Loire to the South of France in 13 Days Tour Start from 3995$
We’ll meet at 5 p.m. at our hotel for a short “Bienvenue à Chartres” meeting. Then we’ll take an orientation walk through our neighborhood, followed by time to get acquainted over dinner together. Sleep in Chartres (2 nights). No bus. Walking: light.
We’ll begin our day with a walking tour of Chartres’ pedestrian-friendly, stream-straddling old town. Then we’ll be treated to a scholar’s tour of the famed cathedral of Chartres. One of the most impressive structures in all of Europe, it is also home to some of the world’s finest medieval stained glass and the veil of Mary. The rest of your day is free to explore the town, or to learn more about the art of creating stained glass. No bus. Walking: moderate.
This morning we’ll say au revoir to Chartres and drive south to the Loire Valley, the land of a thousand châteaux. You’ll have some free time in the charming town of Amboise, where you could visit the home of Leonardo da Vinci (even grab a little lunch there) and study working models of the Renaissance man’s cleverest inventions. This afternoon we’ll visit the elegant, river-straddling Château de Chenonceau, where we’ll learn about royal life in France, with free time to roam through the château’s opulent interior and gardens. We’ll continue on to castle-topped Chinon, where we’ll have dinner together and sleep (2 nights). Bus: 4 hours. Walking: moderate.
Day 4: Villandry and the Loire
We’ll begin our morning visiting the Château de Villandry, famous for its remarkable “themed” gardens, inspired by water, music, love, and more. It’s a gardener and photographer’s dream. Next, we’re off to visit a château known for its luxurious setting and elegant interior: Azay-le-Rideau. After lunch in the nearby village, we’ll return to Chinon where you’ll be free for the rest of the day to explore the town’s ancient streets, tour the medieval castle, or sample the local wines. Bus: 2 hours. Walking: moderate.
Our destination today is the Dordogne, a sublime region of fortified hill towns, caves, and meandering streams. We’ll have a countryside picnic en route, then stop for a thought-provoking walk through the WWII martyr village of Oradour-sur-Glane — frozen in time as a memorial since June 10, 1944, when its unarmed residents were senselessly gunned down by Nazi troops. Our day will end with dinner together in the quintessential market town of Sarlat, where we’ll sleep (3 nights). Bus: 6 hours. Walking: light.
Today begins with a chance to appreciate some of Europe’s oldest art: the 13,000-year-old drawings of Rouffignac Cave. We’ll hop aboard a subterranean train to marvel at engravings and drawings depicting bison, horses, woolly rhinoceros, and…mammoths. There are so many mammoths depicted that locals have nicknamed it “the cave of 100 mammoths.” This afternoon (weather permitting), we’ll canoe down the Dordogne River from Cénac to Beynac, paddling past medieval castles and villages. If the weather is hot, we may even stop for a swim along the way. Bus: 3 hours. Walking: light. Canoeing: strenuous.
Take a vacation from your vacation! You’ll have the entire day to savor the colorful weekly market in one of France’s most pedestrian-friendly towns. Rub shoulders with local shoppers, sample foie gras, and salivate over the famous black truffle as you shop for your fantasy picnic lunch. Today you can make it a tasty reality! Then stretch your legs with a countryside walk. No bus. Walking: light to strenuous (your choice).
Day 9: On to Arles
This morning we’ll drive east through the scenic Languedoc-Roussillon region. We’ll stop at a winery en route to drink from the bounty of France’s largest wine-producing region. Then we’ll devote our afternoon to a walking tour of Arles. Your local guide will lace together stories of its impressive Roman Arena, Classical Theater, and Forum — and tales of Vincent van Gogh, who lived and painted in this neighborhood just over a century ago. Sleep in Arles (2 nights). Bus: 4 hours. Walking: moderate.
We’ll start our morning off visiting the majestic, astonishingly well-preserved Roman aqueduct, the Pont du Gard. This engineering marvel helped supply millions of gallons of fresh water daily to one of the largest cities in Roman Gaul — 20 centuries ago! We’ll visit both the aqueduct and its much younger museum. Your afternoon will be free back in Arles for making your own discoveries. Bus: 1 ½ hours. Walking: moderate.
This morning we’ll drive to the hill town of Les Baux and enjoy sweeping views of the Provençal countryside from atop the ruins of its medieval citadel. After lunch we’ll head for the Riviera. Upon arrival in Nice, we’ll check into our hotel before setting out on an orientation walk through the Italian-feeling Old City and seaside promenade. Afterward you’ll be set free to explore and enjoy dinner on your own. Sleep in or near Nice (2 nights). Bus: 4 hours. Walking: moderate.
This morning we’ll take a walking tour across Nice, starting with the busy Cours Saleya, the city’s main market square since the Middle Ages. We’ll then follow the narrow streets of the Italianate Old City to the spacious boulevards and shopping promenades of the city’s newer side. Here, in the late 18th century, visitors from the north seeking the elixir of warm, fresh sea air created Europe’s first tourism boom. Your afternoon will be free to wander through Nice’s beautiful Chagall and Matisse Museums, prowl the promenades, or relax on the famous beach. This evening we’ll enjoy a final dinner together, sharing travel memories and toasting new friends. Salut! No bus. Walking: strenuous.
Breakfast is provided, but there are no group activities today. It’s a breeze to reach Nice’s airports by taxi, shuttle, or public transportation. For those staying longer, your guide will be happy to send you off in the right direction and help with any trip-planning needs. Au revoir et merci!