10 nights and 11 daysFrom your starting destination in northern Spain into the southern regions of France, this touring holiday is a great option for those looking for a combination of coastal locations and the stunning snow-capped beauty that is the Pyrenees Mountains. This is a diverse and interesting tour, with fabulous hotels from which to base your exploration. Click here to download a pdf with information about some of our suggested French touring holidays.Begin your tour over the Spanish border in Bilbao, where you disembark from your ferry. Your journey will initially take you across inland Basque Country before heading up to the Bay of Biscay and the gastronomic stronghold of San Sebastián, a cosmopolitan pearl of Spanish tourism. This makes for a convenient stop-off point en route to the French border and the pretty coastal town of Saint-Jean-de-Luz just beyond. Here, you’ll stay overnight at Parc Victoria in the French Basque Country where you’ll be ideally positioned to enjoy the crashing waves of the Atlantic, before setting off again the next morning on your drive through the Pyrenees. You may consider a quick trip up the coast to the trendy resort of Biarritz, or inland to the spa town of Cambo-les-Bains or the picturesque Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, which is a popular pilgrimage stop-off on the way to Santiago de Compostela. As your journey takes you eastwards, all the while the dramatic snow-capped peaks of the Pyrenees making a visually splendid backdrop, take time to visit Pau, dominated by its château, and perhaps even consider a short drive to the pilgrimage town of Lourdes. The freedom of a self-drive holiday ensures that you can tailor your route to suit your own interests. Stay overnight at a charming hotel in the heart of the Pyrénées Ariégeoises before continuing the winding car journey through spectacular scenery towards your final destination, Le Boulou, where you can enjoy six nights of relaxation and exploration at the Relais des Chartreuses. Following your stay here, return to Bilbao by the same route, staying in Saint-Girons and Saint-Jean-de-Luz for one night each.PRICESPrices for this self-drive holiday from £1720 per personWhat's included:• Two nights’ bed and breakfast at Parc Victoria in Saint-Jean-de-Luz (one night each way)• Two nights’ bed and breakfast at the Château de Beauregard in Saint-Girons (one night each way)• Six nights’ bed and breakfast at the Relais des Chartreuses in Le Boulou, near Perpignan• Ferry crossing for car and passengers Portsmouth to Bilbao with Brittany Ferries, including a two-berth cabin with shower and wc
Day-by-Day ItineraryDAY ONEBilbao to Saint-Jean-de-LuzTravel from Portsmouth to Bilbao by ferry, before beginning the drive to Saint-Jean-de-Luz in the Basque Country and your hotel, Parc Victoria. Stop off en route at San Sebastián for a tour of the Belle Époque architecture. Of particular interest is the beautifully golden town hall, to match much of San Sebastián’s other architecture, which was formerly the city’s Gran Casino before it closed in 1924. Visit the spa building, La Perla, built for the Queen María Cristina, and considered to be one of the most beautiful in the world. The atmosphere and ambience of San Sebastián is well worth a short stop, to get a taste for the ornate culture of northern Spain before moving across the border and into France. Upon arriving in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, spend the remaining afternoon and evening strolling along its fantastically varied coastline: from the harbour and port, along the golden sandy beach, and onto more rocky terrain, where the sedimentary rocks can be seen emerging from the sand with their layers intact. Making your way through the town centre itself, be sure to appreciate the features of the traditional fishing port, the 17th Century shipowners’ houses, and the Church of Saint Jean Baptiste, the site of the marriage of Louis XIV in 1660. The unusual and captivating church is built on three levels and adorned almost entirely in gold decoration on the inside, with, as an intriguing centre-piece, a model ship hanging from the ceiling. For more of the history of the town, visit Maison Louis XIV, where the king himself reportedly stayed. The town also has a number of gardens and restaurants to offer. Parc Victoria, far from the ornate decoration of central Saint-Jean-de-Luz is an intimate, beautifully maintained hotel, known for being almost art-deco in style.DAY TWOSaint-Jean-de-Luz to Saint-GironsStroll around the beautiful English gardens surrounding the hotel, and take a final dip in the pool after breakfast, before heading on to Saint-Girons. Plan your visit to ensure you spend one of your nights at the Château de Beauregard in Saint-Girons on a Friday, to make the most of the Saint-Girons market, which takes place every Saturday morning. One of the most popular markets in Ariège, it prides itself in its high quality local products. The vibrancy and bustle of the market makes it the perfect way to experience the French way of life in Languedoc-Roussillon. Take a trip into the roof of the Église Saint-Girons to see the expertly timbered roof, or view the Façade en Mosaiques Dorées for a taste of old French design. For a more in-depth taste of the local art, which the town prides itself for, take a trip to the Museum of Graphic Art and Printing, or explore the local businesses that dabble in mosaic, stained glass, and beading. Nearby, but on higher ground than Saint-Girons, lies