This tour begins and ends in Paris. SGT recommends enhancing your touring adventure by spending some independent pre/post-tour time exploring more of this wonderful capital city. Paris is well connected via the TGV train with Brussels and the Eurostar train with London for those wishing to extend their stay. We are happy to assist you with incoming journey if you wish. Please ask us for details.
Day 1 Thursday
Our tour begins from our Paris meeting point, Hotel de l’Avenir, at 09:00. Paris has so much to see and do! Our focus today is on the parks and gardens of the Left Bank; see a variety of green spaces, famous of course but also discover a few of the hidden gems away from the tourist throng.
Our first destination is just steps away, the beautiful Jardin du Luxembourg. Established on behalf of Italian monarch Marie de Medicis in the mid-17th century and perhaps the most popular Parisian garden with locals, the dramatic Renaissance style layout with quintessential statues is sure to be a treat.
Another main port of call today is the wonderful Jardin des Plantes, the main botanical gardens of France. Founded in 1626, here is a beautiful expanse of medicinal herbs, 3 hectare of decorative plants, a rose garden, hothouses and The Labyrinth, a garden maze first designed in 1739. Part of the important work done in this 28 hectare center is a prolific seed exchange to maintain biotic diversity.
The rest of our day will be spent discovering some local places off the usual tourist route – realms of Romans, writers of the Lost Generation and the Patron Saint of Paris.
This evening, we will enjoy a welcome dinner together at Café le Select, in the heart of the artistic neighborhood Montparnasse.
Overnight: Paris, Hotel de l’Avenir or similar http://www.hoteldelavenir.com/
Day 2 Friday
The Palace of Versailles, Louis XIV’s greatest example of regal indulgence, was the seat of French Royal Court for 100 years until its demise in the French Revolution. Visit this UNESCO World Heritage site, experiencing the overwhelming opulence of the park and gardens. The Gardens of Versailles cover some 800 hectares of land, much of which is landscaped in the classic French Garden style featuring meticulous manicured lawns, parterres of flowers and the famous fountains.
Albert Kahn Museum and Gardens is another a place of interest today, a little oasis of calm following the vastness of Versailles. In the early 1900 the millionaire French banker and philanthropist Albert Kahn lived here. The museum houses his world famous photo collection. The garden, called “scenes,” includes a Japanese garden with a traditional house and tea-room, an English garden, a rose garden and a conifer wood.
This evening is free for guests to explore Paris as they wish, perhaps an evening river cruise seeing the icons brightly lit for night or perhaps dinner in the Tour Eiffel? The Musee de l’Orangerie is opened late, until 9pm on Fridays. Here houses Claude Monet’s Water Lilies canvases, inspired by and painted at his gardens in Giverny, the garden you will see in the morning, if you wish to sample this ‘garden on canvas.’ The choice is yours!
Overnight: Paris as above
Day 3 Saturday
A day of artists and inspirational landscapes! Our main port of call today is Monet’s home in Giverny. Claude Monet and his family settled here in 1883 and he created a garden full of “perspectives, symmetries and colours.” The garden is set into two main sections, a flower filled walled garden bordered by orchards and trees and a water park, made famous by his series of water lilies paintings.
Also today, time in the quaint village of Auvers-sur-Oise, a favorite place for painters in the 1800s most associated with Vincent Van Gogh. He lived his last 100 days here and captured local sites in approximately 70 paintings. Located within the Parc Naturel Régional du Vexin Français, this place is protected, layouts not permitted to be altered or expanded, so remains much as it did when Van Gogh painted it. Another opportunity to experience art leaping from the canvas!
Another evening for guests to explore and dine independently. There is another opportunity to visit Monet’s Water lilies in the Musee de l’Orangerie (opened until 7pm) for those that wish. Maybe another special meal out on Blvd Montparnasse? Perhaps enjoy an evening of jazz music, mixing and dancing with the locals? Again spoilt for choice by the rich Paris nightlife!
Overnight: Paris as above
Day 4 Sunday
More breathtaking gardens are the order today! Visit the stunning Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte at Maincy. This is perhaps the most elegant and geometrically harmonious of all high Baroque gardens, the composition is perfectly proportioned.
This afternoon visit Courance, another beautiful formal garden. Water gardens were invented in France in the sixteenth century, popular after the enclosed medieval gardens fell out of fashion, and there are spectacular displays at Courance, water leads visitors through the grounds.
Later, our tour route takes us through the Foret d’Orleans, following the Loire. Depending on time, perhaps some time in Joan d’Arc’s Orleans before settling into our overnight location.
Overnight: Beaugency/Blois area; Property: Hotel de La Sologne or similar www.hoteldelasologne.com
Dinner included tonight
Day 5 Monday
The Loire Valley is justly famed for its incredibly rich chateaux. In truth, there are almost too many to choose from! We will see a few of the best. A highlight of our time in the area is sure to be Château de Villandry, the imaginative twentieth century re-creation of a renaissance castle garden. The moated Chateau dates from c1536 and had a formal garden in the eighteenth century. The present garden dates from the years after 1906 when it was bought by a Spaniard, Dr Joachim Carvallo. Inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement, he wished the garden to have a sixteenth century character. Great horticultural skill was deployed, especially in the use of vegetables.
This afternoon’s visit is flexible to suit the guests on board, seeing one of the lovely places along the Indre. There is Château d’Usse, a ‘fairytale’ place which reputedly inspired the ‘Sleeping Beauty’ story. Visitors can discover memories of past centuries through the recently opened attics and the old dungeon. Set alongside the scenic river Indre, d’Usse offers a wonderful inside/outside experience. Our other option is Chateau de la Chatonnière. Hidden away in a secluded valley, crowned by 18 acres of sometimes flowering cornflowers and poppies and with sweeping views across the forest of Chinon and the river Indre, sit the twelve remarkable gardens of La Chatonniere. The gardens vary in style and atmosphere but each awaken the senses, evoking feelings of wonder, charm and contemplation.
Overnight: Beaugency/Blois area, property as above; dinner included tonight
Day 6 Tuesday
We’ve one more chateau this morning, Château Chambord is amongst the loveliest Renaissance buildings in the Valley of the Loire, here was a retreat for French kings, a favourite of Louis XIV.
Making our way north back towards Paris, Chartres Cathedral is another place of interest today. While not a garden, how can we pass up such an opportunity! Pilgrims have been coming here for eight centuries to admire and seek inspiration from the most magnificent, and certainly most extensive stained glass windows to be seen anywhere in the world.
Also explore the Maison Picassiette. This amazing mosaic garden was built by a road mender, Ramond Isidore, using chards of broken pottery. It has something of the character of a grotto and something of the texture of Gaudi’s Parc Guell. Surely a distinct visit for variety’s sake!
Our tour concludes with a drop off in Paris by approximately 18:00.
Why not extend your stay in Paris? Most Paris attractions are closed on either Mondays or Tuesdays so, returning to the city on Tuesday evening, you have the option of extending your stay to explore the world famous art museums. SGT is happy to assist you with your add-on plans if you wish.
Please Note: All attraction opening times are correct at time of printing this website. While we do our utmost to include all properties, we reserve the right to change an attraction should it become impossible to visit due to change in opening times, days.
Oft imitated, never duplicated! This is an original SGT itinerary, property of Special Group Tours and to be used only with express permission/in conjunction with SGT.