La Grande France Tour
16 days from $8,997 pp twin share
- Leisurely 3 night stays
- Small group size from just 10 to 28
- Genuinely inclusive, no additional on tour costs
- Character hotels in superb locations
- Designed for Australians & New Zealanders
- 'My Time' guaranteed
Five of France’s seductive regions… the graceful châteaux of the Loire Valley, the glorious Dordogne, the land of the Cathars in the Languedoc Roussillon, to ancient Provence and the stunning Côte d’Azur. Wonderful experiences… the extraordinary Carrières de Lumières, the incredible caves of Gouffre de Padirac and afternoon tea in Rothschild’s luxuriant Villa Ephrussi.
- Stay 3 nights in the enchanting Château Rochecotte nestled in its own gardens and grounds, in the spectacular Loire Valley
- Enjoy the gardens and interior of the elegant Château Chenonceau
- Visit Amboise and Da Vinci’s residence – Château du Clos Lucé
- Visit the classic 16th and 18th century gardens of Château Villandry
- Explore Tours and relax in the cafés on Place Plumereau
- Stay 3 nights in perfectly preserved Sarlat-la-Canéda
- See the tragic village of Oradour-sur-Glane, destroyed in WWII
- Cruise down the River Dordogne past medieval castles
- Enjoy a guided tour of the huge fortified town of Carcassonne
- Stay 3 nights in the centre of medieval Avignon
- Walk across the spectacular Pont du Gard
- Experience the extraordinary Carrières de Lumières sound and light show in the quarries of Les Baux
- Enjoy a special Provençal dinner in St Remy
- Stay 3 nights in the old town of Nice
- Discover the dramatic Calanques on a coastal cruise along the Côte d’Azur
- Explore Nice, Cannes and Monte Carlo, plus visit a perfumery in Grasse
- Enjoy a farewell dinner in the artisan village of Saint Paul de Vence
Don't just tick the big boxes
Too many people go to France and just ‘tick off’ the major sights. With limited time they brush the surface, and miss so many incredible sights. This totally unique tour captures the essence and vibrancy of five incredibly evocative French regions…. regions littered with wonderfully preserved cities and villages, incredible sites, and a proud heritage of culture, food and wine. That is why I designed this tour with necessary 3 night stops everywhere, plus I threw in a 2 nights stop in a 500 year old ‘chateau castle’ just for good measure!
Naturally I needed to ensure we have ample time in the famous cities and towns… but I also really wanted to seek out those other activities and sights, famous or not, which exude so much of that essence and style that has made these regions world famous. For instance, have you heard of the ‘ghost city’ of Oradour-sur-Glane or the awesome caves of Gouffre de Padirac? What about the picturesque fishing village of Cassis, on the Cote d’Azur, beside the stunning fjord like Calanques where we enjoy a morning cruise? Why would you bypass the Canal du Midi or the magnificent Villa Ephrussi, with its treasures and gorgeous gardens all set on a spectacular rocky headland over the Azure Coast. Really, how could you?
If you don’t take in these other, so special, visits, then you haven’t seen ‘La Grande France’. I say they are a ‘must’ as they are what Albatross travellers love so much. At Albatross, we don’t just touch on regions, we explore them!
Day 1: Paris to Loire Valley
Your tour commences this morning in central Paris. After meeting your Tour Manager we board our coach and make our way south-west to the verdant Loire Valley where, during the 15th and 16th centuries, the Kings of France and their courtiers created their grand holiday palaces. What better way to be introduced to the wonderful Loire Valley than our afternoon stop at Chambord to view the magnificent château.
This enormous château was created by King Francois as a hunting lodge within the surrounding grounds, which consisted of over 5000 wooded hectares. Later we continue to our wonderful Château hotel where we spend the next three nights. This evening we enjoy a welcome drink before dinner in our hotel.
Day 2: Château Chenonceau and Tours
This morning we enjoy a visit to the magnificent Château Chenonceau, spanning the River Cher on a series of graceful arches. Possibly one of the most photographed of the Loire châteaux this was the former home of Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Medici. Explore the stunning gardens and interior of the château.
