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  • Fly-drive touring holiday of Bordeaux, the Basque Country and Albi

    Le Saint-James

    Le Saint-James

    Le Saint-James

    Le Saint-James

    Hotel Parc Victoria

    Hotel Parc Victoria

    Hotel Parc Victoria, Superior Room

    la Reserve

    La Reserve

    La Reserve

    La Reserve

    Fly-drive touring holiday of Bordeaux, the Basque Country and Albi

    9 nights and 10 days
    The south-west of France is famous for various reasons - the Bordeaux region for its world class wines and historic chateaux, the Basque Country for its dramatic coastline and cultural heritage, and the Tarn and Lot region for its luxurious riverside views and depth of history.

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

    This gentle touring holiday concentrates on the southwest of France, starting with a flight into Bordeaux. Here collect your hire car and begin your journey by driving through the renowned vineyards of the Libourne. Spend three nights here at the prestigious Le Saint-James, from which all the great vineyards of the Bordeaux region are within easy reach. Your hire car will allow you the freedom to explore the local delights, including the town itself, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Next, drive southwest through the Landes, characterised by the sweet-smelling pine forests that encircle tranquil lakes and long stretches of uninterrupted beaches along the Côte d’Argent bordering the mighty Atlantic. The thermal town of Dax makes for a good stop-off en route, or you may consider a short diversion to the beaches of Biscarrosse or Mimizan. Your second hotel, Parc Victoria, occupies a luxurious position amongst beautiful manicured English gardens and just a short walk from the Saint-Jean-de-Luz coastline in the French Basque Country. This hotel provides easy access to Biarritz, just 10 miles away, and San Sebastián on the other side of the Spanish border, one of the great food capitals of Europe. And finally, head directly east, passing awesome panoramas of pastoral foothills set against a backdrop of snow-capped peaks. Take time to visit Pau, dominated by its château, and perhaps even consider a short diversion to the pilgrimage town of Lourdes en route to Carcassonne which is your final destination. Stay at Hotel de la Cite for three nights. Your return flight will depart from Bordeaux, having driven full-circle back to your tour’s origin.

    PRICES
    Prices for this fly-drive holiday from £2220 per person

    What's included:
    • Three nights’ bed and breakfast at Le Saint-James in Bordeaux
    • Three nights’ bed and breakfast at the Parc Victoria in Saint-Jean-de-Luz
    • Three nights’ bed and breakfast at the Hotel de la Cite in  Carcassonne
    • Scheduled flights with British Airways: London to Bordeaux, and either Toulouse or Bordeaux to London on your return
    • Group A car hire for the duration of your holiday

    Fly-drive touring holiday of Bordeaux, the Basque Country, and Albi

    Day-by-Day Itinerary

    DAYS ONE TO THREE
    Arrive in Bordeaux and stay for three nights

    The city of Bordeaux is a thriving hub of wine-making in the Aquitane region. On the bank of the Gironde Estuary, just south of the Médoc Peninsula, and just a stone’s throw from the world-famous Saint-Émilion vineyard, Le Saint-James is the ideal place from which to venture out into the surrounding fertile landscape. Track down one of the impressive château dotted across the region, such as the Château Rauzan Gassies and the Château Mouton Rothschild, to taste the fruity Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, and experience the distinctive vanilla and coffee aromas that develop as the wines of the area age. Other wines particular to the region include Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Mabec. Within the port city of Bordeaux, much more than wine-tasting is on offer. Stroll around the city streets to get a feel for the wealth of extensive and interesting architecture. Recommended stop-off points include The Amphithéâtre de Bordeaux dit Palais Gallien, the Cathédrale de Bordeaux, the Opéra National de Bordeaux, and the Basilica of St. Michael. Making your own way around this city and exploring in your own time is the best way to experience the place first-hand. To delve deeper into the heritage of the city, visit the Musée d’Aquitane, the Musée des Beaux-Arts, or catch a show at the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux. Hidden amidst the local vineyards and rolling hills, lie a number of other important historical sites. Perhaps take a wander down the peaceful, and perfectly preserved, medieval streets of Issigeac, or visit the Château de Lanquais, recognised to be one of the greatest historical monuments in the area. For a château more shadowed from the public eye, marvel in the unusual combination of medieval and renaissance architecture at the Château de Monbazillac. Finally, if time permits, travel out to the model bastide of Monpazier, or the crystalline Maxange caves.

