Touring the Southwest - 14 Days of Beautiful France

This journey shows you some of the highlights of beautiful France. Start in Paris, Bordeaux and its surroundings; enjoy a guided walking tour in Bordeaux. Visit the wine region, small villages spectacularly built against high cliffs. Albi, the town of Toulouse Lautrec, the pink city Toulouse. Other highlights are the medieval Carcassonne; a walk on its historic battlements, continuing to the Atlantic Sea Coast with its ancient fishing village Biarritz. We travel on the high-speed first-class TGV train from Paris to Bordeaux and back.

Day 1: Paris

With its great art, glorious architecture, chic shopping, gourmet food and unique street life, the French capital offers an array of attractions. We meet at the hotel where we will stay for the next 3 nights. To get a broad impression of Paris, we will go on a sightseeing tour by bus. Here, we will pass popular churches, famous squares and historical monuments, such as the Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysees, Dome des Invalides, The Madeleine, the Opera Garnier, the Louvre and many more. We stop at the Champs Elysee and visit the Louis Vuitton art gallery on the top floor, from where we will have spectacular views onto the bustling Champs Elysee and the Arc de Triomphe. We then go on a short stroll through the neighbourhood of our hotel and we will enjoy our dinner in a traditional Paris Bistro.

B/B Paris

  • Arrival in Paris
  • City sightseeing by bus
  • Walk through the neighborhood of the hotel

Day 2: Paris

Today, we will stroll the quays of the Ile St. Louis for a fabulous view of the Seine and the buttresses of the Notre-Dame cathedral. Then we take a walk across to Ile de la Cite to visit the cathedral itself and see the Gothic jewel of Sainte-Chapelle. Cross to the Left Bank on the historic Pont Neuf. Along the quays, we will finally make our way to the Musee d'Orsay. Once, the place was used as an important railway line and train station. Recently, there were unique paintings found from Cezanne, Manet, van Gogh and Monet. In the afternoon, we will explore and investigate the bohemian myths of the Quartier Latin, Saint-Germain-des-Pres as well as Montparnasse. Those areas have always been home to the intellectual circles of Paris, and up to this day, the avant-garde is being found here. Café Flore is the perfect setting for us to relax, and have an authentic café au lait, while watching the bustling activities on the streets.

B/B Paris

  • Ile St. Louis
  • Notre Dame cathedral
  • Sainte-Chapelle
  • Musee d'Orsay
  • Left Bank of Paris
  • Café Flore

Day 3: Paris

Today, we will try to contemplate Mona Lisa's smile in the Louvre. The display of historic art is vast and awe-inspiring. In the afternoon, we will stroll around the 17th century streets of the Marais, with their trendy shops, cafés and historic Jewish Quarter. We will return to modern Paris at the Centre Pompidou to see works by Picasso, Matissee and other 20th century masters, and the views from the tube-like escalators. Montmatre is well known as an artist area, and in the afternoon we will enjoy the view of the metropolis from the top of Sacre Coeur. On the Place du Tertre, a small spot on top of Montmartre hill, a wide variety of painters are displaying their paintings, and portraitists are happy to be at your service. I recommend one of those drawings as a very special memory of our journey!

B/B Paris

  • Louvre
  • Marais Quarter
  • Museum Pompidou
  • Montmartre and Sacre Coeur

Day 4: Paris – Bordeaux – St. Emilion

In the morning we take the fast train TGV from Paris to Bordeaux. After a 3 ¼ hours train ride we will reach Bordeaux from where we will continue by car to St. Emilion, check in at our hotel and visit St. Emilion, the center of the wine industry. Medieval houses still line the narrow streets, and parts of the 12th century ramparts remain. Explore the delightful medieval town of St. Emilion itself, the place du Marche and the Eglise Monolithe, the largest underground church in Europe; carved by Benedictine monks during the 9th to 12th century.

St-Emilion B/B

  • Fast train TGV to Bordeaux
  • Explore St-Emilion

Day 5: Bordeaux – Medoc – Poulliac – Pomerol

We begin our Day with a historical landmark walking tour of Bordeaux with a guide. Exploring Bordeaux is a true step into French history, offering some interesting aspects for every traveller. Bordeaux; home to beautiful historical monuments and museums, excellent shopping, wine boutiques and exceptional scenery while walking along the Gironde River, there are endless ways to spend the morning here. Bordeaux's ancient city has the most National Monuments of France: Grand Theatre, Burse, Porte de Cailhau, St. Michel, Cathedral St. Andre.

