Travel by Eurostar from London St Pancras International (exact time of travel will be indicated on travel documents, arriving at Paris Gard du Nord approximately 2hrs 15 mins later). A coach will take you to Vernon near Claude Monet’s house and garden, to the three-star Hotel Normandy, where we dine this evening.
Today you visit Monet’s house and garden. You have all seen Monet’s paintings reproduced in calendars and birthday cards, but to be here, in this spectacular display of colour, is simply an unforgettable experience. In the Japanese inspired water garden, shaded by a great willow tree and surrounded by bamboo trees, rhododendrons and azaleas, is the lily pond, where the famous Les Nymphéas or Water Lilies were painted. Inside the house is also outstanding. Your journey continues to Chartres, where the cathedral is arguably the most magnificent in France with perhaps the most intricate 13th-century stained glass in Europe eventually arriving in the picturesque city of Tours, where you will be staying for four nights’ bed and breakfast at either the three-star superior Kyriad hotel, four-star Novotel Tours Centre Gare or four-star Mercure Tours Hotel, all centrally located on the edge of the Old Town.
After breakfast we enjoy a guided tour of the wonderfully preserved historic centre of Tours. The city’s rich and varied history stretches back as far as the Gallo-Roman period, later becoming the medieval capital of France and seat of the French monarchy. This afternoon we visit Chenonceau, home of Mary Queen of Scots and probably the most stately of the Loire châteaux, majestically hovering on the waters of the River Cher. Later we return to the hotel. This evening you dine in a charming restaurant, full of atmosphere so unique to France.
This morning we visit the stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site, Fontevraud Abbey, for a guided tour. Arguably the greatest monastic establishment left standing in France, the Abbey was once one of the richest and most powerful royal retreats in the world. Next we head to Saumur, described as the ‘pearl of Anjou’, the town is a delightful spot to stop for lunch and wander amongst its magnificent architectural heritage. No visit here would be complete without sampling some of this famous produce, so this afternoon we visit the Ackermann wine cellars for a tasting of some of their award-winning Saumur wines.
This morning we visit the charming town of Chinon, medieval in character dominated by the imposing castle where Joan of Arc first met the Dauphin. You have time to explore this lovely town. In the afternoon, we make our way down the beautiful Loire Valley to the Château Villandry, famous for its unique gardens, consisting largely of colourful vegetables.
This morning we visit Amboise, a delightful little town nestling on the banks of the River Loire. where a royal château sits. Nearby is the Château of Clos Lucé, famous as the final abode of Leonardo da Vinci. Today it houses the Leonardo da Vinci museum, dedicated to his work and the region’s prestigious history. On display are models of his various innovations as well as a copy of the Mona Lisa. Afterwards we continue to our final hotel, where we stay at either the four-star Hotel Mercure Paris Sud Parc du Coudray or the four-star Novotel Fontainebleau Ury, where we also dine.
This morning we visit the beautiful Château of Fontainebleau, just south of Paris, where Napoleon departed to his exile on the island of Elba. It is decorated in fantastic style, with intricate frescoes and parquet floors inlaid with exotic woods. Most impressive is the vast display of exquisite furniture and the formally designed, extensive grounds. Fontainebleau encompasses everything you imagine about a French château: style, opulence, grandeur – even outrageousness. Later you transfer to Paris to take the Eurostar service (exact time will be indicated on travel documents) to London St Pancras International.