La Grande France Tour

15 days from $8,127 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

Tour Overview

Discover 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.

Highlights

  • 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
  • Stay 5 nights in the delightful city of Montpellier
  • Enjoy a guided tour of the huge fortified town of Carcassonne
  • Visit the walled city of Aigues-Mortes set in the salt flats of the Camargue
  • Walk across the spectacular  Pont du Gard and explore the Papal City  of Avignon
  • See the  Arena of Nimes, the best preserved amphitheatre in the Roman Empire
  • Experience the extraordinary Carrières de Lumières sound and light show in the quarries of Les Baux
  • Visit the medieval Knights Templar castle village of La Couvertoirade in the  Causse du Larzac and enjoy a tour and tasting in the Roquefort cheese caves
  • Cross the Tarn Gorge on the astonishing Millau Viaduct 
  • 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
  • Enjoy a farewell dinner in the artisan village of Saint Paul de Vence
 
The La Grande France Tour is just one of many you can enjoy in France. Visit each destination page for more information for our other amazing tours! 
 
 
Hear about this tour first hand from an Albatross traveller - read about John and Valerie's experience on this tour.

 

Message from the Mo

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 sights and a proud heritage of culture, food and wine. That is why I designed this tour with necessary 3 night minimum stops PLUS a 5 night  stay in the wonderful city of Montpellier. Naturally I needed to ensure we have ample time in the famous cities and towns, however  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 Oradoursur-Glane or the awesome caves of Gouffre de Padirac? What about the picturesque fishing village of Cassis, on the Côte d’Azur, beside the stunning fjord like Calanques where we enjoy a morning cruise? Why would you bypass the incredibly pretty Knights Templar, stone castle village of La Couvertoirade or the magnificent Villa Ephrussi, with its treasures and gorgeous gardens set on a spectacular rocky headland over the Azure Coast. Really, how could you? If you don’t take in  these ‘other’ special visits, then you have not seen ‘La Grande France’. I say they are a ‘must’ and these types of places are what Albatross travellers love so much. At Albatross, we don’t just touch on regions, we explore them!
 

Tour Itinerary

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.

Meals:
D
Hotel:
Château de Rochecotte

Day 2: Château Chenonceau, Amboise and Tours

This morning we enjoy a visit to the magnificent Château Chenonceau, spanning the River Cher on a series of graceful arches, to explore the stunning gardens and interior of the château. Possibly one of the most photographed of the Loire châteaux, this was the former home of Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Medici. 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. In the underground rooms you will see 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. 

Meals:
B

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.

Meals:
B
D

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 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. 

*25 May & 7 September departures stay at Hotel de Selves in Sarlat.

 

Meals:
B
D
Hotel:
Your Dordogne hotel – Hotel Plaza Madeleine*

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.

Meals:
B

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’.  Your evening is at leisure in Sarlat. 
Meals:
B
Gouffre de Padirac

Hand Selected Experience

A natural wonder

The astounding caves of the ‘Gouffre de Padirac ’are a natural wonder. Located in France’s Lot region the site is the most visited in the area. You descend 75 metres into a chasm, you can do it by elevator or by foot. From there you board a boat to follow a subterranean river for 500 metres through spectacular vaulted caves such as the Lac de la Pluie (lake of rain) where a 60 metre stalactite hangs from the ceiling, and the spectacular ‘Grand Dome’. Visually stunning, the extraordinary rock formations and vast rock galleries are beautifully lit. What an experience! 
 

Day 7: Old town of Carcassonne and Montpellier

Heading south we reach the walled city of Carcassonne where we are joined by a local guide to 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 a magnificent timepiece. We also make sure you have time at leisure to explore. Later, we continue through the Languedoc Roussillon region to the graceful city of Montpellier. This is the perfect base from which to fully explore this region, and why we stay here for the next five amazing nights! 
Meals:
B
D
Hotel:
Your Montpellier Hotel - The Oceania Le Métropole

Day 8: Nimes and Aigues Mortes

This morning we visit Nimes, where a local guide will join us for a walking tour of this remarkable city. Dating back to the bronze age, the central part is traffic free. Right in the centre you will find the Maison Carrée Roman temple, and the giant Arena of Nimes – the best preserved amphitheatre in the Roman Empire. Later we will drive into the famous Camargue region and enjoy ‘My Time’ in Aigues-Mortes. The 13th century walls  and ramparts fully encircle this historical town and form a striking contrast to the vast salines (salt flats) that encircle it. This evening we have included dinner in a local wine estate. 

Meals:
B
D

Day 9: Montpellier, ‘My Time’ and Sète

A leisurely start. A local guide will take us on a morning walk around Montpellier ’s city centre to see the highlights. The rest of your day is entirely free to explore and enjoy ‘My Time’. In the evening we drive to the colourful Mediterranean fishing port of Sète. Food enthusiasts come from all over France to dine here; all along the canal side wharves you will find lines and lines of well-priced fish restaurants with displays bursting with oysters, mussels, crabs and seafood. A dizzying choice! Special Note: Our August departures have been timed to visit Sète so you can join in the lively Saint Louis festival and watch the spectacular (and fun) ‘boat jousting’ that takes place. Contestants dress in white with red, or blue. Each boat holds oarsmen and a small noisy, brass and drum band. Sitting high on a step ladder are the teams of White Knights. Perched high behind the boat on a ‘Tintaine’ (tiny wooden platform), lance and shield poised, are the combatants. Furiously rowing, but gaining little speed, the combatants clash. One will get very wet! Hilarious, colourful, historical, traditional. This is a wonderful way to pass an evening amongst the noisy, boisterous crowds. Look it up on the web!