Later we stop to explore the charming riverside town of Amboise, on the banks of the River Loire, with its Royal Palace, where Leonardo da Vinci once lived as a guest of King Francois I. We have included a visit to da Vinci’s residence – Château du Clos Lucé. Here in the underground rooms you will see on display, forty machines designed by this amazing inventor. This evening will be free in the old town of Tours around Place Plumereau, to discover your own provincial bistro for dinner.
Day 3: Fontevraud, Chinon & Château Villandry
Our first stop of the day will be a guided visit of the Royal Abbey of Fontevraud. The romanesque abbey church with its royal tombs and the renaissance cloister, have all been beautifully restored and the complex is now a museum and cultural centre. Lunchtime will be spent exploring Chinon, with its massive castle looming over the narrow cobblestoned streets of this riverside town. In the afternoon we will visit the gardens of Château Villandry. Inspired by the classic gardens of the 16th and 18th century, different levels of the gardens include ponds, topiary, ornamental hedges and an extraordinary kitchen garden covering 12,500 square metres.
Day 4: Oradour-sur-Glane and Lascaux
This morning we make a poignant visit to the ‘ghost village’ of Oradour-sur-Glane. In June 1944, without apparent provocation, soldiers from the 2nd Waffen-SS Panzer Division massacred all the inhabitants of this quiet, little village. The village was then destroyed. The village was never rebuilt and has been preserved as a memorial to this awful atrocity. We have included entrance with audio guides to the museum ‘Centre de la memoire d’Oradour’.
Later we will continue to Lascaux, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, famous for its magnificent Palaeolithic cave paintings. Whilst the actual caves themselves are now closed to the public, we visit the nearby Lascaux IV museum to see the superb replicas of the cave paintings found in the Great Hall of the Bulls and the Painted Gallery. As a finalé, we continue to the Dordogne Valley with its sleepy villages, medieval châteaux, meandering rivers and lush landscape that so epitomises French rural life. We stay the next three nights in the perfectly preserved Sarlat la Canéda, one of the most stunning towns in France.
*9 June & 30 August departures stay at Hotel Plaza Madeleine in Sarlat.
Day 5: Sarlat, River Dordogne Cruise and picturesque Domme
A guide joins us for the whole day. First we explore the medieval, architectural time capsule village of Sarlat. Noted for its gourmet food, cheeses, pâté and foie gras, Sarlat is also famous for its beautifully preserved old town with its café filled squares and delightful cobblestoned alleyways. In the afternoon we will drive to the nearby village of La Roc Gageac, set beside the pretty Dordogne River. Here we will board a barge and drift slowly down the River Dordogne past medieval castles. Later we visit the incredibly picturesque village of Domme. We have included a ride on the petit train up through the ramparts to the town square. You will have time at leisure to explore the sleepy village and enjoy the sweeping views across the Dordogne Valley.
Day 6: Rocamadour & Gouffre de Padirac Caves
This morning we will visit the ‘pilgrimage town’ of Rocamadour. Incredibly picturesque, this town sits on a tributary of the Dordogne. High above the old town are churches and monastic buildings, whilst below is an old town dating back centuries, and which once welcomed those on the ‘Pilgrims Trail’. In the afternoon we change our focus from man’s creations to that of nature, as we enjoy a visit through the astounding caves of the ‘Gouffre de Padirac’. This 25 kilometre underground system boasts massive galleries and chambers. A visual feast and beautifully lit, we also experience a 500 metre boat ride inside the caves
to emerge into the spectacular ‘Grand Dome’. Tonight, in Sarlat, we enjoy dinner in local restaurant.
Hand Selected Experience
A natural wonder
Day 7: My Time’ in Toulouse and Couiza
Today we visit the vibrant city of Toulouse. Set on the banks of the Garonne River, this beautiful city is nicknamed ‘La Ville Rose’ or Pink City, due to the extensive use of terracotta bricks and tiles. Your time will be at leisure in the magnificent main square flanked by the 120 metre long façade of the ‘Capitole’ – a grand 18th century town hall fronted with pink and white marble columns. Make sure you spend time wandering amongst the shops and pavement cafés of the Vieux Quartier (Old Quarter).
