'La Belle Vie' in South Western France
Day 1 Overnight flight
Day 2 Bordeaux
Bienvenue en France! Arrival at Bordeaux–Mérignac Airport. Meet your driver and tour escort. Bordeaux is the largest urban UNESCO World Heritage Site in the world. Bordeaux is also famous for its great wine production. The Vinexpo, the largest wine fair in the world, is held here every year in May. This elegant city is full of architectural treasures, with over 375 buildings classified as historical monuments, like the Grand-Théâtre, the Saint-André Cathedral and Palais Rohan. The city is also home to some remarkable contemporary architecture, like the Bordeaux Law Court and the Cite du Vin. During a guided city tour you will see a fine mix of the city’s historical and contemporary architecture. Afterwards, enjoy leisurely time in this enchanting city. At the end of the afternoon you will gather again for a memorable wine and cheese tasting in a underground vaulted cheese cellar. Overnight in Bordeaux.
Day 3 Bordeaux – Arcachon Bay – French Basque region – Biarritz
Following breakfast, you will travel towards the Atlantic Ocean to the Arcachon Bay. This small sea inlet in the ocean is known for its oyster farming, luxurious seaside resorts, such as Arcachon and Cap-Ferret, and its natural phenomenon, the Pilat Dune. You will first stop to see the Pilat Dune, the highest dune in Europe, which contains about 60 million cubic meters of sand. Afterwards enjoy some free time in Arcachon. Do not miss out on the fresh oysters and a glass of local wine from one of the port’s traditional cabins. You will travel south, into the Basque region. Upon arrival in Biarritz a local guide will take you on a walking tour through this former whaling town. You will see Villa Eugenie, a beautiful historic building from 1854 and Napoleon’s historic summer residence. Today it houses the Hotel du Palais. Walk past Casino Bellevue, the blue domed Russian Orthodox Church, St. Eugenie’s Church, and the Port de Pêcheurs, the old fishing port of Biarritz, known for its beautiful little fishing houses. You will walk up to the Virgin Rock and have beautiful views over Biarritz and its landmark, the lighthouse at Cape Saint-Marten. Overnight in Biarritz.
Day 4 Biarritz – French Basque region – Bayonne – Saint Jean de Luz – Biarritz
Today, take in the scenery of the Basque countryside and villages and discover the town of Bayonne and Saint Jean de Luz. Bayonne, the capital of the French Basque Country. Throughout history, the city was an important strategic point on the main road to Spain. Remains from the city’s heyday are the impressive Saint-Marie Cathedral and the old town with Basque half-timbered houses painted in the national colors red and green. Foodies can indulge themselves today; a visit to a Bayonne Ham workshop and the Chocolate Museum are on the program. After some free time in Bayonne, you will travel south to Saint Jean de Luz. What was once the center for Basque corsairs in the 17th century, has now become an easy going beach resort with a rich architectural and cultural heritage. Enjoy a leisurely afternoon in this charming town. Do not miss out on the famous local Macaroon.
Overnight in Biarritz.
Day 5 Biarritz – Pau – Mid-Pyrénées region – Toulouse
Your journey through versatile France continues. Following breakfast you will travel east to the charming town of Pau. The main part of the city is built on a cliff high above the Gave de Pau River. You will have time to explore this lovely town at your own pace. Enjoy a stroll along the Boulevard des Pyrénées, the mountain version of the Promenade des Anglais in Nice. This wide boulevard offers continuous panoramas of the mountains and several access points to the town center. You might want to take the funicular up to the Place Royale or admire the Château de Pau or the former casino, Palais Beaumont. After lunch together in beautiful Pau, your journey continues, along roads made famous by the Tour de France, past the spiritual city of Lourdes, an important sacred site within the Christian faith. Upon arrival in Toulouse, enjoy a guided city tour by a local expert guide. Toulouse is known as ‘La Ville Rose’ because of the terra cotta and pink-tinted stone of its buildings and its rich historical heritage. During the tour you will see the Place du Capitole, the Cathedral of Saint Etienne and the Saint Sernin Basilica, the largest Romanesque church in the Western World. Stroll through the historic centre, walking alongside the Garonne River and the Canal du Midi. Overnight in Toulouse.
Day 6 Toulouse – Languedoc-Roussillon region – Carcassonne – Toulouse
Enjoy an excursion to Carcassonne today. Whilst travelling to this Medieval fortified town, you will pass Castelnaudary. You will make a stop to see the Canal du Midi Grand Bassin and the Saint Roch lock. The quadruple Saint Roch lock dates from 1678 and allows barges to navigate a height difference of nearly 10 metres. Two windmills and a flourmill were built on a branch of the right bank of the canal. The left bank houses former administration and hotel buildings. Then visit the Cité de Carcassonne, the UNESCO World Heritage listed walled city is renowned for its city walls, defensive towers, and drawbridges. A local expert guide will show you this Medieval fortress settlement with its 3 kilometres of city walls and 52 towers and a history that exceeds two and a half thousand years. Enjoy leisurely time to explore this stunning and unique city on your own. Return to Toulouse, where you will arrive in the late afternoon.
Overnight in Toulouse.
