La Belle France Educational Tour
La Belle France tour map

La Belle France

9 Days Paris 3 • St. Malo 1 • Tours 2 • Paris 1

Accommodations

Accommodations in centrally-located three-star or four-star hotels. Rooming on a triple basis. Double rooms: $280 per person.

Transportation

Round-trip transportation on scheduled airline. Deluxe touring motorcoach. Paris Metro Carnet (10 tickets).

Meals

All breakfasts. All dinners.

Guides

Services of a specially-trained passports Tour Director throughout.

Inclusions

Entrances and activities as noted on itinerary.

Travel Protection

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.

Days 1-2: Arrival Paris

Arrival transfer

Day 3: Paris

Paris City Sightseeing, Excursion to Versailles, RER train to Paris

Visit to Notre-Dame Cathedral

Optional Moulin Rouge Cabaret Show: One-way transfer

Day 4: Paris

Visit to the Louvre Museum

Eiffel Tower Level Two: Optional Eiffel Tower Summit, Optional Dinner on the Eiffel Tower

Seine River cruise

Day 5: Paris - St. Malo

View the Bayeux Tapestry, D-Day Beaches, Film at the Arromanches 360 circular cinema, American Cemetery

Day 6: St. Malo - Tours

Tour director-led walking tour in Saint-Malo

Visit to Mont Saint-Michel Abbey

Day 7: Tours

Excursion to Loire Valley Châteaux: Visit to the Château de Chenonceau, Chenonceau audioguide, Visit to the Château de Chambord, Chambord HistoPad interactive tablet

Day 8: Tours - Paris

Chartres Cathedral

Day 9: Departure

Departure transfer

Days 1-2: Arrival

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 set out to explore one of the world's most beautiful capital cities.

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.

Day 3: Paris City Sightseeing, Excursion to Versailles, RER train to Paris, Notre-Dame Cathedral, Optional Moulin Rouge

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.

Visit to the State Apartments and Hall of Mirrors

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 egos of these kings and queens.

Then, take a stroll around the Main Gardens.

Return to Paris using the efficient RER transit system.

Visit to Notre-Dame Cathedral

Cross the River Seine to get to the boat-shaped island known as the Ile de la Cité, the very heart of the ancient city which the Romans called Lutetia. There, visit Notre-Dame de Paris. This cathedral has presided over centuries of glorious and somber French history, from its construction in the Middle Ages to its desecration during the French Revolution, and the coronation of Napoléon Bonaparte in 1804 (the 35-year-old upstart crowned himself emperor, with the Pope and all of Europe watching). Admire its bas-reliefs, statuary, gargoyles and remarkable rose windows.

Optional Moulin Rouge Cabaret Show

This evening, enjoy a show at the Moulin Rouge (Red Windmill). There's indeed a windmill on the top of this famous building, which is one of the landmarks of the district known as Pigalle, at the foot of the Montmartre hill. The Moulin Rouge presents a truly fantastique cabaret show, albeit a little risqué!

The transfer back to the hotel is provided for the 11 pm show.

Day 4: Louvre, Paris, Eiffel Tower, Seine River Cruise

Visit the grand Musée du Louvre. Walk along restored galleries, view ancient treasures, and don't miss the underground galleria beneath I. M. Pei's glass pyramid. You will see Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, the Vénus de Milo, and many other masterpieces.

Free time in Paris

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.

Eiffel Tower Level Two

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.

Optional Eiffel Tower Summit

Availability permitting, you'll ascend to the third level of the tower.

Optional Dinner on the Eiffel Tower

Enjoy a three-course dinner at the restaurant 58 Tour Eiffel.

Seine River cruise

See Paris transformed into a wonderland like no other during a cruise along the River Seine.

Day 5: Bayeux, D-Day Beaches, St. Malo

Head west to the Normandy city of Bayeux, which was the first French city to be liberated by the Allies on D-Day, and one of the few in the area that escaped major damage. It has kept its 14th-century half-timbered houses and a magnificent cathedral which overlooks the city.

Discover the city's treasure, the 230-foot-long Tapisserie de Bayeux, embroidered in the 11th century to chronicle the invasion of England by the Normans in 1066, almost 900 years before the Normandy D-Day landing of 1944.

