Secret France | Small group tours France | Places of cultural interest for seniors
Our small group tour designed with the mature traveller in mind, gives you the chance to see eight different locations over 25 days while experiencing local culture, trying regional cuisine, exploring breathtaking architecture and admiring beautiful scenery. From Zurich the tour will move south towards Sare before returning north to Paris where the tour finishes, for a significant part of our journey we will be following old pilgrim pathways, taking the group deep into the villages, valleys, shrines and ski resorts.
From A$15,650 AUD
- 1. Visit Lourdes.
- 2. See Orleans, site of Joan of Arc’s great victory.
- 3. Walk on part of the Mont Blanc Massif.
- 4. Penetrate the Basque country on both sides of the Pyrenees.
|13 May 2022 |
Ends 06 June 2022 • 25 days
|02 September 2022 |
Ends 26 September 2022 • 25 days
|12 May 2023 |
Ends 05 June 2023 • days
|08 September 2023 |
Ends 26 September 2023 • days
Secret France small group tour
Odyssey offers easy, convenient, and relaxed escorted small group tours across Western Europe and beyond. We explore France’s fairy-tale natural beauty, its ancient Roman, and Imperial heritage, its World Heritage Sites, and world famous cities, all with some truly spectacular scenery along the way. This and more is all waiting to be explored on one of Odyssey’s small group tours of France, designed for the senior traveller, and led by experienced, and enthusiastic like minded people.
This small group tour commences in Zurich, Switzerland before crossing into France. This Secret France small group tour is a chance to see a new side of this wonderful country and enjoy a travel experience like no other. Designed with the mature traveller in mind, this group holiday gives you the chance to see eight different locations over 25 days while experiencing local culture, trying regional cuisine, exploring breathtaking architecture and admiring beautiful scenery. From Zurich the tour will move south towards Sare before returning north to Paris where the tour finishes. With the chance to take in quaint villages, sample great wine and learn more about the history of France, Switzerland and Spain, this will surely be a memorable vacation.
The Secret France Itinerary
For a significant part of its journey, the tour follows old pilgrim pathways, taking the group deep into the villages, valleys, shrines and ski resorts of these high regions. From Zurich, after a quick stop in Geneva, we begin our adventure in La Clusaz, a small, friendly village in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. With traditional chalets and fresh mountain air, it is a quintessential ski town. While based in La Clusaz, we will explore Chamonix and walk a small part of the majestic Mont Blanc massif mountain range. Expect stunning views of the Alps and for those brave enough, the Mer de Glace ice cave is on offer. We will also visit Yvoire, the medieval flower village that lies on the shores of Lake Geneva. One of France's hidden gems, this little village has quaint waterfront restaurants from which to enjoy French cuisine and tranquil spots to enjoy the colours and scents of blooming flowers.
From there, we make our way to the Haute Loire region stopping at Chambéry and Lyon. Chambéry is often overlooked by tourists visiting the French Alps but this charming Alpine town has a lot to offer. A gateway to Italy, the town is enriched with food, art and architecture from both countries. Based in Montfaucon, we will spend the following days visiting Le Puy-en-Velay, a town renowned for its production of green lentils and marking the start of the medieval pilgrimage trail to Santiago de Compostella, Tence, a tiny town with old world charm and Lamastre. The group will also visit the rural region of Saint-Agreve and the tiny village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon. Expect to learn some incredible history here. During the Nazi occupation the villagers of Le Chambon played a vital role in hiding and helping rescue Jewish refugees. Approximately 5,000 Jewish refugees survived the Holocaust because of the kindness among the people of Le Chambon and its neighbouring villages. There is a plaque in Le Chambon put there by Jews upon which is written "May the Righteous Be in Everlasting Remembrance." In 1990 the men and women of Le Chambon and the surrounding villages received a Diploma of Honour from the Yad Vashem Institute of Israel in recognition of what they did for so many Jewish people who were being persecuted. In 2013 a permanent memorial and museum opened to the public in Le Chambon. The museum is dedicated to keeping this story of rescuers and those they helped rescue alive.
After this, we head to Figeac, a medieval town of the Midi-Pyrenees. With architecture dating as far back as the 13th century, and many well-preserved townhouses and small palaces from the Middle Ages, Figeac is a great place to base ourselves. We will visit Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, a picturesque cliffside village overlooking the magnificent Lot Valley and the chateau royal in Najac.
