23 days
Duration
Europe
Destination
Level 2 - Introductory to Moderate
Activity

La Belle France Small Group Tour

This  22-day small group tour of France, travels east to west around the country. This fully escorted tour caters for mature couple or solo traveller.

This small group tour visits nine key cities and towns where we stay for between 1 and 3 nights. We explore each region, learning from our expert local guides about the history and contemporary society. We also enjoy breaking bread in some great cafes and restaurants as we explore the regional cuisine.

France is the largest country in Western Europe. It is bigger than Spain, Germany or Sweden. It lies on the western edge of the continent of Europe and shares borders with six adjacent countries: Belgium and Luxembourg to the north, Germany and Switzerland to the east, Italy to the southeast, and Spain to the southwest. This geographical position gives France several notable advantages. It is the crossroads of the European Union. It is also Europe’s farm.

A large part of French life is lived outdoors, especially in towns and villages. On this small group tour, we experience the pavement life of French cities. See locals congregate in the village square to play petanque, to drink wine or just chat as the evening approaches, instead of retreating inside their homes.

Itinerary Highlights:

Our fully escorted educational tour includes visits to several culturally significant and extraordinarily picturesque regions, including Provence and Chateuneuf du Pape. Our tour also takes in the Champagne, Burgundy, and Bordeaux regions, where we sample wine and learn more about the tradition of winemaking.

Other highlights include a walking tour of La Rochelle, France’s best preserved seaside town. We also visit the Loire Valley to see its many castles. Finally this small group tour of France heads to Bayeux where we spend 3 nights. Whilst here in Normandy we visit Mont St Michel and spend time up on the Normandy landing beaches with local guides.

This small group tour of France is one of some 12 programs offered to the couple or the solo traveller as a learning program to study France and its cultural heritage.

La Belle France

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.

Tour Notes
  • Itineraries may change if flight schedules, site availability, and other inclusions have to be amended prior to departure.

PDF of Tour PDF of Reading List

1
Visit the Loire Valley and its castles.
2
Explore La Rochelle, France’s most preserved seaside town.
3
Experience the Normandy Landing Beaches.
4
Explore the Champagne, Burgundy, and Bordeaux regions.
5
Visit Provence and Chateuneuf du Pape.

Overview: Upon arrival in Paris we will come to the hotel individually. Tour begins with our welcome dinner.

(D)

Accommodation: 1 night at Hotel Ampere or similar.

Overview: Today we board our coach for the Champagne Region and visit one of the local champagne cellars in Épernay. After free time for lunch, we travel to the city of Reims.

Dinner tonight will be in a local restaurant.

(B,D)

Accommodation: 2 nights at BW Hotel de la Paix or similar.

Overview: Reims, the centre of the Champagne Region, was the site of the coronation of the majority of the French kings. This morning we meet our local guide for a walking tour of the city, including a visit to the magnificent Cathedral and the Surrender Museum.

After a free afternoon to explore the city, we attend a special champagne dinner.

(B,D)

Accommodation: BW Hotel de la Paix or similar.

Overview: En route to Beaune we will make 2 stops. The first, at Troyes, offers the opportunity to explore a delightful town with many well-preserved, half-timbered houses and 10 churches all remarkable for their stained-glass windows and exquisite sculptures. We continue with an afternoon visit to the hilltop town of Vézelay and its Basilica of St. Mary Magdalene – one of the largest Romanesque churches in France and only just shorter than Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. The Basilica is said to guard the remains of the “Sinner Saint” and was one of the departure points for the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Dinner tonight will be in the hotel.

(B,D)

Accommodation: 4 nights at Hotel Henry II or similar.

Overview: After breakfast today we travel through the picturesque countryside to the village of Châteauneuf-en-Auxois. A guided tour of the castle will be followed by a regional lunch in a local restaurant.

