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  • Picardy Self-drive Touring Holiday

    Pas de Calais

    Hotel la Tour du Roy

    Hotel la Tour du Roy

    Hotel la Tour du Roy

    Hotel de l'Univers

    Hotel de l'Univers

    Self-drive touring holiday exploring Secret Picardy

    5 nights and 6 days
    Explore the hidden gems of enigmatic Picardy in an unhurried journey through the north of France, discovering the valleys, its market towns and its fortified churches which are all steeped in history and tradition. Stay at the traditional Hotel la Tour du Roy within reach of numerous vineyards, the city of Reims and the Ardennes to the north, and break the journey back to Calais in the remarkable town of Arras to make this tour as leisurely as desired.

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

    Arrive in Calais through the Eurotunnel and drive to your first hotel, Hotel la Tour du Roy. Situated in historic Vervins, capital of the Thiérache, this lovely spot is characterised by its winding cobbled streets. From here, you’re within easy driving distance of the Champagne vineyards and capital, Reims, where you’ll find many of the finest names in the business, including Taittinger, Pommery, Veuve Cliquot and Piper Heidsieck. Discover, too, the hilltop city of Laon, dominated by one of the oldest Gothic cathedrals in France, as well as the delights of the Ardennes, including Charleville-Mézières and the fortress town of Sedan. To facilitate leisurely exploration, we also include two nights at the Hotel de l’Univers, which is just over an hour’s drive from Calais. This four-star hotel is situated right in the heart of Arras; a beautiful city rightfully declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its attractive cobbled squares and impressive Flemish architecture. From here, the vibrant city of Lille is just a 40-minute drive away and its prestigious Palais des Beaux Arts is a must-see. As you travel between your two hotels, stop off at the tiny Musée Départemental Matisse in Le Cateau-Cambrésis, a veritable hidden gem housing some 170 works by the great Henri Matisse. Return to Calais at the end of your cultural trip ready to return to England.

    PRICES
    Prices for this self-drive holiday from £1080 per person

    What's included:
    • Three nights’ dinner, bed and breakfast at the Hotel la Tour du Roy in Vervins
    • Two nights' bed and breakfast at the Hotel de l’Univers in Arras
    • Eurotunnel return from Folkestone to Calais

    Secret Picardy Touring Holiday

    Day-by-Day Itinerary

    DAYS ONE TO THREE
    Drive from Calais into Picardy, to Vervins, to stay for three nights

    The drive from Calais to Vervins takes you through northern France’s beautiful and diverse landscape. Our recommended route will take you first through Parc Naturel Régional Caps et Marais d’Opal, past Arras, the second stop on this touring holiday, and around the famous Saint-Quentin, listed as a French Town of Art and History. Situated in the department of Aisne, Vervins and the Hotel la Tour du Roy are perfectly placed to explore the vineyards and estates of the Champagne region. Take a trip to Reims or Épernay to explore the Gallo-Roman underground wine cellars, or enjoy a tasting session in one of the nearby châteaux. The Aisne department itself, however, has much to offer. A market takes place every Saturday in Vervins, so plan your tour accordingly to make sure you get to sample some of the best local French produce. Maroilles, a village just a short drive away, is famous for its many abbey buildings, as well as a certain type of cheese. Vervins is also just a short drive from one of France’s most beautiful villages, Parfondeval, built around a central fortified church. We also recommend driving back to Saint-Quentin for a long afternoon to appreciate the mixture of gothic, art-deco, and Flemish architecture. The town hall, looking out over a peaceful town square, has a 16th Century bell tower containing a total of 37 bells, the chime of which has become famous across the area. The Jean Vilar theatre is impressive with its neo-classical façade, but it is the depictions of the town’s post-WWI restoration painted onto its ceiling that make it so special. For a taste of the art that afforded this town its title, head to the 15th Century gothic basilica to see the treasures within, or simply take a wander in its labyrinth. Visit the remains of the towers of 13th Century Château de Coucy, partially destroyed in WWI but originally famous for the size of its central tower. For more historical adventure, take a trip to the important historical site of Cambrai, the site of the world’s first ever tank battle. The town’s streets are punctuated by monuments, and it prides itself on its museum. If you wish to spend a day at a slower pace, consider taking a stroll in part of the Parc Naturel Régional de l’Avesnois, or in the perfume of the flowers in the elegant nearby gardens. Both the Jardin de Bosmont-sur-serre and the Jardins du Château are within 20km of Vervins. Of an evening, enjoy the excellent cuisine of your host at the Hotel la Tour du Roy and enjoy the building’s unique and somewhat regal charm.

