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  • Fly-drive touring holiday of the Dordogne, Basque Country and Massif central

    Les Sources de Caudalie

    Les Sources de Caudalie

    Les Source de Caudalie, Suite

    Hotel Parc Victoria

    Hotel Parc Victoria

    Hotel Parc Victoria, Superior Room

    Château des Salettes

    Chateau des Salettes, Double Room

    Maison Bras

    Le Vieux Logis

    Le Vieux Logis

    Le Vieux Logis

    Fly-drive touring holiday of the Dordogne, Basque Country and Massif Central

    9 nights and 10 days
    This self-drive tour offers a whistle-stop tour of these three famous regions, allowing visitors to enjoy superb accommodation and explore the cultural and historic import of each at will. Stay at four marvellous hotels from which to discover all that each region has to offer before moving on to the next stop. Vineyards, beaches, countryside landscapes, historical and cultural attractions and even Michelin-starred food awaits on this all-encompassing touring holiday.

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

    Flying into Bordeaux, collect your hire car and drive to your first location. The first night is spent in Martillac at Les Sources de Caudalie which is set amongst the vineyards of Smith Haut Lafitte. Drive southwest through the Landes, characterised by its sweet-smelling pine forests and long stretches of uninterrupted beaches along the Côte d’Argent. Your second hotel, Parc Victoria, sits in a park of over a hectare, just a stone’s throw from the beaches of Saint-Jean-de-Luz in the French Basque Country; from here, Biarritz and gastronomic San Sebastián make for interesting excursions during your two night stay. Continue your journey east through the foothills of the Pyrenees, passing pastoral panoramas set against a backdrop of snow-capped peaks. Take time to visit Pau and the pilgrimage town of Lourdes before sweeping up towards the rose-hued city of Toulouse and on to Cahuzac-sur-Vère near Gaillac, where your hotel, the Château des Salettes, occupies an idyllic rural setting with views over vine-clad hills. Here, you’re but 15 minutes from dramatic Cordes-sur-Ciel and just half an hour from Albi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the birthplace of Toulouse-Lautrec. After a three night stay here, continue northwest into the volcanic mountains and plateaux of the Massif Central. Arriving in Laguiole, a gastronomic experience of epic proportions awaits, with a two-night stay at Maison Bras, the three Michelin-starred hotel-restaurant of father and son duo, Michel and Sébastien Bras. Finally, head west towards the Dordogne for an overnight stop at Le Vieux Logis in Trémolat, before continuing on to Bordeaux for your homebound flight.

    PRICES
    Prices for this fly-drive tour from £2170 per person

    What's included:
    - One night’s bed and breakfast at the Les Sources de Caudalie in Martillac
    - Two nights’ bed and breakfast at Parc Victoria in Saint-Jean-de-Luz
    - Three nights’ bed and breakfast at the Château des Salettes in Cahuzac-sur-Vère, near Gaillac
    - Two nights’ bed and breakfast at Maison Bras in Laguiole
    - One night’s bed and breakfast at Le Vieux Logis in Trémolat
    - Scheduled flights with British Airways (London to Bordeaux return)
    - Group A car hire for the duration of the holiday

    Fly-drive touring holiday of the Dordogne, Basque Country, and Massif Central

    Day-by-day Itinerary

    DAY ONE
    Arrive in Bordeaux and spend the night in Martillac

    Situated on the Gironde Estuary, and within driving distance of the Médoc Peninsula, Bordeaux is a veritable hub for excellent wine-makers and enthusiastic wine-tasters. Just a short drive northeast of your hotel, Les Sources de Caudalie, is the internationally renowned Saint-Émilion, teeming with vineyards and châteaux open for tasting sessions. To really get a feel for the speciality flavours of the region, sample the fruity Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, the Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Mabec wines, and experience the vanilla and coffee aromas that come with the carefully aged wines of Bordeaux. A little closer to your hotel, however, is the Château Latour-Martillac, a very popular place for wine-tasting. Tours include personalised selections of wines, and an opportunity to taste the Petit Verdot grapes fresh from the vine. Also at your Martillac hotel is the Spa Vinotherapie Caudalie, offering a wide range of treatments including a fresh-grape massage, perfect for relaxing on your first afternoon in France. If a more educational afternoon appeals to you, then head into the Bordeaux city centre to view some of the most impressive monuments in the area; from the Amphithéâtre de Bordeaux dit Palais Gallien, to the Cathédrale de Bordeaux, and Basilica of Saint Michael, the wealth of architectural diversity and excellence is breath-taking. If time permits, try to book tickets for a performance at the Opéra National de Bordeaux, or wander around the Musée d’Aquitane or the Musée des Beaux-Arts.

