Rural France | Small Group Tour for Seniors
On this small group Rural France tour, we spend 24 days exploring France beyond its bustling cities, travelling off the beaten track. We will explore the pastoral and provincial splendour of French rural towns which have resisted the dual siege of the automobile and the property developer. Our small group will visit many of France’s beautiful towns where within their walls the villagers conduct their daily lives much as they have done since Napoleonic times.
From A$16,750 AUD
- 1. Explore the Camargue, separated from the rest of France by 140,000 hectares of wetlands, pastures, dunes, and salt flats.
- 2. Travel back many millennia to the pre-historic Caves of Lascaux II.
- 3. Visit the great citadel of Carcassonne, one of Europe's largest and best-preserved medieval fortresses.
- 4. Visit Uzes and Pont du Gard in Languedoc-Roussillon.
|02 September 2021 |
Ends 25 September 2021 • 24 days
|28 April 2022 |
Ends 21 May 2022 • 24 days
|01 September 2022 |
Ends 24 September 2022 • 24 days
|27 April 2023 |
Ends 20 May 2023 • days
|07 September 2023 |
Ends 01 October 2023 • days
Rural 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.
On this small group Rural France programme, we spend 24 days exploring France beyond its bustling cities. During this tour you will explore the pastoral and provincial splendour of Rural France through French rural towns. France's rural villages and towns have resisted the dual siege of the automobile and the property developer. This decision has long protected the rural landscape, thus avoiding the incursions that laid waste to provincial centres in so many other European nations.
As you will see, many of France’s beautiful towns remain untouched by the depredations of the last century. Within their walls the villagers conduct their daily lives much as they have done since Napoleonic times. These villages, or communes, maintain lives based on villagers' needs, rather than for those who seek to profit from them.
We start and finish this vacation program in Paris and explore small towns in France. This small group tour of rural France is limited to a maximum of 18 people. Travellers are escorted by a Program Leader, who works with a number of local professional guides who will give information about the towns of France and take you to the best restaurants and shops to rest your feet.
On these guided tours, they share with you the culture and the history of rural France. Topics include the local taxation system, the European Union and its impact on rural village life and the regional centres, as well as commentary about the history of the pays, an area whose inhabitants, sharing common interests, enter into a planning contract to build a community. Pays can translate to "region", as in Pays de la Loire.
Rural France Small Group Tour Itinerary
After beginning the program in Paris, we travel to the picturesque village of St-Gervais-d'Auvergne. En route, we pause at the elegant city of Orléans, site of Joan of Arc's turning point victory over the English in the 100 Year War. We then travel to the spa resort of Vichy. Vichy was the seat of France's World War II collaborationist government and is also the source of the famous mineral water. We continue to St-Gervais-d'Auvergne and check into our hotel.
Set in the Puy-de-Dome region of the Auvergne in the southern-centre of France, St-Gervais-d'Auvergne is the region’s capital. From here we then visit Saint-Flour, perched on the Auvergne's highest volcanic outcrop, where we have a full day walking tour of the town. This is quintessential medieval France surrounded by the rugged beauty of the region's volcanic landscape.
Other Highlights of France
Other highlights include visiting Avignon. Avignon is a walled city which was once the seat of the Popes. We travel as well to Uzes and the Pont du Gard in Languedoc-Roussillon. We will also stop off at the great citadel of Carcassonne, one of Europe's largest and best-preserved medieval fortresses. We also take time to explore the pre-historic Caves of Lascaux II. The Camargue, separated from the rest of France by 140,000 hectares of wetlands, pastures, dunes, and salt flats, will also feature on our itinerary.
This guided educational small group tour of rural France is one of many journeys offered by Odyssey Traveller each year. These programs are typically for the senior or mature-aged couple or solo traveller seeking a cultural or historic tour into France. If you want to go on a Seine river cruise, on walking tours through the Loire Valley, a visit to Versailles or the Sacre-Coeur Basilica on the summit of Montmartre or the French Riviera, or an exploration of Monet's Giverny, click here to see all of Odyssey travellers tours to France.
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 of Rural 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.
Day 1: Paris
Upon arrival in Paris, we will come to the hotel individually. You will have some time to unpack and explore the city during the day, before the tour commences with an introductory session and a meal out at a local restaurant.
Day 2: Paris
After checking out from our hotel, we will depart Paris for St-Gervais-d’Auvergne. En route, we pause at the elegant city of Orléans, site of Joan of Arc’s remarkable victory over the English during the 100 Year War. Then we travel to the spa resort of Vichy, a city with a rich but complex history, having been the home of France’s collaborationist government during World War 2. We then continue on to St-Gervais-d’Auvergne, where we will be staying for the next four nights. Set in the Puy-de-Dome region of the Auvergne in the southern-centre of France, St-Gervais-d’Auvergne is the region’s capital.
