La Grande France Tour
16 days from $7,389 pp twin share
- Leisurely 3 night stays
- Small group size with a maximum of 28 travellers
- Genuinely inclusive, no additional on tour costs
- Character hotels in superb locations
- Designed for Australians & New Zealanders
- Guaranteed group departures
Five of France’s seductive regions… the graceful châteaux of the Loire Valley, the glorious Dordogne, the land of the Cathars in the Languedoc Roussillon, to ancient Provence and the stunning Côte d’Azur. Wonderful experiences…the Canal du Midi, the incredible caves of Gouffre de Padirac and afternoon tea in Rothschild’s luxuriant Villa Ephrussi.
- Stay 3 nights amongst the glorious chateaux of the Loire Valley, see mighty Chambord and visit elegant Chenonceau, the incredible Gardens of Villandry, Fontevraud Abbey and Da Vinci’s Clos de Luce
- Explore Amboise and Chinon, and visit the Palaeolithic rock paintings on the ccave site of Lascaux II and tragic Oradour-sur-Glane
- In the Dordogne, stay 3 nights in perfectly preserved Sarlat-la-Caneda, visit La Roque Gageac, cruise on the river Dordogne, explore ancient Rocamadour and visit the incredible caves of Gouffre de Padirac
- Sleep for 3 nights in le Château des Ducs de Joyeuse in the Cathar countryside of Languedoc Roussillon, play pétanque, enjoy a wine tasting in the Chateau’s ancient chapel, visit Carcassonne, beautifully preserved Mirepoix and intriguing Rennes-le-Chateau, and Castelnaudary before cruising down the Canal Du Midi
- Stay 3 nights in Provence, relax in ancient Nimes, visit Aigues-Mortes set in the salt pans of the Camargue, Avignon and the Roman Pont du Gard, experience the Carriere des Lumiere sound and light show in Les Baux and enjoy dinner in St Remy
- Visit the pretty harbour town of Cassis and enjoy a dramatic Calanques coastal cruise
- Relax over 3 nights in the Cote d’Azur, explore Nice, Cannes and Monte Carlo, plus visit a perfumery in Grasse
- Visit exclusive Saint-Jean Cap Ferrat, enjoy afternoon tea in Villa Ephrussi – home of the Rothschild family, plus experience a farewell dinner in the artisan village of Saint Paul de Vence
Don't just tick the big boxes
Too many people go to France and just ‘tick off’ the major sights. With limited time they brush the surface, and miss so many incredible sights. This totally unique tour captures the essence and vibrancy of five incredibly evocative French regions…. regions littered with wonderfully preserved cities and villages, incredible sites, and a proud heritage of culture, food and wine. That is why I designed this tour with necessary 3 night stops everywhere, plus I threw in a 2 nights stop in a 500 year old ‘chateau castle’ just for good measure!
Naturally I needed to ensure we have ample time in the famous cities and towns… but I also really wanted to seek out those other activities and sights, famous or not, which exude so much of that essence and style that has made these regions world famous. For instance, have you heard of the ‘ghost city’ of Oradour-sur-Glane or the awesome caves of Gouffre de Padirac? What about the picturesque fishing village of Cassis, on the Cote d’Azur, beside the stunning fjord like Calanques where we enjoy a morning cruise? Why would you bypass the Canal du Midi or the magnificent Villa Ephrussi, with its treasures and gorgeous gardens all set on a spectacular rocky headland over the Azure Coast. Really, how could you?
If you don’t take in these other, so special, visits, then you haven’t seen ‘La Grande France’. I say they are a ‘must’ as they are what Albatross travellers love so much. At Albatross, we don’t just touch on regions, we explore them!
Day 1: Paris to Tours in the Loire Valley
Day 2: Tours in the Loire Valley
This morning we enjoy a visit to the magnificent Château Chenonceau, spanning the River Cher on a series of graceful arches. Possibly one of the most photographed of the Loire châteaux this was the former home of Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Medici. Explore the stunning gardens and interior of the château. Later we stop to explore the charming riverside town of Amboise, on the banks of the River Loire, with its Royal Palace, where Leonardo da Vinci once lived as a guest of King Francois I. We have included a visit to da Vinci’s residence – Château du Clos Lucé. Here in the underground rooms you will see on display, forty machines designed by this amazing inventor. This evening will be free in the old town of Tours around Place Plumereau, to discover your own provincial bistro for dinner.
