Discover five of France’s seductive regions… the graceful châteaux of the Loire Valley, the 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.
ACCOMMODATION & MEALS
SIGHTSEEING & GUIDES
Travel insurance is a mandatory requirement and is in addition to the package price.
We are the winner of the Solo Travel Awards 2017 & 2018. We are ATAS accredited A10439 and a member of the Australian Council of Tour Operators (CATO). Encounter Travel is a registered trademark of A Rendezvous Group Pty Ltd ABN 23 119 642 992.
Since 2006 we’ve paved the way for solo travellers to destinations in Australia and across the globe.
PRE TOUR STAY
You need to be in Paris at least the night prior. Consider arriving a few days before the tour starts or staying on after the tour ends. It is also a good practice to arrive a few days prior in case of unexpected flight delays. The cost of the additional night/s of stay applies. Ask our travel team about this option, and the additional costs.
This tour is operated by Albatross Tours. Book with Encounter Travel for your Solo Traveller Saving, and if applicable the Return Traveller Reward (conditions apply), or earn your status as a Return Traveller for future savings. Couples, solo travellers, and groups of friends can book on this tour.
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 where we enjoy a guided tour through 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. Our wonderful hotel for the next 3 nights sits spectacularly directly opposite the Château, within the Château’s enormous, private estate. This evening, we have organized a very special Relais Chambord welcome drink and dinner in its award-winning restauran
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 amongst the cobbled streets of Blois, under the shadow of the cathedral and Royal Palace. Time to discover your own provincial bistro for dinner.
Our morning will be spent exploring the wonderful terraces and 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.
Lunchtime will be at leisure in the old town of Tours around Place Plumereau. Later we follow the Loire Valley, stopping at a Wine Cave for a tasting of local Loire Valley wines, and also to take in the view across the river to the gorgeous Château Chaumont-Sur-Loire. Your evening will be ay leisure in your wonderful Relais Chambord hotel.
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.
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
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.
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.
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: Breakfast, Dinner
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: Breakfast, Dinner
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!
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!).
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. Astounding! Your evening is at leisure in Montpelier.
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: Breakfast, Dinner
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.
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: Breakfast, Dinner
Your tour ends today after breakfast.
Itineraries may be subject to change, due to circumstances outside of our control. If there is any itinerary change prior to departure of significance we aim to inform you prior to travel. Itinerary changes while on tour will be informed by your tour leader/guide while on tour.
Hotels may be subject to change, due to circumstances outside of our control. Should this occur, a hotel of a similar standard will be provided.
HOTEL CHECK IN /CHECK OUT TIMES
If we arrive before the hotel check in time, the hotel will store our luggage until check in time. If luck is on our side, it’s possible hotels may have our rooms (or some of the rooms for our group) ready before the official check in time. If that happens, you’ll be head straight to your room if we arrive before the hotel check in time. As a guide, hotel check in times for most parts of the world range between 2pm to 3pm.
Some twin share rooms may have single beds.
Hotel descriptions are taken from the hotel website and edited to suit our page.
PRE TOUR HOTEL OPTION
Grand Hotel de Sarlat, just two steps from the medieval centre of Sarlat is in a green setting, built around a lovely park and a superb swimming pool, the hotel takes in all the light of Perigord and an exceptionally serene town centre. With elegant and contemporary rooms.
Wi Fi: YES
Arrive to: Paris, France
Depart from: Nice, France
You must hold a valid passport with a minimum of six 6 months validity from your return date to your home country. Ensure you have at least two blank pages in your passport. See 'VISA' information in our MORE INFORMATION section below.
HOTEL CHECK IN /CHECK OUT TIMES
Consider the hotel check in time on arrival and the hotel check out time on departure.
Late check out can be requested but without payment cannot be guaranteed.
If you request flights we will send the itinerary with a price with your tour quote.
If joining the tour from outside Australia, once you have secure your place on the tour please talk to our travel team about making your own flight arrangements. At this time please ask our travel team about airport transfer options.
Transfers are not included. Please make your way from the airport to your hotel where you will be met on day 1.
