Paris, Provence, and the French Riviera
DAY 1 – DEPARTURE DALLAS/PARIS
We meet at the airport for our overnight flight with meal service en route, arriving in Paris
DAY 2 – Saturday, June 27 PARIS/AVIGNON
We arrive in Paris to be met there by our French guide and our USIT tour conductor. We’ll board our coach for the short drive to Avignon, arriving about 6:00 PM. On arrival in Avignon, we take the short ride into town to check into our hotel and rest for a while or explore the city center on our own. The town offers much to entice us: narrow alleys that open onto expansive plazas, delightful shopping areas, and regional cuisine. Dinner is provided tonight.
DAY 3 – AVIGNON and Area
Today we begin early, with a visit to the Papal Palace. Named the City of the Popes, Avignon retains the mark of the Popes’ stay in the city, when for a hundred years, it was the capital of the Christian world in the 14th century. The highlight of our visit will be a guided tour of the Papal Palace, the largest Gothic palace in Europe, and ranked by UNESCO as Heritage for humanity site. Included in the visit will be the courtyard, private papal apartments, and the cloisters. Then we board our coach for a visit into the countryside, heading toward the Luberon, a National Park comprised of medieval wine growing villages sprinkled across its mountain range. First, we will go to see the Fontaine de Vaucluse, Vallis Clausa, the closed valley of the famous writer Petrarque. It is here that perhaps one of the most famous love affairs of European history is recorded, the love of Pétrarque for Laure of Noves. Below the ruins of the Chateau in this closed valley is the extraordinary source of the river Sorgue. Water erupts from an underground source as a raging torrent to quickly become a fast flowing, cold crystal clear stream. After Vaucluse, it’s time for lunch on our own at Isle sur la Sorgues, a charming village built on several islands scattered among the five branches of the Sorgue River, and a haven for antique lovers and famous for its many waterwheels. Heading into the hills, we’ll enjoy a guided visit of the isolated Cistercian Abbey of Sénanque, built in the12th century in the hills above Gordes. Last stop today is at the Provencal market of the “Golden Village” of Gordes. Enjoy time to stroll this picturesque hilltop village, shop and a stroll in the village at leisure for photos and special items. Gordes can boast being one of the most beautiful villages in France. It is also proud of its castle firmly planted in its very core. It is also the site of a recent movie entitled “A Good Year”, starring Russell Crowe, featuring a local vineyard. This area is part of the Côtes du Rhône, famous for its wines, so we’ll visit one of them for a wine-tasting before returning to Avignon. Dinner is on our own tonight.
DAY 4 – AVIGNON area–Les Baux/Arles/Saint Remy de Provence
This morning we’ll beat the crowds to savour the sky-high hill town of Les Baux de Provence, a hilltop medieval stronghold in the Alpille region, one of the “Most Beautiful Villages of France”, only 20 minutes driving away from Avignon. The medieval streets, the ruins of the chateau, the grandiose panorama–everything makes you dream of knights and troubadours, and the shopping’s excellent, too. Then we’ll continue on to Arles, with its Roman ruins, including the Roman Amphitheater, the Antique Theatre, the thermal baths of Constantine, and the Cryptoportico and Cloister of Saint-Trophime. We’ll also have free time for lunch on our own. Our return is by way of St. Remy de Provence, VanGogh’s Provence. Back in Avignon, dinner is on our own.
DAY 5 – Avignon to Nice via Aix-en-Provence
After breakfast at the hotel, we depart for Nice on the French Riviera. As we travel south, we’ll come to Aix-en-Provence, where we’ll stop for a short tour and some free time to enjoy this upscale Provencale city. Aix is a university town and former provincial capital, built around Roman baths and numerous churches. It has narrow cobblestoned streets leading through various plazas, and its streets are lined with clothing stores, cafés, gift shops, and patisseries. Its grand central street is the Cours Mirabeau, with two tall rows of plane trees and a series of fountains and cafés. We’ll enjoy an early lunch on our own before we continue to Nice. We’ll approach Nice along the highway above the Mediterranean and arrive mid-afternoon. Before checking into our hotel on the shore, we’ll enjoy a walking tour to familiarize ourselves with main areas and attractions of the city. Dinner is provided at the hotel. Evening is at leisure to enjoy a walk along the shore or the Promenade Des Anglais. Hotel and dinner: West End Hotel, 31 Promenade Des Anglais, Nice www.hotel-westend.com/uk/index.php
DAY 6 – Cannes and Antibes
Today is our day to visit charming Antibes and Cannes, famous for its international film festival. After breakfast, we leave for Antibes, considered the gem of the Cote d’Azur. When we arrive, we’ll explore the Old Town, with its original ancient walls and meandering, narrow cobblestoned streets, and we’ll visit its colorful Provencal Market in the center of Town. Then we’re on to nearby Cannes. First, we’ll climb Le Suquet with its narrow cobbled streets to the 12th century Tour de Mt Chevalier and the church of Notre Dame de l’Espérance, overlooking the old port. From the ancient rampart in front of the church, you can see east across the town, the port, and the bay to the Cap de la Croisette, and to the west across the Gulf of La Napoule to the Esterel mountains—all-in-all, a grand view!