En route to Sare, we will stop in Toulouse, often known as the Pink City due to the terracotta used in many of its buildings. From Sare, expect to see some of the Basque Country's most iconic landmarks. We will experience the beauty of Cambo-les-Bains, a spa town, take a city tour of San Sebastian, a resort town of lush hillsides and dazzling beaches on the Bay of Biscay in Spain’s mountainous Basque Country, and visit St Jean Pied de Port, an unspoiled walled town deep in the French Basque hinterland.
We then make our way to Biarritz, an elegant seaside resort town and St. Emilion, a beautiful French wine town that offers the ideal mix of history and amazing food and drink. Our tour ends in Paris, the city of love, where we explore some famous landmarks before heading to our departure point.
This is one of those vacation packages that offers you a little bit of everything. You will have the chance to see unspoiled French villages, take in the religious and cultural history of the region, try new cuisines, taste delicious Bordeaux wine, stroll through the mountains and share all this with like-minded people.
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.
- A guide to Alsace
- History of Alsace; Britannica.com
- Burgundy's climat; a UNSECO world heritage listing
- Avignon, the palace of Popes
- History of Avignon 15-18th century
- Exploring Chatres cathedral
- War of religion; France
- Published articles on French history.
Other Odyssey Tours:
The small group tour Secret France is only one of many of the small group tours offered by Odyssey Traveller to France, you can view all the tours to France via this link.
To view the entire collection of tours to Europe click here offered to mature aged and Senior travellers each year.
For more details, click the ‘Top 5’ or ‘Itinerary’ buttons above! If you’re keen to experience this tour, please call or send an email. Or, to book, simply fill in the form on the right-hand side of this page.
Odyssey Traveller regularly offers tours designed for the active senior or mature traveller to enjoy in a small group holiday and learning environment. We also publish articles to provide more information to our loyal and prospective participants.
About Odyssey Traveller
We specialise in educational small group tours for seniors, typically groups between six to 12 people from Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada and Britain. Our maximum number of people on a tour is 16 mature aged travellers.We have some 220 tours and offer 400 scheduled departures on offer each year. Odyssey has been offering this style of adventure and educational programs since 1983.
Odyssey Traveller is committed to charitable activities that support the environment and cultural development of Australian and New Zealand communities.
Odyssey Traveller scholarship for Australia & New Zealand University students.
We are also pleased to announce that since 2012, Odyssey has been awarding $10,000 Equity & Merit Cash Scholarships each year. We award scholarships on the basis of academic performance and demonstrated financial need. We award at least one scholarship per year. We’re supported through our educational travel programs, and your participation helps Odyssey achieve its goals. Students can apply for the scholarship by clicking on this link to find out more details.
Join our loyalty program when you join an international small group tour.
Every International small group tour taken typically contributes to your membership level in our Loyalty Program for regular travellers. Membership of the alumni starts when you choose to take your first international small group tour with Odyssey Traveller, discounts in tour pricing for direct bookings accrue from your third tour with Odyssey Traveller. To see the discounts and benefits of being a Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Diamond alumni member with us, please see this page.
For more information on Odyssey Traveller and our educational small group tours, visit and explore our website, and remember to visit these pages in particular:
- Terms and conditions applicable for booking an Odyssey Traveller tour.
- FAQ's about Odyssey Traveller
Day 1: Zurich
Upon arrival in Zurich we will come to the hotel individually. Our tour begins with a welcome meeting at the hotel followed by dinner.
Day 2-3: French Alps
After breakfast we board our coach and head for Geneva, where we will stop and have the opportunity to explore the city. We will then continue on to the town of La Clusaz, nestled high in the mountains of the Aravis range in Haute Savoie (Upper Savoy), which will be our base for the next five nights. We will arrive in time for dinner at a local restaurant, where we can try the region’s famed cuisine.
On the next day we will take a coach to Annecy, where we will walk around the city before taking a cruise around the crystal-clear, spring-water fed lake. We will have time for lunch at a local restaurant, after which we will drive up to the 13th-century Château de Menthon-Saint-Bernard, which stands guard over the lake and offers views across the region.
Day 4: French Alps
Today we will have a walking tour of Le Grand Bornard, and then will be able to visit the Maison du Patrimoine.
Day 5: French Alps
We will visit the ski resort town of Chamonix and the picturesque Montenvers rack-railway which runs from the town to an altitude of 1913 metres. From its upper terminus, we can walk on a small part of the Mont Blanc Massif and, if conditions permit, those adventurous enough have the opportunity to visit the cave carved inside the Glacier itself.
