An Antipodean travel company serving World Travellers since 1983
Touring France with Odyssey
As a travel experience, beautifully historic and immaculately cosmopolitan, France is sure to make your jaw drop in whichever city you find yourself in. Several centuries of history will be all around you, evident in the blend of architectural styles, the iconic landmarks and the many monuments to some of France’s most important figures and historical moments. Encompassing beautiful scenery, quaint villages, great wines and plenty of hidden gems, a trip here is sure to be equal parts memorable and amazing.
After walking through an art gallery, or shopping in boutiques along cobblestone streets, eating delectable sweets at a cafe are among the best ways to enjoy an afternoon in any French town. From the rolling plains lined with grape vines in Bordeaux, the aquamarine waters of the French Riviera, and to the architectural gems in Paris as you cross back and forth over the Seine, France has a breathtaking sight for every traveller and is brimming with natural wonders waiting to be discovered. The beauty of the French landscape demands outdoor action and whether you’re a hiker, swimmer, skier or adventure-seeker, you will find an activity that sure to combine joy and natural beauty. It is also a food lover’s paradise, famed for its gastronomical experiences, classy restaurants, cosy patisseries and bustling markets. If you’ve never had French cuisine or a good glass of Bordeaux wine, you’ll be wondering what you’ve been doing your whole life. Whatever your passion, be it art, architecture, history, food or geography, you are sure to fall in love with what France has to offer.
France tours, travel packages, and experiences for seniors
Odyssey Traveller’s small group tours of France are ideal for solo travellers or couples seeking an intimate guided tour led by an expert tour manager and local guide. When it comes to our tours of France, we select our destinations with an eye to getting off the beaten path while also providing the opportunity to explore the major cities with a tour of Paris the inimitable and endlessly elegant capital and tours that visit the port city of Bordeaux, the capital of France’s largest département, Gironde. Our France tours delve into Provincial France and the villages of Alsace; examine the history of classic French gardens with a visit to the magnificent Palace of Versailles; and explore the life of French Impressionist master Claude Monet through his most loved places in France including Le Havre, his hometown on the Normandy coast. On our Explore Paris tour we visit the Place de la Bastille, the Tuileries Gardens and the stunning Musee de l’Armee; while our Southwest France tour allows you to journey along the Canal du Midi sharing in travel experiences almost 250 years old. If you are considering joining a France Odyssey tour, some of things to think about include what places you would like to visit , when you would like to go and the best way to travel around the country. Whatever sightseeing tour you choose for your French vacation, from a tour of the entire country to immersing yourself in one city, Odyssey Traveller makes sure you have time to learn about and appreciate France’s culture, history and people when on vacation as solo travellers or with your companion.
One of the world’s most iconic cities, Paris is a must-see for any trip to France. One of the magnificent things about Paris is that walking around is half the fun but there is also no shortage of museums, galleries and gardens to explore. It is a testament to the city that every time you return you can have a different experience, whether you visit all the tourist spots, spend your time shopping or do a culinary tour of the city.
With its tree-lined boulevards, impressive art museums, sunlit vineyards and extravagant Gothic architecture, there is a lot to love about Bordeaux. Home to some of the best wine in the world and incredible restaurants, a day of exploring the city will be well paid off.
Burgundy or Bourgogne in French is a historical region in east-central France, renowned for its delicious wine, Dijon mustard (from the capital of the same name) and startling natural beauty. The towns and villages of Burgundy are framed by the most stunning countryside, with verdant meadows, rolling hills and blooming spring flowers. For senior travellers, the region’s medieval architecture, tranquil canals and sublime vineyards are sure to capture the imagination.
This charming riverside town has a rich medieval heritage that is sure to delight mature travellers. Explore the picturesque cobbled streets and admire stately Renaissance mansions with impressive carved facades. Discover the town’s fascinating history involving Benedictine monks and pilgrim stopovers. Figeac is also the perfect base from which to explore surrounding hilltop towns and medieval sites.
Palace of Versailles
A trip to France is not quite complete without a visit to the country’s most famous and most magnificent palace. Louis XIV redesigned his father’s hunting lodge and transformed into the impossibly grand Chateau de Versailles in the 17th century. Composed of the Palace, the gardens, the Park, the Trianon estate and several buildings in town, the Estate of Versailles spreads over more than 800 hectares.
Mont St Michel
One of France’s most picturesque and unforgettable landmarks, Mont Saint-Michel is a small island located in the midst of sandbanks between Normandy and Brittany. The island is cut off during high tide but it is accessible via a footbridge. An impressive abbey is the crown jewel of the rocky islet, which has been built and expanded over several centuries since Benedictine monks settled there in 966 AD.
Noirmoutier is an island in the Bay of Biscay, connected to the mainland by a modern bridge. Despite its Atlantic location, there is something Mediterranean about Noirmoutier with its long sandy beaches framed by giant pines alongside whitewashed walls with blue shutters. A great location for a seaside holiday and delicious seafood.