Then, at the foot of the Old town, we will pass the heart of Cannes to the Covered Market (Marché Forville). The market itself is at the west end of rue Meynardiers, one of the Cote’s best gourmand streets. Then we we’ll walk through the Old Port to catch a bit of the city’s history. Then we will pass the Palais des Festivals, where stars gather and watch films during the Cannes Film Festival and we can pose for a photograph on the 22 steps leading up to the entrance.
Our next stop is Nice, just up the coast. A visit to Vieux Nice (Old Nice) begins at Massena Square and flows into the Cours Saleya, the centre of life in the Old Town. Then we walk past the Opera House and Rossetti Square to explore the narrow pedestrian streets of the old town. We’ll see the Cathédrale Sainte Réparate, consecrated in 1699. Named in honour of Nice’s patron saint, the interior is glorious. We’ll end at the beach, the Bay of Angels and the Promenade de Anglais, where our hotel is located. After our walking tour of the city, we’ll enjoy lunch on our own the rest of the afternoon is free to explore the shops and spend some time walking along the beaches on La Croisette, the waterfront avenue lined with tall palms. Dinner is on our own in the area. Hotel: West End Hotel
DAY 7 – Monaco
After a leisurely breakfast, we depart the hotel at 9:00 and our destination is the famous coastal principality of Monaco, famous for its Monte Carlo casino and for the Prince Rainier and Princess Grace Kelly. On arrival, we start with a visit to Oceanographic Museum. Opened in 1910 by its founder, Prince Albert, this exceptional museum is masterpiece of monumental architecture overlooks the sea from the top of a sheer drop of 240 feet. Just before noon, we’ll arrive at the Royal Palace to see the Changing of the Guard a delightful old-world ceremony, and take a tour of the Royal Palace. Then it’s on to the Monte Carlo casino square, where we can watch the procession of Ferraris, Astons, Rolls, Bentleys, Bugatti’s, and Lamborghini’s. While there, we’ll visit the Casino Gardens and Terraces, the French style garden of lawns and magnificent fountains, sitting alongside the “Little Africa” garden. Then we go for lunch on our own and some free time for shopping. Midafternoon, we start back to Nice, with a special stop at the village of Eze overlooking the sea, for a visit to the “Usine Laboratoire d’Eze”, where the Fragonard products are made (perfumery, soaps and cosmetics). We continue to Nice. Dinner is on our own.
DAY 8 – Nice/Paris
After an early breakfast at the hotel, we transfer the short distance to the Nice train station for our 7:04 AM high-speed TGV to Paris. We’ll enjoy seeing the scenery of the French countryside as we relax in comfortable seats or sip a coffee or drink in the café car. We arrive at Gare de Lyon at 12:41 PM and we’ll board the coach for our panoramic guided tour to see the best of Paris that can be seen from the coach, including the Left Bank, the Opera Quarter, Latin Quarter, and the Champs-Elysees with its Arc de Triomphe as time permits. We’ll stop for lunch on our own around noon, then we’ll go on to enjoy a cruise on the Seine River to see the city sights from the river. Then we walk across the street to the Eiffel Tower, and if we wish, we can ascend to the highest level for the amazing view of the city. Late afternoon, we’ll arrive at the Place de la Republique, on one of the most beautiful squares in Paris, to check into our four star superior Crowne Plaza Republique Hotel, a restored 19th century building. After check-in, we are free to settle in and prepare for dinner. Dinner will be provided at one of the many restaurants in the area of Place de la Republique
DAY 9 – Paris
After a full hot buffet breakfast at the hotel, we depart for Notre Dame Cathedral, where we will hear comments from our guide outside and then visit the interior to complete the tour. On your own you can visit St. Chapelle, the fine Gothic cathedral famed for its extensive stained glass and upper chapel, and the Conciergerie, a prison for 500 years, where Marie Antoinette was held before her execution, now a museum. Then we’ll proceed to the famous Louvre, where our guide will show us the highlights of the famous museum. Originally, in 1190 it was a fortress of King Philippe-Auguste, and today it is a ten-acre complex with over 30 halls of art and history–some of the most famous in the world, including Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa. Lunch is on our own in the area. At 3:00, we transfer to Montmartre, site of the vast and impressive Sacre Coeur Cathedral with its ovoid dome, the second highest point in Paris. Montmartre has been a place for artists for over 200 years. We’ll enjoy the cafes and artist stalls in Place du Tertre near the cathedral, and we can find an early Parisian church dating to the 6th century and a gallery displaying over 300 works of Salvador Dali. Montmartre is also the site of the last vineyard in the city. Dinner is on our own tonight, and we can stay and enjoy it at Montmartre, or you can take the coach back to the hotel at 6:00 PM and choose another restaurant. Hotel: Crowne Plaza Republique
DAY 10 – Paris
After breakfast at the hotel, we board the coaches for the short drive out of Paris to the Palace of Versailles, famous for its beautiful royal châteaux and extensive gardens. Our visit to Versailles Palace includes the gardens, Hall of Mirrors, Salon de Venus, Royal Chapel, and much more. We return to Paris and the rest of the day is free for us to explore Paris on our own. At 6:30 PM, we depart from the hotel for our 7:30 dinner together tonight provided at a special restaurant (or you can meet us there). Hotel: Crowne Plaza Republique
DAY 11 – Depart for home
After another great breakfast at the hotel, we board the coach to depart the hotel for the airport to check in at least 2 hours prior to your flight