"Occitania": A Leisurely Exploration of Southern France

16 days, from Thursday, October 13, to Friday, October 28, 2022

A leisurely coach tour of Occitania, France’s magnificent southern region, including the high peaks of the Pyrenees, the lovely Dordogne and Lot River valleys, ancient pilgrimage shrines such as Conques and Rocamadour, medieval towns such as Cahors and Carcassonne, the prehistoric cave paintings of Lascaux, plus magnificent Mediterranean coastal scenery. Comfortable 3-star/superior tourist-class hotels, excellent local cuisine, and history talks by your tour escort, historian Jacques R. Pauwels, PhD, author of books such as ‘Beneath the Dust of Time: A History of the Names of People and Places’.

BOOKING INFORMATION

October 13 - 28, 2022

$4,695 frm Toronto based on double occupancy

Guaranteed Departure

DOWNLOAD PDF OF ITINERARY

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


ITINERARY

Day 1 - Thursday, October 13: Flight to Europe

 Late evening departure from Toronto to Barcelona, with Air Canada. Dinner and a light breakfast will be served on board.

Day 2 - Friday, October 14: From Barcelona to Seu 'Urgell

Arrival at 10:05 AM in Barcelona. A private coach will be waiting to take us north into the Pyrenees mountains. Arrival in the picturesque Catalan town of Seu d’Urgell, where we check into one of Spain’s famous state-owned hotels known as “paradors”. Check in, and free time to settle in. How about a swim in the hotel’s indoor pool before our leisurely early-evening walk through the town’s quaint old quarter and dinner in the hotel’s restaurant?

Day 3 - Saturday, October 15: Day in Andorra

After breakfast, visit Seu d’Urgell’s Cathedral and beautiful cloister. Then we motor high into the Pyrenees to visit the miniature state of Andorra, whose twin sovereigns are the French president and the bishop of Seu d’Urgell! In recent decades, Andorra, formerly a sleepy mountain village, has metamorphosed into a booming city – and duty-free shopping paradise! Return to Seu in late afternoon and opportunity to check out the annual Pyrenees cheese fair being held in the town! No group dinner this evening. 

Day 4 - Sunday, October 16: Into the Pyrenees to Bagneres de Luchon

Today, breathtaking mountain scenery awaits us as we motor via the tows of Sort into the valley of the Noguera Pallresa, allegedly the most powerful river in the Pyrenees, and through a wild limestone gorge, the Congost de Collegats, to Pobla de Segur. We continue to Pont de Sert and, if time permits, take a sidetrip into the Boi Valley, famous for its Romanesque churches, collectively classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. On to the mountain resort of Vielha in the Aran Valley, for a mid-afternoon coffee break before crossing into France. Arrival in time for dinner in Bagnères de Luchon, an attractive spa situated in a valley surrounded by majestic mountain peaks! Ever since Roman times, the local hot water springs have served as a magnet to visitors, including celebrities such as Flaubert, Bismarck, and Matahari.  Accommodation in the 3-star/superior-tourist class Hotel Panoramic, located on the main street, and dinner in the hotel.

Day 5 - Monday, October 17: The Pyrenees

A day of sightseeing in the spectacular Pyrenees, with as highlight the summit of the formidable Col du Tourmalet (alt. 2,115m), the highest paved pass in this mountain range, often featured in the prestigious Tour de France bicycle race. Return to Bagnères de Luchon in mid-afternoon and time to explore the town on your own, shop, visit the thermal springs, or take a cable car to the Superbagnères mountain peak (and famous ski station) overlooking the town from an altitude of over 2,200 meter above sea level. No group dinner this evening.

Day 6 - Tuesday, October 18: To Sarlat-de-la-Caneda

Departure after breakfast. We motor north and visit Saint Bertrand de Comminges, a quaint medieval borough and formerly an important sanctuary along one of the four traditional pilgrims’ roads to Compostela that crisscrossed France, namely the Via Tolosana or “Toulouse Road.” Visit to the unusual Romanesque church and cloisters. We are now in the French province of Languedoc, in many ways the heartland of Occitania and our next stop is in its capital, the vibrant “pink city” of Toulouse. Time for lunch and a leisurely sightseeing tour by little train, with highlights such as Place du Capitole, the scenic banks of the Garonne, the Canal du Midi, the 16th-century Pont Neuf, and two superb architectural creations from the Middle Ages, the Romanesque Basilica St. Sernin, possibly the most beautiful pilgrimage church on the road to Compostela, and the Gothic Church of the Jacobins, i.e. the Dominicans, which contains the tomb of the famous Dominican scholar, St. Thomas Aquinas. In the afternoon we continue north into the neighbouring Occitanian province of Périgord. Our destination is one of the most picturesque old towns in France, Sarlat-la-Canéda. Accommodation in the centrally located superior tourist-class/3-star Hotel Montaigne. Dinner of regional specialties in a typical restaurant.

Day 7 - Wednesday, October 19: Sarlat

Day entirely at leisure to explore beautiful Sarlat on your own. A “must” this morning is a visit to the very popular weekly morning market! The town is bursting with shops selling traditional regional artefacts and delicacies but visiting them can wait until the afternoon. Also, do not miss the church of Sainte-Marie, recently restored by world-famous architect Jean Nouvel, who was born in Sarlat, converted into a covered market, and featuring a panoramic elevator that takes visitors to the top of the bell tower for breathtaking views of the town. 

