2016 Tours

Right, everybody, decision time! The tours for next year are open for reservations – we already have some, which is exciting.

Our first tour starts on June 18th. We travel from Meaux (near Paris) to Epernay in the Champagne District; on to Nitry (Chablis area) for 2 nights, then to the Loire Valley, to stay for 2 nights in an impressive chateau near Amboise. Our last 2 nights are spent in a 15th century chateau between Aubusson (tapestries!) and Limoges (porcelain!). Finally, we have a week in a 5 star villa on the Domain du Cheyssignaguet in the Dordogne – gardens, markets, chateaus, pre-history (Lascaux Cave), food & wine. What more could one ask for?

The second & third tours (20th August and 3rd September) are in Normandy and Brittany – Mont St Michel, the Bayeux Tapestry, the Normandy Landing Beaches, Monet’s garden at Giverny … and lesser-known attractions such as Christian Dior’s childhood home on the Atlantic coast. One week in excellent accommodation en route, 1 week in a 5 star villa near Giverny.

If you hurry up & book, we are offering a 200 Euro discount per person – bookings to be made before December 31st!

Hope we see some of you joining us on our journey of discovery. read some of the testimonials on www.touringfrance.biz and you’ll find out what fun we have!!

Travelling to Provence

Edward Whymper, first man to climb the Barre des Ecrins in the French Alps,

Edward Whymper, first man to climb the Barre des Ecrins in the French Alps,

Typical steep narrow street in Briancon

Typical steep narrow street in Briancon

Bistrot on the Col des Leques

Bistrot on the Col des Leques

Well I’ve really fallen by the wayside with the blogs!  However, I discovered that when one is looking after guests 24/24, there really is very little time to do other things – like a blog. So now the tours are over, I can give you a brief outline of the fun we’ve had, and then maybe some in-depth descriptions of some of the awesome sights and experiences.

We left Beaune heading for the French Alps and had to change our route because we had heard that the Col de Lauteret (one of our favourite routes) was closed because of a rock fall in a tunnel. However we did manage to cross the Col d’Orlon, which gave our group a taste of the “high” life! We arrived at Chateau Picomtal, beside the Lac de Serre Poncon (the largest hydroelectric dam in Europe) where we were hosted by Sharon and Jacques Peurreux. They have done a marvellous job of restoring the chateau, and delight in showing people the video of the renovation.

Next day was a beautiful day, perfect for a boat trip with the Carline on the Lac de Serre Poncon. We spent the morning in Briancon, the highest walled town in France, and on the way back we stopped at the huge carved wooden statue of the British climber Edward Whymper, who was the first to climb the Barre des Ecrins 150 years ago. A lunch stop beside the small Lac de Rame before embarking on the Carline. Before we left the following day, Sharon took everyone on a tour of the chateau and gardens – very impressive.

Heading to the Cote d’Azur, we stopped at the Col des Leques for a delightful lunch of shared platters of meats & cheeses, with a very friendly owner. We arrived at Relais d’Agay, our hotel on Cote d’Esterel, in the afternoon, with time to relax before having drinks and dinner in a restaurant on the beach. Idyllic.

A free day followed, with time to relax on the beach, or – as some did – take a bus the few minutes to St Raphael, to explore the rather more glamorous town. We had an excellent dinner at Maobi Plage, always a superb place to eat, with excellent food and service.

On our final day of travelling we left the Esterel Coast and drove along the Cote d’Azur past St Raphael, Frejus, St Maxime, then got caught in the usual queue going to St Tropez market so headed off into the hills to the beautiful little village of Vieux Grimaud, and on to La Garde Freinet for lunch. After that it was Autoroute du Soleil all the way to Cavaillon and thence to Barbentane, where we had rented a villa on the outskirts. A lovely place which we have rented before, with 4 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, large patio & swimming pool – a very tranquil place.  Though in March it wasn’t so tranquil, the mistral blew down about 40 trees on the property, and the neighbour lost 100 trees!

Long distance travelling over for 2 weeks – time to relax and enjoy our “home”.

A Day in Beaune – WET!

