“Best Places to Visit in France” Tour: Paris, Loire Valley, Provence & Much More

A 18 day trip to France 
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French culture feels comfortable, tucked into iconic café terraces and local markets filling up small squares. The scent of lavender carries from the countryside. Vibrant paintings hang on the walls of world-famous museums. This custom tailored best of France tour to Paris, Loire Valley, Provence and many more of the iconic destinations will break open the beauty of the country to find much more than the usual. You will step into a history of exquisite landscapes, imaginative castles, and enchanting villages. Whether set in the shade of breathtaking cathedrals or on the banks of tranquil rivers, you will find the Joie de Vivre in every minute of your journey.

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General Information

Photos
the lush green garden and building of versailles
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Paris, Versailles, Fontainebleau, Normandy, Honfleur, Bayeux, Mt St Michel, Loire Valley, Chenonceau, Cheverny, Chambord, Amboise, Dordogne, Toulouse, Carcassonne, Provence, French Riviera, Burgundy, Alsace, Champagne

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Parisian Custom

After arriving in Paris, your private transfer meets you at the airport. You discover Paris is both a vibrant modern city and a city erupting with historic significance. Bohemian culture filters out of cafes lining cobblestone streets. Grand architecture borders wide avenues shaded with Linden trees. Boats dock on the edge of the River Seine and decorate the waterway. The city bursts with life all around you. The sweet scent of freshly baked macaroons drifts through the air. People walk down the street with large baguettes on their way home for the evening.

University students sit on the riverbanks with an open bottle of wine, talking with friends about their latest read and snacking on a collection of crumbly rich cheeses. Life in the romantic city both speeds up and slows down. People take the time to enjoy the day, stopping in one of the many gardens throughout the city, including the Parc de Buttes-Chaumont, a pocket of heavenly greenery in the 19th arrondissement. You can hear the waterfalls trickling near the meandering footpaths, a gentle welcome to the captivating city.

What’s Included: transfer, accommodation

Day 2: A Day in the Life

Paris blossoms in the morning light. The aroma of frothy cappuccino and fresh pastries slip into the streets. People linger at sidewalk café tables watching the city pass them by. You can indulge in the flavors of the city to start off your day, tasting the buttery, flaky qualities of a croissant, with a touch of richness from the chocolate filling.

Your guide meets you at the hotel ready to take you out into the magical streets of Paris. There are always people enjoying the streets and parks of the city no matter the day. Notre-Dame de Paris was erected between the 12th and 13th centuries in a French Gothic style. An elegant rose window adorns the central tower. The cathedral overtook the first Christian church in Paris, which sat atop a Roman temple dedicated to Jupiter. Standing on the small isle, the cathedral is majestic, encompassing the drama you imagine when thinking of France and any cathedral worldwide. The western façade has two towers each standing 228 feet tall. The south Gargoyles decorate the exterior cast with ferocious faces on the Galerie des Chimères. The three western doorways were sculpted in the 13th century and depict scenes from the Last Judgment and the life of Mary. In a matter of one glance, all of the grandeur of Paris can be summed up in the beauty of Notre-Dame. Your guide leads you away from the cathedral, and you continue your exploration of the city.

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, accommodation

Day 3: King of the Realm

The morning light glistens off of the River Seine. The aroma of freshly baked pastries returns to the streets. The gardens shimmer with emerald leaves. After breakfast, you leave the city behind for the day, venturing to the magnificent grounds of Versailles. The palace was erected under the patronage of King Louis XIV in the 17th century, and has maintained its illustrious allure. What once stood as a grand hunting Château became a symbol of the absolute monarchy that ruled France for centuries. The wonderment of the palace is apparent the moment you arrive. The gilded architecture glints in the daylight, from the crown molding around the exterior to the glittery gates welcoming you to the grounds.

The entire palace is over 721,000 square feet. The King’s Private Apartment was reserved for the king’s use only. The floors are brightly polished. The fireplace has a marble mantle sitting beneath a large, pristine mirror. An antique clock continues to tick away in the corner, with a narrowing frame down to the floor. The Hall of Mirrors inspired numerous copies throughout the known noble world due to its graceful and ethereal construction. Chandeliers dangle from the arched ceiling. The gilded crown molding and light sweeping through the large windows reflects in the mirrors. You could spend all day on the palace grounds and still have more to see.