    DAYS TWO TO THREE
    Drive south to Saint-Jean-de-Luz, and stay for two nights

    Down in the French Basque Country, Saint-Jean-de-Luz is right on the Pyrenean border between France and Spain. Your hotel, Parc Victoria, makes the most of the spectacular views over the Bay of Biscay that come with this wonderful location with the addition of a clifftop infinity pool. The varied coastline makes it possible to walk through the harbour and port, on to golden sandy beaches, and across the jutting layers of sedimentary rock that form the jagged clifftops. The atmospheric town centre is lined with picturesque 17th century shipowners’ houses. The Church of Saint Jean Baptiste was the site of the marriage of Louis XIV in 1660. Its interior makes it one of the quirkiest religious buildings on this tour, split onto three levels, and adorned with extravagant gold decoration, while in the centre of the main room hangs a model ship, harking back to the nautical history of the town. By contrast, your hotel, Parc Victoria, is art-deco but intimate, a far-cry from the vast ornate spaces in the town centre. Its landscaped English gardens are the perfect place to relax, before eating dinner in the poolside restaurant. Just across the rocky Pyrenean border is San Sebastián - an essential day-trip. As well as its reputation for excellent cuisine, San Sebastián boasts of an impressive heritage and royal connection. The La Perla spa building on the waterfront was built for the Queen María Cristina, and is still believed to be one of the most beautiful in the world. Alongside this, visit the golden Town Hall, formerly the vibrant town’s Gran Casino.

    DAYS FOUR TO SIX
    Drive east to Cahuzac-sur-Vère, and stay for three nights

    The small commune of Cahuzac-sur-Vère is the quintessential rural French settlement, with its narrow winding streets and blond stone buildings, and picturesque central square and war monument. The houses of the Cahuzacois cluster around the Catholic Church of the same name as the commune, giving it a very medieval appearance. Stretching out on each side, however, is a landscape rich in exciting opportunities to explore. Montauban, less then an hour northwest of Cahuzac-sur-Vère is the second oldest of the bastides of Southern France, founded in 1144AD. It was voted a French City of Art and History, with a city centre characterised by its towering châteaux, impressive bridge, and boulevards. Wine-tasting opportunities are available at the Domaine de Montels and the Mas des Anges, if you would like to sample the wine of the area. Alternatively, Montauban is known for its other culinary specialities, such as sugared almonds and biscuits with jam, not to mention the fabulous produce of its chocolatiers. A short drive southeast of Cahuzac-sur-Vère will bring you to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Albi. Similarly medieval, Albi is built around the red-brick cathedral of Saint Cecilia. The cathedral’s interior is austere in its wood and stone decorations, yet, outside, the whole western wall is decorated with extensive murals depicting the Last Judgement. Next door, the Bishop’s Palace houses the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum, casting light on Albi’s famous connections. The piazza encourages visitors to take in the beautiful views across the river Tarn, as does the thousand year old bridge just past the museum. Other points of interest nearby might include the fortified villages and vineyards of the Gaillac countryside, the tours of the old mining town Carmaux that extend 350 metres underground, or the Viaduc du Viaur, designed by Gustave Eiffel himself, in Rodez. Your hotel, the Château des Salettes, balances the perfect blend of rustic and modern, providing essential home comforts after a day exploring medieval France.