Day 3: St-Gervais-d'Auvergne
We will have a full day tour of Saint-Flour, perched on the Auvergne’s highest volcanic outcrop. This is quintessential medieval France surrounded by the rugged beauty of the region’s volcanic landscape. We will return to our hotel and have the opportunity to find a local restaurant for dinner.
Day 4: St-Gervais-d'Auvergne
Today we will enjoy the view from Le Puy Mary, with its unspoiled landscape and panoramas of lush and verdant moorlands. We will explore Salers, one of the Auvergne’s most attractive medieval villages, and the charming town of Tournemire, which is a member of the Association of the Most Beautiful French Villages. During our visit we will explore Chateau d’Anjony, which was built in 1430 by one of Joan of Arc’s companions, Louis d’Anjony.
Day 5: St-Gervais-d'Auvergne
This morning our local guide will lead us on a walking tour in the surrounding countryside. We will visit Orcival before stopping at a viewpoint to see Les Roches Tuiliere et Sanadoire at Lac de Guery. We will view Mont Dore, then return to our hotel.
Day 6: Uzes
This morning we will check out of our hotel and depart for Uzes, a charming medieval town in the Languedoc-Roussillon area near the Pont du Gard and the Roman aqueduct. It is a market town and a centre of gastronomy. New Zealand’s premiere television cuisine personality Peta Mathias conducts her famous cooking schools in this medieval village during the summer months. En route to Uzes, we will pause at Le Puy, with its shrine-topped volcanic towers. We will arrive at our accommodation in time for dinner.
Day 7: Uzes
Today we head out to Aigueze, a medieval town perched on an isolated outcrop, where we will start our days excursions. A local guide will join us here to head down the valley and explore the Gorges de l’Ardeche. We will drive through the region’s picturesque villages, nestled against formidable limestone cliff faces, with plenty of opportunities for photos!
Day 8: Uzes
Today we will join our local guide for a full day tour. We will visit the delightful port of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer to see its Romanesque steeple and stroll through the narrow paved streets following the tracks of the pilgrims. We will also visit the fortified city of Aigues-Mortes, where we will enjoy a guided tour of the town. We will return to our accommodation for dinner.
Day 9: Uzes
Today we will explore the impressive Roman city of Nîmes, established by the Romans more than 2 millennia ago. We will walk in the footsteps of the Roman amphitheatre’s ancient spectators and experience some of France’s best preserved classical buildings, including Maison Carree, with our local guide. We will stop at a local vineyard for a tour and tasting, then continue to the Roman city of Arles for another guided tour. The city boasts impressive Roman monuments, of which the earliest – the arena, the Roman theatre, and the cryptoporticus (subterranean galleries) – date back to the 1st century BC.
Day 10: Uzes
We will continue our journey to St-Rémy-de-Provence, which features an ancient Gallo-Roman interior, circled by the remnants of its circular 14th century wall and a protective circle of buildings. It was here where Van Gogh painted Starry Night. We will visit the site of the Roman Village of Glanum and the St. Paul de Mausole monastery, where Van Gogh admitted himself for treatment. We will then join our local guide for awalking tour of the town of Les Baux de Provence, located on a rocky plateau in the heart of the Alpilles, which provides a breathtaking panoramic of Arles and the Camargue. We will return to our accommodation for dinner.
Day 11: Uzes
Today we will visit the Pont du Gard, the Roman aqueduct running between Uzes and Nimes. At the peak of its use, over 200 million litres of water a day flowed to the Roman citizens of Nîmes 25 kilometres away. We will continue to Avignon, where we meet our local guide to see the main sights of the city, including the Palais des Papes, or Popes’ Palace, a monumental structure that placed this sleepy French town on the European map.
Day 12: Uzes
After breakfast we will check out of our accommodation and depart Uzes for Carcassonne. En route we will pause to view the spectacular bridge at Millau, which towers above the Tarn Valley. It was designed by the British architect Lord Foster and it is the highest road bridge in the world. We will have time to explore Beziers, one of the oldest cities in France, with its Gothic Cathedral, quintessential cafes and tree-lined streets.
In the evening we will return for a group dinner at the hotel.
Day 13: Carcassonne
Today we will take a boat trip on the famous Canal du Midi, then meet our guide for a walking tour of the delightful medieval city of Carcassonne, which is an ancient double walled fortified town, considered the best preserved in Europe. Free time this afternoon in Carcassonne will allow us to explore the city.
Day 14: Carcassonne
Our first visit will be to Châteaux de Lastours, a series of towers and ruined castle defences perched on an isolated outcrop. Lastours’s 4 castles date back to the Bronze Age, and is the burial site of the famous “princess with the necklace.” Her body was covered with objects such as amber pearls and jewelry, evoking Mycenaean or Egyptian art. Our next stop is Caunes-Minervois to visit the Benedictine Abbey. We will then view the castle remains at Minerve before returning to our accommodation for dinner.
