Biscay! The Basque Country - Cognac - La Rochelle - Bordeaux

14 days, Wednesday, October 2, to Tuesday, October 15, 2024

A leisurely exploration of southwestern France, a region stretching along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean’s Bay of Biscay, with the French (and neighbouring Spanish) Basque Country, the ancient seaport of La Rochelle with its Canadian connections, the Medoc Peninsula, Bordeaux and its wine country, and picturesque towns such as Biarritz, Bayonne, Saint Emilion, and Montauban. Superior tourist class hotels, fine food, and lively history lectures by your tour escort, historian Jacques R. Pauwels, PhD

Tour Cost, Based on Double Occupancy, from Toronto: $5,495  Land Only: $4,295  Single Room Supplement: $895

 


BOOKING INFORMATION

October 02 - 15, 2024

$5,495 based on double occupancy

Single supplement: $895. Land only: $4,295

Single rooms are waitlist only.

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DOWNLOAD PDF OF ITINERARY

*If the tour is SOLD OUT, please contact us to be added to the waitlist.


ITINERARY

Day 1 - Wednesday, October 02: Departure from Toronto

Evening departure with Air Canada from Toronto to Montreal and connecting non-stop flight to Toulouse in southern France. 

Day 2 - Thursday, October 03: Cambo-les-Bains

Morning arrival in Toulouse, where a private coach will be waiting to take us along a fine expressway into the French Basque Country and to the small town of Cambo-les-Bains, where we check into the charming, typically Basque 3-star Hotel Ursula. Dinner in the hotel.

Day 3 - Friday, October 04: The Basque Country

After breakfast, we allow ample time to check out Cambo’s weekly market before departing on our first day of sightseeing in the very beautiful French Basque Country. Our program focuses on the charming coastal resort of Saint-Jean-de-Luz, and in the afternoon we will explore the village of Espelette, famous for its red peppers, a major ingredient of fine Basque cuisine. Return to Cambo and dinner in the hotel.

Day 4 - Saturday, October 05: Bayonne and Biarritz

Excursion to the two most important Basque towns in France. First, the historically important seaport of Bayonne, a gateway to the world, whose quays and old town boast tall Renaissance houses, and second Biarritz, a sophisticated and world-famous resort situated on the shores of the Bay of Biscay, featuring a superb long beach and an impressive collection of Belle Epoque and Art Nouveau public buildings, hotels, restaurants, and villas, recalling the town’s Golden Age, the 1860s, when Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie spent much time here and made things Basque, such as the famous béret, popular throughout France. Return to our hotel in late afternoon; no group dinner this evening.

Day 5 - Sunday, October 06: Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port and Pamplona

Today we will explore a most scenic and interesting stretch of the ancient pilgrims’ road from France to Santiago de Compostella, a city in Spain’s northwestern province, Galicia. We start in the very picturesque Basque town of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, then cross the Pyrenees into Spain via the legendary mountain pass of Roncesvalles, where Charlemagne’s brave paladin, Roland, died heroically in a battle against the Moors – or more likely the Basques! After sightseeing in the hamlet of Roncesvalles itself, we continue to Pamplona, capital of the former kingdom of Navarra, for a leisurely walking tour along the narrow street that witness the world-famous running of the bulls! After we return to our hotel via another scenic road across the Pyrenees. Dinner in the hotel.

Day 6 - Monday, October 07: Irun and San Sebastian

Another excursion into the Spanish Basque Country! We cross the border at the town of Irun, site of a meeting between Hitler and Franco in 1940. After a look at the pretty fishing village of Hondarribia, we will focus on the magnificent city of San Sebastian, featuring a quaint old town; a beach comparable to Rio’s Copacabana; Monte Igueldo Hill, offering featuring grandiose panoramic views of the city and the Bay of Biscay; and the Peine del Viento (“Comb of the Wind”), an eccentric open-air masterpiece by the world-famous Basque sculptor Eduardo Chillida. Also free time to shop and enjoy tapas or a gourmet lunch in this city, Spain’s gastronomic Mecca! Return to Cambo les Bains in late afternoon. Dinner in the hotel.

Day 7 - Tuesday, October 08: Cognac and La Rochelle

Departure after breakfast. We motor north through a vast lowland covered by a huge pine forest, known as the Landes, bypass Bordeaux, and head for the small but world-famous town, whose name is a byword for Brandy, Cognac. After our lunch break, visit to one of the prestigious distilleries ensconced here, such as Rémy-Martin, Courvoisier, or Martell. On to the quaint town of Saintes, where a triumphal arch and the ruins of an amphitheatre as well as a fine cathedral and other interesting ancient churches testify that this was a very important centre in Roman times and during the early Middle Ages. Late afternoon arrival in the ancient and very well-preserved seaport of La Rochelle, formerly France’s major harbour for trade with Quebec and the country’s other far-flung overseas possessions. Accommodation in a comfortable 3-star hotel, the Ibis Styles, Kyriad, or similar.