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Day 6: French Alps
Since ancient times, the upper valleys of the Rhône and Lake Léman (also called Lake Geneva and through which the French/Swiss border runs), have allowed for a route through the Alps between Italy and France. Today we also visit Yvoire and Thonon-les-Bains.
Day 7: Haute Loire
En route to the Haute Loire region, we visit Chambéry which was once the capital of Savoie and a staging post on the way to Italy from France. The city is still the gateway to many of the skiing resorts in the Alps. We also stop for a guided tour of the city of Lyon – in former times a major centre of the silk industry in France, before travelling to Montfaucon.
Day 8: Haute Loire
Right in the middle of the Massif Central, Le Puy-en-Velay is one of the most remarkable-looking towns in France. Set in the middle of a basin surrounded by spectacular basalt plateaux and peaks, its own towering peaks – each with a distinctive church or statue – appear to be playthings tossed up from deep within the earth by giants. After our guided tour of Le Puy, we visit St. Michael d’Aiguihle.
Day 9: Haute Loire
Our first stop will be the small town of Tence on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, with its small Penitents’ Chapel. Next we will visit the French ski resort of Les Estables, the gateway to 8 individual pistes, major ski runs served by 5 ski lifts.
Day 10: Haute Loire
The rural region of Saint-Agrève is located between the high Doux and Eyrieux valleys and the Haut-Lignon plateau. We will visit the ski resort of Lalouvesc and Lamastre, a small town located southeast of France in the Ardèche. Then we will see Montfaucon-de-Velay and its celebrated chateau.
Day 11: Figeac
En route to our next destination we stop at the magnificent new creation of Lord Norman Foster, the viaduct of Millau. Later we explore the city of Rodez with our guide, capital of the Aveyron Department with its famous grey-rose cathedral before travelling to Figeac.
Day 12: Figeac
Today we will visit Cordes sur Ciel (Cordes on the sky), which was renamed in recent times because of the way it rises above low lying mists on winter mornings. Here we meet our local guide for a walking tour.
Day 13: Figeac
Saint-Cirq-Lapopie is perched on a cliff overlooking a meander of the River Lot and is a masterpiece of medieval architecture. We also visit Cahors, popular with writers and artists over the centuries.
Day 14: Figeac
We will spend a morning in the medieval hilltop town of Najac with its spectacular castle. The afternoon will be spent in the city of Albi with visits to the magnificent Cathedral of Ste Cécile and the renowned Toulouse-Lautrec Museum.
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Day 15: Figeac
We will take visits to the Bastide towns of Villefranche de Rouergue (with its market) and Sauveterre de Rouergue, as well as continue the Toulouse-Lautrec theme as we visit his family home, Château de Bosc, at Naucelle.
Day 16: Figeac
Conques (pronounced “conk” and named for the shell-shaped structure of the land) is home to a magnificent Romanesque church and the only medieval shrine that still survives intact on the pilgrimage route across the Pyrénées to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. We begin our guided walking tour visiting St. Foy Church and the Treasury.
Day 17: Hautes-Pyrénées
Our “en route” stops today will include the rose-red city of Toulouse and the modern pilgrimage site of Lourdes, one of the Europe’s great shrines and centres of spiritual and natural healing.
Day 18: Pyrenees-Atlantiques
From the Basque town of Sare we will explore Cambo-les-Bains, a spa town in the French Basque country, which pioneered cures for respiratory disease, and the home of Edmond Rostand, author of “Cyrano de Bergerac.” Throughout our visit to Cambo-les-Brains we learn about Basque cakes. We also explore the picturesque town of Ainhoa, regarded as “one of the most beautiful villages in France.”
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Day 19: Pyrenees-Atlantiques
After our city tour of San Sebastián, the capital of the Basques in Spain, we visit Iglesa de Santa Maria. After lunch we continue to Pamplona, the place of the running of the bulls in Spain, for a guided visit.
Day 20: Pyrenees-Atlantiques
We board the train to the fabled La Rhune mountain in the heart of the Basque country, and explore the fishing port of St Jean de Luz.
Day 21: Pyrenees-Atlantiques
Today we complete our exploration of the Basque country with time in the village of Sare and town of St Jean Pied de Port at the base of the Roncevaux Pass, one of the traditional crossing points of the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostella in Spain.
Day 22: Pyrenees-Atlantiques
Today we will make the journey across to Bordeaux. On the way we will stop off to visit the Anglet where Pelota gloves are manufactured, and then the city of Biarritz (French capital of the Basques), where we will have a guided tour of the beach side town. We will then continue straight to Bordeaux, in time for dinner at a local restaurant.
