Discover some of France’s most idyllic towns, including Lyons-la-Forêt, listed as one of the most beautiful villages in France; the seaside resort town of Honfleur, a favorite among the Impressionists; and Le Bec-Hellouin, a village with an exceptionally profound religious past that can still be sensed as well as seen. Visit Normandy’s historical hubs, Caen and Bayeux, home to the Medieval depiction of the Battle of Hastings on a tapestry from the 11th century, and walk the beaches of Normandy where Allied forces landed during WWII’s D-Day Invasion. Conclude your journey in Brittany, discovering all of its splendid treasures—the high-wall city of St. Malo, charming medieval Dinan, the seaside village of Dinard, and the magical island monastery of Mont St. Michel.
Meander through Monet’s gardens in Giverny
Discover the Italian Renaissance garden of Château d’Ambleville
Visit Château de Harcourt Arboretum, one of the richest gardens in Europe
Enjoy some of Paris’ most famous sights during your panoramic tour. Be guided through the charming Latin Quarter, home to the world-famous Sorbonne University, and through the stunning 400-year-old Luxembourg Gardens, created by King Henry IV’s widow, Marie de’ Medici. Afterward, travel through Paris and see sights like the Champs-Élysées with its cinemas, sidewalk cafes, luxury specialty shops; the Arc de Triomphe; and the Eiffel Tower. (B,L,D)
The French commune of Mantes-La-Jolie was founded in the early Middle Ages and served as a port between Paris and Rouen. You’ll have three different ways to explore this port, each with a knowledgeable local guide. The first is a city tour during which you may see some of Mantes-La-Jolie’s beautiful religious structures, like the Gothic Notre Dame de Mantes, followed by a tasting of regional delights at a local market. Alternatively, enhance your best self with a bike tour and venture further through the city to take in more of its history and charm. Or, visit the distinctive Château d’Anet, an elegant Renaissance chateau built in the 16th century by King Henri II for his mistress, Diane de Poiters.
Experience the colorful splendor of Claude Monet’s magnificent gardens at his former home in Giverny, taking in the water lilies, Japanese bridges, and graceful willow trees immortalized in his paintings. For a more active adventure, pedal through Vernon on a guided bike tour. Or journey to Château de Gaillon, a picturesque Renaissance-style castle, as well as the beautiful Gardens d’Acquigny, boasting waterfalls, bridges, canals, and a wide variety of trees and plant life. If you prefer experiencing the world through your taste buds, join a tasting tour during which you’ll get a chance to try the region’s famous apple-based calvados, cider, and cheese.
Spend the morning enjoying medieval Rouen with a choice of several excursions. Join a walking tour past the imposing Notre Dame Cathedral, painted numerous times by Monet, and see the square where Joan of Arc was martyred, as well as the Medieval Quarter and Great Clock. You also have the choice to explore Lyons-la-Forêt, built on the site of a former fortress and featuring remarkable centuries-old architecture; or go on the “Tastes of Normandy” tour, where you’ll be treated to the delicious flavors of the region, including chocolate, macaron, Norman cheese, and cider. Later in the day, visit the idyllic castle Vascoeuil with its octagonal tower, art exhibitions, and sculpture park, then enjoy a scenic cruise before biking through Rouen or experiencing another local château, the Gothic Château d’Etelan, where you may see the medieval cellar, castle wall, and guardhouse dating back to 1350.
Caudebec-en-Caux is your gateway to several excursions. Visit Bayeux, with a medieval city center and the world-renowned Bayeux Tapestry, which depicts the 1066 Norman invasion of England, followed by a visit to Caen, where one of the top sites is the Château de Caen, an 11th-century castle built by William the Conqueror. Or instead, admire the 30-acre Harcourt Arboretum, with its nearly 3,000 trees, as well as the palatial Château du Champ de Bataille and the commune of Le Bec-Hellouin, known for its 11th-century abbey. Or, choose instead to enjoy a scenic cruise from Caudebec-en-Caux to Le Havre, where you can enjoy free time to explore or take an afternoon bike tour.
There are several different choices of excursions, both during the morning and afternoon, depending on your interests. You can choose between an excursion to the seaside town of Honfleur, renowned for its picturesque harbor and for being an inspirational site for Impressionist painters, or join a city tour of the UNESCO-designated Le Havre followed by a tasting at Les Halles Market. Alternatively, you have the choice of a bike tour through Le Havre. You can also choose a full-day excursion to see the historic Normandy Beaches, where you may visit such sites as the cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, Omaha Beach, the artillery battery at Longues-sur-Mer, and the village of Arromanches, where the remains of the floating harbor used during the WWII landings can be seen.
The trip might have been the absolute best of our lifetime (thus far). We particularly want to commend our guide Peter in the Guilin area-he was so incredibly attentive, energetic, enthusiastic-and absolutely dedicated to ensuring that our meals were 100% vegetarian.