Itinerary: Classical France
No. of days: 14nights/15days
Places Covered: Paris (3nights) – Rouen (1night) – Bayeux (1night) – Mont Saint-Michel (1night) – Paris (1night) – Blois (1night) – Amboise (1night) – Avignon (1night) – Saint Tropez (1night) – Cannes (1night) – Nice (2nights) – Monaco
Days 1: Arrive in Paris: Arrive in Paris by a flight which reaches early morning. Transfer to your hotel and some relaxation and a nice breakfast embark on a sightseeing tour of Paris, capital city of France where maximum number of foreign tourists flock to every year.
First place to visit is Musée du Louvre or the Louvre Museum. Located on the right bank of River Siene, the Louvre is one of the largest museums in the world. Take your time viewing the world class masterpieces. Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is one of those. Afterwards, walk south toward the Quays of the Seine, or the banks of River Siene. The banks of River Siene have been listed by Unesco as a World Heritage Site since 1991. Go for a boat tour in the river enjoying the looks of the wonderful monuments. You can see the iconic the Eiffel Tower, the Conciergerie, the City-Hall, the Bibliothèque François Mitterand and the Louvre.
Gaet down on the river island of Ile de la Cité, and explore the iconic cathedral Notre-Dame and Sainte Chapelle, famous for its dramatic stained-glass windows. In the evening, go for a closer look at the Eiffel Tower and enjoy the greatest cityscape view you can see anywhere else in Europe.
Retire to your hotel room after having a nice dinner at one of the several restaurants in Paris.
Day 2: Paris: Start the second day with a visit to Place de la Concorde, one of the major public squares in Paris. It is located in the city’s eighth arrondissement, at the eastern end of the Champs-Élysées, a well visited boulevard. You can walk on it and reach Arc de Triomphe, a famous monument of Paris.
You can visit St. Louis, another island in River Sienna. Have lunch at one of the restaurant and go and visit Musée d’Orsay, a museum on the left bank of the Seine. Housed in the former railway station of Beaux-Arts, the museum has the world’s greatest collection of Impressionist paintings.
Later in the afternoon, go and visit Basilique du Sacré-Coeur, a Roman Catholic Church and minor basilica, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. You can have a nice view of Paris in the setting sun.
Have a dinner at a café and retire to your room. Overnight in Paris.
Day 3: Paris – Versailles – Paris: Go for a full day sightseeing tour to Versailles, a wealthy suburb of Paris. Versailles is famous for a royal château, often referred to as Château de Versailles. Château de Versailles, a UNESCO World Heritage site, began as Louis XIII’s hunting lodge before his son Louis XIV transformed and expanded it. The court of Versailles was the centre of political power from 1682 till 1789 when the royal family was forced to return to Paris after the beginning of the French Revolution.
Have a tour of the palace. The Hall of Mirrors, the King’s Grand Apartments, the Museum of the History of France, the Royal Chapel, the Queen’s Hamlet and the Gardens of Versailles are the places to explore.
Return to Paris. Overnight in Paris.
Day 4: Paris – Rouen: Start early in the morning from Paris and embark on a nearly two hours drive to reach Rouen. This is a port city on the River Seine in the north of France and the capital of Normandy region. Check into a hotel on arrival in the city.
Visit Cathédrale Notre-Dame, which has become immortalized in paintings done by Monet. The Cathedral, constructed in Gothic style, took its final shape in 15th Century. Visit Vieux Rouen area which is full of beautiful historical buildings from the 12th and 13th century. Shops and antique shops now hug the cobbled streets.
Visit Place du Vieux-Marché, where Joan of Arc was executed for heresy in 1431. This is in a market area which is full of restaurants. Later, also visit Eglise St-Maclou, a 1432 church in the Flamboyant Gothic style. Visit Rue du Gros-Horloge, the magnificent Town Clock with exquisite carvings.
Other interesting buildings worth exploring are Palais de Justice and Rue Saint-Romain, a street with many old shops.
Late in the afternoon drive to Giverny, a village in the upper Normandy. This is the place where the famous French painter Calude Monet lived. Have a look at Claude Monet Museum, the place where Monet worked on many of his works.
Return to your hotel. Overnight in Rouen.
Day 5: Rouen – Bayeux: Start early from Rouen and hop off on more than two hours drive to reach Bayeux, a town on the River Aure in the Normandy region in northwestern France.
