This leisurely tour of southeast France is ideal for travellers who love both culture and nature. After starting in beautiful Paris you will take the fast train south, heading for the incredible landscapes of fragrant Provence and sunny Côte d'Azur.
This trip will be customized according to your wishes.
Paris is more than just a city – the name itself is legend. From the late Middle Ages to the nineteenth century the focus of the entire country was on Paris, the center of western culture and a major influence on western history.
The city's layout and buildings reflect its cultural and political significance: the Champ-Elysées and the Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur, Place de la Concorde and Notre Dame. Paris is also considered by many to be the most beautiful city in the world. The museums of the French capital are unparalleled. From the Louvre to the Orsay, from the Centre Pompidou to the Rodin to the Cité des Sciences, each museum offers a unique aesthetic experience. Moreover, names like Faubourg, Saint Honoré and the Avenue Montaigne are reminders that Paris is famous for fashion. A shopping excursion with a stop for pastries at a picturesque street café is a must in Paris. Whether you prefer the opera, a ballet, classical music, jazz, a night club or a dance revue, the word Paris is synonymous with night-life. In the surrounding localities you can experiences aristocratic Paris: Versailles, Fontainebleau, Saint-Germain and Vaux-le-Vicomte. Here travelers are invited to escape to the glitter of the Louis XIV era.
This enchanting little hotel is situated in the heart of Paris, in the shadow of the Louvre. It is so close to St. Germain l'Auxerrois that you can hear the hymns from the former “King's Church” and see the Gothic windows from your bedroom.
In the cellar there is an old printing press that was used to print illegal leaflets during the French Revolution. It is said that the reception area was once the Café Momus (a debating club of the revolutionaries) and it was here that Puccini allowed parts of his opera “La Boheme” to be played. Breakfast, true to Parisian custom, is served in your suite. The hotel is air conditioned. Sophie Aulnette has managed the hotel for the past 10 years and personally attends to her guests' comfort. Tickets to local museums and other attractions can be purchased at a shop near the hotel.
For centuries, the Louvre served as the palace of the French kings and was the largest construction site in France. Almost every king made changes to it. In the 12th century it was still a proud castle but was expanded over the course of the next two centuries to become a symbolic residence. The four wings around the square courtyard are what remain of the original palace. When Louis XIV moved his residence to Versailles, the building was left to deteriorate. The Louvre did not become a museum until after the French Revolution when the National Assembly decided to use it to collect and exhibit the artistic treasures seized from the nobility. Today, the Louvre receives around ten million visitors every year and is the largest museum in the world. Its collections include over 380,000 pieces, and only about a tenth of them are on display. Its most famous painting is probably the Mona Lisa, which Leonardo da Vinci painted around the year 1503.
The traditional student district in Paris is located near Sorbonne University and is known as the Quartier Latin, because Latin had been the language of scholarship for many centuries. Numerous writers lived in the area, including Honoré de Balzac, Gabriel García Márquez and Klaus Mann. During the student riots in 1968, the quarter became the scene of heavy fighting in the streets. Thousands of students were arrested and hundreds were seriously injured by the police during the “Night of the Barricades.” When the trade unions called for a national strike in support of the students, President de Gaulle stepped down. Not many students live here today since the rent is unaffordable and they have given way to popular restaurants and boutiques.
This church for the archbishop of Paris took nearly 200 years to build. Yet when it was completed in 1345, it had become a marvel the likes of which the world had never seen. Although it is one of the earliest Gothic cathedrals, it remained the crowning achievement of Gothic architecture. Notre Dame rises over the Seine like a jewel. Its two towers are 69 meters high and its ridge turrets reach 96 meters in height. The nave, which provides room for up to 10,000 people, is 130 meters long, 48 meters wide, and 35 meters high. The cathedral was unprecedented in its day, and this was intentional. It was supposed to outshine the Louvre, which was the royal palace. Notre Dame is a testimony to the fact that Paris has not only been the center of France, but also the most important city in the Christian West from the Late Middle Ages until the 19th century and has had a decisive impact on its history.
Your train tickets will not be booked by Umfulana. Please book online on www.sncf.com/fr.
Alternatively you can book on www.raileurope.com, where prices will be displayed in most currencies, but tend to be more expensive than on the the local provider's website. Another option is to purchase your ticket on arrival at the station.
