Accommodations in centrally-located three-star or four-star hotels. Rooming on a triple basis. Double rooms: $320 per person.
Round-trip transportation on scheduled airline. Deluxe touring motorcoach.
All breakfasts. All dinners.
Services of a specially-trained passports Tour Director throughout.
Entrances and activities as noted on itinerary.
passports provides and pays for a Post Departure Travel Protection Plan that includes coverage for Trip Interruption, Trip Delay, Baggage Loss or Delay, Medical Expense and Evacuation and more.
Paris City Sightseeing, Excursion to the Palace of Versailles, RER train to Paris
Photo stop near Notre-Dame Cathedral
Visit to the Louvre Museum
Eiffel Tower Level Two ascent: Optional Eiffel Tower Summit (subject to availability)
Optional Capitaine Fracasse dinner cruise
Seine River cruise
Departure transfer, TGV Train Paris-Biarritz, Arrival transfer
Visit to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
Guided walking tour in Burgos: Visit to Burgos Cathedral
Half-day city sightseeing: Guide, Prado headset, Visit to the Prado Museum
Optional Excursion to El Escorial and the Valley of the Fallen: Visit to the Royal Monastery of El Escorial, Visit to the Valley of the Fallen
Optional Flamenco dinner and show
Excursion to Toledo: Guided walking tour in Toledo, Visit to Toledo Cathedral, Visit to the Church of Santo Tomé (El Greco's painting), Visit to a historic synagogue
Weeks, or even months of preparation come to fruition at last as you board your airplane bound for Europe and the glittering jewel at her heart, Paris, the "City of Light." Bienvenue!
Settle into your hotel, then have a look at one of the world's most beautiful capital cities.
Time permitting, you may want to head to Montmartre, Paris' highest hill and its most celebrated bohemian district. Artists still flock to the charming Place du Tertre, as they did when Toulouse-Lautrec painted the French Cancan dancers at the famous Moulin Rouge cabaret. Visitors enjoy panoramic views of the city as they make their way to the Sacré-Coeur, the white-domed basilica that anchors the Parisian skyline.
Set out on a coach tour of the city in the company of a local guide. On the Right Bank of the River Seine, see Napoléon's Arc de Triomphe, the Champs-Elysées, the Place de la Concorde, and the exuberant Opéra Garnier. On the Left Bank, discover the Eiffel Tower, the Invalides, the Latin Quarter and Saint-Germain-des-Prés.
Enjoy a bit of relevant French history today at the palace where the Sun King, Madame de Pompadour and Queen Marie-Antoinette all come to life. In this ultimate example of Baroque architecture, you will marvel at the lavish decoration, abundant gilding and exuberant ornamentation, particularly in the Royal Apartments of Louis XIV and in the Hall of Mirrors. Imagine the sense of self-importance that must have inflated the ego of these kings and queens.
Then, take a stroll around the Main Gardens.
Return to Paris using the efficient RER transit system.
View Notre-Dame de Paris, gutted by the fire of April 15, 2019, but still standing, solemn and magnificent with its iconic towers miraculously preserved from destruction.
Begun in 1163 and completed in 1272, this cathedral has presided over centuries of glorious and somber French history, including its desecration during the French Revolution. In 1831, Victor Hugo launched a campaign of restoration with a novel he titled Notre Dame de Paris. Because he saw the cathedral as the main character, he strongly objected to the title of the English edition: The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
The remainder of the day is free to plan as you wish.
Take a stroll along the glamorous Avenue des Champs-Elysées, which stretches for more than a mile from the Place de la Concorde, where Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette encountered Dr. Guillotin's invention and their fate. The obelisk at the center of the square was presented by Egypt to France in 1831 and dates back to the 13th century BC, a relic of Ramses II. In the vicinity stands the Palais de l'Elysée, built in 1718, which now serves as the residence of the President of the Republic. At the other end of the avenue, the Arc de Triomphe looms over the city's craziest rotary. (You may want to climb up to the monument's platform for a great overview of the area!)
Enter the Musée du Louvre and walk along grand galleries filled with treasures. See Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, the Vénus de Milo sculpted between 130 and 100 BC, the 19th century painting depicting The Coronation of Napoléon among many other masterpieces.
The afternoon is unscheduled.
You may wish to visit the Musée de la Parfumerie Fragonard housed in the Théâtre des Capucines, a theater built in 1900 that was transformed into a museum in 1993. Its collections illustrate the history and manufacture of perfume. A mini-factory with a 19th-century copper distilling apparatus demonstrates the extraction of essences. Visitors also learn all about the esoteric artistry of the "Noses."
For a change of pace, go have a look at 21st-century Paris at the Quartier de la Défense, on the outskirts of the city. Admire la Grande Arche, a feat of modern architecture with its hollow cube large enough to contain Notre-Dame. See how it is situated in near-perfect alignment with the Arc de Triomphe, the Place de la Concorde and the Louvre (you may want to take the elevator to the top for a better perspective). Check out Les Quatre Temps, a huge shopping center located nearby.
Take an elevator to the deuxième étage of the most famous cast iron structure ever built, la Tour Eiffel, for an unforgettable panorama of Paris.