    DAYS FOUR TO SIX
    Drive from Bordeaux to Saint-Jean-de-Luz and stay for three nights

    Drive south along the coastal road into Saint-Jean-de-Luz, where blue seas, golden sand and the Parc Victoria await. Take a leisurely morning walk along the brilliantly varied Basque coastline, along the harbour and through the port, over the cliff tops, and across golden sand, through which the perfectly maintained layers of sedimentary rock can be seen bursting through. In the town centre, be sure to observe the 17th century ship-owners’ houses that punctuate the streets. Take a tour of the Saint Jean Baptiste Church, the site of the marriage of Louis XIV in 1660. Its ornately decorated gold interior is split into 3 levels, making it a decidedly intriguing monument to Saint-Jean-de-Luz’s history. Perhaps most unusual is its choice of centrepiece: from the ceiling hangs a model ship, in honour of the town’s heritage as port and harbour. To see more of Louis XIV’s influence on the town, visit the Maison Louis XIV, where the king reportedly stayed. Your hotel, by contrast to the ornate and vast spaces of the town, is intimate and self-consciously art-deco, offering the perfect canvas upon which to tailor your stay. Across the border and into Spain, sits the town of San Sebastián, resplendent in its Belle Époque architecture. Of particular interest is the golden stone Town Hall, formerly the Gran Casino. On the water-side sits La Perla, the spa building commissioned by Queen María Cristina, and declared to be one of the most beautiful in the world. Of an evening, appreciate the last of the day’s heat in the gardens of the hotel, before dining in the pool-side restaurant.

    DAYS SEVEN TO NINE
    Drive east to Carcassonne and stay for three nights

    Take the road along the Spanish border from Saint-Jean-de-Luz to Albi, via the pink terracotta streets of Toulouse, and through the imposing peaks of the Pyrenees. Arrive in Carcassonne, the medieval citadel, and your next hotel the Hotel de la Cite, which sits on the walls that once defended the city. The Gallo-Roman upper town is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and historically of great significance in France. Walk along the city walls, past the castle’s amphitheatre, the basilica, and its 53 watchtowers, before making your way into the 12th century Château Comtal to view its archaeological exhibits and tour its inner ramparts. For a more intimate, private experience of the region’s châteaux, drive south to the Cathar Castles, particularly the Château de Peyrepertuse. The lower Carcassonne town subverts its title as a city, instead offering a peaceful, somewhat sleepy atmosphere, with a central square that holds a weekly market and a number of small cafés. From Place Carnot, walk further out into the town centre to discover the quaint individual stores that sell unique gifts, or La Ferme, which sells fine food and wines. To seek out more lively bars, restaurants, and shops visit the nearby towns of Béziers and Narbonne. The Canal du Midi is perfect for a long afternoon stroll, or book a boat trip one afternoon to intensify the atmosphere of Carcassonne from the water. The region is renowned for its wine- makingand until recently it was the largest wine-making region. Beyond the walls of La Cité lie Minervois, to the north, and Corbières, to the south. If wine-tasting appeals, head into one of the many château dotted around the countryside of these two regions. The Château Canet is the perfect spot to try some of the Muscat wines so typical of the Minervois region, as well as the olives from its three olive groves. Château Rives-Blanques in Cépie produces wines made available all over the world that you are encouraged by your warm hosts to taste on your visit. The less visited area of Saint Chinian, situated at the foothills of the Black Mountains and in the Parc Naturel Regional du Haut Languedoc, is worth a visit, known as it is for high quality produce; perhaps stop off at the Château de Combebelle. In the evenings dine at the michelin-starred restaurant at the hotel and the enjoy the realxed atmosphere of the library bar.

    DAY TEN
    Return to Bordeaux or depart from Toulouse

    Drive back through Toulouse and follow the route of the River Geronne back to Bordeaux, where you will board your flight back to the UK.