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, accommodation

Day 4: The Northern Rim

After breakfast, you make your way to your rental car and travel out of the city northbound en route to stunning Normandy. The city is known for its wealth of history, whether contemporary, medieval, or ancient. Castles speckle the countryside and church spires rise above the colorful facades of old buildings in Honfleur. The cityscape gives way to lush hillsides and sporadic churches, spruce trees and rippling lakes. Mont Saint-Michel is an iconic image of France and the nuanced countryside.

The medieval village maintains slender spires and thick ramparts atop the rocky slopes of small Mont St. Michel rising out of the sea. The tide wades in and out against the sandy shores, leaving them bare or covered by ocean. The tide can shift the surrounding water levels over 30 feet, and surrounds the entirety of the town bimonthly. Spiral steps ascend the mount with 350 stairs leading to the top of the city. The seaside aroma filters through town. It feels like you have stepped back into the Middle Ages, and are secluded from mainland France. The interior of the abbey has a colorful mosaic underneath the lofted ceiling. The stone arches let light enter the church creating a delicate ambiance.

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer, accommodation

Day 5: Entering the Valley

The splendor of Normandy is matched by the majesty of the Loire Valley. In the morning, you can wake up to the quiet sounds of the seaside village of Honfleur, where the water laps at the ancient walls and the light showcases the bright facades of the close-knit buildings. After breakfast, you make your way to the Loire Valley with the day at your leisure to enjoy the fairytale scenery at your own pace. The region is known as the “Garden of France,” often visited by kings, and inspiration to artists of all kinds during the Renaissance.

The herbaceous aroma of prairies carries in the gentle breeze. The River Loire winds through the region nurturing the lush riverbanks. The chateaus decorating the countryside in the region of Touraine take you directly into the majesty of the scenery, capturing both medieval and Renaissance architecture. Cité Royale du Loches sits on a hilltop citadel with white tufa stone inside massive protective ramparts.   The keep is 118 feet tall and dates back to the 11th century. Remnants of the fireplaces remain inside the castle keep, and a catwalk provides unique views to the village and encompassing countryside.

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer, accommodation

Day 6: Choosing the Adventure

There are an endless amount of castles and wineries to visit in the Loire Valley. The hardest part of your day is deciding which type of tour you would like to partake in today, whether discovering numerous chateaus or the best wines in the region. Your guide meets you at the hotel after breakfast and leads you deep into the verdant countryside. East of the capital city of Tours, known for its medieval city center and celebrated university, is the vineyard of Montlouis-sur-Loire, famous for chenin blanc. Your guide extols the beauty of the wine, from the vineyard that produces the wine to the earth and flavors of the grape. You are delighted to find a fabulous bottle relatively unknown to people outside of France. The town was founded as a Roman province.

You can feel a sense of deep history emanating from the buildings and streets. The vineyards outside of town sweep across the plains away from the banks of the river. Your guide leads you through the sweeping vines. The sunlight is warm and encompassing. The green and yellow strands of the countryside blossoms against the horizon. The vines grow well in the gravelly terrain and gritty topsoil. When it comes time to taste the wine, you find a golden white color and floral aromatics you can savor in the warm day.

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, accommodation

Day 7: Into the Land of 1,001 Chateaus

The region of Dordogne is cast as the “Land of 1,001 Chateaus,” continuing the storybook ambiance of both landscape and architecture. Medieval towns line the banks of meandering rivers filled with the aromas of decadent black truffles and savory foie gras. The hills roll into mountains where historic castles watch over the landscape. The day is yours to enjoy the region at your whim and pleasure, taking in the past and present all at once. The city of Pèrigueux was founded by Gallic tribes and evolved into the Roman city of Vesunna.

