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  • Fly-drive touring holiday of the gastronomic highlights of Tarn and the Auvergne

    Château de Codignat

    Chateau de Codignat

    Chateau de Codignat

    Chateau de Codignat

    French Chateau in the Auvergne

    Maison Bras

    Chateau des Salettes

    Chateau des Salettes

    Chateau des Salettes

    Fly-drive touring holiday of the gastronomic highlights of Tarn and the Auvergne

    8 nights and 9 days
    This is a journey through the heartland of France and French gastronomy, a touring holiday designed for those looking to indulge during their stay in France. With four hotels boasting a total of five Michelin stars, be assured of the most indulgent stay, marked by the most delightful fine dining experiences. Enjoy marvellous views and divine cuisine to end each exciting day of traversing the southerly regions in which they are located.

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

    Scheduled flights take you into Lyon, where you will collect your hire car before embarking on this tantalising touring holiday. From Lyon, drive in a westerly direction, firstly crossing into the department of the Loire then traversing the Durolle Valley in the northern Puy-de-Dome. Nestled amidst 40 acres of verdant parkland in the heart of the stunning volcanic Basse-Auvergne countryside, you will find your first hotel. The Michelin-starred Château de Codignat provides easy access to the historic Vichy and Clermont-Ferrand, one of the oldest cities in France. From here, your journey south takes you through the region known affectionately as the Tuscan Auvergne for its Mediterranean architectural style, green rolling valleys, poplar trees and brilliant sunlight. Continuing the drive further south to your second hotel, Chateau Mercues, located just outside the beautiful city of Cahors.  before journeying further southwest, past fields of vines to Gaillac, from where it's just a short drive to the breath-taking artisan town of Cordes-sur-Ciel, seemingly floating above the clouds from its lofty position atop an isolated knoll. Nearby Castelnau-de-Montmirail is also a must, today classified as one of the most beautiful cities in France. After three nights at the Michelin-starred Château des Salettes near Gaillac, continue to your final hotel the michelin-starred Hotel de la Cite in the medieval citadel of Carcassonne. From there drive to Toulouse to fly home.

    Prices for this fly-drive holiday from £1740 per person

    What's included:
    - Three nights’ bed and breakfast at the Château de Codignat in Bort-l’Etang, near Clermont-Ferrand
    - Two nights’ bed and breakfast at Chateau de Mercues near Cahors
    - Two nights’ bed and breakfast at the Château des Salettes in Cahuzac-sur-Vère, near Gaillac
    - Two nights' bed and breakfast at the Hotel de la Cite in Carcassonne
    - Scheduled flight from London to Lyon / Toulouse to London with British Airways
    - Hire of a group B car for the duration of the holiday

    Fly-drive touring holiday of the gastronomic highlights of Tarn and the Auvergne

    Day-by-Day Itinerary

    Arrive in Lyon and drive west to Clermont-Ferrand, where you will spend three nights

    The road west takes you through the Livradois-Forez Regional Park, where you may want to stop to appreciate the views, before driving on to Bort-l’Étang. The elaborately grand and elegant Château de Codignat provides a breath-taking luxury setting for your gastronomic excursions, and has a cosy Michelin-starred restaurant in which you are encouraged to indulge after a day of exploration. By way of local history, Clermont-Ferrand sits just 40 minutes northwest, and is perfect for a cultural day trip. Surrounded by dormant volcanoes, the buildings that line the streets of this city are built from black lava stone which gives Clermont-Ferrand an atmospheric and unusual look. The city holds a large total of 50 fountains, and a number of statues, such as the statue of Vercingetorix who led the Gauls to victory against Julius Caesar in 52BC, that act as centrepieces in the numerous squares. Architectural highlights include the Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption, a gothic tour de force with towering black spires, and the Notre-Dame-du-Port basilica, with its beautiful mosaic details. The end of January sees the Festival international du Court-Métrage, a short film festival, visit the town, but throughout the year festivals of dance, music, and the arts regularly bring the town centre to life. Gastronomy is paramount in Auvergne culture, from the speciality cheeses, such as Cantal, Saint-Nectaire, Fourme d’Ambert, Bleu d’Auvergne, and Salers, to the cured meats sourced from the Salers cattle that are intensified with local hazelnuts, bilberries, or chestnuts. Another key ingredient to seek out is the Puy green lentil, central to Petit Salé, a typically Auvergne dish of salted pork belly. The Côtes d’Auvergne wines owe a lot of their success to the volcanic soil attributed to the Chaîne des Puys mountain range. The white wines are produced from the Chardonnay grape, the reds from the Gamay and Pinot Noir grapes, and rosé from Gamay exclusively. To taste the wine of the area, visit the boutique Cave Saint Verny, or visit the wine museum in Aubière to learn more about the process. The Montpeyroux vineyards, situated in one of France’s Most Beautiful Villages, are open for public visits. To taste the produce of the Saint-Pourçain appellation, the home to some of the Auvergne’s most famous wines, visit the Saint-Pourçain Winemaker’s Union.