Day 3: Tours in the Loire Valley
Our first stop of the day will be to visit the Royal Abbey of Fontevraud. Built nearly 1000 years ago, this is the largest abbey in Western Europe. The romanesque abbey church with its royal tombs and the renaissance cloister, have all been beautifully restored and the complex is now a museum and cultural centre. Lunchtime will be spent exploring Chinon, with its massive castle looming over the narrow cobbled streets of this riverside town. In the afternoon we will visit the gardens of Château Villandry. Inspired by the classic gardens of the 16th and 18th century, different levels of the gardens include ponds, topiary, ornamental hedges and an extraordinary kitchen garden covering 12,500 square metres. Dinner tonight is in a local restaurant.
Day 4: Sarlat La Caneda in the Dordogne
Day 5: Sarlat La Caneda in the Dordogne
A guide joins us for the whole day. First we explore the medieval, architectural time capsule village of Sarlat. Noted for its gourmet food, cheeses, Pâté and foie gras, Sarlat is also famous for its beautifully preserved old town with its café filled squares and delightful stone alleyways. In the afternoon we will drive to the nearby village of La Roc Gageac, set beside the pretty Dordogne River. Here we will board a barge and drift slowly down the River Dordogne past medieval castles. Later we visit the incredibly picturesque village of Domme. We have included a ride on the petit train up through the ramparts to the town square. You will have time at leisure to explore the sleepy village and enjoy the sweeping views across the Dordogne Valley.
Day 6: Sarlat La Caneda in the Dordogne
Day 7: Chateau des ducs de Joyeuse in Couiza
Day 8: Chateau des ducs de Joyeuse in Couiza
This morning we are joined by a local guide as we explore the ramparts and old town of Carcassonne. This medieval castle, with its gigantic double walled fortifications and 53 watchtowers, is the 2nd most visited site in France outside of Paris. Dating back to the 13th century, Carcassonne is an extraordinary timepiece and after our guided tour we have quality time to explore this magnificent castle city. Mid-afternoon we return to our château hotel to relax and enjoy our delightful surroundings. Here we can try our hand at Pétanque (Boules), the traditional French village sport. Playing Pétanque in front of our 500 year old château – this is the real France at its very best! Dinner tonight will be in the village at the traditional bistro, Le Carnotzet.
Day 9: Château des Ducs de Joyeuse in Couiza
Day 10: Nimes in Provence
Day 11: Nimes in Provence
Day 12: Nimes in Provence
A leisurely morning in Nimes. Do as much or as little as you wish. Mid afternoon we journey to the crumbling castle and once deserted village of Les Baux to discover the craft shops and cafés scattered throughout the ruins. Set on the craggy hillside, this rejuvenated town is an extraordinary sight. We have also included entrance to enjoy a stunning audio visual art show – the Carriere des Lumiere. Inside an abandoned quarry you will have a totally unique sound and vision experience as classic works of art are projected as massive frescos all around you, onto the walls and ceilings. We then continue to the romantic town of St Remy to explore and enjoy a special Provencal dinner in a local restaurant.
Day 13: Nice on the Cote d'Azur
If the UNESCO World Heritage Organisation think the ‘Calanques’ are notable and worth eternal preservation then we reckon you should see them. These deep rugged inlets cover a length of 20 kms and a depth of up to 4 kms along the coast between Cassis and Marseille. Roots of plants and bushes are anchored into colourful rock faces, which tumble down into the crystal clear azure blue waters. Perfect for our spectacular afternoon cruise on the Côte d’Azur! Uniquely Albatross.
Day 14: Nice on the Cote d'Azur
First stop this morning will be in the hill town of Grasse where we will enjoy a visit to a local perfumery. Then, dropping down to the coast, we will stop in the extravagant sea-side resort of Cannes. Famous for its movie stars and the Cannes Film Festival, we have time to explore the old port town and ‘La Croisette’ – the seafront promenade lined with palm trees, up market boutiques, cafés and grand hotels. Late afternoon we have also included an excursion to Monaco. Following the scenic drive along the ‘Moyenne Corniche’ to the city of Monte Carlo we will see the Royal Palace before time in the old town to enjoy dinner at leisure.