Day 23: Loire Valley
Our next stop is St. Emilion, where we will have a guided tour of the underground church, which was carved out of surrounding limestone. The rest of the day if free for you to explore Bordeaux, the capital of a region with a very rich history, although perhaps now more famous for its wine!
Day 24: Paris
Today we will take a high speed train from Bordeaux to Paris, where you will have time to walk around the city before having a farewell dinner at the hotel for the final night.
Day 25: Paris
Our tour ends after breakfast.
- Group size limited to 14.
Includes / Excludes
What’s included in our Tour
- 24 nights of hotel accommodation.
- 24 breakfasts. 15 lunches and 10 dinners.
- Applicable entry fees and services of local guides.
- Transport and field trips as indicated.
- Service charges and gratuities.
- Services of a Tour Leader.
- Detailed tour information booklet.
What’s not included in our Tour
- International airfares and taxes.
- Comprehensive travel insurance.
- Items of a personal nature such as telephone calls and laundry.
Participants must be able to carry their own luggage, climb and descend stairs, moderate walking on uneven surfaces between 3 - 5 kilometers per day. Suitable for most fitness levels
Make it a private tour
Easing your journey
Crossing international borders with restrictions
The list of requirements to travel internationally has changed and will continue to change for several years. Odyssey is here to assist you in managing your way through these requirements:
For more information see our Crossing international borders with restrictions page.
Book With Confidence
If less than 30 days before your tour starts you are unable to travel as a result of Government travel restrictions, Odyssey Traveller will assist you with a date change, provide you with a credit or process a refund for your booking less any non-recoverable costs.
See Terms and conditions for details.
Peace of Mind Travel
The safety of our travellers, tour leader, local guide and support staff has always been our top priority and with the new guidelines for public health and safety for keeping safe for destinations around the world, we’ve developed our plan to give you peace of mind when travelling with us.
See Peace of Mind Travel for details.
Reading List Download PDF
The History of Modern France: From the Revolution to the War on Terror
With the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte at the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815, the next two centuries for France would be tumultuous. Bestselling historian and political commentator Jonathan Fenby provides an expert and riveting journey through this period as he recounts and analyses the extraordinary sequence of events of this period from the end of the First Revolution through two others, a return of Empire, three catastrophic wars with Germany, periods of stability and hope interspersed with years of uncertainty and high tensions. As her cross-Channel neighbour Great Britain would equally suffer, France was to undergo the wrenching loss of colonies in the post-Second World War as the new modern world we know today took shape. Her attempts to become the leader of the European union is a constant struggle, as was her lack of support for America in the two Gulf Wars of the past twenty years. Alongside this came huge social changes and cultural landmarks but also fundamental questioning of what this nation, which considers itself exceptional, really stood - and stands - for. That saga and those questions permeate the France of today, now with an implacable enemy to face in the form of Islamic extremism which so bloodily announced itself this year in Paris. Fenby will detail every event, every struggle and every outcome across this expanse of 200 years. It will prove to be the definitive guide to understanding France.
By Jonathan Fenby
How the French Think: An Affectionate Portrait of an Intellectual People
Sudhir Hazareesingh's How the French Think is a warm yet incisive exploration of the French intellectual tradition, and its exceptional place in a nation's identity and lifestyle
Why are the French an exceptional nation? Why do they think they are so exceptional? An important reason is that in France intellectual activity is regarded not just as the preserve of the thinking elite but for almost everyone. French thought can sometimes be austere and often opaque, yet it is undeniably bold and innovative, and driven by a relentless quest for the regeneration of humanity. Sudhir Hazareesingh traces its tumultuous history in an enormously enjoyable and highly original manner, showing how the French ways of thought and life connect. This will be one of the most revealing books written about them - or any other European country - for years.
Sudhir Hazareesingh was born in Mauritius. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and has been a Fellow and Tutor in Politics at Balliol College, Oxford, since 1990. Among his books are The Legend of Napoleon (Granta, 2004) and Le MytheGaullien (Gallimard, 2010). He won the Prix du Memorial d'Ajaccio and the Prix de la Fondation Napoleon for the first of these, and a Prix d'Histoire du Senat for the second.
By Sudhir Hazareesingh
The Discovery of France
Ten years ago, I began to explore the country on which I was supposed to be an authority . . .