In the afternoon we explore one of the great canals of France aboard a modern canal boat. The Burgundy Canal, opened in 1833, was the first navigable connection between Burgundy and the Paris basin. It leads from St. Jean de Losne on the river Saône, past the city of Dijon to Migennes on the river Yonne and then on to the Seine. Our cruise will take us from Vandenesse to Pouilly, through several locks and the summit pound tunnel. Dinner tonight will be at own arrangements.

The grape plays an important role in this city and the surrounding regions. In fact, the annual wine auction at the Hospices de Beaune (Hôtel-Dieu) is considered by many wine experts to be the primary wine auction in France. The town is surrounded by an incredible collection of celebrated wine villages.

Burgundy is noted as the home of some classic French dishes such as coq au vin, oeufs meurette (eggs poached in red wine), and boeuf bourgignon. It is also famous for its escargots (snails).

(B,L)

Accommodation: Hotel Henry II or similar.

Overview: This morning our local guide will take us on a walking tour of Beaune including a visit to the magnificent Hôtel Dieu with its multi-coloured tiled roofs. The afternoon is free for our own exploration of the town.

Historically Beaune is intimately connected with the Dukes of Burgundy who endowed the city with many treasures. On a plain near the hills of the Côte d’Or, Beaune is a walled city, with about half the original battlements, with ramparts and moat still in excellent state of preservation.

Dinner will be in a local restaurant.

(B,D)

Accommodation: Hotel Henry II or similar.

Overview: The city of Dijon is famed for mustard and gingerbread. The conundrum is that the gingerbread has no ginger. It is known as pain d’épice, or spice bread!

On our guided walking tour of Dijon, we will have the chance to taste both these products and to explore the historical monuments of the city. Lunch will be in a local restaurant and will feature some of the local popular dishes.

During the afternoon we will drive through some of the prestigious wine-producing villages and will enjoy a tutored wine-tasting experience. Dinner will be at own arrangements tonight.

(B,L)

Accommodation: Hotel Henry II or similar.

Overview: Our drive south takes us via the Saône and Rhône Valleys to Avignon. On arrival we will have a guided walking tour of the city including a visit to the Palais des Papes. Our hotel, inside the city walls, will be the venue for our dinner tonight.

Avignon is considered amongst the greatest of Europe’s walled cities. Always powerful, it reached its zenith during the time of the Babylonian captivity of the Popes (1309-1377).

(B,D)

Accommodation: 3 nights at Hotel Cloître St Louis or similar.

Overview: During our next 2 days we have all-day excursions in Provence – a region where there are some of the best-preserved Roman remains in Europe.

On our first day our guide will take us to Orange to visit the 1st-century Triumphal Arch and Roman Theatre. Regarded as one of the finest and best-preserved in the entire Roman world, the theatre is the only one to have preserved a statue of the Emperor Augustus. We continue with a guided walk in the excavated town of Vaison-la-Romaine. A visit and tasting at one of the famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape cellars will complete our day. Dinner will be at the hotel tonight.

(B,D)

Accommodation: Hotel Cloître St Louis or similar.

Overview: On Day 10 we continue our Roman theme with another all-day excursion – this time to Arles, the city situated on a low hill at the point where the Rhône River branches into 2. Here the famous Roman sites such as the Arena and the Amphitheatre are the focus for us. We will also see the famous Cathedral of St. Trophime with its magnificently carved 12th century doorway. Arles also has associations with Vincent Van Gogh, who spent about 15 months here during 1888-89. We continue the Van Gogh theme with an afternoon visit to St Rémy de Provence, where he was to paint some of his last works. We also visit the ancient site of Glanum.

Dinner will be at our hotel with more regional dishes.

(B,D)

Accommodation: Hotel Cloître St Louis or similar.

Overview: En route to Carcassonne, we will make a stop at Beziers and Narbonne. The famed, fairy-tale city of Carcassonne is a spectacular walled town – in fact the largest in Europe with such intact walls. Its amazing collection of towers, drawbridges, and winding medieval cobbled streets ensures that it is regularly used as a film location.