On the way to Bayuex, make it a point to explore Abbaye de Jumièges, one of the most evocative ruins in France. Stop on the way in Caen city, a commune in the northwestern parts of France located 15 kilometres inland from the English Channel. Caen is known for its historical buildings built during the reign of William the Conqueror. Have a brief visit of these buildings.
After lunch in Caen continue for Bayeux. Arriving in Bayeux you should hurry to visit the celebrated Musée de la Tapisserie de Bayeux or the Bayeux Tapestry. This is an embroidered cloth nearly 70 meters long and 50 centimeters tall, which depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England by William, Duke of Normandy in 1066. The tapestry features over 600 embroidered characters, 200 horses, some 40 ships and several hundred animals and figures from mythology.
Stay overnight in Bayeux.
Day 6: Bayeux – Mont Saint-Michel: Embark on a tour to D-day beaches, where Allied forces launched “the Longest Day,” the mammoth invasion of Normandy in June 1944 during the World War II, signaling the beginning of the end of Hitler’s Third Reich.
Take a tour of Sword, Beach, and the British Airborne Sector. This takes you through the famous site of Pegasus Bridge, captured just after midnight on D-Day by elements of the 6th Airborne Division, as well as the Hillman Bunker complex. See the landing beaches, the inland battlefields and cemeteries, visit the museums and listen to the stories and history behind each site.
Towards the evening, drive for around two hours to reach Mont St-Michel, an island commune in Normandy, located at the mouth of the Couesnon River near Avranches. Check into a hotel on arrival. You can go for an illuminated night tour. Overnight in Mont Saint-Michel.
Day 7: Mont-St-Michel – Paris: Go on to see Abbaye du Mont-Saint-Michel, which is recognized as a UNESCO World heritage site. The abbey is an essential part of the structural composition of the town the feudal society constructed. This is best enjoyed by taking an English-language tour that covers the highlights.
After viewing the abbey, go on to visit Fortifications du Mont-Saint-Michel. This is a tiresome walk with lots of ups and downs. But anyone interested in history would love it. Anyone can have a feel of how the Mont survived from all the attacks during the Hundred Year’s War.
Have lunch at one of the restaurants. La Mère Poulard is a famous place, particularly for its omelets. After lunch, set out to Rouen from where you can take a train to Paris. Check into a hotel. Overnight in Paris.
Day 8: Paris – Orléans – Blois: Take an early morning train ride of around 1.5 hours from Paris to reach Orleans, a city on the banks of the Loire River and capital of the Centre -Val de Loire region.
Orleans serves as the base to explore several castles standing in the area. Some of these are Chateau de Chinon, the Chateau d’Azay-le-Rideau, the Chateau de Langeais, the Chateau de Villandry, the Chateau de Chenonceau and the Chateau Royal de Chambord. Particularly famous is the Chateau Royal de Chambord, the largest château in the Loire Valley. It is known for very distinctive French Renaissance architecture which blends traditional French medieval forms with classical Renaissance structures. The chateau which was never completed was built to serve as a hunting lodge for Francis I.
Afterwards, set on the course to reach Blois, a drive of nearly an hour from Orleans. Blois, a hillside city on River Loire. This is famous for the Royal Château de Blois, which is located right in the center of the city. The chateau, often called ‘the Versailles of the Renaissance’, comprises of several buildings constructed from the 13th to the 17th century around the main courtyard.
Stay overnight in Blois.
Day 9: Blois – Amboise: Start in the morning for Amboise, a small market town today located on the banks of the Loire River close to the city of Tours. It was once home of the French royal court. Main attraction in Amboise is the 15th century Château d’Amboise, built in the Italian Renaissance style. Amboise is also noticeable for Clos-Lucé, last residence of Leonardo da Vinci.
In the afternoon, drive southeast to the small village of Chenonceaux , which is home to the Château de Chenonceau, a French château spanning the River Cher. It served as the residence of Diane de Poitiers, mistress of Henry II. After Henry II’s death in 1559, his widow Catherine de’ Medici forced Diane to exchange it for the Château Chaumont. Queen Catherine then made Chenonceau her own favorite residence, adding a new series of gardens.
Drive back to Amboise after this. Retire to your room after a nice dinner.
Day 10: Amboise – Avignon: Start early for Avignon, capital of Provence. It will take more than 6.5 hours. You will reach some time in the afternoon. Check into a hotel on your arrival.