Saint-Lizier, which boasts of all the original architecture of such an ancient commune, with its cathedral, churches, and old town walls.DAYS THREE TO EIGHTSaint-Girons to Le BoulouAfter making the most of your night in Saint-Girons, move east to Le Boulou, a French Catalonian commune near the Spanish border. Explore the village via its winding streets lined with old fashioned white stone buildings, stopping at its quaint cafes and shops as you go. To really get a feel for the heritage of the village visit the large iron bell, cast in 1436 and weighing 832 kg, the Quadrangular Tower, one of the last remains of the village’s original fortifications, and Saint Anthony’s Chapel. A ‘Source de Bien-être,’ Le Boulou remains faithful to the traditional belief that thermal mineral water can revitalise and rejuvenate, and therefore offers a number of spas with different treatments. From Boulou, venture into the surrounding areas to explore Collioure, a traditional Catalan port, Ceret’s Museum of Modern Arts, housing the works of Picasso, Matisse, and Gris among others, and the Palace of the Kings of Majorca at Perpignan. Just across the border into Spain, is Figueres, the home of the Dali Museum. However adventurous the surrounding possibilities make you, be sure to return to Le Boulou and, your hotel, the Relais des Chartreuses, to sample traditional Catalan cuisine: the region is most well known for its meatballs, dried sausages, fish and chicken sauces, and the famous Collioure anchovies. The lush green countryside of the Languedoc-Roussillon region is famous for producing naturally sweet wines, such as Muscat, Rivesaltes, Banyuls, and Maury, the vineyards of which lace the landscape near Le Boulou.DAY NINELe Boulou to Saint GironsReturn for one night to Saint-Girons, but this time venture out from the town itself. Saint-Girons’ positioning amongst the local landscape makes it the ideal base to wander a little off the beaten track, with many hidden treasures nestled into the valleys and hillsides. Lakes, such as the Lac de Bethmale and Étang de Lerz offer beautiful views during the daytime and evening, whilst the views of the Pyrenees become panoramic from the barns of Cominac. Walk through the Mont Valier Nature Reserve along the Vallée du Ribérot to witness the astonishing views of Mont Valier, or picnic beside the creek. The more adventurous visitor might wish to ascend into the Goutets, a collection of dry stone huts built by ancient shepherds at 1400 metres about sea level. An hour’s drive away, near Montségur, is the Château de Montségur, a collection of impressive hilltop ruins dating back to the 13th Century.DAY TEN Saint Girons to Saint-Jean-de-LuzSpend your final night on this touring holiday back in Parc Victoria in Saint-Jean-de-Luz. Take a final walk down the picturesque streets, and soak up the sights and scents of warm southern France. Relax in the hotel in the evening, making the most of its excellent facilities.DAY ELEVENSaint-Jean-de-Luz back to Bilbao to board the ferryDrive across the border and back into Spain, ready to board the ferry in Bilbao. Get to Bilbao early to have a quick look around the capital of the Basque country, navigating from the older parts of the town into the more modern downtown. Here skyscrapers stand against a backdrop of rolling green hills and the lapping water of the old port.Driving times for this touring holiday:Bilbao to Saint-Jean-de-Luz: 1 hour 30 minutesSaint-Jean-de-Luz to Saint-Girons: 2 hours 45 minutesSaint-Girons to Le Boulou: 2 hours 50 minutes
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.Parc Victoria:Saint-Jean-de-LuzAbout 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.Relais des Chartreuses:Le BoulouThe Relais des Chartreuses near Le Boulou is an unexpected hidden gem nestled deep in the foothills of the Albères, perfectly situated for exploring the many delights of Catalonia, north and south of the France-Spain border. Overlooking the surrounding hills of the Vallespir Valley, the hotel is set in 5,000 square metres of tranquil parkland, complete with outdoor swimming pool. The Relais des Chartreuses is within striking distance of Perpignan and the artist haunts of Céret, Collioure and Figueres, beloved by Picasso, Matisse and Dalí respectively. This 17th-century Catalan farmhouse has been lovingly renovated and refurbished to offer stylish and contemporary accommodation of three-star standard. The 14 rooms are decorated in a subtle, neutral colour palette and are accentuated by fine regional and Louis XV and XVI furnishings, whilst the former dovecote in the garden has been converted into a beautiful suite. Dinner is an intimate and tasty affair, with a simple yet appealing seasonal menu offering Mediterranean-inspired cuisine using the freshest local produce and accompanied by some of the finest Languedocian vintages. There is also a wellness centre within the grounds of the Relais des Chartreuses, offering beauty treatments and massages. A short drive from the French coastal resorts of Collioure, Banyuls-sur-Mer, Argèles-sur-Mer and Port-Vendres and close enough for a day’s excursion to the Spanish seaside villages of Cadaqués, Roses and Empuriabrava or the fascinating towns of Figueres and Girona, the Relais des Chartreuses near Le Boulou offers a convenient and most attractive base for exploring the region.Find out more here.
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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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