Lavender Fields in the Provence
For many, the image and scent of lavender fields is emblematic of France’s beautiful Provence. The Valensole Plateau’s lavender fields are perhaps the most famous in the world and framed by sunflowers. The area is breathtakingly beautiful and the town of Valensole sits on the plateau with an 11th century church at its centre. Take a stroll through the colourful fields and admire the view.
Best walking tours of France for older travellers
Odyssey Traveller offers walking tours designed especially for senior and mature travellers. Suitable for couples and singles, they are tailored toward varying levels of fitness and are flexible. So, if you would prefer to spend an afternoon sipping tea and watching the world go by, you can rejoin the rest of the small group later. Walking tours are fully mapped out, designed to maximise experience, and are guided by people in the know. Discover the world at a slower pace and get your feet dirty!
The France on Foot tour extends from the scenic island of Noirmoutier on the Atlantic coast all the way to Limousin and the Auvergne to the peaks of the Savoy Alps. Along the way we traverse France via the Massif Central. For those who enjoy walking holidays, this is a walking holiday like no other. With a range of different walks on offer, you will be able to experience the full range of French landscapes, from medieval cities, alpine villages, rugged mountain ranges, Mediterranean beaches and seaside villages.
What to Look for in a France Travel Package
When booking an Odyssey small group tour, some things to consider before you book include:
- Gratuities included: Tipping per person, per day, for all different services can quickly add up and leave you out of pocket. As well as this, it can be stressful working out how much and how often you should be tipping. When tipping is included in the price, it saves you both time and money, while giving you peace of mind that you’re not committing any type of cultural faux pas.
- Number of fellow travellers: When booking a France small group tour, you want to ensure that you are not going to get lost in a big crowd of people. This is particularly pertinent when visiting a popular European holiday destination such as France. Odyssey tours have an average of eight participants per tour with a maximum of group size of 18.
- Knowledgeable guides: France has a long, rich and complex history, demonstrated by its architectural diversity, multiple museums and numerous festivals. Ideally, you want to be able to gain a sense of France’s past, present and future and for this reason, an informed Program leader and knowledgeable guides are essential to a fulfilling travel experience. All Odyssey Traveller France tours include a Program Leader who accompanies the group for the duration of the tour. In addition, we engage local guides with regional knowledge to ensure an authentic experience during which you can learn as much as possible about the history and culture of the different regions of France, from the stylish south to rustic northern villages.
- Unique locations: France truly has something for everyone and when looking for a France travel package, it is useful to consider where you might want to visit and the kind of holiday you would like. Odyssey Traveller offers tours that allow you to travel all around France, through France and more of Western Europe or to focus on a particular region or city. The French History by Rail tour, for example, will guide you on an unforgettable journey through some of France’s medieval city centres, discovering Gothic churches and ancient castles.
- Culture and History: When visiting somewhere like France, you want to return with a better understanding of France traditions, art, architecture, literature, history and culture. Odyssey offers a wide range of educational, cultural and heritage journeys will let you see a side of France you don’t always get from the history books. Travel back many millennia to the pre-historic Caves of Lascaux II, attend the dazzling Royal Opera house at the Palace of Versaille to watch Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute, visit Saint-Cecile Cathedral, the largest brick-built cathedral in the world, and marvel at the glamorous city-state of Monaco.
- Time of the tour: France is beautiful and captivating regardless of the time of the year but peak season is definitely during the summer from the beginning of June to the end of August. During this time, the most popular destinations in France, including Paris, Bordeaux and the Mediterranean beaches, experience a massive increase in tourism. For this reason, it is best to visit during the shoulder seasons (spring and autumn) and to look for tours that start during this period. There will be less crowd and traffic and more temperate weather.
Odyssey travels by coach and occasionally uses local transport, including trains and ferries. Specifics are always outlined in your tour itinerary. France has a centralised and impressively extensive rail network comprised by the TER, which links towns, and the TGV, which links major cities. Paris itself is home to one of the most extensive metro systems in the world, and a number of the stations are tourist attractions in their own right.
In major cities, Odyssey stays in centrally located 3-4 star hotels, with easy access to public transport. In smaller towns or rural areas, we usually stay in family-run hotels or guesthouses. On our long-stay tours, during which you spend the length of the tour in a single location, we use serviced apartments.
Odyssey always engages local guides with regional knowledge to ensure an authentic experience during which you can learn as much as possible about the history and culture of places you visit.
Geography, Environment, & Weather
France is divided into 13 administrative regions, each with its distinct lifestyle and cuisine. The landscape of France is equally varied, with beaches along the north coast, to spectacular mountain ranges of the Pyrenees and the Alps.
In terms of climate, there is a lot of variety, but temperate winters and mild summers are typical, and especially in Paris. Conditions are wetter in the northwest (Brittany), and winters are often colder along the German border (Alsace). Along the Rhône Valley, occasional strong, cold, north-to northwesterly winds blow: this is known as the mistral. Snow reaches the Mountainous regions, including the Alps, the Pyrenees, and the Auvergne. So, do your research to discover what weather to expect at the time of your visit and in the area you’re visiting, but it is wise to prepare for all eventualities.