    DAYS FOUR TO FIVE
    Drive back north to Arras to stay for two nights

    Your hotel for the next two nights is Hotel de l’Univers near Arras. Named a French Town of Art and History, Arras has much to offer in the way of history and impressive architecture. After the destruction caused by WWI, the town has been faithfully restored to its former glory using the original town plans. The two central squares, the Grand Place and Place des Heros, are lined with elegant Baroque townhouses that give the town a ‘fairy-tale’ feel. The Town Hall and Belfry on the Place des Heros are a highlight; the belfy has been officially listed as one of the most interesting in France. Under the belfry and square lie a network of tunnels and rooms originally built to hide soldiers before the Battle of Arras, that are now the home of a very informative tour of Arras’ history. Another point of historical interest is the 18th Century cathedral, which was interestingly inspired more by the ancient temples than other French places of worship. The collection of houses that comprise the Abbey Saint-Vaast house the Museum of Fine Arts and its vast repertoire of Flemish and French artists. To visit all of these places of interest and more, while really getting a feel for the winding streets, follow the route marked out by nails on the pavement as it leads you around Arras. The town was also named a 4* Ville Fleurie due to the abundance of peaceful and well-kept parks and gardens. In the centre of Arras is the Jardin Minelle, perhaps the largest of the town’s gardens, with a central lake that makes this the perfect place for a late Al fresco breakfast or afternoon snack. A 40 minute drive northeast will take you to the European City of Culture 2004, Lille. Many of the large squares that make up the city hold regular events, so, whatever time of year you organise this tour, there is always certain to be something on. The Wazemmes Market, one of the largest in France, takes place in the Place de la Nouvelle Aventure on a Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday. Whilst here, be sure to buy some of the local Lille cheese as well as a selection of wine from the region. In the Place des Archives, a weekly Arts market is held by local artists and craftsmen on a Sunday morning, so makes an ideal event for those interested in exploring more of the intriguing local culture. Arguably, the architectural highlight of Lille is the Vieille Bourse on La Grand Place. It’s gold and red façade is iconic. Originally split into 24 identical houses, it now mostly houses shops, but the inner courtyard around which the building sits regularly holds small markets, dances, and other entertainments. Before leaving Lille to return to Arras, be sure to look around the tropical greenhouse in the extensive Botanical Gardens.

    DAY SIX
    Return to Calais

    Spend a leisurely morning in Arras taking in the last of the relaxed French atmosphere, before making the short drive north to Calais.

    Driving times for this touring holiday:
    Calais to Vervins: 2 hours 40 minutes
    Vervins to Arras: 1 hour 30 minutes
    Arras to Calais: 1 hours 5 minutes

    Secret Picardy 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.

    Hotel la Tour du Roy
    Vervins
    The Hotel la Tour du Roy is a welcoming and friendly three-star hotel, restored and maintained with love and care over the years by the Desvignes family. Enjoying a prominent and historic position in the small Picardy market-town of Vervins, it is actually built into the mediaeval walls of the town. It is well worth venturing slightly ‘off the beaten track’ to experience the cuisine of Annie Desvignes at the Hotel la Tour Du Roy. There are a range of menus which vary in price and in ingredients, according to the season. There are just 18 bedrooms all of which are traditional in style and character, some being hung with luxurious original tapestries. They vary in size but all have private bath or shower and wc, telephone and most have mini-bar. The Hotel la Tour Du Roy is ideal for a short ‘gastronomic’ break or for an overnight stop.
    Find out more here.

    Hotel de l’Univers
    Arras
    The Hotel de l’Univers is situated in a quiet, attractive courtyard in the heart of Arras, and was originally a 17th-century Jesuit monastery, hospital and relais de poste before becoming a hotel in the early 1800s. Today the Hotel de l'Univers offers 38 modern yet elegant rooms set over two floors (most served by a lift), each boasting an individual décor. The gourmet restaurant, Le Clusius, offers a menu rich in both regional and French specialities accompanied by an extensive wine list and the hotel also has an appealing lounge bar. Limited parking available.
    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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