    Drive south to Cahors and spend two nights

    Continue your journey southwards to the historic city of Cahors and your hotel for two nights the Chateau de Mercues. Situated just a few miles west of the historic town of Cahors, it is an ideal base from which to explore the region. Surrounded by the River Lot on three sides the picturesque town of Cahors makes for an excellent choice to explore. Make sure to take in the famous Valentré Bridge with its three towers, built in the 14th century and now UNESCO World Heritage listed and visit the cathedral, an impressive building in the centre of the town. Wander down the charming medieval streets and relax in the shaded little squares perhaps discovering a quaint café or one of the many secret garden areas. On Wednesday and Saturday mornings enjoy Cahors market which is bursting with local and regional delicacies such as Rocamadour cheeses and Cahors wine, renowned for its dark colouring. If you are staying in July or August, be sure to experience the Cahors festival. The small village of Mercues and its market on Thursday mornings is also well worth a visit. A region that has long been associated with Malbec wines, take a trip to one of the surrounding vineyards and perhaps take a tour or take part in a wine tasting. The hotel itself also boasts impressive wine cellars where vintages made at the chateau’s own vineyard are produced. Make the most of the picturesque scenery by visiting as many of these beautiful villages and medieval towns as you can on your short stay in the Lot Valley.

    Drive further southwest to Cahuzac-sur-Vère and spend two nights

    The Château des Salettes in Cahuzac-sur-Vère is set in the heart of the Gaillac vineyards, but produces its own excellent wines which can be sampled alongside dinner in the Michelin-starred restaurant. Once home to the Toulouse-Lautrec family, the 13th and 15th century castle still holds an exclusive charm, with some bedrooms and suites in the medieval towers themselves. The restaurant itself serves creative but refined dishes, with an extensive and varied tasting menu, all put together with the perfect accompanying wine in mind. Cahuzac-sur-Vère itself is known for its sweet goods, such as sugared almonds, biscuits with jam, and the work of its chocolatiers; the Musée de l’Art et du Sucre in the Maison Prunet at Cordes-sur-Ciel turns these high quality sugary treats into art. While in Cordes-sur-Ciel, take the time to wander down the streets of one of the most spectacular villages on this tour; if the weather permits, follow the path of the tall golden houses, up stone staircases and under quaint arches, as they wind up through the foliage of the hillside and above the low-hanging clouds. Travel southeast to Albi to visit the Toulouse-Lautrec museum, housed in the Bishop’s Palace, to look over the River Tarn from the piazza or thousand-year-old bridge, or to see the Last Judgement murals that occupy the western exterior wall of the red brick cathedral of Saint Cecilia. Take a tour 350 metres underground at the old mining town of Carmaux, or visit the Viaduc du Viaur, designed by Gustave Eiffel in Rodez. Home to some of the greatest wine estates in the area Cahuzac-sur-Vère is the ideal stop-off point for the enthusiastic wine-taster. To whet the appetite, visit the Domaine des Tres Cantous to try the Vin d’Autan and the Vin de Voile. The fairy-tale fortified villages of the Gaillac vineyards each offer a particular wine with a unique flavour, making the whole area ripe for exploration. To taste the characteristic dry, sweet wines, look out for Mauzac, Ondenc, Muscadelle, Sauvignon, and Loin de L’Oeil on your travels through the villages. To learn about the wider variety of grapes that flourish in the Gaillac clime, visit the Maison des Vins de Gaillac, where tasting sessions are also available. In order to sample all of the very best of the wider Midi-Pyrenees region’s gastronomy, don’t forget to try some of the local Roquefort cheese, foie gras, Quercy black truffles, cassoulet, and garbure soup.