Day 15: Carcassonne
We will enjoy a guided tour of the castle remains at Saissac. Next we will see the Jardins de l’Evieche in St. Ferrol. We enjoy free time in Montoleiu in the afternoon and evening.
Day 16: Carcassonne
Our local guide will meet us this morning to drive to Mirepoix for a walking tour, where we will see the central square with its covered medieval walkways. We will carry on to Montsegur where we will view the castle from the village, before returning to our accommodation.
Day 17: Les Eyzies-de-Tayac
After we check out from our accommodation, we will depart Carcassonne for Les Eyzies-de-Tayac. We will travel first to Albi, where our local guide will lead us on a city tour, including the entrance to the Toulouse Lautrec Museum and the cathedral. After we have lunch individually, we continue to Cahors where we will have some time to explore at leisure. Dinner tonight is at our hotel in Les Eyzies-de-Tayac.
Day 18: Les Eyzies-de-Tayac
After a morning at leisure, we will travel to La Roque Gageac where we will join our cruise on the Dordogne River before returning to our hotel in Eyzies-de-Tayac.
Day 19: Les Eyzies-de-Tayac
Today we will visit the fortified town of Collonges la Rouge before visiting the pilgrimage town of Rocamadour. We will then visit the religious centre and view the Black Madonna, and return to Les Eyzies-de-Tayac.
Day 20: Les Eyzies-de-Tayac
This morning we will visit the impressive chateau in Hautefort and then continue to the village of Badefols. Our next stop is a visit the medieval village of Saint Robert, before travelling to Brive la Gaillarde to visit the local distillery of Denoix for a tour and tasting.
Day 21: Les Eyzies-de-Tayac
Today we will visit to the picturesque town of Sarlat and the village of Domme with its spectacular views of the Dordogne. Sarlat dates back to the Viking era and is renowned for having the highest number of listed historical monuments in Europe. We will take a tourist train to the fortified medieval town of Domme, where we will see the trapezoid city plan from a viewpoint. Before arriving at our hotel we will visit the National Museum of Pre-History at Eyzies-de-Tayac. We will have dinner at our hotel this evening.
Day 22: Les Eyzies-de-Tayac
Our local guide will meet us again this morning to lead us for a visit to the caves of Lascaux II, a copy of the decorated prehistoric caves at Lascaux. The caves are famed for Paleolithic cave paintings, dating from the dawn of time. They primarily consist of images of gigantic prehistoric creatures known from fossil evidence to have once roamed Europe. Next we will continue on to explore the attractive village of St. Leon sur Vezere, then the caves of Le Roque St Christophe.
Day 23: Paris
We will check out of our hotel this morning to depart for Paris. We will make a stop en route to visit the Châteaux de Chambord, one of France’s most distinctive country estates, with its iconic blend of medieval and Renaissance styles. We then continue on to our hotel in Paris, where we will have a farewell dinner in the evening.
Day 24: Paris
Our Rural France tour will end this morning after breakfast.
- Group size is limited to a maximum of 14 participants.
Includes / Excludes
What’s included in our Tour
- 23 nights of hotel accommodation.
- 23 breakfasts and 10 dinners.
- Transport and field trips as indicated.
- Applicable entry fees and services of local guides.
- Touring by comfortable and modern coach.
- Service charges and gratuities.
- Detailed tour information booklet.
- Services of a tour leader.
What’s not included in our Tour
- International airfare and departure taxes.
- Comprehensive international travel insurance.
- Meals not listed on the itinerary.
- 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.
I loved the rural France trip. It exceeded my expectations for sure. I saw so much and learnt many new things about French history and culture. Every guide we had was knowledgeable, friendly and each brought their own personality to the role. I am sure that I will reflect on this trip as a particular highlight in my travel agenda. Congratulations to Rouna for making a difficult job seem easy!
Participant May 2014
Apart from meeting nice people, being well looked after and seeing wonderful places, one of the best aspects of Odyssey Tours is that we stay in one place for several days and do not have to pack and unpack very often.
Participant May 2014
These tours give the client a real learning experience, instead of going from market to market as some travel organizations do. Also, staying at least 3 nights or more in the one location one gets a feel for the area, and the memory of it is not ever forgotten.
Participant Sep 2014
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
The French Revolution
Concise, convincing and exciting, this is Christopher Hibbert’s brilliant account of the events that shook eighteenth-century Europe to its foundation. With a mixture of lucid storytelling and fascinating detail, he charts the French Revolution from its beginnings at an impromptu meeting on an indoor tennis court at Versailles in 1789, right through to the ‘coup d’etat’ that brought Napoleon to power ten years later. In the process he explains the drama and complexities of this epoch-making era in the compelling and accessible manner he has made his trademark.
Writing in The Times, Richard Holmes described the book as ‘A spectacular replay of epic action …’ while The Good Book Guide called it, ‘Unquestionably the best popular history of the French Revolution’.
By Christopher Hibbert
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
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