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  • A Grand Tour of France Touring Holiday

    Chateau de Gilly

    La Briqueterie

    Hostellerie de Crillon le Brave

    La Reserve

    Chateau des Vigiers

    Chateau de Marcay

    Auberge de la Source

    A Grand Tour of France Touring Holiday

    11 nights and 12 days
    A self-drive touring holiday of great variety, the Grand Tour of France allows you to traverse the country - from northern Calais down to southern Provence and into the green west - in pursuit of the most famously beautiful regions that France has to offer. Witness the shape of the landscape evolve as you journey into the south and the west, and visit a broad selection of France's greatest attractions at will. The suggested hotels draw upon our own experience of France, and aim to provide you with comfortable, stylish and characterful spots, conveniently located to aid your exploration. Our Grand Tour of France is a luxurious tapestry of different textures and colours, reflecting the variety of the regions of France and all the diversity a touring holiday in France can reveal.

    Click here to download a pdf with information about some of our suggested French touring holidays.

    Client testimonials:
    "Educative, fun, and every day different, even if we were in the same place." - Mrs D, September 2016


    Starting at the gateway to France, Calais, drive cross-country south-eastwards through the Pas-de-Calais and Picardy, staying for one night amongst the vineyards of Champagne at La Briqueterie near Épernay. Continue towards Burgundy, with its Romanesque churches and abbeys, staying overnight in Gilly-lés-Citeaux, near Dijon, at Château de Gilly. As you drive south, this touring route runs parallel with the Saône River all the way to Lyon, the point of confluence with the mighty Rhône. From here, drive alongside this mighty river, following its course further southwards, admiring the changing scenery until you reach the bright skies, cypress trees and red terracotta roofs of Provence. Stay for two nights at Hostellerie de Crillon le Brave and delight in this charming region: ancient province of the Romans; land of poets and painters. Travel southwest, and stay two nights at La Reserve in Albi, located on the river Tarn. Witness the stunningly varied landscape of France as you journey on from region to region, and spend two nights amongst the lush green countryside and vineyards of the Dordogne in the Château des Vigiers, the quintessence of rural France. Drive further north still, into the Loire Valley, and discover the region’s majestic châteaux, regal gardens and hunting forests whilst staying for two nights at the grand and elegant Château de Marçay. Finally, your self-drive touring holiday ends in Normandy, after one night at the Auberge de la Source.

    PRICES
    Prices for this self-drive holiday from about £2,140 per person.

    What’s included:
    • One night’s bed and breakfast at La Briqueterie in Épernay
    • One night’s bed and breakfast at the Château de Gilly in Gilly-lés-Cîteaux
    • Two nights’ bed and breakfast at Hostellerie de Crillon le Brave in Crillon-le-Brave
    • Two nights’ bed and breakfast at La Réserve in Albi
    • Two nights’ bed and breakfast at Château des Vigiers in Monestier
    • Two nights’ bed and breakfast at the Château de Marçay in Chinon
    • One night's bed and breakfast at Auberge de la Source near Honfleur
    • Eurotunnel return crossing from Folkestone to Calais.

    Click the tabs above to view our suggested day-by-day touring itinerary and to find out more about the hotels featured.
    Click here to find out more about how our self-drive touring holidays work or click here to download a pdf with information about some of our suggested French touring holidays.

    A grand tour of France touring holiday

    Day-by-day itinerary

    DAY ONE
    Calais to Épernay
    Through Pas-de-Calais, enter Champagne, a region well known for its green hills, agriculture, and champagne vineyards. Your hotel, for one night of this self-drive touring holiday, is La Briqueterie near Épernay. The hotel is located just a short drive from the Aisne and Marne valleys, which see the vineyards of this region thrive. Head into Épernay, or slightly north into Reims, a city that rivals Épernay’s title as the Champagne Capital, to explore the miles of galleries belonging to many champagne firms of international repute, such as Moët et Chandon and Mercier. Explore the underground wine cellars, and view the wine-grower carvings inside Reims’ gothic Cathedral Notre-Dame, a building reminiscent of the Notre-Dame in Paris. However, for those looking to get closer to the nature of the Champagne region, many esteemed visitors choose to spend an afternoon viewing the flora at the Nanteuil-la-Forêt.