We now enter the land of the Cathars, in the lovely Languedoc Roussillon region. Here, in the village of Couiza we stay three
nights in the wonderful 16th century, castle style, Château des Ducs de Joyeuse. Dinner is included in your château.
Day 8: Old town of Carcassonne and Couiza
This morning we are joined by a local guide as we explore the ramparts and old town of Carcassonne. The medieval castle, with its gigantic double walled fortifications and 53 watchtowers, is the 2nd most visited site in France outside of Paris. Dating back to the 13th century, Carcassonne is an extraordinary timepiece and after our guided tour we have quality time to explore this magnificent castle city.
Mid-afternoon we return to our château hotel to relax and enjoy our delightful surroundings. Here we can try our hand at Pétanque (Boules), the traditional French village sport. Playing Pétanque in front of our 500 year old château – this is the real France at its very best! Dinner tonight will be in the village at the traditional bistro, Le Carnotzet.
Day 9: Beautiful Mirepoix and Rennes-le-Château
secret location of the Holy Grail and even the remains of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Early evening we will assemble in our Château’s old vaulted chapel to enjoy a tasting of the excellent local wines, before dinner.
Day 10: Canal du Midi and Aigues-Mortes
to medieval Avignon, beside the River Rhone, where we stay three nights.
Day 11: Nimes, Pont du Gard and Avignon
Day 12: ‘My Time’ in Avignon, Les Baux and St Remy
A leisurely morning in Avignon. Do as much or as little as you wish. Mid afternoon we journey to the crumbling castle and once deserted village of Les Baux to discover the craft shops and cafés scattered throughout the ruins. Set on the craggy hillside, this rejuvenated town is an extraordinary sight. We have also included entrance to enjoy a stunning audio visual art show – the Carrières de Lumières. Inside an abandoned quarry you will have a totally unique sound and vision experience as classic works of art are projected as massive fresco all around you, onto the walls and ceilings. We then continue to the romantic town of St Remy to explore and enjoy a special Provençal dinner in a local restaurant.
Day 13: Cassis, Calanques Cruise and Nice
Hand Selected Experience
Cruise the picturesque Calanques
If the UNESCO World Heritage Organisation think the ‘Calanques’ are notable and worth eternal preservation then we reckon you should see them. These deep rugged inlets cover a length of 20 kms and a depth of up to 4 kms along the coast between Cassis and Marseille. Roots of plants and bushes are anchored into colourful rock faces, which tumble down into the crystal clear azure blue waters. Perfect for our spectacular afternoon cruise on the Côte d’Azur! Uniquely Albatross.
Day 14: ‘My Time’ in Nice, Villa Ephrussi and Monaco
Your morning is entirely free in the elegant resort town of Nice. Take time to stroll and shop amongst the winding streets and perhaps enjoy lunch in one of the attractive seaside restaurants. Nice also boasts a number of art museums. Make sure you visit the wonderful fresh food, local produce and flower markets which are amongst the best in France!
In the afternoon we will visit Saint-Jean Cap Ferrat and the fabulous Villa Ephrussi – home of the Rothschild family. We have included a tour through this exceptional villa, perhaps the grandest on the Côte d’Azur, to see Béatrice Ephrussi’s grand apartments, tapestry and porcelain collections, and the magnificent gardens. We have also included afternoon tea in the restaurant, which boasts enormous views along the Azure Coast.
Late afternoon we have also included an excursion to Monaco. Following the scenic drive along the ‘Moyenne Corniche’ to the city of Monte Carlo we will see the Royal Palace before time in the old town to enjoy dinner at leisure.
Day 15: Grasse, Cannes and St Paul de Vence
First stop this morning will be in the hill town of Grasse where we will enjoy a visit to a local perfumery. Then, dropping down to the coast, we will stop in the extravagant seaside resort of Cannes. Famous for its movie stars and the Cannes Film Festival, we have time to explore the old port town and ‘La Croisette’ – the seafront promenade lined with palm trees, upmarket boutiques, cafés and grand hotels.
As a finale, we will drive in to the foothills of the Alpes Maritimes to the old town of St Paul de Vence. With its imposing ramparts, overlooking the Provençal countryside, the wonderful natural light attracted an artists’ colony. Soon they were followed by film directors and movie stars, then galleries and shops. We enjoy a farewell dinner in a local restaurant.
