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  • Touring holiday to the foothills of the Pyrenees

    Chateau de Gilly

    Chateau de Gilly

    Hostellerie de Crillon le Brave

    Hostellerie de Crillon le Brave

    Hostellerie de Crillon le Brave

    Relais des Chartreuses

    Relais des Chartreuses

    Relais des Chartreuses

    Le Saint-James

    Le Saint-James

    Le Saint-James

    Chateau de Noirieux

    Chateau de Noirieux

    Self-drive touring holiday to the foothills of the Pyrenees and back

    9 nights and 10 days
    Renowned for its excellent climate, early fruit, sea and mountain air, and beautiful scenery, this southernmost corner of France affords relaxation and a wide variety of activities. Stretching the length of the country, this vast tour gives you a vital and varied insight into the different regions of France.
    Click here to download a pdf with information about some of our suggested French touring holidays.

    The variety of landscapes and stunning panoramas on this tour will not fail to enchant even the most seasoned of Francophiles. Once you have arrived in Calais, via the Eurotunnel, begin your drive down the eastern fringes of France, stopping off to visit the Champagne capital of Reims if time permits. Your first hotel, Château de Gilly, is found between the cities of Dijon and Beaune, amidst the revered vineyards of Nuits-St-Georges. After one night here, continue the journey south through the patchwork vistas of the undulating Beaujolais hills, taking a break in Lyon for lunch and a wander around its beautiful architectural masterpieces. Stay overnight at Hostellerie de Crillon le Brave in the southern region of Provence, before driving southwest through the spectacular topography of Languedoc-Roussillon. You will drive through Nîmes and Montpellier as well as timeless resorts hugging the Mediterranean shoreline, so enjoy the views as they roll on past. Spend five nights at the Relais des Chartreuses, a charming hideaway near Perpignan in the foothills of the Pyrenees, within striking distance of Picasso’s beloved Céret, Matisse’s Collioure, and the coastal villages along the Côte Vermeille and the Costa Brava, just the other side of the border. After your stay here, drive back up France’s western side, passing the mediaeval citadel of Carcassonne, Toulouse, and mile-upon-mile of sunflower-clad landscapes on your drive through Gascony to Saint-Émilion, one of the world’s most prestigious wine regions. Spend one night here, at Le Saint-James near Bordeaux, and then continue northwards – Rochefort, Cognac, La Rochelle, and Nantes are all enticing options for breaking your journey towards the Loire. Your final overnight stay is at the Château de Noirieux near historic Angers, cradle of the Plantagenet dynasty, before your final push through Normandy and the Nord-Pas-de-Calais.

    Prices for this self-drive touring holiday from £1640 per person

    What's included:
    • One night’s bed and breakfast at the Château de Gilly in Gilly-lès-Cîteaux
    • One night’s bed and breakfast at Hostellerie de Crillon le Brave in Crillon-le-Brave
    • Five nights’ bed and breakfast at the Relais des Chartreuses in Le Boulou
    • One night’s bed and breakfast at the Le Saint-James in Bordeaux
    • One night’s bed and breakfast at the Château de Noirieux near Angers
    • Eurotunnel return from Folkestone to Calais

    Self-drive touring holiday to the foothills of the Pyrenees and back

    Day-by-Day Itinerary

    Calais to Gilly-lès-Cîteaux

    Your first stop on this self-drive touring holiday is in the region of Burgundy, known for its deep red wines and rolling agricultural countryside. Utilise your one night at the Château de Gilly in Gilly-lès-Cîteaux to sample the numerous wines of the villages of the Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune. Travel into the small nearby village of Gevrey-Chambertin, for example, to taste Chambertin wine, the most famous wine of the Côte de Nuits. The closest vineyard to Gilly-lès-Cîteaux is a small vineyard in Vougeot, though the Clos de Vougeot supplies 70 different wine-growers. Its château no longer produces wine itself, but still holds 4 huge 12th century winepresses that can be viewed by the public. This is but a taster of the wine, vineyards, estates, and châteaux in this area; we highly recommend taking the time to investigate more. The nearby cultural city of Dijon offers a wealth of impressive architecture, such as the Cathédral Saint-Bénigne, as well as a series of ancient monuments and tombs including the Puit de Moïse, or Well of Moses. The Musée des Beaux-Arts is also a great way to get in touch with the local culture and history. Perhaps extend your stay in Burgundy to ensure you really make the most of this magnificent city.