    DAYS SEVEN TO EIGHT
    Drive northeast to Laguiole, and stay for two nights

    Your next stop on this touring holiday is in the Massif Central, the hilltop Maison Bras, a hotel renowned for its three Michelin-starred restaurant. The perfect blend of contemporary comforts and extraordinary panoramic views, it is the ideal base from which to delve into the secrets of the Massif. Laguiole itself is a small medieval commune built around the Church of Saint-Matthieu, perched on a hilltop. Known primarily for its Laguiole knives, the atmosphere of the commune is reflective of the eclectic culture and focus on age-old craftsmanship. To see this Symbol of Aveyron being crafted, visit either the Forge de Languiole or one of the smaller knife-makers dotted around the village. Headed by the large statue of the Aubrac bull, intended to represent the vigour of their local livestock, the houses on the narrow winding streets of Laguiole are built out of granite and basalt, with roofs coated with lauze, creating an altogether different aesthetic to the golden villages of the Dordogne and Burgundy. Speciality foods of the region include the tome de Laguiole cheese, first made by the La Dômerie monks in the 12th century, and Aligot, a unique dish made with the Laguiole cheese, crème fraiche, and mashed potatoes. Situated close to the original pathway of the Pilgrim’s Way, this particular corner of the Massif Central is steeped in history, with each commune having something delightful in the way of culture to offer. Travel into the nearby Saint-Come-d’Olt, Sainte-Eulalie-d’Olt, Estaing, and Conques, officially some of France’s most beautiful villages, to witness traditional French architecture and culture virtually untouched since the 16th and 17th centuries. Conques, in particular, is a must-see. Situated on the gorge of the River Dourdou, it offers extensive and beautiful views across the valley. Inside the town, wander up and down the cobbled streets, between the medieval houses, and past the surviving parts of the original walls and stone gateways. Enjoy the fresh aroma of the rustic communal bread ovens, still in use today, and visit the Saint Foy Abbey and its treasury, which houses one of the top five gold-plated treasures of Europe: the statue of Saint Foy, adorned with the precious stones donated by passing Pilgrims. The smaller village of Saint-Flour offers a dramatic alternative; its buildings are built out of the local volcanic rock, giving them and the Place des Armes a darker, more sombre look. While here, it is worth exploring the central château as well as the Douet Art Museum. In Espalion, when strolling along its Baroque and Romanesque streets, its illustrious involvement in the leather trade can be seen in the many picturesque tanneries. Just outside Saint-Come-d’Olt, the hillside is sculpted by a great lava flow, with the appearance of a rocky river, which really epitomises the quirky and unusual nature of this region. In the winter, take advantage of the local ski schools.

    DAY NINE
    Drive into the Dordogne and stay the night in Trémolat

    Another attractive French commune, Trémolat sits just a stone’s throw from the larger city of Bergerac. However, to make the most of your one night in Trémolat, walk into the centre of the village to appreciate the imposing and austere Saint Nicolas Church. Its riverside position makes it ideal for sailing, fishing, and water-sports enthusiasts, while the neighbouring hills make for fantastic hiking trails. To the east of Trémolat lies Sarlat-la-Canéda, which offers a comprehensive tour of the Palaeolithic caves of the region, ending in the famous Lascaux Cave II. If time permits, spend an afternoon in Perigeux, a larger town just north of Trémolat. Once an important Roman centre, its progressive history can be read in the Vesone Tower and the Amphithéâtre, the medieval Château Barrière, and the Cathédrale Saint Font surrounded by the town’s boulevards and medieval houses. Have lunch or an afternoon coffee in one of the chic cafés on the Place de Navarre before returning to the ivy-covered façade and beautifully lush gardens of your hotel, Le Vieux Logis. When out and about, or perhaps from the comfort of your hotel room, try the best produce of the region; specifically mushrooms, chestnuts, walnuts, strawberries and foie gras.

    DAY TEN
    Return to Bordeaux for your return flight

    After leaving Trémolat in the morning, consider stopping off at Bergerac on the way to the airport, for a wine-tasting session at the Musée du Vin et de la Battelerie to sample some more wines from the Bordeaux region. Or, alternatively, drive through the small medieval village of Issigeac, so brilliantly preserved, and the model bastide of Monpazier.

    Driving times for this touring holiday:
    Bordeaux to Martillac: 25 minutes
    Martillac to Saint-Jean-de-Luz: 2 hours 5 minutes
    Saint-Jean-de-Luz to Cahuzac-sur-Vère: 3 hours 45 minutes
    Cahuzac-sur-Vère to Laguiole: 2 hours 5 minutes
    Laguiole to Trémolat: 3 hours 45 minutes
    Trémolat to Bordeaux: 2 hours

    Dordogne, Basque Country, Massif Central v2

    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.