Yes, a wet day, but it didn’t dampen our spirits, and after a superb breakfast of breads, pastries, a delicious cherry clafouti, soft boiled eggs etc, we made our way to the Hotel-Dieu. Also known as the Hospices of Beaune, it was founded in 1443 by Nicholas Rolin, Chancellor of Burgundy, as a hospital for the poor. The elderly, sick & destitute are offered treatment and refuge to this day. A fine example of Northern Renaissance architecture, it is famous for it’s roof of typical Burgundian coloured tiles.

Unfortunately, the Petit Train was booked out by tour groups – it’s usually good to take a Petit Train in various towns, in order to get an overview of the area and history. So after a lunch of onion soup (welcome on this wet day!) we went out of town to the Clos de Vougeot, a vineyard that was established in the 12th century by Cistercian monks. The Chateau itself dates from the Renaissance period. Clos Vougeot was for centuries considered the finest of all burgundies, but no wine is produced there now. The Clos de Vougeot is now the seat of the Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin.

On the way back to our B&B we stopped for a wayside winetasting at Nuits-St-George and bought some excellent Pommard wine!IMG_20150616_085627

En Route to Beaune

First stop, Mondemont-Givroux, to see the Marne Memorial. An amazing structure, and a panoramic view over the Marne Valley. The small graveyard at the church is very interesting, commemorating both the French AND the Germans who fought and died here. The ceramic display board shows the shifting battle lines – it’s hard to believe that this peaceful valley is drenched in blood.

I had read on TripAdvisor such good reviews of the Relais de la Marne at Langres that I decided to book for lunch en route. I was disappointed when Monsieur Vincent told me he wouldn’t be open on the Sunday as he was preparing for a big event. However, in the morning he phoned me to say that he would finish his prep work early and would open for our group!  So kind of him … and when we arrived, we found the restaurant almost full!  Word had obviously spread that he would be open!  And the meal did not disappoint, it was inventive and delicious, and we had a most convivial time. Will definitely go back.

Our stop for the night was Le Clos de L’Aigue, a B&B in Beaune. Beautiful grounds, a peaceful atmosphere, and a warm welcome from Sandrine & Laurent. As is usual on a Sunday, there was no supermarket open, and as our group had eaten a large lunch we didn’t feel like another restaurant meal. So Sandrine very kindly offered us aperitifs and tapas, just what we wanted. We sat outside and enjoyed the food, wine (2 bottles!) and company … and so ended our second day of travelling.

Aperitifs with Sandrine & Laurent, Le Clos de l'Aigue

Aperitifs with Sandrine & Laurent, Le Clos de l’Aigue

Vincent & Filanie, Relais de la Marne

Vincent & Filanie, Relais de la Marne

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First tour 2015

Saturday : By the time we had met up with the others in the team and packed the bags in the van, we arrived in Reims in time for lunch. Such a lovely place to eat – Epicerie Au Bon Manger. Not much to look at from the outside, but a charming welcome from 2 smiling & helpful young women, champagne (of course! After all, we were in the Champagne area), and a shared platter of wonderful meats, cheeses, salad – all organic & with provenance. Just the right sort of meal to start the tour.

On to the Cathedral, where we organised audio guides for the others, then nursed a cold drink in the square in front of the Cathedral while they took in the magnificence & history. After years of public works, the area around the Cathedral is now alive with little restaurants and shops, and shaded with trees. A great place to people watch!

Next we headed off to our accommodation in Epernay, Parva Domus B&B. the only B&B on the Avenue de Champagne, in the old Moet et Chandon family home. It’s great to stroll past all the Champagne Houses, and on the way home after dinner to see their names cast on the footpath in lights. We had aa pleasant meal in the courtyard of La Banque Brasserie in the heart of Epernay.

Au Bon Manger, 7 rue Courmeaux, Reims. Tel. 03 26 03 45 29  www.aubonmanger.fr

La Banque Brasserie, 40 rue de General Leclerc, Epernay.Tel. 03 26 59 50 50  www.brasserie-labanque.fr

Parva Domus, 27 Ave de Champagne, Epernay  Tel 03 26 32 40 74  www.parvadomusrimaire.com

 

Ready to go!

