September 19 – October 2, 2018 (14 days)
Explore the magnificent châteaux of the Loire, cruising the beautiful Loire Valley, and sample the rich culture and history of Bretagne and Normandy.
Places: Bouchemaine - Ancenis - Saint-Nazaire - Blois - Chambord - Orleans - Chenonceaux - Rouen - Amboise - Angers - St.-Malo - Caen - Giverny - Nantes - Le Mont-St.-Michel
Departure for Europe.
We transfer to the hotel. After check in there is time to relax before dinner. (D)
Leaving Paris, we travel south and stop in Orléans for a brief introductory tour. This ancient city was a Gallic stronghold in the time of the Druids, destroyed by Caesar and rebuilt by emperor Aurelian, then a kingdom in the Merovingian era, and as it controlled one of the bridges over the Loire, it was one of the richest cities in medieval France. Jeanne d’Arc, the Maid of Orléans, first gained notoriety when sent on a relief mission to the besieged city during the Hundred Years’ War. After time for lunch on your own, we visit the massive and imposing French Renaissance Château de Chambord, built as a hunting lodge for King Francis I perhaps in consultation with his pensioner, Leonardo da Vinci. We then continue to Blois where we check in and have dinner. (B,D)
Today we visit Amboise, a scenic town once home to the royal court. Mary Queen of Scots spent much of her early life here in the court of Henry II, and Leonardo da Vinci spent the last years of his life here as guest of the King Frances I not thirty years earlier. Then after time for lunch on your own, we will visit Chenonceaux, one of the most elegant and recognizable of the valley’s famous palaces, which rests on arches spanning the river Cher surrounded by formal gardens and woods. We return to Blois and you have time for dinner on your own this evening. (B)
We’ll enjoy a morning tour of the pretty and historic town of Blois, with its richly ornamented royal Château. After time to enjoy lunch on your own, this afternoon we continue to Nantes and board the Loire Princesse. Before dinner we’ll meet the crew and enjoy a Welcome drink. (B,D)
We begin with a guided visit to Nantes and the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany.
In the afternoon we’ll tour Saint-Nazaire, one of the most prominent seaports for the region. We’ll visit the Escal’Atlantic and Saint-Nazaire shipyard to learn more about the maritime history of one of the largest shipyards in Europe. We rejoin the ship in Saint Nazaire for the night and enjoy an evening of music and dancing. (B,L,D)
The vessel sets sail early this morning, cruising until we reach Ancenis in the early afternoon. We’ll visit the Muscadet Wine Route and the charming medieval town of Clisson. (B,L,D)
OPTIONAl: LOIRE FLY OVER
Admire the Loire from above by helicopter. Leaving from Ancenis, experience an unforgettable flight over the Loire River.
We spend the morning cruising toward Bouchemaine. This afternoon we will visit the town of Angers, capital of the Anjou region. Visiting the 13th-century fortress, we’ll be able to see the Apocalypse Tapestry, which is a large and important series of the oldest surviving medieval.
OPTIONAL: BRISSAC WINE TASTING
Visit the Château de Brissac and the castle cellars and enjoy a wine tasting.
We devote the full day to exploring the most fairytale castles of the Loire.
We’ll leave by coach for the Azay-le-Rideau Château. Built on a small island in the middle of the Indre River, the château as it is seen today was built under Francis I by Gilles Berthelot, a wealthy financier who wanted to incorporate its medieval past alongside the latest architectural styles of the Italian Renaissance. The Château is a French National Monument and possesses all the refinement found in the French Renaissance. We’ll continue to Villandry for lunch. After lunch, enjoy a walk through the Château’s famous and extensive gardens. Finally, we’ll continue to Ussé Château, thought to be the setting which inspired Charles Perrault when writing “Sleeping Beauty”. Still inhabited today, this stronghold was rebuilt in the 15th and 16th centuries. With its iconic fortified towers, turrets and steeples, the castle looks perfectly suited to fairytale romance.
Returning to the ship, we look forward to a Gala dinner this evening, followed by an evening of music and dancing. The ship sets sail during the evening for Nantes and continues through the night. (B,L,D)
This morning we arrive in Nantes and disembark. Travelling north, we’ll stop in scenic Saint-Malo to allow time for lunch and then proceed to the fortified island hermitage of Mont St. Michel, the famed UNESCO World Heritage Site. We end the day in Normandy. (B,D)
We’ll dedicate the day to exploring D-Day sites as we travel to Juno beach for a brief visit to the museum dedicated to the landing of Canadians on this stretch of the coast. We also visit Beny-Sur-Mer Canadian Cemetery and then travel along the Landing beaches, seeing the Mulberry harbour off Arromanches and stopping at Omaha Beach before returning to Caen. (B,D)
Today we have an introductory tour of Caen, and we will visit the Abbaye aux Hommes, founded by William the Conqueror. Although he was buried here according to his wishes, the grave has been opened twice and most of his bones scattered. Then there is some time at leisure for you to explore on your own, shop, or perhaps visit the excellent Peace Museum. Alternatively, you can join us for a drive to picturesque Honfleur, the town from which Samuel de Champlain departed for the New World. (B)
Travel to Rouen, site of Joan of Arc’s trial and martyrdom. The town retains much of its centuries-old charm in the historic centre surrounding the exquisite cathedral. Enjoy time for lunch there before we proceed to Giverny, where Claude Monet lived and worked. We end the day in the Paris area and enjoy a final dinner together. (B,D)
Transfer to the airport for your flight home or Extend your stay in the City of Lights. (B)