Day 16: Nice on the Cote d'Azur
Your tour ends today after breakfast.
Incredible Value Inclusions
Over $1,600 value of extras already included
- ALL excursions, scenic drives, sightseeing and entrances as described
- Fully escorted by our experienced Tour Manager
- Travel in a first class air-conditioned touring coach
- 15 nights specially selected hotel accommodation
- Hotel porterage (1 bag per person)
- 26 Meals – including breakfast daily (B) and 11 dinners (D)
- Tea, coffee and a complimentary beverage with all included dinners
- Welcome drink Loire Valley
- Hand Selected Albatross Experiences - barge cruise Dordogne, Calanques cruise, visit Carrières de Lumières, Villa Ephrussi afternoon tea
- Local guides as described in the itinerary
- ALL tips to your Tour Manager, Driver and Local Guides
- Personal audio system whilst on tour
- Free WiFi on most coaches and at hotels
- Albatross Travel App and ‘On Tour’ Travel Map
- Albatross Memories Photobook
NO additional ‘on tour’ costs!
Chateau de Rochecotte, Loire Valley - 3 nights
Surrounded by 20 acres of parks and gardens this 4 star hotel is set within an 18th century château in the Loire Valley. Exuding french luxury and style encapsulating the extravagance of a bygone era, the Château de Rochecotte features elegant rooms and an outdoor swimming pool.
Hotel de Selves , Dordogne - 3 nights
Château des Ducs de Joyeuse, Couiza - 3 nights
Dating back nearly 500 years this ‘castle château’ was built following the wedding and merging of two prominent families, the Voisin family and the Dukes of Joyeuse. Today it is an elegant castle hotel, with renaissance style furniture and a wonderful central courtyard where you can take breakfast. There is a medieval style restaurant and the old chapel has been turned into a wine cellar. www.château-des-ducs.com/en
Cloitre Saint Louis, Avignon - 3 nights
Once a 16th century monastery, this historic 4 star hotel is centred around the vaulted archways and ceilings of its ‘Cloitre’ or ‘Cloister’. Located on a quiet side street inside the old city walls, the Saint Louis, is well located just 50 metres from Avignon’s main Rue de la Republique with all the sights within an easy walking distance.
Hotel Aston La Scala, Nice - 3 nights
This 4 star hotel with a contemporary design is centrally located in the Old Town of Nice, overlooking the Promenade du Paillon.
A wonderful well - paced holiday with many varied activities. Great group of travellers. Each new destination was an unexpected treasure!
This tour had all the elements that make a successful holiday. First, the canvas of places and tourist sites we visited were splendid. Second, the people that make up the tour, they were an excellent group. Third, the coach driver, he was a thorough gentleman, good company and above all an excellent driver. Lastly, our Tour Manager was absolutely marvellous and defnitely a 'rare gem'. I have noticed the Albatross difference.
Our tour guide Karen was fabulous. So nice, so helpful and so patient. I cannot speak highly enough of her. I love the Chateaux, gardens, churches, flowers, boat rides, three night stays and the caves. Thank you Albatross Tours and Karen for looking after me and giving me such a wonderful holiday.
Dates and Prices
|Start Date||End Date||Price Per Person||Guaranteed to Depart||Availability|
|18 Aug 2019||2 Sep 2019||NZD $9,145||Sold Out|
|30 Aug 2019||14 Sep 2019||NZD $9,325||Sold Out|
|13 Sep 2019||28 Sep 2019||NZD $8,997||Sold Out|
|25 May 2020||8 Jun 2020||Not Yet Open For Sale|
|22 Jun 2020||6 Jul 2020||Not Yet Open For Sale|
|19 Jul 2020||2 Aug 2020||Not Yet Open For Sale|
|16 Aug 2020||30 Aug 2020||Not Yet Open For Sale|
|7 Sep 2020||21 Sep 2020||Not Yet Open For Sale|
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No Additional 'On Tour' Costs
Over $100 value of extras per day are already included. There are no additional 'on tour' costs - even your end of tour tips are included!