    DAY TWO
    Begin the journey south from Épernay into Burgundy
    Journey south from Épernay into the arable land of Burgundy, where you will spend one night at the Château de Gilly in Gilly-lés-Cîteaux. Another of France’s most prestigious wine regions, Burgundy is set apart by the golden hue of its limestone villages, which turn ochre in the light of the setting sun and seem to cast the communities back to their medieval roots. As you will be staying just a stone’s throw away from the grand town of Dijon, you may wish to explore this vast city and observe its varied and impressive architecture. Dijon boasts, on top of a wealth of restaurants that serve the local produce, accompanied by the wines of the region, the Cathédrale Saint-Bénigne de Dijon. This Roman Catholic Church is considered to be a monument of France. Visit Dijon’s Notre-Dame, to see how the style varies from region to region, or witness the history of Dijon unfurl in the Musée de la Vie Bourguinonne. Fronted by the Place de la Liberation, perhaps the most impressive of Dijon’s sights is the huge, but sophisticated, Ducal Palace. Identified by one solitary red Tudor building, the Rue des Forges is at the centre of Dijon and possibly the best location for cafés and shops.

    DAYS THREE AND FOUR
    Spend two nights in Provence, before heading west
    Before leaving the château, we recommend taking a final stroll through the château’s traditional French formal gardens, and down the streets of Gilly-lés Cîteaux itself. Moving further south, this tour takes you into the beautiful region of Provence, where you will stay for two nights at the Hostellerie de Crillon le Brave. A remarkable, intriguing hotel, its buildings are comprised of a converted school, stables, and presbytery, arranged on a number of different levels, giving the typically French buildings even more attractive character. The outdoor pool and sunbeds make the most of the hilly Provence landscape, overlooking the vast green countryside, and are ideally placed to soak up the sun and heat at all times of the day. It is possible to spend your two nights truffle hunting in the nearby area, or plan this trip in the winter to enjoy complimentary spa treatments, though the spa is open all year round. Travel into nearby Avignon to visit the famous Palais des Papes, the largest gothic palace in the world, or tour the numerous hidden gardens that line the town's streets. To experience the best of rural Provence, a little off the beaten track, head out to Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, and its pools and channels of tranquil turquoise water that flow up from the subterranean spring. To make the most of the local area's cuisine, taste the produce of the olive groves and vineyards, either as part of the hotel’s services, or through the local businesses. Of an evening, sample the best of the local pork and trout at Bistro 40K. 

    DAYS FIVE AND SIX
    Spend two nights on the river Tarn
    An UNESCO World Heritage Site, your next destination, Albi, is bursting with the remarkable history of France. The most immediate point of interest in this small town is its red-brick medieval cathedral, St. Cecilia’s, which lies at its centre. Venture inside the cathedral to see its imposing exterior blend into the delicate wood and stone decoration of its interior. Adorning the whole western wall are extensive murals depicting the Last Judgement, which remain consistently popular with visitors. Just next door, the Bishop’s palace houses the Toulouse Lautrec museum, dedicated to the works of the post-impressionistic iconographer Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. From outside the cathedral, you can make your way west to the piazza which overlooks the River Tarn, or pass the museum to walk across the thousand-year-old Old Bridge. Only recently becoming a popular tourist destination, Albi is comparably untouched by more commercial, modern ways of life, retaining its original architecture and organisation. Your hotel, La Reserve, situated on the bank of the River Tarn, is a member of the Relais & Châteaux group, and therefore boasts of their exceptional comfort and facilities. Outside of Albi, visit the vineyards of Gaillac and its neighbouring fortified villages, navigate the beautiful medieval streets of Cordes sur Ciel, or take a 350 metre underground tour of the old mining town, Carmaux. North of Carmaux, lies Rodez, home of the Viaduc du Viaur, designed by Gustave Eiffel himself.