Once we have checked in to our hotel in the city, there will be time to explore. Dinner tonight will be in a local restaurant.

(B,D)

Accommodation: 1 night at Hotel le Donjon or similar.

Overview: The day will begin with a morning guided walking tour of Carcassonne and its battlements, including the castle – an enormous structure surrounded by a dry moat and protected by a barbican. There will be free time in the city for lunch, after which we will rejoin our coach to travel to the elegant city of Bordeaux – centre of the famous wine region of that name. Dinner tonight will be at our hotel.

(B,D)

Accommodation: 3 nights at Quality Hotel Sainte Catherine or similar.

Overview: A morning’s guided walking tour of Bordeaux will include a visit to the Cathedral of Saint André. Here, in 1137, 15-year-old Eleanor of Aquitaine married the future Louis VII just a few months before she was to become Queen. After a free afternoon to explore the city, we will meet for a special dinner, out of the city in one of the famous wine châteaux.

(B,D)

Accommodation: Quality Hotel Sainte Catherine or similar.

Overview: Today we travel to St. Emilion- one of the principal red wine areas of the Bordeaux Region. The town was named after an 8th-century monk who settled here, creating a hermitage carved into the rock of the town. As other monks arrived to join him and to make wine, the town became the centre of commercial wine production – a status it retains to this day. The UNESCO organisation has recognised the terroir of St. Emilion and given the town World Heritage status. St. Emilion wines are considered the most robust of those of the Bordeaux Region – they are described as being “generous, very coloured and reaching maturity more quickly than other red Bordeaux.”

We will have time to explore the town including a visit to the great Underground Church. Lunch at own arrangements will be followed by a visit/tasting at one of the local châteaux.

We return to Bordeaux for dinner at a local restaurant in the city.

(B,D)

Accommodation: Quality hotel Sainte Catherine or similar.

Overview: This morning we leave Bordeaux to travel to La Rochelle via Cognac.

Cognac is the medieval town which bears the name of the region. Here, where the fabled nectar has been created since the 17th century, it is said that the very air one breathes is permeated by the heavy scent evaporating from oak casks held in storage – the “angels’ share!”

Our destination here is the world-famous Hennessey Cognac House where we will have a tour and tasting. Dinner tonight will be at a local restaurant in La Rochelle.

(B,D)

Accommodation: 3 nights at Novotel Centre or similar.

Overview: La Rochelle is considered one of the most preserved towns in France. Its historic 17th and 18th century centre and waterfront were plucked from the clutches of developers in recent times and its streets freed of traffic for the benefit of pedestrians. The city was the principal port for trade with the French colonies in the Caribbean Antilles and Canada and many of the settlers to Canada came from these parts.

We begin our time here with a morning guided walking tour of the city to discover its heritage and sometimes turbulent history.

A free afternoon gives the chance for further exploration on our own. Dinner tonight will be at our hotel.

(B,D)

Accommodation: Novotel Centre or similar.

Overview: After breakfast we set out on a day-long excursion to the Île de Ré, one of the islands which guard the entrance to the harbour of La Rochelle. Reached from the mainland by a 2.9km bridge, this magic place is an island of fishermen’s villages and fine sandy beaches. Famed for its Mediterranean climate and its shellfish, it has been likened to a Greek island that has somehow drifted into the Atlantic. Lunch today is, of course, a restaurant seafood meal. Dinner tonight will be at own arrangements.

(B,L)

Accommodation: Novotel Centre or similar.

Overview: We leave La Rochelle in the morning and travel to the Loire Region.

Our first visit is to the exquisite Château des Dames (Castle of the Ladies) and its delightful gardens at Chenonceau. Built in 1513 by Katharine Briçonnet and successively embellished by Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Medici, Chenonceau has a rare collection of Flanders Tapestries from the 16th century as well as a glorious collection of paintings.

