Primavera 2024: The Loire Valley from Auvergne to the Atlantic

15 days, from Wednesday, May 8, to Wednesday, May 22, 2018

A leisurely coach tour inspired by the course of the Loire River, descending from the heights of the spectacular (but extinct) volcanoes of Auvergne in south-central France, to the Atlantic Ocean near the historic seaport of Nantes, capital of Brittany. Most of the Loire Valley is one huge and beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site, a veritable “Garden of France”, boasting countless picturesque villages and medieval towns, fairytale castles, fine wines, and exciting episodes of French and indeed world history such as the Hundred Years’ War. This tour features comfortable 3- and 4-star hotels, excellent food and wine, and will be escorted by historian Jacques R. Pauwels, PhD, who will lecture on the history of the land.


BOOKING INFORMATION

May 08 - 22, 2024

$5,995 based on double occupancy, including air from Toronto.

Single supplement: $795 Land only: $4,950

BOOK TOUR

DOWNLOAD PDF OF ITINERARY

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


ITINERARY

Day 1 - Wednesday, May 08: Departure from Toronto

Evening departure from Toronto via Montreal to Lyons with Air Canada. 

Day 2 - Thursday, May 09: Arrival in Lyons

Late morning arrival at Lyons Airport, where a private coach will be waiting for us.  We motor into France’s Massif Central or Central Mountain Range and pause in Le Puy-en-Velay, a magnificent old town dramatically nestled in the huge crater of an extinct volcano. For many centuries, Le Puy was the starting point of one of the four roads used by medieval pilgrims to cross France on their way to Santiago de Compostela, a fact that is reflected architecturally by the Cathedral and another ancient church known of Saint Michael of the Needle, situated on top of a very steep, 80m-high rock of volcanic origin and related to other famous sanctuaries devoted to the Archangel, such as the Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy and Michael’s Mount in Cornwall. In the afternoon we continue further south to the picturesque village of Meyrueis, situated in the foothills of the Cévennes Mountains. Accommodation for three nights in the traditionally French, family-run three-star Hotel Mont Aigoual. Dinner in the restaurant of our hotel.

Day 3 - Friday, May 10: The Lyons Region

Today we explore the Gorges du Tarn, a kind of French version of the Grand Canyon, smaller, of course, but just as scenic and photogenic, and dotted with picturesque villages and castles. In the town of Sainte-Énimie, it will hopefully be possible to enjoy an optional boat tour on the river Tarn. If the weather collaborates, this may also be a perfect day for a picnic! This evening, dinner again in the restaurant of our hotel.

Day 4 - Saturday, May 11: The Cevennes

Leisurely excursion into the Cévennes, an isolated and rugged mountain chain on the border of Auvergne and the more southerly province of Languedoc, a landscape punctuated by peaks such as the Mont Aigoual and Mont Lozère. The “agro-pastoral cultural landscape” of the Cévennes and of the neighbouring Causses region is classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Return to Meyreuis in mid-afternoon and free time to explore the village or just relax . . . How about a swim in the hotel’s pool, at least if it is already open! Dinner in the hotel.

Day 5 - Sunday, May 12: Auvergne

Departure after breakfast. We enjoy superb scenery as we motor through the heartland of mountainous Auvergne, known for its many extinct volcanoes, a landscape recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The most famous of these volcanoes is the nearly 1,500-meter-high Puy-de-Dome which - weather conditions permitting! – we will ascend (by train) to inspect the impressive remains of a Roman temple and enjoy even more spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding area! Then we leave the highlands of Auvergne and descend into the valley of the Loire, arriving in late afternoon in the ancient town of Nevers. Dinner and overnight in the four-star/first-class Hotel Mercure Pont de Loire, situated on the banks of the great river and within walking distance of the old town. (Please note that a limited number of rooms with a view of the Loire are available on a first-come-first-served basis at a supplement of $40 per person for two nights.) 

Day 6 - Monday, May 13: Free day in Nevers.

This morning is free for individual exploring in the old town of Nevers. Some of us will want to visit the convent church of Saint Gildard, featuring the tomb of Saint Bernadette, of Lourdes fame, who died here in 1925 and whose incorrupt body is enshrined in a glass and bronze casket. Also worth a visit are the early-medieval Saint-Cyr Cathedral with its modern stained-glass windows; the baroque Sainte-Marie Chapel on Place Carnot; the Ducal Palace, claimed to be the earliest off all Loire chateaux; the bridge across the Loire River, offering great views of the city; and the Musée de la Faïence et des Beaux-Arts, a fine museum of glazed earthenware, a Nevers specialty since the 16th century. In the afternoon, excursion along the banks of the Loire to the nearby town of La Charité for a visit to the Church of Sainte-Croix-Notre-Dame, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998, as part of the Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France. No group dinner this evening.