Afternoon: Wine tour in Medoc, les routes des Chateaux - a beautiful route taking you past many of the prettiest chateaux in the Medoc Fort, created by Vauban (all of his works are listed by UNESCO) before continuing on to Paulliac, the capital of the Medoc region. We continue to Haut Medoc with plenty of time to taste some of the wonderful wines Mageaux, Giscours, d'Issan, Sauterne. The countryside is beautiful with its vineyards (collection also listed by UNESCO as a world heritage site) prestigious wineries between St. Emilion and Pomerol (Angelus, Canon, Petrus). The Sauternes Walk through the prestigious sweet grape appellation, home of Semillon, Muscadelle and Sauvignon Blanc grapes varieties – "cepages" as they're called in French. Chateau d'Yquem accompanied by "Grand Cru" wines. Graves Walk through St. Emilion, Sauternes and in Pessac. Grand Cru Producer in Graves: Chateau Carbonnieux; Château Haut Bailly; Château Smith Haut Lafitte. Pessac-Léognan Château Haut Brion, Martillac. Of course, as you can imagine we would need weeks to visit and taste all these excellent wines, so we will choose one of these beautiful Chateaux' to enjoy their wines.

B/B St. Emilion

  • Guided City Walk Bordeaux
  • Medoc
  • Pomerol
  • Winetasting

Day 6: Perigord, Spectacular Market , Perigord's famed specialities – Truffles-Rocamadour

Overnight we will stay in Rocamadour. Rocamadour became one of the most famous centres of pilgrimage following a spate of miracles. It's claimed, the bell above the Black Virgin and Child in the Chapel of Notre-Dame, rings itself when a miracle occurs at sea. On our trip today you will have plenty of impressions of green hills and bastide towns. Market Day in Sarlat! Take a vacation from your vacation! You'll have the entire morning to savour the colourful 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 truffles.

Sarlat is without a doubt, one of the most attractive and most visited medieval towns in France, with the extensive historic centre containing countless impressive medieval buildings and monuments. Equally important, there are almost no new buildings in the centre to spoil the overall impression. The centre is listed as a 'secteur sauvegardé' to restrict future development. The town is situated in the heart of the Dordogne department in the region referred to as the 'Perigord noir'. Sarlat is also officially listed as a 'Town of Art and History', and there are more than 250 listed buildings in the old town, typically built in the 15th and 16th centuries (Sarlat has more listed buildings per square meter than any other town in Europe). Further, in the vicinity of Sarlat, we will explore Beynac; this very charming village is spread along the northern bank of the river, and then continues up the hill to the chateau perched above. Beynac is listed as one of the "most beautiful villages of France". Start your visit with a stroll along the riverside to appreciate the setting. Walk a little way to the east of the village for a stunning view of the village, with the castle perched on the cliff above. Back in the village centre take the main street that climbs the hill - this steep street up the hill is called the basket-makers’ path (Carnival del Panieraires). Exploring Beynac is easy as you simply follow this narrow lane as it winds its way up through the lovely traditional Dordogne honey-coloured buildings, taking occasional detours into narrow alleys and side-streets. Along the way up the hill, you will pass the Church of Sainte-Marie, once the chapel for the castle. Eventually you reach the highlight in Beynac, the castle set on top of a high cliff looking down on a bend in the Dordogne River and high above much of the little village of Beynac itself. We continue our journey to Rocamadour where we will take a stroll through the village.