    Travel south to Crillon-le-Brave in Provence and stay for one night

    Perched in a hilltop village by the Rhône Valley, with traditional French buildings arranged on multiple levels, Hostellerie de Crillon le Brave is a hotel focused on undeniable character and intense relaxation. The buildings themselves are a converted school, stables, presbytery, and houses, brought together in what is a remarkable and intriguing setting. To make the most of the view over hilly Provence and the beautiful warm weather, spend your day in Crillon le Brave lounging on a sunbed by the outdoor pool, and perhaps indulge with one of the hotel’s spa treatments in the evening. For those keen to get out and explore the local area, a number of independent and hotel-organised activities are available. The hotel itself conducts truffle hunting excursions, or for more independent travellers, bicycles can be hired to cycle to the nearby market towns or around Mont Ventoux. Speak to the hotel’s concierge to organise excursions to Châteauneuf-du-Pape or Vacqueyras to try a range of Provençal wine: the area around the hotel is best known for its Rosé, although the clime of Provence lends itself to the growth of a huge number of different grape varieties.

    Stay five nights in Le Boulou

    Journey down into French Catalonia on the France-Spain border to find the source de bien-être, Le Boulou. Receiving its title due to the healing properties of its thermal mineral water, Le Boulou is the perfect place to spend a relaxing and uplifting few days at the Relais des Chartreuses. Using Le Boulou as a centre point, venture out each day into neighbouring cities: visit Céret’s Museum of Modern Arts, the Palace of the Kings of Majorca at Perpignan, the Catalan port town of Collioure, or cross the border to visit Dali’s museum in Figueres. Le Boulou itself has a fair amount in the way of its own history, with several historical monuments that are essential to visit on this tour. The 832kg Iron Bell, dating back to 1436 can be found in the older part of the town, along with the Quadrangular Tower and Saint Anthony’s Chapel. As well as experiencing the culture of the area, we recommend indulging in the fantastic cuisine. Catalonia is known for its meatballs, dried sausages, sauces for fish and chicken, and of course, the Collioure anchovies. The speciality wines of the area are typically natural sweet wines, such as Muscat, Rivesaltes, Banyuls, and Maury, adding another note to the palate of this touring holiday. Le Boulou is an ideal centre-point for venturing off the beaten path and into some of France’s most sublime landscape. Hiking trails are available along the Vallespir Valley and the Albères massif that last two to three hours, or opt to take the day-long tour designed for all levels of fitness. Explore the mountainous area whilst taking the weight off your feet with the horse-riding routes, available only by reservation, offered at the Association le Ecuries du Mas Linas. Or go Canyoning to follow the meandering tracks of the rivers that run between the mountains.

    Travel from Provence to Bordeaux and stay for one night

    Your eighth day of this touring holiday brings you into the Gironde region of Aquitane. The lushness of the fields here can be smelled in the air and tasted in the local produce. The city of Bordeaux is a hub for excellent quality wine-making, with Saint-Émilion and the Gironde Estuary nearby. We recommend venturing from your hotel, Le Saint-James, into the heart of the Saint-Émilion vineyards and working your way outwards, visiting each new château and vineyard as it presents itself. The key wines to taste from the area are Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Maubec. To easily find the best wines of the region without touring the châteaux, head to a wine museum such as the Musée du Vin et de la Battelerie in Bergerac, an hour and a half east of Bordeaux. The history of this famous French city can be read in its architecture, with particular highlights being the Basilica of Saint Michael, the Opéra National de Bordeaux, the Cathédrale de Bordeaux, and the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux, though a wider tour of the city is definitely in order. While visiting the theatre, why not stay to see a show. The Musée d’Aquitane and the Musée des Beaux-Arts also make excellent cultural stops; though for more direct interaction with Bordeaux’s history, visit the Amphithéâtre de Bordeaux dit Palais Gallien. In the evening, take a stroll down to the port to see the lights of the city reflected in the water.

    Drive north into the Loire Valley and stay for one night

    Get to the Château de Noirieux in Angers early to get the most out of your one night in the Loire Valley. With its high ceilings and elegant furnishings, the hotel itself is the perfect example of the Loire châteaux. Nearby, however, sits the Château de Brissac, home to the 13th Duke of Brissac. Tours of this magnificent château lead the visitor through the Duke’s private art collection, a unique private theatre dedicated solely to opera commissioned by the Duchess in the 19th century, and ends with a wine-tasting experience built around the estate’s own produce in the château’s cellar. To experience the treasures of the Loire natural landscape first-hand, take a cruise tour of the 300kms of navigable waterway, with Loire de Lumière boats in Angers: choose from general tours, wildlife tours, and evening cocktail tours. Angers itself is a more modern French town, but still with the large café-lined squares that make the French way of life so appealing. The town is spotted with pretty parks, such as the Parc Balzac, next to the Lac de Maine, and has its own central riverside castle which is well worth exploring.