 

Meals:
B

Day 10: La Couvertoirade, Roquefort and the awesome Millau Viaduct

A leisurely start before we drive inland to the UNESCO listed Causse du Larzac region. Our first stop will be at the medieval village of La Couvertoirade, which was voted one of the ‘Plus Beaux Villages de France’ (most beautiful villages of France). The village was transformed into a dramatic fortified castle by the Knights Templar approximately 800 years ago; the flower bedecked, narrow, cobblestoned streets are steeped in history and the little church is littered with secret Masonic signs. Later, equivalent to the height of the top of the Eiffel Tower, we take the extraordinary Millau Viaduct across the mighty Tarn Gorge. After visiting the Viaduct Museum, we enjoy lunchtime at leisure in Millau. Next stop Roquefort! We have included a guided tour down through the Caves and a tasting of varieties of this rich tasty cheese. ( And the salami infused with Roquefort is quite unbelievable! ).

Meals:
B

Day 11: The Pont du Gard, Avignon and Les Baux

A busy, but incredibly rewarding day. First up will be a short walk across the spectacular Pont du Gard – an imposing 2,000 year-old Roman aqueduct which was built with giant stones weighing up to six tons. In a beautiful setting, this remarkable structure spans 200 metres between the craggy hillsides of the River Gard. Lunchtime will be at leisure exploring the Papal city of Avignon. 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. Underground, 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. Please do check out the video  on the web. Astounding! Your evening is at leisure in Montpelier. 
 
 
Meals:
B

Day 12: Cassis, Calanques Cruise and Nice

First stop today will be in the old fishing village of Cassis, on the Côte d’Azur. We enjoy a morning cruise to explore some of the incredibly picturesque Calanques. These rugged inlets with steep cliffs tumbling into the crystal clear, azure waters are best viewed by boat. Lunchtime will be at leisure in the picturesque harbour of Cassis. Later we continue to Nice, nicknamed the ‘Queen of the Riviera’, where we stay the next three nights.
Meals:
B
D
Hotel:
Your Nice hotel – Le Méridien
Calanques, France

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 13: ‘My Time’ in Nice, Villa Ephrussi and Monaco

Your morning is entirely free in the elegant resort town of Nice. Make sure you visit the wonderful fresh food, local produce and flower markets which are amongst the best in France! 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.

This afternoon we will visit Saint-Jean Cap Ferrat and the fabulous Villa Ephrussi – home of the Rothschild family. We have included a self-guided 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.

Later this 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.

Meals:
B

Day 14: Cannes and St Paul de Vence

Our morning is spent 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 finalé, 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. 

Meals:
B
D

Day 15: Nice on the Cote d'Azur

Your tour ends today after breakfast. 

Meals:
B

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
  • 14 nights specially selected hotel accommodation
  • Hotel porterage (1 bag per person)
  • 21 Meals – including breakfast daily (B) and 7 dinners (D)
  • Tea, coffee and a complimentary beverage with all included dinners
  • Welcome drink Loire Valley
  • Hand Selected Albatross Experiences – Dordogne barge cruise,
  • 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 Tours App
  • Albatross Memories Photobook

NO additional ‘on tour’ costs!

Your Hotels

Chateau de Rochecotte

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 Plaza Madeleine, Dordogne

Hotel Plaza Madeleine, Dordogne - 3 nights

This contemporary 4 star hotel is situated in the heart of Sarlat. The hotel boasts air conditioned guest rooms and an outdoor swimming pool.

 

Oceania Le Métropole, Montpellier

Oceania Le Métropole, Montpellier - 5 nights

Brilliantly located right in the town centre, this excellent 4 star hotel is perfectly situated to enjoy ‘My Time’ relaxing in the bustling heart of town.

Le Méridien, Nice

Le Méridien, Nice - 3 nights

Located on the famed Promenade des Anglais, this contemporary 4 star hotel is within close proximity to the charming Old Town.

Tour Reviews

A wonderful well - paced holiday with many varied activities. Great group of travellers. Each new destination was an unexpected treasure!

Carolyn

Calanques, France

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.

Robert

Chateau Chambord, France

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.

Colleen

Dates and Prices

Start Date End Date Price Per Person Guaranteed to Depart Availability
25 May 2020 8 Jun 2020 NZD $8,557
NZD $8,257
Space Limited - Call Now
22 Jun 2020 6 Jul 2020 NZD $8,757
NZD $8,457
Space Available
19 Jul 2020 2 Aug 2020 NZD $8,757
NZD $8,457
Space Available
16 Aug 2020 30 Aug 2020 NZD $8,757
NZD $8,457
Space Available
7 Sep 2020 21 Sep 2020 NZD $8,127
NZD $7,827
Space Available

Book Early and SAVE!

SAVE $300 per person when you book and deposit by 31 October 2019. That's a saving of $600 per couple! Further discounts may also apply.

Club Albatross

Have you travelled with Albatross Tours previously? Save $200 on our European Summer and Oberammergau tours (over 8 days) or $100 on our Festive tours.

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!