Rocamadour B/B

  • Sarlat
  • Beynac

Day 7: Rocamadour – Figeac – Tour of Two Rivers - Cordes Sur Ciel - Albi

In the morning we'll drive south, crossing the scenic alleys of the Lot and Tarn Rivers. We will visit the village in the sky, Cordes-sur Ciel, one of the most breathtaking perched villages in all of France. Cordes is a large, and amazingly well preserved, bastide with dozens of narrow streets to explore. The fascinating architecture of Cordes-sur Ciel coupled with its amazing position, perched on top of a hill, surrounded by the beautiful Midi Pyrenees countryside, makes Cordes one of the most remarkable medieval towns in France. It is particularly famous for the Gothic residences built between 1280 and 1350. This was the 'golden age' of the city, which had been growing rapidly since it was founded in 1222 by the Count of Toulouse. It grew so rapidly that new defensive walls had to be built 5 times as the population kept expanding out of the existing fortifications! After our visit to Cordes, we head South to Albi, the "red city" (for the colour of its bricks). Albi straddles both banks of the Tarn River and its dominating and amazing 13th Century Cathedrale Sainte Cecile, the world's largest brick cathedral. Toulouse Lautrec was born in the Hotel Bosc in Albi. The town's major attraction is a museum with a world-class collection of the artist's world which we will visit the next morning.

If you are intrigued by the recent revival of interest in the Cathars' history, then Albi is a must see, as the city was an integral player during this period. Following the persecution of the Cathars, the bishop's Palais de la Berbie was constructed close to the St. Cécile Cathedral in 1282. Emerging from Medieval times, Albi hit its golden age as a result of the 'bleu de Cocagne' a beautiful blue pastel colour made from a local plant – this brought great wealth to the pastel merchants, who in turn invested this wealth into the city.

Albi B/B

  • Lot & Tarn
  • Albi

Day 8: Albi – Cuq – Toulza - Carcassonne

This morning we will visit the Toulouse Lautrec Museum where you can see more than 1000 works created by Lautrec. This is the largest collection of the artist's work in the world. The museum is housed in the former residence of the archbishops, Le Palais Berbie. Be sure to visit the beautiful formal gardens beside the palace with a spectacular view of the Tarn River.

We will drive from Albi to Cuq-Toulza and check in at the hotel. In the afternoon we will visit Carcassonne for an in-depth visit inside the walled city – you'll be able to savor views from the stony ramparts, wander through the cobbled lanes, and maybe sample a steamy bowl of cassoulet with a glass of vin rouge. Carcassonne is found in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, located 90 km (56 miles) south-east of Toulouse. It is certainly one of the finest and most interesting towns in the whole of France. The town has a history dating back to the Cathar War, in which the town played a very important role.

The cosmopolitan town of Carcassonne, in the Aude department of Southern France, has long been a must-see for tourists, but since the publication of Dan Brown's book "The Da Vinci Code", and the subsequent film of the same name, it has seen an influx of visitors in search of more information on the Cathars. This extreme, anti-papal religious sect were very active around the Languedoc (and in Carcassonne in particular) in the eleventh to thirteenth centuries. Carcassonne is a town of two parts. The medieval town was originally a collection of ramshackle buildings huddled around a fortified castle, known as La Cité. After our visit in the Bastide of Carcassonne we will drive back to our Hotel.

Cuq-Toulza B/B

  • Museum Toulouse Lautrec
  • Carcassonne

Day 9: Toulouse

Located in Southern France in the Midi-Pyrenees region, Toulouse is a very interesting city - it is the 4th largest city in France. A It succeeds at combining the attractive old centre of the city with modern success in industry, together creating a bustling and lively city. The 'trademark' of Toulouse is perhaps the small, pretty pink bricks with which many of the houses and important buildings have been constructed, which seem to change colour as the day (and the sun) passes. Hence the city is often referred to as the Ville Rose (pink city). These bricks are also often combined with the local white stone, to create a decorative effect. Canal du Midi also passes through Toulouse and has nice shady banks where you can take a stroll. With a guide we will explore Toulouse. The Canal du Midi which runs from Toulouse to Sete on the Mediterranean is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

B/B Cuq-Toulza

  • Citywalk Toulouse

Day 10: Eugenie Les Bains

From our Hotel we will drive via Auch to Chateau Madrian, situated in the middle of a slow, sleepy zone of tractor roads and dangerous double-lane highways. Three French departments meet here: Gers, Hautes-Pyrenees and Pyrénée-Atlantiques. In fact, le fin fond du monde: rural France at its deepest. Here we will taste the products of this region. Today we will check in early at this beautiful and exclusive Hotel and Spa, where we can relax and enjoy the luxurious atmosphere.