Day 15: Nice on the Cote d'Azur
Your morning is entirely free in the elegant resort town of Nice. Take time to stroll and shop amongst the winding streets and perhaps enjoy lunch in one of the attractive seaside restaurants. Nice also boasts a number of art museums. Make sure you visit the wonderful fresh food, local produce and flower markets which are amongst the best in France! In the afternoon we will visit Saint-Jean Cap Ferrat and the fabulous Villa Ephrussi – home of the Rothschild family. We have included a tour through this exceptional villa, perhaps the grandest on the Côte d’Azur, to see Béatrice Ephrussi’s grand apartments, tapestry and porcelain collections, and the magnificent gardens. We have also included afternoon tea in the restaurant, which boasts enormous views along the Azure Coast. As a finalé, we will drive in to the foothills of the Alpes Maritimes to the old town of St Paul de Vence. With its imposing ramparts, overlooking the Provençal countryside, the wonderful natural light attracted an artists’ colony. Soon they were followed by film directors and movie stars, then galleries and shops. We enjoy a farewell dinner in a local restaurant.
Day 16: Nice on the Cote d'Azur
Your tour ends today after breakfast.
Incredible Value Inclusions
- Fully escorted by our experienced Tour Manager
- Travel in a first class air-conditioned touring coach
- 15 nights specially selected hotel accommodation
- Hotel porterage (1 bag per person)
- Breakfast daily
- 11 dinners including welcome dinner, and 6 local restaurant dinners in Loire Valley, Dordogne, Couiza, St Remy, Nice and farewell dinner in St Paul de Vence
- Welcome drink Loire Valley
- All excursions, scenic drives, sightseeing and entrances as described
- Special Highlights - barge cruise Dordogne, cruises Canal du Midi and the Calanques, Villa Ephrussi afternoon tea
- Local guides as described in the itinerary
- Personal audio system whilst on tour
- Albatross travel app
- Free WiFi available on most coaches and at hotels
- End of tour tips to Tour Manager and Driver, tips for local guides
Clarion Hotel Château Belmont, Loire Valley - 3 nights
Located close to Tours old town, guests are welcomed by a grand building (we would rather not describe it as a château) set in 6 acres of manicured parklands. The hotel features a heated swimming pool, bar, restaurant and all rooms feature modern amenities amongst an elegant design. See www.châteaubelmont.com
Hotel de Selves , Dordogne - 3 nights
Château des Ducs de Joyeuse, Couiza - 3 nights
Dating back nearly 500 years this ‘castle château’ was built following the wedding and merging of two prominent families, the Voisin family and the Dukes of Joyeuse. Today it is an elegant castle hotel, with renaissance style furniture and a wonderful central courtyard where you can take breakfast. There is a medieval style restaurant and the old chapel has been turned into a wine cellar. www.château-des-ducs.com/en
Hotel Imperator, Nimes - 3 nights
Set in the centre of Nimes, the Hotel Imperator is located in an art-deco building facing the Jardins de la Fontaine gardens. Perfectly located, the hotel offers modern amenities which you would expect from a 4-star hotel.
Hotel Beau Rivage, Nice - 3 nights
This 4-star boutique hotel with a contemporary design is centrally located in the Old Town of Nice, just a stone’s throw from the sea and Promenade des Anglais and offers style, quality and warm, friendly service. The air conditioned guest rooms have modern ensuite bathrooms with amenities.
A wonderful well - paced holiday with many varied activities. Great group of travellers. Each new destination was an unexpected treasure!
This tour had all the elements that make a successful holiday. First, the canvas of places and tourist sites we visited were splendid. Second, the people that make up the tour, they were an excellent group. Third, the coach driver, he was a thorough gentleman, good company and above all an excellent driver. Lastly, our Tour Manager was absolutely marvellous and defnitely a 'rare gem'. I have noticed the Albatross difference.
Dates and Prices
|Start Date||End Date||Price Per Person||Guaranteed to Depart||Availability|
|23 Aug 2017||7 Sep 2017||AUD $7,389||Space Limited - Call Now|
|13 Sep 2017||28 Sep 2017||AUD $7,389||Space Limited - Call Now|
|2 May 2018||17 May 2018||Space Available|
|16 May 2018||31 May 2018||Space Available|
|13 Jun 2018||28 Jun 2018||Space Available|
|18 Jul 2018||2 Aug 2018||Space Available|
|8 Aug 2018||23 Aug 2018||Space Available|
|22 Aug 2018||6 Sep 2018||Space Available|
|12 Sep 2018||27 Sep 2018||Space Available|
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No Additional 'On Tour' Costs
Over $100 value of extras per day are already included. There are no additional 'on tour' costs - even your end of tour tips are included!