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Experience France from three fascinating vantage points: the emerald hills of Normandy where historic battles once raged; the heart of Paris, jam-packed with architectural and artistic treasures; and the pastel-colored towns of sunny Provence. Trace the riveting events of D-Day at Omaha Beach. Encounter the great monuments of Paris and the perched villages and ocher cliffs of the Luberon. Then cap off the journey amid the unusual cowboy culture of the Camargue.
Trace Normandy's early history as you explore the majestic fortified abbey at Mont-Saint-Michel.
In Paris meet acclaimed National Geographic photographer Reza,* and immerse yourself in the renowned art collection of the Louvre.
Relive D-Day on a visit to Omaha Beach with an eyewitness who fought in the French Resistance.
Venture into the Camargue wetlands, France's cowboy country, on the lookout for native white horses and flamingos.
Itinerary - 10 Days
Days 1 & 2 — U.S./Paris, France/Normandy
Depart on an overnight flight to Paris. Travel overland into the verdant hills and pastures of Normandy to our hotel, located in the heart of the charming Norman village of Bayeux. Gather for this evening's welcome reception and dinner. Hotel Villa Lara (D)
Day 3 — Caen/Normandy Beaches
Spend the morning in Caen, a city nearly leveled by the battle that followed the D-Day landings in 1944. At the Caen Memorial, explore a superb multimedia exhibit that eloquently details the events of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy. This afternoon, visit Omaha Beach. In the company of a French veteran who witnessed D-Day, trace the movements of the landing sectors from the overlook, and walk the historic shores along bluffs once riddled with German batteries. Then wander among rows of somber white crosses and stars at the Normandy American Cemetery. Hotel Villa Lara (B,D)
Day 4 — Mont-Saint-Michel
Poised on a rocky tidal islet about a mile off the coast, the magnificent abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel is one of the greatest religious sites in all of Europe. Built over a 500-year period, the site has drawn pilgrims since the reported appearance of the archangel Michael in the eighth century. Spend the day exploring this UNESCO World Heritage site, from the Gothic citadel of La Merveille and its soaring spires to the charming 15th-century village that buttresses the abbey. Hotel Villa Lara (B,L)
Day 5 — Rouen/Paris
Begin the day in Rouen, originally a Roman settlement, and later the seat of the Duchy of Normandy. On a walking tour, see the Place du Vieux Marché, the market square where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in 1431; and Le Gros Horloge, a 14th-century clock hung in a Renaissance archway spanning the street. Then visit the city's legendary cathedral, a masterpiece of French Gothic architecture, captured in a famous series of paintings by Monet. Later, drive to Paris and check in to our centrally located hotel. Take advantage of an evening at leisure to explore the City of Light on your own. Hotel du Louvre (B)
Day 6 — Paris
This morning, immerse yourself in one of the world's greatest art collections at the Louvre. Enjoy the afternoon to explore Paris on your own, or join a walking tour to discover the great monuments that line the Seine River: Ile St. Louis, Notre Dame, and the Jardins des Tuileries. This evening, acclaimed National Geographic photographer Reza* will share some of his inspiring work and joins us for a lively dinner at a classic local bistro. Hotel du Louvre (B,D)
Day 7 — Paris/Avignon/Aix-en-Provence
Zip south at up to 200 miles per hour on the TGV (high-speed train) and arrive in medieval Avignon, the center of Christendom in the 14th century. On a walking tour, venture into the impressive Papal Palace and meander down the narrow lanes of the old town. Continue to Aix-en-Provence, or "Aix" late this afternoon. Settle into our delightful hotel near the heart of the city. Grand Hotel Roi Rene (B)
Day 8 — Luberon/Aix-en-Provence
Head into the scenic Luberon countryside on a full-day excursion. Visit the Cistercian Abbey of Sénanque, a tranquil monastic retreat dating back to the 12th century and still inhabited by monks today. See the scenic village of Gordes, perched high on a rocky promontory, and continue to Roussillon. The rich supplies of ocher found here were mined by the Romans and later shipped around the world by the 18th century. Discover the village and its environs, still imbued with dazzling tones of red, orange, and yellow. Enjoy an evening at leisure in Aix. Grand Hotel Roi Rene (B,L)
Day 9 — Aix/Arles/Camargue
Today, explore enchanting Aix, a pastel-hued town of bubbling fountains and walking streets where many artists and writers have found inspiration. Our walking tour coincides with the famous Saturday outdoor market where stalls of bright flowers and fresh produce beckon passersby. Visit the remarkable studio where Paul Cézanne lived and painted, restored as he left it upon his death in 1906. In the afternoon, head west to Arles to visit the ancient Roman amphitheater. Then venture into the Carmague, the vast Rhone delta known as France's "Wild West" for its native breeds of horses and cattle and its untamed landscape. Take a ringside seat at a ranch for a demonstration of horsemanship and a traditional Provençal bull game. Watch nimble cowboys try to outmaneuver bulls in a lively competition in which the bulls remain unharmed. Toast our French adventure at a special paella dinner accompanied by live music at the ranch tonight. Grand Hotel Roi Rene (B,D)
Day 10 — Marseille/U.S.
After breakfast, transfer to the Marseille airport for return flights to the U.S. (B)