The city on the Gulf of Lion is the oldest and 2nd largest city in France. The original settlement was founded by Greek traders in the 7th century BC, and quickly grew into a colony along the mouth of the Rhone River.
The port lost its significance, however, after the collapse of the Roman Empire, only to return to strategic importance 500 years later during the crusades. Marseilles grew into a true multicultural metropolis during France's colonization of northern Africa. Worth seeing is the Old Port (Vieux Port), which includes most of the original Greek settlement and is now an exclusive marina.
The small 4-star hotel on the Quai du Port is a bit quaint – with furniture in the style of the 1950's. However standing on the balcony in one of the upper floors, you will be overwhelmed by the magnificent view of one of Europe's oldest ports.
Almost everything in the historic town can be reached on foot. Although the hotel is located in the middle of the hustle and bustle, the rooms are quiet – thanks to good windows and quiet air conditioning. The staff is friendly.
The stretch of coastline near Marseille is one of the most beautiful landscapes that France has to offer. Wildly romantic coves, some of them cutting deep into the country like fjordes, are dominated by enormous, almost vertical cliffs. Inside the coves with the bottle-green water are small sailboats. Walks through the white limestone rocks will be rewarded with forever changing, breathtaking views. In summer, hiking is prohibited. Then one has to resort to a boat tour.
Broker: Sunny Cars GmbH
Vehicle: Opel Astra or similar (CDMR)
Location: Marseille (Railway Station)
The former capital of Provence is considered one of the most attractive cities in France. Founded by the Romans in 122 BC, the ancient city is known for its elegant palaces in Italian Baroque style, its magnificent tree-lined avenues and its vibrant atmosphere. The city is split in half by the Cours Mirabeau, a wide thoroughfare lined by fountains, cafés and historical buildings. One of the most famous cafes in all of France is Lex Deux Garçons, once frequented by the likes of Cézanne and Hemingway. The city originally famous for its hot springs boasts 300 days of sunshine a year.
At the mouth of River Rhône, the Camargue is the largest river delta in Europe. The wetlands are mainly suitable for vegetable, fruit and rice cultivation. In the south of the Camargue there is a 13,000 hectare nature reserve located around the Etang de Vaccarès, which is one of the typical shallow lakes with countless water birds. Wild horses and large herds of Camargue bulls live in the reserve. On the coast, the town of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer boasts a fortified church from the 9th century.
The center of the former Roman “Provincia Fallia Narboniensis” forms the Bas Provence around the city of Avignon. It is one of the oldest cultural landscapes of Europe and has written world history more than once.
During the schism of the medieval church, alongside the Pope in Rome there was another one, residing in Avignon and shaping the city and region. Ancient towns nestle in the mountain wilderness, deserted villages are being reclaimed by nature. In addition to cities such as Arles, Nimes or Aix visitors can find almost untouched landscapes: Mont Ventoux, the highest massif of the Provence or the endless oak forests of the Luberon. Considering the pleasant Mediterranean climate, it is understandable that this land has always attracted travelers, painters and artists.
The large, friendly estate is situated among fruit trees and vineyards between Arles and Nimes where the regions of Provence and Camargue meet.
The bedrooms on the top floor are simple yet elegant with white washed walls, cast iron beds and period furniture. The overhanging roof provides welcome shade on hot summer days. A swimming pool is available.
Today, the city east of the Rhone has less than 100,000 inhabitants. In the Middle Ages Avignon was a city of international standing. From here seven popes have reigned the Occident during the schism from 1309-1376. At that time the town was a brilliant art center. The “City of Popes” was able to keep its city walls around the old town, the Palace of the Popes, the Bishops' complex and the bridge of Avignon undamaged to the present day. The old town of Avignon is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was European Capital of Culture in 2000.
One of the oldest cities in the Rhone Delta, Arles was founded by the Greeks in the 6th century BC, then captured by the Romans in 123 BC, who turned the settlement into an important city. Arles enjoyed its greatest period of influence during the 4th and 5th centuries, when it served as the headquarters for Roman emperors conducting military campaigns. The numerous Roman and medieval remains in the city center have been named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Van Gogh painted many of his most famous pictures in Arles, which is also considered the gates to the Camargue Delta, the habitat of the Greater Flamingo and the white Camargue horses.
