays. Book your tickets at: louvre.fr
Day 3 - Chateau Stay
Today you'll be transported back to the elegance of a bygone era when you travel to an idyllic French chateau, spending the night amid spectacular scenery. Firstly, board the train to Dijon, and then change to a private minibus that takes you to the chateau. The journey shouldn’t take longer than 4 hours in total. Your home for today is atmospheric Chateau Saint-Sabine. Built on the foundations of a 9th century monastery, the land and village have passed through the hands of various Lords and prominent members of the House of France. In 17th century, the chateau as it looks today started to gain shape thanks to de Messey family, who bought up the property and its surrounds when they decided they would rule as lords over the local area. Later, the chateau served as a private house until the 2011, when its current hosts took charge, renovated, and opened it to the public in today’s magnificent shape. The chateau sits in 8 hectares of lovely park, home to many free ranging animals such as deer, mallard ducks, hares and many other woodland creatures, and overlooks the medieval village of Chateauneuf-en-Auxois. You can relax and enjoy the period feature-filled rooms of the house and the beautiful surrounds, indulging in some of the delicious local cuisine, taking walks in the garden and gazing across the beautiful French countryside.
Day 4 - Dijon/Beaune
Leave the beautiful chateau behind and travel back to Dijon today (approximately 45 minutes). From your base in Dijon, discover one of France’s wealthiest provinces in the region of Burgundy. Dijon was once one of the greatest centres of art, learning, and science in Europe, with rulers that rivalled the King of France and monasteries that threatened the supremacy of the Pope. Today it retains a dynamic and elegant air. Perhaps visit Moutard Maille shop in your spare time to learn some details about mustard. This world famous condiment comes in many tastes and you can try them all in this shop. At first it may not sound like the most exciting activity, but this is in fact a great attraction! In the afternoon you can take a walk around the city on a route called the ‘Owl’s Trail’, finding medieval and Renaissance architecture dotted on every street. A handy little booklet takes you to 22 of Dijon’s historic monuments. Alternatively, visit the distinguished 1787 Musée des Beaux-Arts , housed in the vast Palace of the Dukes; it holds a rich collection of paintings, sculptures, crafts and antiquities. Just absorbing the medieval heart of the city, like at the café-lined Place de la Libération, is a great way to spend time here. Be sure to try some local cuisine in the evening, as this region is famed for culinary delights such as beef bourguignon and coq au vin.
Day 5 - Dijon/Beaune
After breakfast this morning, you'll have some free time in Dijon. Explore the palace of the former rulers of the region or stroll along the Burgundy canal. Later you’ll visit one of the region’s most famed wineries in Beaune, the walled town in the centre of Burgundy (approximately 40 minutes). On arrival in this ‘wine capital of France’, perhaps enjoy lunch at the Michelin-recommended restaurant (at your own cost) of Le Caveau des Arches. Hidden in the vaults beneath a 16th-century fortified bridge, you'll enjoy impeccable service, a lively, buzzing atmosphere, and have the opportunity to try exquisitely prepared dishes such as roasted veal filet mignon or scallop risotto. After the hearty feast, enjoy a wine-tasting session in one of Beaune's local cellar doors. Learn about the importance of ‘terroir’ in Burgundy, and discover how wine is the heart and soul of the region. More than just a drink, it’s a philosophy, a religion, a love. Continue this gourmet indulgence when you return to Dijon, perhaps choosing to take another chance to feast on Burgundy’s classy cuisine.
Day 6 - Avignon
Take the train to Avignon today, which takes around three hours in total. This charming city is located on the left bank of the Rhone River in the south-east of France. The journey is idyllic, so make sure you have a camera at the ready. On arrival into Avignon, check in to your hotel and then take a walk around this walled city that was once home to French popes for more than a century. Go on an included visit to the grand and imposing Palais des Papes (Pope's Palace), a 14th century Gothic palace that was built for Pope Clement V when he moved here to escape the chaos of Rome. The vast palace is a mix of twisting corridors, large stone halls, and spacious courtyards. You’ll also walk along the iconic remains of the broken bridge of Pont St-Benezet, famous as the subject of the French song ‘Sur le Pont d'Avignon’. Afterwards, you can take a riverside walk through apple orchards, or relax with a café au lait and croissant on one of many squares overflowing with cafés and small restaurants. Unsurprisingly the city is brimming with wonderful food choices, so on this free evening, perhaps head out for dinner with your fellow travellers.
Day 7 - Avignon
Today is free for you to enjoy as you please. Taking the train to Arles is a popular option, as the city has an abundance of Roman monuments and a strong association with the arts. If you stay within Avignon, comb the city's own impressive collection of art – even outside there’s artwork to be found, with 50 trompe-l’œil frescoes that celebrate past Festival d’Avignon dotted around the city. Perhaps hire a bike to see more of this picturesque valley and head to one of the city's amazing bakeries. You can even go as far as putting a baguette in your basket! There are a number of interesting museums and galleries to explore, including the recently opened Collection Lambert, a contemporary art space in an 18th-century townhouse and courtyard. You could also stroll the footpaths of the verdant river island of Île de la Barthelasse after hopping on a ferry service from the bridge, with views back across to the city. In the evenings, there are many small French bistros that serve up the great cuisine that's native to the region.
Day 8 - Aix-en-Provence
Leave Avignon this morning and continue your French journey, through heartland scenery that has long attracted the brushes of Impressionist painters, to the French Riviera (Cote d'Azur) town of Aix-en-Provence. Boasting a rustic French appearance, high-end shopping and a pure Provencal climate, Aix is the ideal place to finish your French adventure. Enjoy a walk in the heart of this most ‘Parisian’ of cities – wander around Roman ruins to soak in some of the region’s stormy history and get lost in the medieval tangle of streets with old mansions dating back as far as 16th century. Aix-en-Provence (‘Aquae Sextiae’ in Latin) was founded in 122 BC and was named for its healing thermal springs. It’s also often referred to as the ‘city of a thousand fountains’. If you're an artistic soul, don't miss out on the Centre d`Art Caumont – and then maybe follow in the footsteps of the likes of Paul Cézanne, Ernest Hemingway, and Emile Zola with a drink in the famous café of Les Deux Garçons. Perhaps visit the Musee des Calissons and learn how the special sweets of Provence earned their fame, or just sit back next to one of town's fountains and watch the world go by. On your last night, feast on fine French fare in the birthplace of painter Paul Cezanne with your travel companions.
Day 9 - Aix-en-Provence
Your 'Highlights of France' adventure comes to an end after breakfast this morning. There are no more activities planned and you're able to leave the accommodation at any time.
Accommodation, Food (as stated), Transport, Selected Activities
Flights, Travel Insurance, Visa, Vaccinations or Personal Spending Money