Attention 2020 Travelers! Enrollments received by May 15 get a $175 discount.
Accommodations in centrally-located three-star or four-star hotels. Rooming on a triple basis. Double rooms: $240 per person.
Round-trip transportation on scheduled airline.
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: Local Guide
Visit to Notre-Dame Cathedral
Seine River cruise
Optional Excursion to the Loire Valley: Visit to the Château de Chenonceau, Lunch in Chenonceaux, Visit to the Château de Chambord, Chambord HistoPad interactive tablet
Eiffel Tower Level Two: Optional Eiffel Tower Summit (subject to availability), Optional Dinner on the Eiffel Tower
Departure transfer, Flight Paris-Madrid, Arrival transfer
Half-day city sightseeing: Local Guide, Visit to the Prado Museum, Prado headset
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
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.
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.
A full-day local guide, well-educated and specially-trained on the history and culture of Paris and its surroundings, will accompany your group.
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.
Enter 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. Admire its bas-reliefs, statuary, gargoyles, and remarkable rose windows.
See Paris transformed into a wonderland like no other during a cruise along the River Seine.
Plan your free time or consider an optional excursion.
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.
Discover 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, during World War II, as an escape route between Nazi-occupied northern France and unoccupied southern France.
Lunch is included on this excursion.
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.
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.
Enjoy a three-course dinner at the restaurant 58 Tour Eiffel located on the first level of the Eiffel Tower.
Enjoy some free time in Paris.
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!)
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."
Check out Rue Cler, a pedestrian-only street lined with shops that are quintessentially French. You will see boulangeries with crunchy breads, pâtisseries with scrumptious pastries, boucheries and charcuteries with their array of meats, poissonneries with freshly caught seafood and fromageries with the proverbial 365 kinds of French cheeses. There are also wine shops and épiceries with fresh fruit and produce. In addition, every morning (except Mondays) and again in the late afternoon (except Sundays), Rue Cler hosts an open-air market whose stalls overflow with more foodstuff and goods. This is the place to shop for a truly-French picnic (there's a park nearby).
Today's flight takes you from France to Spain.
¡Bienvenidos! Welcome to Madrid, the bustling capital of Spain.
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 remainder of the day is free to plan as you wish.
For lunch, why not duck into a sidewalk mesón for a sopa de pescado or some calamares?
Consider a visit to the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, which houses one of the largest private collections of paintings ever assembled, with some 800 works ranging from the 13th century to the present day.
Set out for the 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 half-day local guide will accompany your group.
The afternoon is unscheduled.
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!).
Of course, in Spain one must experience the tapas, the delightful snacks served in any bars de tapas; why not sample them today?
¡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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