Day 8 - Thursday, October 20: Perigord

Full-day exploration of wonderful Périgord, the highlight a visit to a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Lascaux, home of the world’s most famous prehistoric cave paintings, estimated to be about 17,000 years old and mostly depicting large animals hunted by stone-age humans. Because the cave itself is not open to the public, we visit a high-quality, identical reproduction.  

Day 9 - Friday, October 21: Dordogne River Valley

Today we tour the very scenic Dordogne River valley, with the mighty medieval castle of Beynac, pretty villages such as Domme, and the gardens of the Château of Marqueyssac, with their amazing topiaries. 

Day 10 - Saturday, October 22: Rocamadour

Departure from Sarlat after breakfast. We enter the Dordogne River valley again, but now explore its eastern stretch, located in yet another Occitanian province, Quercy, featuring magnificent sights such as La Treyne Castle and Creysse, officially ranked as one of the prettiest villages in France; many pundits believe this region to be the most picturesque in all of France! Exiting the valley, we cross the rugged Causse, a limestone “agro-pastoral cultural landscape” typical for much of Quercy and classified as a UNESCO site. Late afternoon arrival in Rocamadour, a famous sanctuary on the traditional pilgrimage road to Compostela Road, clinging precariously to a rocky cliff which rises dramatically from the floor of a verdant river valley. Dinner of regional specialties, and overnight in the best hotel in the village, the Beau-Site.

Day 11 - Sunday, October 23: Rocamadour

Morning sightseeing in Rocamadour, with attractions such as the Chapel of the Black Madonna, the Cave of the Hermit, the Sword of Roland, the amazing panorama from the castle walls, etc. Rest of the day free to shop and/or explore on your own.

Day 12 - Monday, October 24: Quercy

Excursion to the capital of Quercy, Cahors, a town spectacularly situated on a meander of the river Lot. Our visit includes the ancient quarter around the cathedral, the Fontaine des Chartreux, a spring that used to be a place of worship to the Celts who lived here in Antiquity, and above all the impressive fortified, and perfectly preserved, medieval bridge, the Pont Valentré, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most photographed monuments in France! Via the scenic Lot River valley and the town of Figeac to Conques, arguably the prettiest of all towns and villages along the roads to Santiago de Compostela in France! The major attraction here is the magnificent Romanesque Abbey Church of Ste. Foy, featuring fine sculptures, a cloister, and a sumptuous collection of relics and other treasures, most famously the 10th-century statue-reliquary of the church’s patron, Ste. Foy, herself. Return to Rocamadour in late afternoon.

Day 13 - Tuesday, October 25: Rousillon to Costa Brava

Departure from Rocamadour after breakfast. We motor south to the world-famous medieval town of Carcassonne, still surrounded by its mighty walls and fortifications, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. We will have time there for sightseeing as well as lunch. In the afternoon, we continue through the Rousillon a small but picturesque region tucked away between the mountains of the Pyrenees and the blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea, into Spain’s autonomous region of Catalonia, very much a part of the Occitanian “universe” during the Middle Ages. Dinner and overnight in a hotel overlooking the beach in the beautiful resort of Rosas on the rugged but beautiful stretch of Mediterranean coast known as the Costa Brava. Dinner and overnight in the four-star Hotel Maritim overlooking the wonderful beach, the Miramar.

Day 14 - Wednesday, October 26: Costa Brava and Cote Vermeille

After a leisurely breakfast, we explore the beautiful Costa Brava and its continuation across the French border, the less known but equally impressive Côte Vermeille, or “Ruby Coast,” both dotted with resorts such as Cadaques and Argelès, favourite haunts of painters such as Dali, Picasso, and Matisse. In the afternoon, we return to Roses via the Catalan town of Figueres, birthplace of Salvador Dali, where we visit the fascinating “Theatre-Museum” devoted to the life and work of the great surrealist artist. Return to the hotel and free evening.

Day 15 - Thursday, October 27:

Day at leisure in the beautiful resort of Rosas. Final group dinner in the restaurant of our hotel.

Day 16 - Friday, October 28: To Barcelona and Return Flight

After breakfast, transfer to Barcelona Airport in time for the non-stop return flight to Toronto, with Air Canada, departing around noon and arriving at 3:00 PM. 

ITINERARY PDF

EXPLORE THE AREA

INCLUDED

- Return flight Toronto-Barcelona, with Air Canada, including the usual combination of airport taxes, security fees and fuel surcharges. - Accommodation based on double occupancy in superior tourist-class (3-star) hotels; the single room supplement is $750; - Breakfast daily and a total of six dinners of full lunches; - Overland transportation by private coach; - All sightseeing and visits as outlined in the itinerary, including admission to museums and monuments mentioned. - Airport lounge pass for air-inclusive bookings made more than 90 days prior to departure.

NOT INCLUDED

- All items of a personal nature. - Beverages with dinners, and meals other than those outlined above. - A gratuity for the coach driver, 30 Euros or dollar equivalent, to be paid locally. - Travel Insurance is available upon request.

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