    DAYS SEVEN AND EIGHT
    Head north and spend two nights in Dordogne
    Monestier, the location of the Château des Vigiers, is a peaceful rural village nestled between the larger towns of Bordeaux and Bergerac. The surrounding green countryside is punctuated by the curved roofs of the Dordogne châteaux. Dine in the midst of a vineyard at the Château du Haut Pezaud, recognised to be a local treasure, or taste the local wine at the Musée du Vin et de la Batellerie. If wine-tasting does appeal, then the Bordeaux area is teeming with a multitude of vineyards, each with their own château, producing popular wines such as Merlot, Mabec, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc. Travel less than 2 hours north along the Gironde Estuary to reach Margaux and St. Estephe among others, or stay closer to Monestier to visit the larger vineyard of Saint-Émilion. Using Saint-Émilion as the centre-point, it is possible to work your way out into the surrounding area, exploring each new vineyard and château as it reveals itself. Alternatively, tour the varied and elegant architecture of the port city Bordeaux. From the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux to the Basilica of St. Michael, this city offers incredible views. While away the hours in the Musée d’Aquitane or the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux, or venture down to the port to see the city light up at night. To see a different side of France, head to Sarlat-la-Canéda and take a tour of the Palaeolithic art of the Dordogne, through the National Prehistory Museum, and into the Lascaux Cave II.

    DAYS NINE AND TEN
    Two nights among the châteaux of the Loire Valley
    The next stop on this grand tour of France is the Château de Marçay near Chinon in the Loire Valley. This peaceful retreat is accompanied by 15 perfectly manicured hectares of land. To begin your stay, perhaps take a trip to some of the nearby châteaux, such as the Château de Montgeoffrey, or eat a lunch grown and prepared onsite at the Château du Rivau. The town of Chinon itself sits on the bank of the river Vienne, at the base of a rocky hill that supports the Chinon Fortresse Royale. The Fortress dates back to the 10th Century, and is tied into the legend of King Arthur, but the high-tech facilities inside put a modern twist on the historical journey of the fortress. Chinon also offers tours of the local wine cellars, as well as tours of its artistic associations and history. For an insight into the more quirky traditions of this town, take a trip to the Musée de la Poire Tapée de Rivarennes (Pressed Pear Museum).

    DAY ELEVEN
    One night in Normandy
    Back in Normandy, you will spend one night at the Auberge de la Source near Honfleur. The Auberge is an idyllic country retreat, characterised by its French farmhouse exterior, stone walls, oak beams, and parquet flooring. The tall colourful townhouses of Honfleur overlook a harbour, canal locks, and the Seine Estuary. Spend your final dinner time beside the open fireplace of the restaurant at the Auberge, before taking a stroll in the immaculate and beautiful gardens.

    DAY TWELVE
    Leave Normandy to journey home through the Eurotunnel
    Take the final stretch of this tour from Honfleur back to Calais, before driving through the Eurotunnel back to Folkestone.

    Driving times for this touring holiday:
    Calais to Épernay: 3 hours
    Épernay to Gilly-lés-Cîteaux: 2 hours 50 minutes
    Gilly-lés-Cîteaux to Crillon-le-Brave: 4 hours 10 minutes
    Crillon-le-Brave to Albi: 4 hours 10 minutes
    Albi to Monestier: 3 hours
    Monestier to Chinon: 4 hours
    Chinon to Honfleur: 3 hours 15 minutes
    Honfleur to Calais: 2 hours 30 minutes

    Click the 'Hotel Information' tab to find out more about the hotels featured in this touring itinerary or click here to download a pdf with information about some of our suggested French touring holidays.

    Grand Tour of France v3

    Hotel Information:

    These are the comfortable and characterful hotels that are included in this self-drive tour of France. Alternative hotels are available in some destinations - please contact us for full details.

    La Briqueterie:
    Épernay, Champagne
    Nestled in the heart of the Champagne region, Hostellerie La Briqueterie is a gastronomic hotel with the ambience of understated luxury and charm typical to all Relais & Châteaux properties. Once the former brickworks of Chevirer, architect of Chaumières de France, La Briqueterie’s name and design appears as a homage to the area’s history, bringing the essence of the ‘country cottage’ to the 21st Century. The 36 rooms and 4 suites are designed individually with modern bursts of colour set against furniture in timeless French style. The wooden beams in the communal areas add unmistakable charm. The bar serves as a lounge where guests enjoy champagne by the fireside, before relaxing in the Winter-Garden, a conservatory with an indoor fountain and exotic plants. There are spectacular views of the Champagne countryside all around and large windows to bath the rooms in light. The restaurant is a sensory joy where guests enjoy Michelin starred cuisine paired with the perfect wine. The spa at La Briqueterie leaves guests with a heightened sense of wellness, with treatments, a hammam steam room, sauna, Jacuzzi and indoor swimming pool. The 3 hectares of manicured grounds and fountains are a harbour of peace with stone benches on which to sit and read and fragrant flower lined trails to explore. Days of entertainment and culture are promised with nearby visits to the Champagne houses’ cellars, trips to Épernay and the city of Reims.
    Find out more here.