France is a country famous for its intellectuals, its philosophers and writers, its fashion, food and wine. And yet the notion of 'the French' as one nation is relatively recent and - historically speaking - quite misleading. In order to discover the 'real' past of France, Graham Robb realised it was not only necessary to go back in time, but also to go at a slower pace than modern life generally allows. The Discovery of France, illuminating, engrossing and full of surprises, is the result of Robb's 14,000 mile journey across France on a bicycle.
Winner of both the Duff Cooper and the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje prizes, The Discovery of France is a modern non-fiction classic, a literary exploration of a remarkable nation. From maps and migration to magic, language and landscape, it reveals a France few will recognize.
By Graham Robb
Napoleon the Great
From Andrew Roberts, author of the Sunday Times bestseller The Storm of War, this is the definitive modern biography of Napoleon
It has become all too common for Napoleon Bonaparte's biographers to approach him as a figure to be reviled, bent on world domination, practically a proto-Hitler. Here, after years of study extending even to visits paid to St Helena and 53 of Napoleon's 56 battlefields, Andrew Roberts has created a true portrait of the mind, the life, and the military and above all political genius of a fundamentally constructive ruler. This is the Napoleon, Roberts reminds us, whose peacetime activity produced countless indispensable civic innovations - and whose Napoleonic Code provided the blueprint for civil law systems still in use around the world today.
It is one of the greatest lives in world history, which here has found its ideal biographer. The sheer enjoyment which this book will give anyone who loves history is enormous.
By Andrew Roberts
France: A History: from Gaul to de Gaulle
I can still feel, as if it were yesterday, the excitement of my first Channel crossing (as a child of nearly 7) in September 1936; the regiment of porters, smelling asphyxiatingly of garlic in their blue-green blousons; the raucous sound all around me of spoken French; the immense fields of Normandy strangely devoid of hedges; then the Gare du Nord at twilight, the policemen with their képis and their little snow-white batons; and my first sight of the Eiffel Tower...This book is written in the belief that the average English-speaking man or woman has remarkably little knowledge of French history. We may know a bit about Napoleon or Joan of Arc or Louis XIV, but for most of us that's about it. In my own three schools we were taught only about the battles we won: Crécy and Poitiers, Agincourt and Waterloo. The rest was silence. So here is my attempt to fill in the blanks...
John Julius Norwich (at 88) has finally written the book he always wanted to write, the extremely colourful story of the country he loves best.
From frowning Roman generals and belligerent Gallic chieftains, to Charlemagne (hated by generations of French children taught that he invented schools) through Marie Antoinette and the storming of the Bastille to Vichy, the Resistance and beyond, FRANCE is packed with heroes and villains, adventures and battles, romance and revolution. Full of memorable stories and racy anecdotes, this is the perfect introduction to the country that has inspired the rest of the world to live, dress, eat -- and love better.
By John Julius Norwich
A year in Provence
Peter Mayle and his wife did what most of us only imagine doing when they made their long-cherished dream of a life abroad a reality: throwing caution to the wind, they bought a glorious two hundred year-old farmhouse in the Lubéron Valley and began a new life. In a year that begins with a marathon lunch and continues with a host of gastronomic delights, they also survive the unexpected and often hilarious curiosities of rural life. From mastering the local accent and enduring invasion by bumbling builders, to discovering the finer points of boules and goat-racing, all the earthy pleasures of Provençal life are conjured up in this enchanting portrait.
By Peter Mayle
Becoming Bourgeois: Love, Kinship, and Power in Provincial France, 1670–1880
Becoming Bourgeois traces the fortunes of three French families in the municipality of Vannes, in Brittany—Galles, Jollivet, and Le Ridant—who rose to prominence in publishing, law, the military, public administration, and intellectual pursuits over the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Revisiting complex issues of bourgeois class formation from the perspective of the interior lives of families, Christopher H. Johnson argues that the most durable and socially advantageous links forging bourgeois ascent were those of kinship. Economic success, though certainly derived from the virtues of hard work and intelligent management, was always underpinned by marriage strategies and the diligent intervention of influential family members.
Johnson's examination of hundreds of personal letters opens up a whole world: the vicissitudes of courtship; the centrality of marriage; the depths of conjugal love; the routines of pregnancy and the drama of childbirth; the practices of child rearing and education; the powerful place of siblings; the role of kin in advancing the next generation; tragedy and deaths; the enormous contributions of women in all aspects of becoming bourgeois; and the pleasures of gathering together in intimate soirées, grand balls, country houses, and civic and political organizations. Family love bound it all together, and this is ultimately what this book is about, as four generations of rather ordinary provincial people capture our hearts.
By Christopher H Johnson