    Drive south to Carcassonne and spend two nights

    Drive further south towards the medieval citadel of Carcassonne and the Hotel de la Cite perched on its walls. The Gallo-Roman upper town, La Cité, on the walls of which sits your hotel, Hôtel de la Cité, is an overtly important centre in France’s history, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 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. Be sure to visit the lively and bustling market that takes place Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings. 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. Languedoc-Roussillon’s reputation for excellent wine-making is internationally renowned, and 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 winery Château de Combebelle. In the evenings dine at the hotel’s own Michelin-starred restaurant or venture into Carcassonne and try one of the local restaurants.  

    Embark your return flight from Toulouse to the UK

    After taking in a final few hours of French sun and delicious food and wine, head to Toulouse for your return flight to the UK.

    Driving times for this touring holiday:

    Lyon to Bort-l’Étang: 2 hours
    Bort-l’Étang toMercues: 3 hours 30 minutes
    Mercues to Gaillac: 1 hour 30 minutes
    Gaillac to Carcassonne: 1 hour 45 minutes
    Carcassonne to Toulouse: 1 hour and 30 minutes

    Gastronomic Tour of Tarn and Auvergne 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.

    Château de Codignat
    Bort-l’Étang, near Clermont-Ferrand
    Nestled amidst 40 acres of verdant parkland in the heart of the stunning volcanic Basse-Auvergne countryside, Château de Codignat was originally the lookout tower that protected the Lords of Ravel and their mediaeval castle against enemies attacking from the Dore Valley, dating back to the 12th century. Extended over the centuries, and extensively renovated at the end of the 1970s to transform the château from fortress to hotel, Codignat retains many of its original features and characteristics, with authentic stone fireplaces, small windows and exposed stone walls, towers, turrets, and dungeon all adding character. Varying in size and décor, the 14 rooms and five suites are all elegant and sophisticated in design, each individually appointed in a traditional Haut Époque style with period furnishings and unique decorative features. Each room is air conditioned, affords a beautiful view over the parkland and is well equipped with all manner of amenities, including Jacuzzi bath, satellite TV and DVD player, smart phone docking centre, complimentary WiFi, mini-bar, safe and coffee facilities. In addition to the rooms and suites, Codignat also offers two cottages situated in the grounds, one overlooking the swimming pool. Decorated in a contemporary style, with African-inspired furnishings and additional details, these provide an intimate and homely environment for families or small parties. With a reputation for quality dining, the atmospheric restaurant in the centre of the tower boasts a Michelin star. Chef Mathieu Barbet works with the freshest locally-sourced, organic ingredients to create a modern, refined and delectable menu. In addition to the inviting outdoor swimming pool lined with sun loungers and parasols, the hotel also features a tennis court and open-air fitness trail through the surrounding picturesque countryside. Providing the ultimate in seclusion and tranquillity, a holiday at the Château de Codignat is a château experience to savour.
    Find out more here.

    Chateau de Mercues

    The Chateau de Mercues enjoys a striking location looking down over the river Lot and surrounded by woods, trees and vineyards. Once an impressive medieval castle belonging to the Counts of Cahors the hotel is now a Relais & Chateaux property with 30 rooms and suites. The rooms areall individually decorated using rich and warm tones creating a comfortable yet traditional style. The hotel boasts spacious ground that contain two tennis courts and a swimming pool with views over the surrounding countryside. Perhaps one of the most unique features of the hotel is the impressive wine cellars where barrels of wine, produced by the chateau, are stored. The Chateau de Mercues is an unforgettable hotel, combining traditional comfort with an excellent location.
    Find out more here
    Château des Salettes
    The delightful four-star Château des 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 Château des 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 des 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. 

    Hôtel de la Cité

    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  

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  • France

    Find out more about France

    France FAST FACTS


    Main airports are in Paris, Bordeaux and Lyon, with scheduled and low cost airlines flying into the country from all over the UK.
    Euro (£1 = Euro 1.24)
    Roughly 600 miles wide and 700 miles long
    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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