    Château de Gilly:
    Gilly-lés-Cîteaux, Burgundy
    The Château de Gilly is a former residence of the Priors of Cîteaux. Still moated and palatial in ambience, it offers high standards of accommodation and cuisine and is beautifully situated at the heart of the Burgundy vineyards. The elegant, vaulted restaurant ‘Le Clos Prieur’ was once the palace cellar and is just the place to enjoy a gourmet dinner accompanied by fine local wines. ‘Coté Terroirs’ a new restaurant, offers local specialities. Breakfast is served in the restored historic Pierre de Nivelle room and musical soirées are held regularly in the Tapestry room. The 48 bedrooms have been refurbished to offer modern comforts whilst retaining their individuality and fine architectural features. To the front of the hotel are remarkable formal French-style gardens. The hotel features an outdoor heated swimming pool.
    Find out more here.

    Hostellerie de Crillon le Brave:
    Crillon-le-Brave, Provence
    Hotel Crillon le Brave near Avignon in Provence is named after its hilltop hamlet setting in the foothills of Mont Ventoux and the Dentelles de Montmirail. Surrounded by vineyards and olive groves, this Relais & Châteaux property symbolises the essence of boutique luxury in an authentic and charming environment. Comprising seven village buildings – former houses, stables, a school and presbytery - this unique hotel offers 32 beautifully and individually-appointed rooms and suites, each connected by secret courtyards and quiet alleyways, which add to the charming atmosphere and character. Most rooms overlook Mont Ventoux or the Rhône Valley and feature high-quality amenities such as Bose Wave sound systems, Italian linens and luxurious bathrooms. Just a stone’s throw from some of the greatest names in wine – Gigondas, Vacqueyras and Châteauneuf du Pape to name but a few – Crillon le Brave provides the perfect base for those looking to spend their days touring the excellent vineyards of this rich wine-growing region. Naturally, the restaurant features a wine list bearing the names of the finest Rhône vintages to accompany an elegant and refined menu, packed full of locally-sourced, regional cuisine. Al fresco dining on the terrace in the warmer months exploits the magnificent Mont Ventoux backdrop. The Hotel Crillon Le Brave has an inviting outdoor pool, mini-spa, boules court and guests can explore the area by bike.
    Find out more here.

    La Réserve:
    Albi, Tarn
    A family-run hotel with a good reputation for comfort, service and cuisine, La Réserve occupies a low building, constructed in the style of the region, situated in its own parkland and grounds bordering the river Tarn. A short distance from the cathedral city of Albi, La Réserve offers comfortable, charming accommodation, furnished with traditional, period pieces of furniture with a cosy, homely feel. A 4 star member of Relais and Châteaux, the hotel makes an interesting place to stay for exploring the countryside around Albi, the Gaillac vineyards and the attractive valley of the Aveyron. La Réserve has just 22 rooms and suites, all with private bathroom, air conditioning, telephone and television. There is an outdoor swimming pool and a gourmet restaurant, serving specialities of the region. The rooms at La Réserve either have views of the park, the swimming pool or the river.
    Find out more here.