Ascend to the third level of the tower.
This evening, dine in style and see illuminations transform Paris into a wonderland like no other as the Capitaine Fracasse cruise ship takes you along the River Seine.
See Paris transformed into a wonderland like no other during a cruise along the River Seine.
Hop on to the fastest train in the world, the Train à Grande Vitesse. Speed south to the seaside resort of Biarritz, located on the beautiful Côte d'Argent.
Biarritz is famous for having one of the longest stretches of sandy beach in Europe, dubbed "Beach of Queens and the Queen of Beaches" ever since Queen Victoria and Empress Eugénie of France vacationed there in the 19th century. In 1918, Pablo Picasso depicted this beach in his painting titled Les Baigneuses. Nowadays, Biarritz is popular with surfers from all over the world, thus earning the nickname of "California of France."
Enjoy some free time this morning.
On to Spain today and Bilbao, the largest city in the Basque Autonomous Community. They say that the greatest building of the 21st century has already been built, and that it's in Bilbao!
This temple of modern art in the capital of the Spanish Basque region is one of Spain's top attractions, as you will see during a visit to its collections.
Other city landmarks in Bilbao include the Casco Viejo (Old Quarter), the Catedral de Santiago, the arcaded Plaza Nueva, the riverside Ayuntamiento and the huge Basílica de Begoña, from which visitors may catch a stunning view of the city and its rust-colored river, the Nervion.
Travel across the Castilian countryside to Burgos, long prominent among Spanish cities.
A walking tour along with a local guide will show you the sights of Burgos.
Enter the magnificent Catedral de Santa María de Burgos, begun in 1221 and completed in 1567. It once was an important pilgrims' station on the traditional Way of St. James, the path followed through the centuries by pilgrims converging from all over Europe on their walk to Santiago de Compostela. El Cid, the 11th-century warrior who became a legend, is buried in this cathedral.
Head south, crossing the Sierra de Guadarrama on your way to Madrid.
Get settled in your madrileño hotel and explore your surroundings.
On a tour of the city, you will be introduced to the sights and the city grand squares: Plaza Mayor, Puerta del Sol, Plaza de España with the Cervantes Monument, Gran Vía, Calle Alcalá, Plaza de Colón, and Plaza de Cibeles with its fountains.
A half-day local guide, well-educated and specially-trained on the history and culture of Madrid and its surroundings, will accompany your group.
View world-famous paintings by El Greco, Goya, and Velázquez, and much. much more, at the magnificent Museo del Prado.
The afternoon is unscheduled.
You may wish to visit the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía to view modern works by Dalí, Miró and Picasso, notably the haunting Guernica, a memorial to the victims of the Nazi bombing of a Basque village, long kept out of Spain because of the artist's refusal to recognize Franco's dictatorship.
Set out for the wooded slopes of Mt. Abantos, watershed of the Guadarrama River, where Spanish royalty retreated from the summer heat and from the bustle of the capital city.
At the palatial religious retreat of King Philip II, El Escorial, you will see the Royal Pantheon where the kings are buried, the Crypt of the Royal Children, the Apartments of King Philip, the Basilica with Titian's fresco depicting the martyrdom of St. Lawrence, and the lavish library, which contains 40,000 rare manuscripts, including the diary of St. Teresa of Avila.
Stop at the Valle de los Caídos, a wooded belvedere nestled in the Guadarrama Mountains that features the world's largest monumental cross. It's also the site of an underground basilica that General Franco ordered carved inside a hill of solid granite by prisoners of war from the Republican side: it houses his tomb and was intended as a monument to Fascism. Make your way across the vast esplanade for a panoramic view of valleys and mountains.
A well-educated and specially-trained local guide will accompany your group.
Tonight, enjoy dinner and an evening of traditional entertainment, flamenco! The poet Federico García Lorca called it "the most gigantic creation of the Spanish people." You will long remember its complex and insistent rhythms, castanets, guitars and clacking heels as the highlight of your trip to Spain.
Toledo is surrounded on three sides by the Río Tajo, which has cut a deep gorge out of the encircling mountains. Christianity, Judaism and Islam coexist on the tiny streets of this ancient city, which was once the capital of Spain. Indeed, the entire panorama of Spanish history is embodied in its churches, synagogues, Moorish mosques and fortifications.
Your guided walking tour starts at the main square, Plaza de Zocodover.
Visit one of the most impressive Spanish cathedrals, completed in 1492, after nearly 300 years. Its treasury contains an impressive display of gold and silver vessels and alabaster sculpture.
Visit the Church of St. Thomas to view El Greco's Burial of the Count of Orgaz, a fresco commissioned in honor of a Spanish nobleman who was known for his generosity and charitable deeds.
Enjoy a visit to one of the city's two remaining medieval synagogues.
The afternoon is unscheduled.
Why not stroll through Retiro Park. Once royalty's playground, El Parque del Retiro now opens its gardens and recreational areas to the public. You may be tempted by a row boat ride on the lake (you row!), or by a solar boat ride (you relax!).
¡Adios España! Madrid's airport recedes and you're 500 miles closer to home with each hour in the air. Race the sun westward, arriving home later today, eager to share your experiences with family and friends.
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