Day 7 - Tuesday, May 14: Sancerre

Departure from Nevers after breakfast. We follow the Loire River northward to the pretty town of Sancerre, perched on top of a vineyard-covered hill rising steeply from the Loire lowland. Sancerre, where sauvignon blanc is king, is of course one of the most highly regarded separate appellations within the big family of Loire Valley wines. After a degustation, free time for lunch. In the afternoon we continue into the long stretch of the Loire Valley that has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its heartland is the province of Touraine, a,k.a. the “Garden of France”. Overnight in a 3- or 4-star Hotel Hampton by Hilton in the region’s capital city, Tours, also nestled on the banks of the great river. Dinner in the hotel or nearby restaurant.

Day 8 - Wednesday, May 15: Tours

Morning walking tour of the historical centre of Tours, with sights such as the Gothic Cathedral, the remains of the huge Romanesque Basilica of Saint Martin, and the medieval district around Place Plumereau. Afterwards there will still be time to explore the beautiful Wednesday morning flower market in the lively Halles district! Rest of the day at leisure. 

Day 9 - Thursday, May 16: Vouvray and the area around Tours

Full-day excursion into the surrounding countryside. We start with a visit to the Chateau of Chenonceau, built like a bridge across the River Cher, arguably the most impressive of all castles and palaces in this area, deservedly known as the Chateaux Country. On to the pretty old town of Amboise, where Leonardo da Vinci  spent the last years of his life, for visits to the Clos Lucé, his residence, now a Leonardo museum, and the royal chateau, where he lies buried in a small chapel. Also free time to explore the picturesque town on your own. Return to Tours via the wine village of Vouvray, where, if time permits, we may stop for a tasting. Today, group lunch OR dinner in a typical restaurant. 

Day 10 - Friday, May 17: Villandry and Chinon

Another day in the Garden of France. In Villandry, we visit the superb gardens of the local chateau, then we continue to Ussé to view the village’s romantic castle, inspiration for the story of “Sleeping Beauty” as well as Walt Disney’s fairytale castle. On to the Monastery of Fontevraud, final resting place of English monarchs of the Plantagenet Dynasty, including Eleanor of Aquitaine and Richard Lionheart. Return to Tours via the medieval town of Chinon, whose mighty medieval fortress witnessed a dramatic episode in the life of Joan of Arc. 

Day 11 - Saturday, May 18: Angers and on to Nantes

 Departure from Tours after breakfast. We motor westward to Angers, capital of the historical province of Anjou. Visit to the massive moated castle, dating back to the 14th century, symbol of the city; it houses the world-famous Apocalypse series of tapestries, one of the world’s finest surviving medieval works of art. Late afternoon arrival in the town of Nantes, situated near the mouth of the Loire, just across the border of the province of Brittany. Accommodation for three nights in the centrally located superior-tourist class/three-star Hotel Ibis Styles. Dinner in the hotel or in a nearby restaurant.

Day 12 - Sunday, May 19: Nantes

Morning walking tour Nantes, former capital of Brittany and one of France’s great historic seaports, situated very close to the wide estuary formed by the Loire River as it flows into the Atlantic Ocean. Tour of the city by little tourist train, a leisurely way to view sights such as the Cathedral of Saint Peter and the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany. The afternoon is free to explore the city on your own, visit one of its museums, or shop. 

Day 13 - Monday, May 20: Saint-Nazaire

Full-day excursion to the mouth of the Loire River, with the seaport of Saint-Nazaire, a base for German U-boats during WW II; the resort of La Baule with its famous beach, villas, casino, luxury hotels and a 9-km long sandy beach; the picturesque Breton port of Le Croisic on the Côte Sauvage, the rugged “wild coast” of the Guérande Peninsula; and the “White Country” of the historically important Guérande salt marshes.  

Day 14 - Tuesday, May 21: Chartres

We leave Nantes and motor along a fine expressway to Chartres (300km), where we take a break to have lunch and have plenty of time to visit the city’s Cathedral, world-famous for its stained-glass windows, a UNESCO World Heritage, followed by check in to centrally located, comfortable three-star Hotel Campanile. The rest of the day is free to explore the old town, shop, and pack your suitcase! Au-revoir group dinner in a restaurant near the hotel.

Day 15 - Wednesday, May 22: Return flight from Paris

After breakfast, transfer to Paris CDG Airport (115km) in time for the 1PM departure of Air Canada’s non-stop flight to Toronto. 

ITINERARY PDF

EXPLORE THE AREA

INCLUDED

- Flights from Toronto to Lyons (via Montreal) back (non-stop) from Paris CDG, with Air Canada, including carriage of one suitcase; - Accommodation based on double occupancy in superior tourist-class (3-star) hotels; the single room supplement is $795, but only a limited number of single rooms are available!); - Breakfast daily and a total of eight 3-course dinners (or full lunches); - Overland transportation by private coach; - All visits and sightseeing as outlined in the itinerary, including admission to museums and monuments mentioned.

NOT INCLUDED

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

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