Dating back to 121 BC when it was in Roman hands, the city's importance as a trading center derives from its location on the route between Italy and Spain. Tucked away in the hills of Cevennes, Nimes boasts are large number of historical buildings. The most significant of these is the amphitheater, the best-preserved – albeit not the largest – Roman arena in existence today, despite the fact that it was used for other purposes during its long history. The Goths converted the structure into a fortress, in the Middle Ages it was a knight's castle and later it served as living quarters for 2,000 people. Just 25 km northeast of Nimes is the Pont du Gard, one of the ancient wonders of the world. This amazing construction is part of the Roman aqueduct which spans the Gard valley. Water flowed through the 45 m high aqueduct for more than 500 years.
The River Verdon is a tributary of the River Durance. Along its 175 kilometer route it has dug a huge canyon into the Alps which is the deepest valley in Europe and one of its most impressive natural wonders.
The canyon is 21 km long, 700 m high and only 6 m wide in some places. It represents a constant challenge for climbers, white water rafters and well-equipped hikers. There is a road around the edge of the gorge which leads to splendid viewpoints.
In the hills of Haute Provence, where lavender fields reach down to the steep bank of the Verdon, lies the former oil mill of the castle of St-Laurent-du-Verdon.
Edith and Nicolas, a couple from Switzerland, have transformed the venerable 17th century building into a Mediterranean paradise with ten rooms. The idyllic surroundings, peace and quiet and a strong organic cuisine characterize the house, which belongs to the Slow Food network and can be counted among the “Hôtels au Naturel” because of its constant commitment to sustainable tourism.
Bicycles are provided; hiking trails lead directly past the property. Just as well, one can enjoy the peace and quiet in the shade of the olive trees and read or play boules or billiards.
Named after an early Christian martyr, the harbor town on the Cote d'Azur was a simple fishing village until the 20th century.
The boom began in the 1950s when “St Trop” became a meeting place for the rich and famous. Wealthy vacationers from all over the world spend their summers in the famous beach clubs: Tahiti Plage, Club 55 or similar. Saint Tropez is known for its exclusive marina and the Baie de Pamplonne, the longest sand beach on the Cote d'Azur. The numerous shops and gourmet restaurants are priced for their special clientele.
Those who want to sleep quietly in the proximity of Saint-Tropez and seek relaxation without many frills, are in good hands in the former monastery in La Croix Valmer.
The pastel-colored building from 1900 has lost none of its charm. All 33 rooms have wing windows, four meter high ceilings and a great view across the large park to the bay. Breakfast is decent, the pool refreshing and the peace total.
The archipelago between Marseille and the Cote d'Azur is located a few kilometers off the French coast. Because of its reddish colored rocks, the three islands are also known as the Îles d'Or – islands of gold. The largest of them, Porquerolles, is 7.5 km long and 3 km wide. Especially in the north, near the capital of the same name, one can find a few pretty beaches with crystal clear water. From there, hiking trails lead through the original macchia to a fort, a vineyard or to Sémaphore, with its 142 meters the highest mountain on the island. From there one can look far across the sea, to the other islands and to the mainland. Porquerolles is easily accessible within minutes from the Giens peninsula by passenger ferry. During high season it runs every half hour. The car can be left in the car park at the ferry terminal over night.
The port city with 75,000 inhabitants is one of the oldest on the Côte d'Azur. “Antipolis” was founded around 340 by Greek merchants and became a bishop's seat in late antiquity. The seaside resort Juan-les-Pins was opened in 1882 and has since been incorporated. At the beginning of the 20th century, writers and artists settled there, including Picasso, to whom a museum is dedicated at Château Grimaldi. Port Vauban is now one of the largest marinas in Europe, with up to 1700 luxury yachts anchoring here. The best view is from the fortress Fort Carré.
Tucked away in the mountains between Nice and Antibes is the charming township of Vence. Its splendid location and medieval city center attracted many artists in the 19th century. There is a lot to discover in the surrounding mountains: St-Paul-de-Vence with its old city wall, Haute-de-Cagnes, a picturesque village, and Tourettes sur Loup. Although the Côte d'Azur is one of the most popular tourist destinations worldwide, there are still plenty of places off the beaten track where you can enjoy the beauty of this unique region.
Location: Nice Airport (Desk at Airport)