B/B Eugenie Les Bains

  • Winetasting

Day 11: Eugénie Les Bains – Pau – Sauveterre-De-Bearn

After breakfast we leave for Pau. Pau is the birthplace of Henri IV and the most elegant city on the Pyrenees border. Although not as grand as Versailles, it wears its royal past in a discreet and refined manner, with the castle as its cornerstone. Pau is very keen on athletic, intellectual and cultural pursuits, a legacy from its days as a British colony. From Pau we continue our drive to Sauveterre-De-Bearn where we take a stroll and enjoy the stunning views southward over the Gave d'Oloron, the graceful single arch of the river's fortified bridge, and the 16th century Chateau de Nays. Let's have coffee in Biarritz, the popular and lively town on the Atlantic Coast in South-West France.

An interesting destination, Biarritz is a charming town with a glimpse of the wealth the town had in days gone by, only adding to its charm. The wealth of Biarritz was gained in the middle ages by whaling, but as early as the 18th century, the focus of the town was turning towards the beaches, originally because doctors started recommending the Biarritz seafront as a cure for various ailments. Napoleon famously bathed in the sea here in 1808. By the middle of the 19th century the reputation of Biarritz as a fashionable destination was firmly established.

B/B Atlanctic Coast

  • City walk Pau
  • Sauveterre-De-Bearn
  • Biarritz

Day 12: Atlantic Coast

One Day of leisure. Relax at the pool, take a boat trip on the lake, go for a walk, or do whatever crosses your mind.

B/B Atlanctic Coast, Hossegor, Les Hortensia du Lac

Day 13: Atlantic Coast

Today we leave the salty lake at Hossegor and we will drive north along the "Cote d'Argent" which is dotted with popular seaside resorts. The main characteristics of these beaches are almost the same all along the coast: long, sandy, sunny and sometimes with quite large waves coming in from the ocean. Behind the beaches there are often large sand dunes, extensive forests that were planted in the 19th century when the land was reclaimed, and also several leisure lakes. Within Aquitaine the coast can be thought of as two separate areas, with the Medoc peninsula to the north of the Gironde estuary and the coast between Arcachon and Biarritz to the south.

On our way to Cap Ferret we will see the immense Dune du Pilat. It is Europe's largest sand dune. Cap Ferret, the northern headland, protects the basin from stiff Atlantic winds. It also preserves the wealthy, whose luxurious villas stand among the pine trees. Cap Ferret is a long lick of land, like a lolling tongue, located on the coast, about an hour's drive due west of Bordeaux. The road grows slower and lazier as you move further along, and when it turns south into the peninsula, you know you've arrived. The cape is exposed on its western side, to the Atlantic, while its eastern shore looks out on the Bassin d'Arcachon, a vast, shallow lagoon that is tailor-made for the business of ostréiculture. The cape supplies all of France with oysters, and so this is a working stretch of coastline. It is, in other words, a real place rather than a holiday resort. There are no museums, and no attractions apart from the chance to live the French life for a little while. Cap Ferret is akin to the Côte d'Azur - but without the bling and the desperate exhibitionism.

Oyster-farming on the cape is nearly always a family business, because the beds are passed down from one generation to the next, like the estates of the English gentry. In many places, you are likely to be waited on by the wife or the daughter of the oyster-farmer who brought your meal ashore. There are waterside restaurants that serve almost nothing but oysters, and are located no more than a dozen strong strokes of the oar from the beds. One such institution is the very charming Chez Boulan in the fishermen's village, and it's as busy as a bucket of crabs every lunch time.

B/B Cap Ferret

  • La Cote d'Argent
  • Dune du Pilat
  • Cap Ferret

Day 14: Cap Ferret – Bordeaux - Paris

After breakfast we will drive to Bordeaux and catch the train to Paris where our journey ends.

  • Train ride TGV Bordeaux – Paris
Extention in Paris is possible.

PRICE | Please contact us for more information

Service includes:

  • Welcome by your tour leader at the hotel
  • 13 x Overnights in double or twin rooms
  • 13 x Breakfasts
  • Transport
  • Train/Transport-tickets
  • Fees for all activities as per itinerary
  • English and German speaking tour guide

  • Minimum 6 persons
  • Surcharge for single occupancy
  • Expenses of private expenses are excluded
Please note that all details are subject to change