World Heritage Sites
France has an impressive 42 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You can view the official list of the sites here (https://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/fr). While every site has something of value, here are a few highlights:
The Loire Valley, home to some of the world’s most stunning architecture and landscape.
The Chartres Cathedral, which was constructed throughout the 12th and 13th centuries and remains in excellent condition.
The Palace of Versailles, perhaps the world’s most renowned royal residence, home to French kings from the time of Louis XIV to Louis XVI.
Festivals & Events
France has an extraordinary number of cultural, culinary, and sports events. From the Tour De France which treks across the country each July, to the many celebrations of Bastille Day, you will certainly be able to find something that suits your schedule and taste. Other events include The Cannes Film Festival, The Monaco Grand Prix, and one of the world’s biggest Mardi Gras festivals.
My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud’homme
The Discovery of France: A Historical Geography by Graham Robb
A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle
Cambridge Illustrated History of France by Colin Jones
The History of Modern France: From the Revolution to the War on Terror by Jonathan Fenby
Eating & Drinking
One of France’s primary attraction’s is its cuisine. Many people travel to France exclusively to experience its food and drink, and there are many good reasons for that. While foreigners often think of French food as one category, it actually varies widely based on the region. Some popular regional dishes include Champagne Ham, from Champagne, Boeuf Boirguignon, from Burgundy, and gratin dauphinois, from Dauphine. And of course, you can’t go past French wine. It’s estimated that France drinks around 43 litres of wine per capita per year and, just like the food, wine is regionally distinct, with globally famous varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, pinot noir, and Sauvignon blanc. What about tips for dining out? Here’s something not many tourists know. It’s often cheaper to stand at the bar and have a coffee or drink than it is to sit down! And see below for our advice on how to tip.
Health & Safety
As of writing, smarttraveller.gov recommends exercising a high degree of caution when travelling in France due to the risk of a terrorist attack. While much of France is usually safe to travel around, it’s important to stay alert to anything unusual. Also, you will often see signs warning of pickpockets in areas popular with tourists, so keep a close eye on your belongings at all times.
Whenever you travel overseas, it’s always wise to take an appropriate travel adaptor. Plugs in France have two round pins, so make sure to pick up the right adaptor before your trip.
The Loire Valley
The Normandy beaches
France has a single time zone (excluding its overseas territories), Central European Time. The nation observes daylight saving time from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October.
If you’re on an Odyssey tour, we take care of tipping so you don’t need to give it a second thought. However, in your free time, or if travelling independently, it’s essential that you tip an appropriate amount for services, as is the case throughout much of Europe. It’s customary to tip 10% of the bill at restaurants, or 1 to 3 euro at a more casual establishment. It’s polite to round a bill up to the nearest whole figure or leave the change when buying drinks.
Internet is easily accessible, and most hotels and many cafes will be able to offer it.
Check with your cell phone provider to see whether you’re able to make calls and use data while in France. Many providers will allow you to pay a daily fee that allows you to make calls and check the internet while only being charged your regular rates. However, be certain to inform your provider that you’re heading overseas, because just like a bank they can turn off your service as a result of unusual activity.
Articles about France published by Odyssey Traveller
The following list of articles, represents some of the articles published by Odyssey Traveller for mature aged and senior travellers to maximise their knowledge and enjoyment of France when visiting;
- Exploring France by rail some tips.
- Ten of the best travel books on France
- Ten things to do in France when you visit
- Designing Paris
- Paris; leaders and landmarks
- Guillamot prevents the collapse of Paris
- The elegant arcades of Paris
- Questions about France
- Studying Gargoyles and grotesques
- Around the world in six coffees
- Ten of the best French cookery books
- Ten of the Best art galleries in Europe to visit
- A guide on France for mature travellers
External articles to assist you plan your visit to France.
Responsible travel tips for France
- Learn at least the local greetings to break the ice. Although many locals speak English, the more you know of the native language, the greater your experience of the country will be.
- Carry a business card in your wallet or purse from your local hotel, to assist you with the return journey if you do become lost.
- Always ensure that you are covered by travel insurance. If you need advice on this feel free to contact Odyssey and we’ll be able to help.
- When travelling independently, make sure you check the opening hours of shops and museums so that you don’t miss out! Museums and galleries are often closed on Mondays. Also be certain to check whether your trip coincides with any public holidays, so you can plan accordingly.
- Consider contacting your bank to inform them that you may be making purchases overseas. Otherwise, they may flag any activity on your account as suspicious. Also, check which ATMs and banks are compatible with your cards, to ensure you can withdraw cash with minimal fees.
- Before departing, make sure you have a number of euros in a range of denominations. You don’t want to be carrying around enormous amounts of cash, but take enough to make it easy to pay in locations that might not accept credit card. It will also help you avoid card transaction fees, and it makes tipping a breeze.