    Return to Calais for the Eurotunnel

    Leave the Château de Noirieux after breakfast to have a final look around Angers before heading back north to Calais.

    Driving times for this touring holiday:

    Calais to Gilly-lès-Cîteaux: 5 hours 5 minutes
    Gilly-lès-Cîteaux to Crillon-le-Brave: 4 hours
    Crillon-le-Brave to Le Boulou: 3 hours
    Le Boulou to Bordeaux: 4 hours 15 minutes
    Bordeaux to Angers: 3 hours 40 minutes
    Angers to Calais: 4 hours: 40 minutes

    Foothills of the Pyrenees 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 Gilly
    The Château de Gilly is a former residence of the Priors of Cîteaux; still moated and very much palatial in ambience, it offers high standards of accommodation and cuisine and is beautifully situated at the heart of the Burgundy vineyards. The elegant, vaulted restaurant ‘Le Clos Prieur’ was once the palace cellar and is just the place to enjoy a gourmet dinner accompanied by fine local wines. ‘Coté Terroirs’ a new restaurant, offers local specialities. Breakfast is served in the restored historic Pierre de Nivelle room and musical soirées are held regularly in the Tapestry room. The 48 bedrooms have been refurbished to offer modern comforts whilst retaining their individuality and fine architectural features. To the front of the hotel are remarkable formal French-style gardens. The hotel features an outdoor heated swimming pool.
    Find out more here.

    Hostellerie de Crillon le Brave
    Hotel Crillon le Brave near Avignon in Provence is named after its hilltop hamlet setting in the foothills of Mont Ventoux and the Dentelles de Montmirail. Surrounded by vineyards and olive groves, this Relais & Châteaux property symbolises the essence of boutique luxury in an authentic and charming environment. Comprising seven village buildings – former houses, stables, a school and presbytery - this unique hotel offers 32 beautifully and individually-appointed rooms and suites, each connected by secret courtyards and quiet alleyways, which add to the charming atmosphere and character. Most rooms overlook Mont Ventoux or the Rhône Valley and feature high-quality amenities such as Bose Wave sound systems, Italian linens and luxurious bathrooms. Just a stone’s throw from some of the greatest names in wine – Gigondas, Vacqueyras and Châteauneuf du Pape to name but a very special few – Crillon le Brave provides the perfect base for those looking to spend their days touring the excellent vineyards of this rich wine-growing region. Naturally, the restaurant features a wine list bearing the names of the finest Rhône vintages to accompany an elegant and refined menu, packed full of locally-sourced, regional cuisine. Al fresco dining on the terrace in the warmer months exploits the magnificent Mont Ventoux backdrop. The Hotel Crillon Le Brave has an inviting outdoor pool, mini-spa, boules court and guests can explore the area by bike.
    Find out more here.

    Relais des Chartreuses
    Le Boulou
    The 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 that offers 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.

    Le Saint-James
    Bouliac, near 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.

    Château de Noirieux
    The Château de Noirieux is a superbly restored château and manor house. The buildings of this four-star Relais and Châteaux member consist of a manor house dating from the 15th Century, now converted into spacious and very comfortable bedrooms and the château itself, dating from the 17th Century, refurbished in the 1920s and again in the last couple of years, housing the public areas and several bedrooms. You approach the Château de Noirieux along a drive and then through an avenue of horse chestnut and walnut trees. The attention to detail in the decoration is noticeable throughout; in the cosy lounge with its open fire place, the bar and the elegant restaurant. There is also a terrace outside the restaurant where meals are served in fine weather. The Michelin-starred restaurant continues to gain a well deserved reputation, the chef being Gerard Côme. There is an open air swimming pool, a Jacuzzi in the pool house, cycles, a tennis court and table tennis. There is a ground-floor bedroom with wheelchair access in the manor house. All bedrooms are extremely comfortable and have private bathroom, telephone, television with satellite channels and mini-bar (there is no lift). The Château de Noirieux is highly recommended for luxurious short breaks or long, relaxing stays.
    Find out more here.

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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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