Ready to go!

Cafe in the square in front of Reims Cathedral

Cafe in the square in front of Reims Cathedral

The Loooong Journey to Europe

We left home mid-morning, travelled one hour to Palmerston North Airport, one hour’s flight to Auckland, 4 hours 10 minutes to Melbourne (1 hour 45 minutes in the Transit Terminal), 14 hours 5 minutes to Dubai (3 hours in the Transit Terminal), 7 hours 10 minutes to Paris, half an hour into the city – et voila!  We had arrived! Ouf!

We travelled with Emirates and one thing I do love is the spaciousness of the seats.  It makes such a difference – especially as on both long legs we had a spare seat inbetween us!  That is most unusual these days.  The payoff is that I had chosen seats with a view unobscured by the wing, but obviously the last to be served meals!  And each time we missed out on our choice of meal, leaving at least one of us feeling disgruntled. So when we were handed our menus on the last leg, I politely mentioned that it would be good if we were not left until the last yet again – and hey presto!  Our meals of choice were delivered before ANYONE ELSE on the plane received theirs! With a nice little comment that as we had travelled so far and been so neglected, they thought we deserved better treatment!  Give that girl a medal!

The view from the bedroom looking over Boulevarde de Clichy

The view from the bedroom looking over Boulevarde de Clichy

Our chauffeur from a company called Navendis was waiting for us when we finally managed to collect our luggage, and took us to our lovely apartment we had rented in Montmartre.  We have stayed in this quartier before, just off Place Pigalle and in one of the oldest districts in Paris. The apartment is huge (110 sq.m.), twice the size of most other apartments for 2 to 4 people.  It is a Haussmann building, (Haussmann was the architect commissioned by Napoleon III to redesign Paris) with high ceilings, floor to ceiling windows & doors onto the balconies overlooking the Boulevarde de Clichy and polished wooden floors. The area is vibrant, with lots of restaurants, cafes, crazy little boutique shops, and of course the Moulin Rouge!

The elegant salon in our Pigalle apartment

The elegant salon in our Pigalle apartment

SO here we are, ensconced in “our” home – but sadly only for 3 nights as we start our first tour on Saturday. Then we will be off to Reims and Epernay – wait for it!

www.navendis.com  – a great business taxi company, pre-booked and paid for on line.

www.waytostay.com/parisapartments/ –  Some great apartments to suit all tastes!

Almost Departure Day!

Well, it’s that time again! departure day looms – tomorrow, in fact. Not looking forward to the loooong flight on Emirates, via Melbourne & Dubai, but on Wednesday 10th we will be in Paris. So it will all be worth it! PLEASE let it be warm! Big frost here this morning, must be time to leave.
We’ve rented a Haussman apartment near Place Pigalle, which is huge (110 sq.m) which we will share with a friend for 3 nights. It looks beautiful, wish we could be there for longer. But duty calls … will post a photo when we arrive there!

Touring France with Sue & David

Approximately 17 days of the France that many people never get to see. Your experienced guides, Sue & David Sweet, have travelled throughout France many (many) times, and know all the little places that you just won’t get to on a coach tour, or even travelling independently. Tours are a maximum of six guests, and it is a fun and friendly way to experience ‘la belle France’.

Dinner at Le Vieux Guide
With no language barrier (Sue being fluent in French, and David  . .  well, not bad!), your tour takes in the smaller towns and villages, with nights in converted chateaux, and B&Bs. You will visit village markets, dine at country restaurants, travel through the country for a week and spend 10 days in a villa where it is great not packing/unpacking every day! From the villa base, Sue & David will take you to some of their favourite spots for food, wine, heritage and natural beauty.
Your chauffeur David has driven over 100,000km in Europe, and the brand-new Peugeot van is comfortable and safe, and offers views and Sue’s occasional commentary.
The tour price includes all meals, drinks, entry fees and accommodation. The only time you need to break out your own money on tour is for shopping – plenty of opportunities for that!
Tour seats fill up fast, so contact TouringFrance.biz  today and have the French trip of a lifetime!

Your hosts.