A short distance away, in Amboise, is the manor house of Clos Lucé – the last home of Leonardo da Vinci. During his time fighting in Italy, King François I became intrigued by the “New Art of Renaissance” and invited da Vinci to bring these ideas and to live near him in France. The Master was given the “Manoir du Clous” (Clos Lucé) near the Royal Castle of Amboise, as well as a generous pension. The king asked for nothing in return save the pleasure of listening to da Vinci converse.

We have the opportunity to visit the house and gardens of the great master and to see drawings and working models of some of his creations. After our visit we continue to the city of Tours where we will spend the night and enjoy dinner in the hotel.

(B,D)

Accommodation: 1 night at Grand Hotel Univers or similar.

Overview: This morning we will have a walking tour of the city of Tours, including the St. Gatien Cathedral and the Musée du Compagnonnage (Museum of the Guilds).

Located between 2 rivers (the Loire and Cher), Tours is often referred to as “The Garden of France.” It is famous for its medieval district with delightful well-preserved, half-timbered buildings.

After free time for lunch we continue north to Bayeux where we will check in to our hotel and then have dinner in a local restaurant.

(B,D)

Accommodation: 3 nights at Churchill Hotel or similar.

Overview: This morning we have a sightseeing tour of Bayeux which, needless to say, includes the Bayeux Tapestry. This unique work – actually an embroidery rather than a tapestry – tells the story of the Conquest of England by William the Conqueror from the Norman point of view and gives an amazing insight into life in Norman France during the 11th century. We also enjoy a guided tour of Mont Saint Michel.

A free afternoon to explore the city is followed by dinner in a local restaurant.

(B,D)

Accommodation: Churchill Hotel or similar.

Overview: Today is dedicated to WWII and the Liberation of France by the Allies in 1944.

We tour the Landing Beaches, visit the Memorial Cemeteries of Bayeux (the final resting place of a number of Australians and New Zealanders), La Cambe (the German Cemetery), the special D-Day Museum, and the remains of the Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches.

A visit to Normandy would not be complete without a tasting of the local specialty of Calvados, which we will enjoy at one of the local orchards. Dinner tonight will again be at a local restaurant with more local dishes.

(B,D)

Accommodation: Churchill Hotel or similar.

Overview: En route today we will make a stop at the city of Rouen.

It has been said of Rouen that the city has enough venerable buildings of all description to quench even the greatest historical thirst. We pause here for a brief time to explore.

You may like to visit the “Monet Cathedral” – the subject of so many of his paintings – and the modern, striking Joan of Arc Church in the old market square.

Our arrival in Paris will be in the late afternoon and our farewell dinner will be in a local restaurant.

(B,D)

Accommodation: 1 night at Hotel Ampere or similar.

Overview: Our tour ends after breakfast.

(B)

What’s included in our Tour

  • 22 breakfasts, 3 lunches, and 19 dinners.
  • 22 nights of hotel accommodation.
  • Services of Tour Leader for the duration of tour.
  • Transport in comfortable and modern coaches.
  • All excursions, entrance fees, and local guides.
  • Gratuities and necessary tips.

What’s not included in our Tour

  • International airfares and departure taxes.
  • Comprehensive travel insurance.
  • Items of a personal nature such as telephone calls and laundry.
  • Porterage

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Tour Reviews

July 8, 2016

La Belle France is a delightful tour through some of the most beautiful regions of France. Rouna ensured that everything ran smoothly and that we saw so much.

July 8, 2016

This tour was such a good mix of the different areas of France, good food, good wine, good company and amazing sights.

July 8, 2016

Travelling in a small group was great. The tour gave you a good taste of France’s history and its wine regions.

July 8, 2016

Brilliant trip with an excellent guide and driver. Even converted my sports -orientated husband into appreciating cathedrals and architecture! Love the ‘all-inclusive’ aspect, not having to bother with meals, tipping, etc. Made it a real holiday for me.

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