    Château des Vigiers:
    Monestier, Dordogne
    The Château des Vigiers in Monestier was built in the late 16th Century by Jean Vigier, the Royal Judge of Ste Foy La Grande, although there is evidence to suggest that a much earlier fortified construction was on the site prior to the Château being built; one of the towers of the existing structure is thought to date back to the 12th Century. The Château des Vigiers has been sympathetically restored to create an elegant hotel with three different types of accommodation; from the beautiful classic and deluxe rooms in the main château building, to suites and standard doubles in the adjacent ‘Dependances’ buildings with a further modern Relais situated near the first tee at the golf course, housing large airy, modern rooms overlooking the golf course. The gourmet restaurant Les Fresques, awarded a Michelin star in 2014, is open for dinner in the evening (apart from Wednesdays and Sundays) and serves excellent regional dishes accompanied by an extensive wine list, including those produced on the estate. The Brasserie ‘Le Chai’ is open for lunch and dinner everyday and offers light snacks as well as more substantial dishes in an informal, relaxed atmosphere. The golf courses have been designed by Donald Steel, one of the most renowned ‘natural’ golf course architects and offer 27 holes in total, meaning that players can effectively play 3 different configurations of an 18 hole course. If golf is not your ‘thing’ then there is a beauty centre at the Château des Vigiers offering treatments, two outdoor heated swimming pools, gym and sauna. Alternatively, the region has a huge amount to offer in terms of cultural highlights and places to visit from the numerous Châteaux of the Dordogne to prehistoric caves, ornate gardens and ancient churches.
    Find out more here.

    Château de Marçay:
    Chinon, Loire Valley
    The Château de Marçay near Chinon is a superb four-star château hotel, built in the white-blond stone typical of many of the châteaux of Touraine. The hotel is absolutely enchanting both in terms of its breath-taking secluded and natural location and the quality of accommodation it offers. The Château de Marçay originally dates from the 12th Century, although the main building is in fact 15th Century. During a painstaking renovation programme, it became a hotel in 1971. The Château de Marçay enjoys a splendidly tranquil and rural setting in its own grassy parkland, with views onto the cornfields, sunflower fields and vineyards around it, while in the distance you can see the rooftops of a local village. There are extensive lawns and terraces to the rear of the hotel where drinks are served in fine weather and there is also an outdoor swimming pool and tennis court. The interior of the Château de Marçay is spacious, serene and charmingly furnished. There are two very comfortable lounges where open fires roar in the winter under a blond stone chimney, a TV lounge, a bar and of course the restaurant. The elegant Michelin-starred restaurant is divided into two rooms, one decorated in hues of pink and the other in shades of blue. Rich fabrics complement the white stone walls and the dark timbers of the ceiling. The 30 bedrooms at the Château de Marçay vary in size and location: some very spacious ones are in the main chateau itself and some are located in a wing of the chateau on two floors (these are more recent but offer a marvellous combination of stone, beams, terracotta floors and extremely comfortable furnishings). All rooms have private bath or shower and wc, telephone and television, and there is a lift to three floors in the main building of the Château de Marçay.
    Find out more here.

    Auberge de la Source:
    Honfleur, Normandy
    The four-star Auberge de la Source is a most attractive and delightful half-timbered and red-brick farmhouse of exceptional character, set in bucolic pastoral landscapes on the edge of a forest just a stone’s throw from the picture-postcard town of Honfleur. Nestled in charming, tranquil gardens shaded by apple trees and filled with flowers and ponds stocked full of trout and sturgeon, the hotel comprises the main auberge and two separate annexes, La Longère and Le Pavillon, where the 15 rooms are located. Abundant in charm and rustic character, many of the rooms at Auberge de la Source boast authentic original features, such as stone walls, oak beams and parquet flooring and overlook either the gardens or ponds. Incredibly stylish and immaculately presented throughout, choose between intimate and atmospheric Campagne rooms or slightly larger Charme rooms which offer an even greater level of rustic refinement. Auberge de la Source also offers a suite and mezzanine rooms perfect for those traveling with children. Set in the main building, the restaurant offers a welcoming and inviting ambience for dinner, particularly in the winter when a warming fire burns in the hearth. In the spring and summer months, dinner on the terrace under the apple trees is a particularly magical experience. The menu features traditional Normandy cuisine and fresh country produce and dinner will undoubtedly be a highlight of your stay here. Other features of Auberge de la Source include a massage room and hireable bicycles.
    Find out more here.

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    France FAST FACTS

    Capital

    Paris
    Airport
    Main airports are in Paris, Bordeaux and Lyon, with scheduled and low cost airlines flying into the country from all over the UK.
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    Euro (£1 = Euro 1.24)
    Size
    Roughly 600 miles wide and 700 miles long
    Population
    66 million
    Average temperature
    Varies dramatically, from about 8 degrees in winter in Brittany to 26 degrees in summer in Corsica, with snow on the Alps and Pyrenees year-round

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