Medieval buildings hover around antique streets. Renaissance mansions speckle the Old Town. Boulevards give way to intertwining cobblestone streets. Trendy shops fill the old buildings combining heritage with modern culture. The Roman Amphitheater could hold up to 20,000 people and continues to decorate the city. The arches of the ancient theater blend effortlessly into the Jardin des Arènes. The lush trees and blossoming daffodils sway in the breeze in front of the rugged stone arches.  

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer, accommodation

Day 8: Discovering Dordogne

Your guide meets you in the morning and takes you into the rolling hills of the region. He points out various castles poking out of the canopy, some standing atop rugged mountains. The town of La Roque lines the edge of Dordogne River and is built into the limestone cliff. Locals and visitors travel down the scenic waterway in canoes or on a tranquil river cruise to see the charm of the entire valley. Medieval homes climb into the rock-face looking out over the water. It looks like something conjured out of a storybook.

The scent of freshly baked bread lines the street. Narrow alleyways lead to stairs connecting the upper levels of town to the main road lining the river. Chateau de Beynac was constructed in the 12th century perched atop a limestone bluff. The fortress offers a panorama view of the valley, making it a key defensive position in the past and an unparalleled lookout point today. The cliffs rise over 340 feet.

From the Hanging Gardens of Marcqueyssac, you can see La Roque in the near distance. Vibrant trees, a small forest, and colorful flowers decorate the tiered garden. With the sloping rooftops of the castle at one end, and the sheer drop to the Dordogne River on the other, the gardens provide idyllic scenery to wander through. The hedges are clipped and shaped. A small lookout offers a view to the nearby imposing Chateau de Castelnaud, ascending the narrow cliff on the opposite side of the river. The countryside continues to be a marvel across France.

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, accommodation

Day 9: Images of the South

You aren’t sure if you have seen all of Dordogne’s 1,001 castles, but after passing by and visiting so many you are positive that there must be at least that many throughout the central region. The charm of the bustling medieval towns follows you en route to Carcassonne. Spend time in the Toulouse Lautrec Museum in Albi before settling into the hilltop town of Carcassonne, located in Southwest France. Battlements crisscross around the plateau. Spiky turrets add to the skyline. The castle is picture perfect, imitating the definitive image of a medieval castle in your mind. 

Your guide meets you for an afternoon tour of Old Town inside the crenellated defensive walls. The hillside town rises over 485 feet above sea level with 54 towers peaking over the ramparts with roofs resembling witch’s hats. Narrow cobblestone streets meander and open up to large squares. People sit at café tables underneath umbrellas and sip a glass of wine or a cold beer. Your guide points out the castle’s drawbridge at the main gate of Porte Narbonnaise. A small space between the walls runs for a little over half a mile meant to help delay attackers. It looks as if someone attacked the castle today, the drawbridge could be lifted up and continue to defend the countryside with honor. In the afternoon light, you notice the vivid glass of the Basilique St-Nazaire’s rose window.

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer, tour, accommodation

Day 10: Remnants of Rome

Today you continue southbound to the famous region of Provence, known for its delectable eats, and superb countryside charm. You leave behind the dreamlike castle of Carcassonne and stop in Pont du Gard. Southern France is ornamented with stunning Roman ruins, however the feat of engineering present at Pont du Gard borders on breathtaking. The greenery drapes over the limestone hills. The River Gardon trickles against the pebbled banks. You find a tremendous three-tiered aqueduct dating back to the 19th century BC and standing 164 feet tall.

Each arch maintains an unequaled precision creating a structure sturdy enough to carry up to 20,000 cubic meters of water a day. The blocks were transported from a nearby quarry and hand carved. The structure has maintained its integrity for over 2,000 years and is a true marvel see and be near. In the dry months when the current moves slowly, you can see the arches reflected in the water, connecting the archways. You continue onward to Provence and let the wonder of the Roman ruins linger in the air.

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer, tour, accommodation

Day 11: Seductive Provencal

The Provencal countryside is drenched in golden light in the morning. The aromas of lavender and rosemary are never far away. The countryside where artists captured the prairies and rugged hillsides haven’t changed in centuries. There is an endless amount of magnificence to witness when in the countryside, and few things offer as much history as the city of Arles. The Romans built the old town in 49 BC. A constant festive atmosphere erupts from the stone squares. Van Gogh situated himself overlooking the Rhône and painted coveted Starry Night.

