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Take a walk through Paris's grand past, its dynamic present and exciting future - this is one capital city that doesn't hold back and doesn't expect you to either. Dive right into its history, culture and culinary delights, from the iconic Iron Lady to croque-monsieurs, lazing on the banks of the Seine, museums and monuments. After checking in there's time to relax or explore the city your way, but you might like to get a head start on your sightseeing and join an Optional Experience, including dinner and a scenic drive stopping at all the best photo spots.
The Parisians know a thing or two about beauty, elegance and a life well lived which your full day in Paris will deliver in abundance. Hit its grand boulevards on a city sightseeing tour conducted by your Travel Director. See the Arc de Triomphe and Champs Élysées then spend the rest of the day discovering the city on your terms. Don't resist the urge to tread in the footsteps of Picasso and Dali during an optional visit to Montmartre this afternoon, exploring the maze of streets and Artist's Square. There's time to shop for artwork and savour some local specialities before a real highlight this evening - an optional dinner and cabaret performance.
Au revoir Paris. The City of Lights will keep shining, but for now our sights are set on medieval Beaune where the official joie de vivre is the local wine: making, tasting, and most of all drinking it. Later today you'll arrive in Lyon. Get your bearings during your orientation tour in preparation for a free afternoon to explore the city on your terms. If you really want to discover its secrets, consider joining an Optional Experience which will deliver France's gastronomic capital on a plate.
A brief brush with the Papacy in the 14th century has gifted Avignon with some of the world's most incredible religious architectural legacies. The heart of Provence may no longer hold the importance that the Vatican does today, but views of its Palace of the Popes and St. Bénezet Bridge are no less inspiring. The last leg of your journey southwards stretches out to the shimmering Mediterranean coast, where the Principality of Monaco awaits. Keep your cameras at the ready as you drive along its elegant boulevards and attempt to capture the sophistication that seems to ooze from every corner. Next stop, the glamorous Côte d'Azur.
Ooh là là! A full free day on the French Riviera. There's no shame in spending the day sprawled out on a sun-lounger with a cocktail, but if you can pull yourself away from the pool you'll want to join your fellow travellers for an optional exploration of Saint-Paul-de-Vence. Life is rather idyllic in this enchanting walled hill-town and, like some of its famous residents, you'll want to linger here a little longer, but the sun-kissed promenades of Nice beckon and you'll join your Local Specialist to explore its old town and colourful Provençal markets instead. You never know who you might spot seated in those sleek Ferraris and private yachts that dot the French Riviera.
Fuel up on a characteristically French breakfast of croissant and coffee before embarking on your next adventure. There's not a stone out of place as you'll come to discover yourself when you view the magnificent Pont du Gard, an aqueduct carefully constructed in the first century to supply fresh water to the nearby towns. The remarkable ingenuity of the Romans still fresh in your mind, you'll continue to Nîmes where you'll have some time after check-in to see how the Roman Empire left its magic touch on its architecture. During your afternoon you could choose to delve into the secret stories and life of Vincent van Gogh who was inspired to paint many of his most renowned paintings in Provence.
Like a scene straight from the pages of a children's storybook, Carcassonne stands proudly on a hillside behind fortified stone walls. Its undeniable charm is evident when you come across the town's 12th-century architecture and turreted medieval castle. From fairy tales to the foothills of the Pyrénées, your next stop is the pilgrimage town of Lourdes where you'll tread in the footsteps of the millions of Catholics who have made the journey to pay homage to St. Bernadette and view the basilica on top of the Grotto where she is said to have seen visions of the Virgin Mary. This evening presents an opportunity to join a procession by torchlight with the pilgrims - a truly magical and moving experience.
The beach is back on the agenda today, so get your hat and sunglasses ready for a trip to the glamorous seaside town of Biarritz on the Atlantic coast. There's no need to think about what to do next. Take your cue from the European royals who have been visiting this resort town since the 1800s and find your new favourite spot on a wicker chair in the sun. If watching local surfers perform their stunts isn't enticing enough, you could choose an Optional Experience into the Pyrénées, catching a funicular to the top of these magnificent mountains. After a good dose of sun, sea and lofty peaks, it's back into the rolling countryside of Les Landes and onwards to our final destination of the day, Bordeaux.
After a night sampling Bordeaux blends and the city's eclectic mix of street life and well-preserved 18th-century architecture, a new adventure awaits. While the hill-top village of St. Émilion is an appealing stop for red wine lovers, today's focus keeps us on our path alongside the unusual buildings of Futuroscope, the amusement and science theme park at Poitiers. This is château country and there's no better way to explore it than joining an optional wine tasting at a UNESCO-listed vineyard, complete with a tour of the underground cellars. Later arrive in the city of Tours, the gateway to the Loire Valley. At its car-free centre you'll discover a fascinating medieval reflected in its timber-framed houses and renaissance mansions.
Indulge your inner king or queen when you embark on a whimsical tour to Chenonceau with a Local Specialist. This enchanting fairy-tale château straddling the Cher River is the most photographed structure in the Loire Valley and it's easy to see why. Explore its priceless collections of Renaissance art and furniture and stroll through its exquisite landscaped gardens before continuing to the Château d'Amboise where Leonardo da Vinci is said to be buried. Your encounter with French nobility not quite at its end, you'll head to the splendid Château de Chambord, one of the world's most remarkable châteaux. Make the most of your last night back in Tours with an Optional Experience in the Old Town and Touraine cuisine in a traditional restaurant.
Only the epic sight of a medieval town rising out of the sea could compete with the beauty of the Loire Valley and your visit to Mont St. Michel will certainly not disappoint. Hear how the Archangel inspired the Bishop of Avranches to build a church atop this rocky outcrop, then continue your journey to the iconic D-Day landing beaches where thousands of Allied soldiers poured out onto French soil, in what became the largest seaborne invasion in history. After a poignant stop at the American cemetery at Omaha Beach, you'll arrive at your hotel in Deauville. This elegant resort is renowned for its racecourse, harbour and high-profile international film festival held in September.
You'll wish you had the talents of Monet during your brief visit to the colourful port town of Honfleur. It's easy to see why this "most ravishing spot in the world" was immortalised on canvas by many of the world's greatest artists. Next head to Rouen which holds the rather unenviable status as the city where Joan of Arc was tragically burned at the stake. Despite this, there's much to fall in love with here, from the city's cobblestone centre to its Gothic churches and impressive cathedral. After a busy day engaging with all that history, you'll return to the glittering French capital for a night on your own. You may consider joining an Optional Experience dinner at a terraced café along the River Seine for a final celebration of your memorable journey with new friends.
And just like that, you've seen all the highlights of France. From Paris and beyond, you'll be finishing your trip this morning with a lifetime's supply of memories. Say a fond au revoir to your Travel Director and newfound friends. Find out more about your free airport transfer at costsavertour.com/freetransfers.
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