Read on for other key trip information that you should know before you decide on joining the group.
If this trip seems right for you then we encourage you to book early and secure your place with a deposit. Tour space is limited. Also, many services on this tour must be booked well in advance. To ensure your place, please check trip availability at your earliest convenience
You will enjoy this group experience with a maximum of 28 travellers. This is a Solos Mix tour.
We’ve hand picked a line up of tours with that are popular choices for solo travellers. There’s a mix of travellers, single travellers and couples travelling together – this is our SOLOS MIX offer. From our ‘know-how’ these are trips popular with solo travellers.
We only select small group tours for our Solos Mix selection. There’s a good likelihood of more than a few solo travellers joining the tour.
For all ‘Solos Mix’ international tours receive our exclusive SOLO TRAVELLER SAVING (STS), when you book the tour with us, with your own room
THE PACE [3 out of 5]
Overall, it’s an easy to moderate pace, varying from day to day. There are 3 nights of stay while touring, and a pre tour night included in Paris. Refer to the tour map on the itinerary page for details.
Fit to Travel Holiday Requirements
Visit our Travel Fitness page for more information about the Tour Pace guide.
Travellers of 70 years or over will be required to return a Fit to Travel form that is completed by their doctor.
Touring Physical Requirements
Touring is exciting and diverse and the best way to enjoy your travels is to be sure that you meet the minimum physical requirements required for touring.
In many destinations while touring could be walking on uneven surfaces such as cobble stoned streets, need to climb steep staircases, and/or walk up hills to reach attractions. Also, in some cities tourist transport has limited options for coach drop offs and pick ups and this may mean that travellers are required to walk some distance to reach attractions or hotels, even up to 15 minutes.
Some touring may not be suitable for travellers with mobility issues and/or low fitness levels. If unsure about your suitability for the trip please contact us to seek further advice.
Minimum Mobility Requirements - The Need To Walk
Requirements for joining an Albatross Tour:
A number of tours visit a variety of medieval hilltop towns which may have some steep, uneven cobbled stone streets or castles, and attractions with steep staircases and no lifts. Additionally some larger cities only provide coach passenger drop off points 15 minutes or so walk from the old town centres. Please note: this need to walk from coach drop off points in some European towns and cities is common to ALL Tour Operators. A reasonable amount of walking will be involved, and our tours do require a certain level of fitness and mobility. These tours are not suitable for people with walking difficulties or limitations. If unsure please call our office for further clarification.
ABOUT THE MEALS
It’s regular that trips include welcome dinners and farewell dinners. In addition, other group dining experiences to ensure that everyone can enjoy the benefit of travelling and dining as a group. There’s nothing better than to share a meal with new friends and discuss the day’s adventures.
This is a group tour with a coach driver and Tour Manager. Your Tour Manager is there to assist with group arrangements and to act as the liaison for all tour services.
The role of your TOUR MANAGER is to lead the group, take charge of all the trip logistics on tour, and of course, make sure the trip runs as smoothly as possible so ultimately you have the best possible experience. From time to time, as is the nature of travel, ‘hiccups’ can occur, such as unexpected delays to due to traffic congestion, unexpected weather conditions that make a change of plans necessary, and many other things that go hand in hand with travel. In these circumstances your group leader will do their utmost to make the best possible alternative plans – please be ready to accept that these situations are out of the control of anyone and trust in your group leader to assist as best as possible.
You will be travelling in a first class air conditioned coach. There are a few cruises (not overnight) included in the itinerary. There is also some boat travel as part of touring experiences.
LUGGAGE INFORMATION AND RESTRICTIONS
Hotel porterage for one suitcase per person is included at each stay during your group touring programme. It is not included on the first or last days of your tour when arriving or departing your hotel independently.
Allowance of 20 kilograms for your checked luggage, and one piece of carry on hand luggage on the coach.
TRAVEL GUIDE QUICK FACTS
Visit our Travel Guide page on our website for destination information. These pages contain helpful details including the currency and weather information.
'A great range of attractions to see, offering a broad view of the French countryside and Southern cities.'Leanne, 59 years, Melbourne, VIC