D-Day Beaches

This is indeed Second World War country: sobering memorials, bunkers, and occasional remnants of barbed wire. Three-quarters of a century after D-Day, the beaches of Normandy are still referred to by their WWII code names.

Film at the Arromanches 360 circular cinema

Stop on the cliff that overlooks the landing beach of Arromanches to watch the impressive Normandy's 100 Days HD film with surround sound that's presented on nine screens. It places the spectator in the middle of the Battle of Normandy, thanks to archival footage.

American Cemetery

Just over the coastal bluffs, in Colleville-sur-Mer, lie the 9,387 military graves of the American Cemetery, which you will visit. The endless, crisp rows are poignant reminders of heroic days that changed the outcome of World War II.

Travel to St. Malo

Proceed to the medieval harbor known as la Cité des Corsaires for famous native seafarers such as Surcouf, who captured countless English ships, and Jacques Cartier, who sailed to the New World and up Canada's St. Lawrence River in 1535. Saint-Malo is perched on a rock at the mouth of the River Rance, its only link to the mainland a narrow causeway.

Day 6: St. Malo Walking Tour, Mont St. Michel, Tours

Enjoy the walled city of St. Malo in the company of your courier. See landmarks such as the Cathédrale Saint-Vincent (whose 12th-century nave, lit by sparkling modern stained-glass windows, houses Jacques Cartier's tomb), and the 15th-century castle with its Tour Quiquengrogne. You may want to stroll along the ramparts for great views. Look for souvenirs along the narrow shop-lined streets.

Travel to Tours, via Mont St. Michel,

See how the Mont rises out of the sea mists, its spired abbey church perched upon a mountain of granite.

On your way up the hill for a visit to the abbey, you will walk along steep streets filled with tales of pilgrimages and of prisoners who were once kept on this small island.

On the way back, spend some time browsing in the village's souvenir shops. Have a look at the surrounding seabed, a flat sandy expanse at low tide, where incoming tides are said to rush in as fast as a galloping horse.

Vineyards color the roads of the Vallée de la Loire. The poet Joachim du Bellay spoke eloquently about the douceur angevine of the sister province: in Touraine, you will feel the douceur tourangelle of a region regarded as the Jardin de la France.

Arrive in Tours, hometown of Saint Martin and of the novelist Honoré de Balzac. Of particular interest is the renovated Vieux-Tours with its Gothic cathedral, towers and timbered houses.

Day 7: Excursion to Loire Valley Chateaux

An excursion takes you into the very essence of the history and culture of France. See two of France's loveliest châteaux, which define the sophistication of the Renaissance.

Visit to the Château de Chenonceau

Visit the prettiest of the Loire Valley châteaux, which spans the River Cher. In 1547, King Henri II gave this property to his mistress, Diane de Poitiers. On her orders, splendid gardens were added and a bridge was built to link the castle to the other bank of the Cher. The famous gallery later erected upon that bridge by Queen Catherine de Medici served as an escape route during World War II between Nazi-occupied northern France and unoccupied southern France.

An audioguide is included.

Visit to the Château de Chambord

Visit the largest of the Loire Valley castles, with 440 rooms and 80 staircases. At the age of 25, King François I decided to build this sumptuous residence, but over the 32 years of his reign he spent only 42 days at Chambord! Today, visitors marvel at the park (enclosed by a wall 18 miles long), at the grand façade, and at the spirals of the Grand Escalier, which cross and recross as they rise from the Salle des Gardes to a 100-foot turret crowning a roof adorned with 365 chimneys!

Let the 3D and virtual reality technology of your HistoPad Chambord fill up castle rooms as they were in their heyday, back in the 16th century, while you listen to automatically triggered commentaries.

Day 8: Chartres, Paris

Today, travel to the region known as the Ile-de-France.

The spires of la Cathédrale de Chartres first come into view, solemnly rising above the wide-open fields of La Beauce. Soon, you're facing the most beautiful Gothic structure in Europe, reputed for its stunning stained-glass windows. As you will see, this cathedral defines Gothic architecture and the concept of the flying buttress.

Pick up speed on the autoroute that takes you into a whole different world: the stately monuments and broad boulevards of the French capital.

Day 9: Departure

Most good things must come to an end. Your suitcase full of memorabilia and of photos ready to be processed, you'll arrive home later today, eager to share your discoveries with family and friends.

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