Day 7 Toulouse – Montauban – Cahors – River Lot – Dordogne region – Sarlat-la-Canéda
Today you will leave Toulouse behind and journey to the Dordogne. On the way, stretch your legs in the lovely town of Montauban, situated on the banks of the River Tarn. The town was originally a bastide built by the Count of Toulouse in 1144. The lovely old city centre with its pink-brick houses is a delight to wander. Afterwards you will stop in Cahors. Built on a headland in one of the many bends of the river Lot, the old town of Cahors offers a pleasant atmosphere with its narrow streets and its architecture. The city’s symbol, the Valentré Bridge, built in the 14th century, is a UNESCO World Heritage listed landmark. After a visit at your own pace, you will travel east to the village of Bouziès. Enjoy a cruise on the stunning River Lot in a traditional wooden Gabare boat. Take in the beautiful views of the limestone cliffs in Bouziès, the towpath carved into the cliffs, the manual lock and causeway in Ganil and the highlight of the cruise; the unrivalled views of the clifftop village Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, one of the most beautiful villages of France. Travel onwards to Sarlat-la-Canéda, where you will arrive in the late afternoon. Overnight in Sarlat-la-Canéda area.
Day 8 Sarlat-la-Canéda – Cooking class – Sarlat-la-Canéda
After breakfast you will you will soak up local flavour at the Sarlat market (Wednesday and Saturday). Afterwards, enjoy a guided walking tour of Sarlat. Sarlat is one of the most attractive and alluring towns in the south western part of France. Its classification as a ‘City of Art & History’ is a testament to its rich cultural and architectural heritage. Enjoy strolling through picturesque alleyways, the magnificent Medieval structures, slate roofs and the unique atmosphere. Spend the rest of the afternoon at your leisure in Sarlat. At the end of the afternoon, gather again for a cooking class. You will work on a beautiful and tasteful dinner. This workshop is all about experience, tasting, learning different techniques and dining together in a relaxed atmosphere.
Overnight in Sarlat-la-Canéda area.
Day 9 Sarlat-la-Canéda – Château de Hautefort – Lascaux Caves – Sarlat-la-Canéda
Following breakfast you will travel north and visit Château de Hautefort. This castle is perched high above the surrounding countryside and offers commanding views from every angle. The Château is still inhabited and has a magnificent French formal garden and landscaped park. Enjoy a guided tour of this superb site. Your journey continues, into the UNESCO World Heritage listed Vézère Valley, a prehistoric treasury, with no fewer than 147 excavations and 25 caves decorated with prehistoric cave paintings, including the famous Lascaux II cave in Montignac. In 1940, the Caves of Lascaux were discovered by four young boys. The paintings inside are estimated to be 17,000 years old. In order to protect the very rare original paintings, replicas have been made of the two most famous galleries; the Hall of the Bulls and the Axial Diverticulum. The reproduction is acclaimed by scholars as a masterpiece. Travel back to the hotel. Overnight in Sarlat-la-Canéda area.
Day 10 Sarlat-la-Canéda – Rocamadour – La Roque-Gageac – Sarlat-la-Canéda
This morning you will visit Rocamadour, which is a spectacularly located fortified town built into a giant rock face overlooking the Alzou River. Enjoy a morning at leisure exploring the pilgrimage town of Rocamadour, founded at the grave site of hermit Saint Amadour. Many pilgrims come to the town and negotiate the 216 steps of the Via Sancta on their knees and with heavy chains around them. In the town there are many small chapels to explore, including the Chapelle de Notre Dame with its famous Black Madonna. Afterwards, you will travel back to Sarlat, southbound, with a stop in La Roque-Gageac. Enjoy walking through this picturesque fortified town at your own pace. Many of the houses date back to Medieval times, though there are some Renaissance mansions among the honey-toned limestone townhouses. The cliffside location of the town protects it from the northern cold with the rock face soaking up the southern sun and giving La Roque-Gageac an unusual micro climate. Stroll through the village streets as they blossom with tropical and Mediterranean plants.
Overnight in Sarlat-la-Canéda area.
Day 11 Sarlat-la-Canéda – Dordogne region – Bergerac – Saint-Émilion – Bordeaux
Your today’s journey will take you through the stunning Dordogne region from Sarlat to Bordeaux. On the way you will stop in Bergerac to explore its old town, a medieval district with cobbled paving and pretty half-timbered houses. Here you will find the Saint Jacques Church and the Cyrano de Bergerac statue. Enjoy lunch together at the atmospheric Place Pelissiere before continuing to Saint-Émilion. Nowadays, Saint-Émilion is one of France’s most charming towns and world-famous for its wines. The UNESCO World Herigae listed Saint-Émilion boasts a very long and rich history from a pilgrimage site to a powerful economic hub. A local expert guide will take you on a walk through this magnificent town. You will see the ‘underground Saint-Émilion’ which consists out of the hermitage of Émilion, the Trinity Chapel and its medieval paintings, the catacombs as well as the underground Monolith church. All carved out of solid rock in the hillside. You will walk the city walls and see Porte Brunet, the wash houses, Place du Marché with the market hall and Couvent des Cordeliers, and many more. Travel onwards to Bordeaux, where you will arrive in the late afternoon. Overnight in Bordeaux.
Day 12 Bordeaux – Médoc castle route & wine cruise – Bordeaux
You will have a relaxed morning in Bordeaux and afterwards enjoy a half day wine and castle through the Médoc region. Firstly you will follow the Wine Castle route by coach. Admire the spectacular scenery of the vineyards and castles. After a guided visit and wine tasting at a wine estate, you will board a cruise boat at Fort-Médoc, a Vauban fortress listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. You will cruise the Gironde Estuary back to Bordeaux. Enjoy a guided wine tasting on-board whilst admiring Bordeaux’s UNESCO World Heritage listed waterfront, ‘the Port of the Moon’. Conclude your wonderful and enchanting tour through south western France with a farewell dinner in Bordeaux.
Overnight in Bordeaux.
Day 13 Departure
After breakfast departure to Bordeaux–Mérignac Airport for you flight back home.