A 20,000-seat amphitheater continues to hold events for the town during a three-day festival where the streets erupt in celebration. You can feel remnants of the Bohemian ambiance Van Gogh captured in his work. The amphitheater rises over the sunbaked rooftops with undeniable character, a statement of Roman perseverance. The Théâtre Antique was constructed in the 1st century with a diameter of 334 feet. A column near the right hand side of the entrance stands tall, indicating the height of the arcade when it was first established. In the summer, plays and concerts adorn the stage filling the ancient grounds in a portrayal of classic beauty. 

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, accommodation

Day 12: Countryside Chic

In the depths of the Provencal countryside, you find Aix-en-Provence. Leafy boulevards rustle in the gentle breeze, once again carrying the scent of lavender. Historic mansions line open cobbled squares where moss-covered fountains babble in the soft light. Outside the city, rows of lavender turn the countryside purple. Inside the city, stone lions stand guard over the Fontaine de la Rotonde, standing at the start of the city’s main boulevard. Terraces rise over the street where trendy cafes hover over the sidewalks.

You can see locals sipping espresso throughout the day, subtly watching passersby. The avenue of Cours Maribeau has fountains adorning the street, sprinkling the air with refreshing mist. The street dates back to the 17th century. South of the boulevard is the 17th century Quartier Mazarin. Stone dolphins spout water into the rippling pool below, surrounded by the quiet walls of old mansions. You can visit the home of master artist Paul Cezanne and see the restored Lauves Studio where the painter worked. Then, continue your journey southbound to the azure waters of the French Riviera where the sun washes over the sand.

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer, tour, accommodation

Day 13: Coastal Sunshine

The beauty of the French Riviera is legendary, filled with images of various types of royalty, from actual princes to queens of the acting community. Your guide meets you at the hotel and escorts you to the shores of Nice, bordered by a mixture of lush and rugged mountains and the cobalt shine of the Mediterranean. People pour onto the Promenade des Anglais, arching around the water. Sporadic skaters wind in and out of marked lanes. Speedboats brush past on the distant water. The beach fills with crisp loungers playing volleyball in the draping sun. The aromas of fresh crepes and Nutella linger in the air.

Your guide leads you through the lavish historical buildings filled with Baroque style and Mediterranean ambiance shaped into a triangle. The morning market bustles on Cours Saleya, running parallel to the beach. The scent of fresh produce and even fresher flowers captivates you. Castle Hills stands to the right of the street providing a sumptuous view of the coastline and cityscape. Towards the northern tip of the triangle the streets narrow, tables and chairs fill the cobblestone walkways, and the 17th Baroque Cathédrale Sainte Réparte shades the small square. The interior contains ten chapels once connected to various guilds around the city. Today, the cathedral is unified for all, visitors or locals, to appreciate.

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, accommodation

Day 14: Grace of Grandeur

In the morning, you can relax in the rising sunlight at a seaside café with a fresh, hot, frothy cappuccino and an unparalleled view of the Mediterranean. After breakfast, you depart from the shimmering waters of the French Riviera and make your way north to the celebrated region of Burgundy. On the way, pay a visit to the Abbey of Cluny, once the largest building in Christendom until the 16th century. The Abbey offers collective insight into the changing dynamics of architecture and belief from the 12th century to the 18th century.

The Abbey began in the 10th century founded by Benedictine monks. The ruins of the site offer insight into the magnitude of the Abbey at its zenith. Through the village you find you entrance of the Abbey, known as Porte d’Honneur, flourishing with classical architectural elements, such as Corinthian columns around the Holy Water Belfry at the south transept. The gardens in the monastic cloisters once contained an ancient lime tree. Even though the lime tree was uprooted in the 1980s by a storm, the faint scent of fresh lime remains.