    Driving times for this touring holiday:
    Bordeaux to Saint-Jean-de-Luz: 2 hours 15 minutes
    Saint-Jean-de-Luz to Carcassonne: 3 hours 45 minutes
    Carcassonne to Bordeaux: 3 hours 15 minutes

    Bordeaux, Basque Country, and Albi

    Hotel information

    Below is some information regarding each of the hotels featured in this touring itinerary. Alternative hotels are available in some destinations - please contact us for full details.

    Le Saint-James
    Bordeaux
    This Relais & Châteaux property is a unique find on a hillside perch on the borders of the sleepy village of Bouliac, just outside Bordeaux. Le Saint-James’ unusual architecture was designed by Jean Nouvel to resemble the tobacco-drying barns of the region, where the original 18th century farmhouse buildings contrast industrial-style pavilions – home to the guestrooms. From here the views are spectacular, sloping through orderly vineyards across the fields to Bordeaux. The 15 rooms and 3 suites feature a sparse décor with white walls and bed linens allowing the colours of the landscape to stand out. A marvellous feature of the rooms is that the beds stand elevated to the level of panoramic windows, allowing sunrise views to greet you when you wake. You can opt to take breakfast in bed to make the most of your unique accommodation. At the restaurant, floor-to-ceiling windows take advantage of the hotel’s westward-facing aspect, and sunlight and rural beauty becomes the backdrop for fine dining from Michelin-starred Chef Nicolas Magie. Here you can enjoy dishes inspired by the Aquitaine region, filled with market ingredients. For more low-key dining, it is a short walk to the authentic village cafeteria Le Café de l’Espérance for hearty, home cooked goods from specials lists chalked onto blackboards. Both venues are run by Le Saint-James and serve the home-grown house wine, Vin du Jardin. Food and wine is central to the Le Saint-James experience with a service that includes tours of the wine cellar’s 2000 labels, wine tasting and the exclusive addition of a cookery school. Côte Cours operates a schedule of events that is suitable for all ages and abilities, with thematic classes led by the sous-chef to Nicolas Magie. The pristine conservatory setting of the teaching kitchen even hosts a ‘Little Chefs’ package for youngsters to be introduced to the French Classics. Le Saint-James is perfect for guests seeking a rural lifestyle with emphasis on good food and good wine, while access to urban Bordeaux is just a stone’s throw away.
    Find out more here.

    Parc Victoria
    Saint-Jean-de-Luz
    About 5 minutes’ walk from the seafront in a quiet residential area is the charming Hotel Parc Victoria, surrounded by a beautiful park and gardens. Built in the 1880s, the villa has one of the most remarkable authentic interiors ever seen in a hotel. Almost entirely in art-deco style, the Hotel Parc Victoria is full of antiques and has retained the feel of an elegant private house. There are just 20 rooms and suites, all with private bathroom and air conditioning. There is a charming lounge and breakfast room in the main villa and a very pretty garden dining room in a separate building near the swimming pool. The dining room serves a menu of the day from about Euro 38 in the evening as well as lunch time lighter meals, ideal if you’re spending the day by the pool. Almost as outstanding a feature as the villa itself is the wonderful garden. In the English style, the garden is the piece de resistance of the Hotel Parc Victoria, bursting with trees, shrubs and flowers; it is cared for with as much individual love and attention as the villa itself. The Hotel Parc Victoria is a member of Relais and Châteaux. Early booking recommended.
    Find out more here.

    Hotel de la Cite
    Carcassonne
    The Hôtel de la Cité occupies a privileged position on the site of a former episcopal palace within the mediaeval walled city of Carcassonne. The building’s original features such as beamed ceilings, wooden panelling and floral tapestries have been preserved and enhanced by fine fabrics and hand-crafted furniture from local workshops. The emphasis is on traditional style matched by contemporary comfort. All bedrooms have private bathroom, sound proofing, air conditioning, telephone, television and video. The Hôtel de la Cité has an excellent gourmet restaurant with a Michelin star, La Barbacane, located in the heart of the hotel, with high Gothic ceilings. There is also a library bar for relaxation with live piano music in the evenings on occasion. Outside is a heated swimming pool and gardens of lawns and flower beds. Unique and luxurious, elegant and traditional, the Hôtel de la Cité is well worth a visit. 
     Find out more here

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  • France

    Find out more about France

    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.
    Currency
    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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