Day 8 - Wednesday, October 09: La Rochelle

Morning walking tour of the colourful old town and harbour of La Rochelle, followed by a visit to the excellent historical museum, focusing on the city’s career as a seaport with Atlantic connections and also to Canada! The afternoon is free to explore the town on your own, or perhaps enjoy an optional boat tour of the harbour.    

Day 9 - Thursday, October 10: Rochefort

After a short but fascinating visit to the huge concrete submarine pens constructed by the Germans during World War II, we motor along the coast to another historically important seaport, Rochefort, situated near the mouth of the Charente River; the harbour witnessed Napoleon’s departure for St Helena after his defeat at Waterloo. On to the Lilliputian but quaint walled town of Brouage, situated in a drained marsh crisscrossed by canals; this is the birthplace of Samuel de Champlain, who founded New France (now Quebec) and lies buried in the local church. After our lunch break in Brouage, tour of the nearby offshore island of Oléron, the biggest island of France after Corsica, which may be reached via the longest bridge in the country! Oléron’s intriguing landscape features dunes, forests, vineyards, windmills, oyster farms and fishing villages. Return to our hotel in La Rochelle in late afternoon.

Day 10 - Friday, October 11: Royan

Leaving La Rochelle, we head for the resort of Royan, overlooking a fabulous sandy beach at the point where the mighty Gironde estuary - fed by the rivers Dordogne and Garonne - meets the Bay of Biscay.  Before entering the town, scenic drive along the rugged coast, known as la Grande Côte, with a stop at the 60-meter high lighthouse of La Coubre, built in 1905. Then we take a ferry to cross the Gironde, which will allow us to view another impressive lighthouse, the Phare de Cordouan, located on a tiny island; this “masterpiece of maritime signalling, which has remained in use from the 17th century until today”, is classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Arrival at the tip of the Médoc Peninsula, home to some of the world’s finest vineyards, such as Chateau Margaux, and it is through a landscape of manicured vineyards surrounding prestigious chateaux that we continue to Bordeaux. We will of course pause in a village such as Margaux for a visit to a winery and a tasting of fine wines, probably Chateau Prieuré-Lichine. Arrival in Bordeaux, and dinner and overnight in the comfortable Hotel Ibis Meriadeck  or a similar 3-star hotel. 

Day 11 - Saturday, October 12: Bordeaux

Morning sightseeing in Bordeaux, featuring two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the vast and magnificent port on the banks of the Garonne River, known as the Port of the Moon, and the famous architect Le Corbusier’s urbanististic project known as the Cité Frugès, plus the vast square known as Quinconces Esplanade, the picturesque old town, the impressive Saint-André Cathedral, and the venerable Romanesque Basilica of Saint-Seurin, an important site along the ancient road followed by pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. The afternoon is free to shop or explore this great city on your own, perhaps visiting one of its many museums, such as the Fine Arts Museum, but if you a wine lover, you should head for the new City of Wine, the world’s largest wine museum, housed in a spectacular building! No group dinner this evening.

Day 12 - Sunday, October 13: St. Emilion

Departure from Bordeaux after breakfast. We cross the vine-covered peninsula stretching between the area’s two great rivers, the Garonne and the Dordogne, a region known as Entre-deux-Mers, on our way to Saint-Émilion, This town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is world-famous for its grand cru wine, but it is also one of the most picturesque medieval towns in France, perched on a hill that rises photogenically from a sea of vineyards, and featuring an ancient church carved out of the hill’s rock. After our visit, we continue to Moissac for a visit to the Church of Saint Pierre, formerly part of a Benedictine Monastery, a jewel of Romanesque art and sculpture. On to nearby Montauban for dinner and overnight in the 4-star hotel Abbaye des Capucins.

Day 13 - Monday, October 14: Montauban

Morning exploration of Montauban, a beautiful walled town, perched on a hill overlooking the Tarn River and officially classified as a “city of art and history”. Here we will view the old bridge across the Tarn, constructed in the 14th century, and visit the excellent Ingres-Bourdelle Museum, named after two famous native artists, the painter Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres and the sculptor Antoine Bourdelle, a pupil of Rodin. Afternoon at leisure, and au-revoir dinner this evening!

Day 14 - Tuesday, October 15: To the airport and flight home.

After breakfast, short transfer to Toulouse Airport and return flight to Canada via Montreal.


ITINERARY PDF

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INCLUDED

- Return flight (with one suitcase of baggage allowance) from Toronto to Toulouse; - Overland transportation by private coach; - Accommodation in 3- and 4-star hotels as shown in the above itinerary and based on double occupancy. The single room supplement is $895 but only a limited number of single rooms are available); - Breakfast daily and a total of 7 dinners (or full lunches); - All visits and sightseeing as outlined in the itinerary, including admission to museums and monuments mentioned.

NOT INCLUDED

- All items of a personal nature; - Wine, beer, mineral water and similar beverages with dinners; - A gratuity for the coach driver(s) of 30 Euros.; - Travel Insurance, available on request.

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