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer, tour, accommodation

Day 15: Burgundy’s Best

Burgundy is famous for its wine and exquisite French countryside, dotted with rolling green hills and mustard fields. Medieval villages sprout out of the greenery without a care. Wine and food blend perfectly with rich flavors in a wealth of culinary and viticulture heritage. Vineyards carpet hills and low-lying valleys. Dijon is the region’s capital and brims with medieval and Renaissance buildings. Trees shade the city center and the scent of simmering wine used to make decadent sauces drifts out of a collection of restaurants.

The Ducal Palace, Palais des Ducs, stands as a crown in the city center. The original edifice was erected in the 3rd century as a fortress to defend against barbarians. By the 14th century the fortress was turned into a palace. Now the oldest remnant of the palace is the Tour de Bar, an impressive tower standing 170 feet tall. The palace holds similarities to Versailles, allowing you to make certain connections in the décor and design.

The same architect who designed Versailles added the embellishments to the Palais des Ducs in the 17th century. Columns support the exterior portico. Six enormous fireplaces deck the old kitchen. You can imagine all six fireplaces roaring to accommodate a grand feast taking place in the palace. You can climb up the 316 steps of the Philippe le Bon Tower for a sweeping panorama of the surrounding city, staring down at the red rooftops of the encircling city.

What’s Included: breakfast, accommodation

Day 16: Route du Vin  

North of Burgundy you make your way to the region of Alsace, located on the French/German border. The landscape is soothingly verdant when you reach the Route du Vin. Vines tangle up the hillsides leading to castles standing on the craggy ledges of the Vosges Mountains. Wineries have used the rugged caves as wine cellars for centuries. Villages made of timber create a unique, tranquil, and continuous fairytale environment stepping straight out of a child’s storybook. The route stretches 105 miles with approximately 50 prestigious microregions documented by the Appellation d’Origine Conrôlée (AOC).

Haut Koenigsbourg is emblematic of a village stepping out of an old story perched above hills carpeted in vineyards. Chateau du Haut Koenigsbourg glows with red sandstone against the encompassing emerald trees. The ramparts wrap around the tall turrets with views to the Vosges, Black Forest, and even the Alps. Much of the castle was refurbished in the early 20th century but has maintained a unique medieval impression. Part of the beauty of the Route du Vin is the enchanting villages that adorn the path without even stopping to taste the fruit of the vines that originally brought the area to gourmet prominence.

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer, tour, accommodation

Day 17: Sipping Champagne

The motif of vines continues through the region of Champagne, known as the single producer of the effervescent sparkling wine with the same name. Vineyards parade up hillsides over damp soil. You can practically hear the bubbles fizz and celebratory glasses clink together. The ambiance of local towns are warm and friendly, set over winding vines and family-run cellars.

Before you meet your guide, you stroll through the city of Reim. In the center of town you find the Cathédral Notre Dame, a focal point of the city in its Gothic design dating back to the 13th century. A rose window adorns the central gallery with 12 petals. When you approach the cathedral from the west, you immediately gaze up to the encrusted sculptures along the façade. It is easy to understand why so many French monarchs were crowned in this cathedral. The 13th century statue known as the Smiling Angel stands stoically above the central entryway.

Your guide takes you into the Vallée de la Marne, where local producers turn Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay into the bubbly concoction people across the world enjoy. The Marne River flows effortlessly against the jade trees and emerald vines crawl along the banks.

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, accommodation

Day 18: Grand Exits

Épernay is the self-proclaimed capital of the Champagne region with numerous cellars offering samples of their coveted sparkling wines. Caverns rest beneath the streets using the subterranean cooler temperature to keep the wine fresh. Champagne houses line the Avenue de Champagne, ornamenting the boulevard with neoclassical villas. Wrought iron gates give an impression of regality around the private Hotel Chandon, a 19th century pavilion residency. France, whether in Paris, the countryside, or traveling along tremendous medieval towns in the mountainside, continues to captivate you.

Soon your private transfer will meet you at the hotel and escort you to Chalons-en-Champagne Airport for your flight home. Until then, you can enjoy one more frothy cappuccino watching the residents of the city pass you by.

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer

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