Wander through Avignon, which was the seat of the Catholic popes from 1309 to 1377 and remained under papal rule until it became a part of France in 1791. Visit Palais de Papes, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which served as residence of seven Popes. This is a testimony to the wealth and power of Christendom during the Middle Ages. Also visit Saint Bénézet Bridge, now in ruins, was a graceful construction of 900 meters and 22 arches. It was an important route for transportation across the Rhône River until the 17th century.
Buy some colorful Provençal fabrics, and you can see some other smaller sites like Musée Calvet, Church of Saint-Pierre and Cathedral of Notre-Dame des Doms.
Have dinner and retire to your room for a nice overnight sleep.
Day 11: Avignon – Saint Tropez: Go through some of the historical sites of Avignon and after a little early lunch leave for Saint-Tropez, a town 100 kilometres west of Nice in southeastern France. Located on the French Riviera, it became an internationally known seaside resort after World War II.
Have fun on beaches in Saint Tropez. Visit Vieux Port or the Old Port and get yourself charmed by the idyllic scene of small fishing boats and fashionable yachts docked in the harbor. There are many gourmet specialty food shops in the area.
The Old Town of Saint-Tropez, known as “La Ponche”, is the historic center of the fishing village and is the most picturesque area of Saint Tropez. One must try to visit this place.
Have dinner and stay overnight in Saint Tropez.
Day 12: Saint Tropez – Cannes: Before leaving St-Tropez in the morning visit the art museum called Musée de l’Annonciade. With its excellent assortment of Impressionist paintings, the museum is a reminder of the village’s avant-garde artistic past. The museum boasts a broad collection-from Signac’s pointillist works to Matisse’s vibrant Fauvist paintings and Bonnard’s evocative Nabis-style pieces.
Afterwards, check out and drive 50km east along the coast till you reach Cannes. Check into a hotel on arrival in Cannes.
Cannes sparkles with glamour and exclusivity.Cannes is blessed with a balmy Mediterranean climate. The weather is mild year-round and perfect for sunbathing by the beach from May through October. Take a ferry in the afternoon to visit Ile Ste-Marguerite, where the “Man in the Iron Mask” was imprisoned. You can visit his cell.
In the evening you can visit one of the several casinos of Cannes. Have a nice dinner and retire to your room afterwards. Overnight in Cannes.
Day 13: Cannes – Nice: Drive to Nice in the morning. Nice is situated just 32km east of cannes. This is French Riviera’s largest city. Check into a hotel on arrival in Nice. After settling into the hotel, go for a stroll through Vieille Ville, the old town. This is situated at the base of Castle Hill. It’s a quaint neighborhood with a strong Italian influence, leftover from when Nice was part of the Kingdom of Savoy. Enjoy a snack of socca, a round crepe made with chickpea flour that’s sold steaming hot by the street vendors.
Later, go for a walk on Promenade des Anglais, the wide boulevard along the waterfront. Enjoy a cup of coffee or a drink by the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. Stop in at one of the grand cafes along the water for a light lunch.
In the afternoon, head for Musee National Marc Chagall, a museum dedicated to the famous French painter Marc Chagalls. His biblical paintings are amazing and very well described by the audio tour. Adjacent to the museum is Jardin du Monastere de Cimiez, or Cimiez monastery. The garden attached to the monastery is quite lovely and peaceful. It also provides a good view over the busy commercial part of town.
You can also choose to drive some 31km north above Nice to visit the town of St-Paul-de-Vence. Here you can wander and descend down to see Foundation Maeght, a great modern-art museum in the Riviera.
Have dinner at a typical bistro, and enjoy the local cuisines, which show typical Italian influences. Afterwards, retire to your room. Overnight in Nice.
Day 14: Nice – Monaco – Nice: Get up in the morning and set out along the Grand Corniche highway. Drive to Grand Corniche highway Monaco, an independent microstate on France’s Mediterranean coastline known for its glitzy casinos, yacht-lined harbor and prestigious Grand Prix motor race.
The drive along the Grand Corniche is full of thrills. You can continue on the road till Menton, a town situated along the French Riviera on the Franco-Italian border. But thrills reduce after Monaco. There are incredible views from some places along this highway. The greatest view along the Riviera is at the Eze Belvedere at 1,200m (3,937 ft.).
Return and spend some nice time along the beaches in Nice. Overnight in Nice.
Day 15: Nice – Onward Desired Destination: After breakfast and enjoying some more of beaches, leave for airport to catch flight for your desired destination.