    Les Sources de Caudalie
    Martillac
    Les Sources de Caudalie in Martillac is situated at the very heart of the Smith Haut Lafitte vineyard. Owned by the same family as the vineyard, guests can enjoy a wide selection of fine wines as accompaniment to the delicious French cuisine offered by Les Sources de Caudalie’s two restaurants: Michelin-starred La Grand Vigne which offers refined, classical dishes and the more casual Table du Lavoir offering regional cuisine in a beautiful beamed room. The chef, Frank Salein, runs the two restaurants which have views over the vineyard. The open wood fire in the stylish, yet extremely cosy bar creates a very atmospheric ambience in which to relax and enjoy the region’s wines and Armagnac brandy. The bedrooms at Les Sources de Caudalie, each with individual names, are decorated individually to reflect the style and colours of the region. Situated in the various wings and in little houses in the hotel grounds, the bedrooms have private bathroom, air conditioning, television, telephone, mini-bar, safe and hairdryer. One of the highlights of Les Sources de Caudalie is its wonderful vinotherapy spa, the perfect place to relax in the hot spring-fed swimming pool or treat yourself the endless list of vinotherapy, which use the Caudalie products and cosmetics based on grape and vine extracts.
    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.

    Château des Salettes
    Cahuzac-sur-Vère
    The delightful four-star Château de Salettes is set in the heart of the Gaillac vineyards on a chalk outcrop, just a 15-minute drive from Cordes-sur-Ciel and 30 minutes from Albi. The hotel dates back to the 13th century and seamlessly blends a traditional château exterior with a modern interior décor. The Chateau de Salettes occupies an idyllically rural setting amidst the Tarn countryside, with far-reaching views over pastoral landscapes of rolling hills clad in vines. The outdoor swimming pool and sun terrace sit atop a rocky spur, affording the ultimate in privacy, tranquillity and panoramas whilst, indoors, a range of beauty treatments are available. The 13 rooms and five suites at the Château de Salettes are contemporary in design, with a minimalist feel and a light, neutral colour scheme. Varying in size and outlook, the rooms are situated in the main château and tower, featuring air conditioning, mini-bar, WiFi, telephone, television and king-size beds. Some also have a Jacuzzi bath. The Château des Salettes in Tarn boasts a Michelin-starred restaurant with al fresco dining on the shaded terrace in warmer months, accompanied, of course, by some of the finest local vintages.
    Find out more here.

    Maison Bras
    Laguiole
    Bras in Laguiole is almost at odds with its surroundings, an all-glass creation which is modern and futuristic in appearance, designed especially to work with the light and maximise the far-reaching views from its enviable position overlooking wildflowers and rolling landscapes of the Aubrac plateau. Owned and run by the Bras family, with father Michel and son Sébastien veritable A-list stars in the world of French gastronomy, holding three Michelin stars between them, this intimate establishment promises a culinary experience that will take gourmet dining to an altogether different level. Following the rhythm of the seasons and rich in the finest, naturally-sourced ingredients from the land, the menu proposes creative and imaginative gastronomic masterpieces, literally culinary works of art, served with immaculate style and effortless efficiency. With just 11 rooms, two suites and one sitting for lunch and dinner, a feeling of exclusivity and tranquil serenity go hand in hand at Bras, complemented all the while by the stunning panoramas beyond your window.
    Find out more here.

    Le Vieux Logis
    Trémolat
    Le Vieux Logis is outstandingly pretty; a manor house dating back 400 years built in the regional style in a quaint, authentic Perigord village in a bend in the river Dordogne. Surrounded by lawns and beautiful gardens through which a stream flows, Le Vieux Logis is a 4 star Relais and Châteaux hotel of exceptional charm and character. There are cosy lounges with open fire places, comfortable sofas and armchairs, walls decorated with pretty prints, pictures and ornaments which create a homely atmosphere. The rooms at Le Vieux Logis vary in size, some are situated in the main manor house, others in delightfully refurbished houses across the driveway in the garden; but all are furnished individually to the same exceptionally high standards, with antiques or rustic local furniture, ornaments and pictures, rich coloured fabrics that complement the natural material of the building; the stone and the timbers. All have private bath and wc, telephone, television and mini bar. The atmospheric restaurant is situated in what was a tobacco drying house and the focus is on regional specialities in season. There is also a cosy bar. Le Vieux Logis is the sort of place you could ensconce yourself in for days on end with a few good books, perhaps venturing out to visit a local market, for a walk along the river or to potter in the pretty villages of golden stone.
    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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