If you enjoy checking in and out of a different hotel every day, then click away – this tour’s not for you! But if you love the ability to settle in to a hotel for an extended stay, to unpack your suitcases, and to properly get to know the region you’re staying in, please keep reading.
We’ve a wonderful way for you to enjoy an in-depth experience taking you first to the beautiful beaches of Brittany and then to the lovely Loire Valley in late September, 2019, staying for three nights in St Malo then four nights in Tours and with daily activities taking you to all the best places in the nearby regions.
France’s regions offer a delightful mix of beautiful countryside, quaint towns and villages, over-the-top grand castles, and, of course, wineries galore. We chose two of the most distinctive French experiences for this tour. Brittany for the beauty of coastal France, its beaches, Mont St Michel, and a chance to include the Channel Islands too, and then the Loire Valley because it has the finest concentrations of castles and chateaus of anywhere in France.
We call these “land cruises” because, just like a regular cruise, you enjoy extended stays in each hotel. Also, just like a regular cruise, you’ve a full-time “cruise manager” who is devoted to helping you with everything and anything you might need (me!). Again, just like a regular cruise, you’ve got touring arranged almost every day – but unlike a regular cruise, we include the touring at no extra cost.
There are some other things unlike a regular cruise, too. You’re not part of a crowd of several thousand people who all crush into small towns at the same time. You’re not restricted only to coastal or river ports. You’re not limited to the ship’s schedule, making for a series of rushed port stops, because you’ll never miss its sailing.
And, hopefully, your “cabin” (ie hotel room) will never move about in a rough sea!
We include breakfasts and a couple of dinners (a welcome and a farewell dinner), and a special picnic lunch. For the other meals, we allow you the flexibility to pick and choose where, what and how you eat. Maybe you’ll want to enjoy casual dining at a local brasserie or small characterful restaurant. Maybe you’ll want to treat yourself to some fine dining. Maybe you’ll simply go to a nearby supermarket, select some French delicacies and have a snack type meal in your hotel room or outdoors in a local park. Whatever, whenever, wherever – you’re free to choose, exactly as it suits you. You’re not stuck to meal schedules and menus as you would be on board a ship.
The main “tour/cruise” starts on the morning of Tuesday 24 September, when we collect everyone in Paris and travel to St Malo. So you’ll want to fly in to Paris the previous day (or take a train to get in to Paris either Monday or early Tuesday morning from wherever else you were).
Because most flights from the US are overnight flights, this would mean flying from the US on Sunday 22 September to arrive into Paris on Monday 23 September, ready to join the tour on Tuesday morning, 24 September.
The main tour/cruise ends on the morning of Tuesday 1 October in Tours. You could either fly home that day, probably arriving back in the US the same day, or extend on as you wish. Chances are you’ll want to have a total vacation longer than the core seven-day “cruise”. You can of course do anything you might wish before and after the land cruise.
We’re also offering a suggested/recommended pre-cruise and post-cruise optional extension. Please click here for full day by day details of the main tour and the pre and post tour options.
For the pre-cruise option, we’re recommending two or three nights in the town of Chantilly. This is very close to the main Charles de Gaulle (CDG) airport that serves Paris, making it ideal and easy to get to after flying in.
Chantilly is a lovely small town dating back to the 13th century. In addition to the town itself, there is a glorious castle in two parts (one part built in the 16th century, the other in the 19th), the Château de Chantilly. This includes within it the Musée Condé, notable for having the second most extensive collection of artwork after the Louvre, as well as beautiful gardens and other distinctive buildings.
The town also has a “Living Museum of the Horse” and one of the most important racecourses in France, and nearby is the Chantilly Forest.
When many people hear the word Chantilly, they think of one of two things. Chantilly Cream, which can be enjoyed in many of the local restaurants, or Chantilly lace, which is featured in the Museum of Lace.
There is plenty more to see/do as well in the area. We expect most people will choose the three night stay.
If you’d like another travel experience, we have created a wonderful “Scotland’s Highland Highlights” tour that takes place the week immediately prior to the start of the Pre-Cruise option in Chantilly.
Actually, combining Scotland and France isn’t quite as unusual as it may sound. Due to the enmity between France and England, and the shared bond of Catholicism between Scotland and France, the two countries were for a long time closely allied, and France was a typical refuge for Scottish people forced into exile.
So please do check out our Scotland’s Highland Highlights tour for an interesting complement to your French Loire Valley Land Cruise.
The main tour starts on the morning of Tuesday 24 September, when we’ll collect people from central Paris and then travel on to Tours, including a stop at Chartres for lunch and at the lovely Chambord Castle for a visit, arriving into Tours in the early evening where we check in to our “ship” (hotel) for the next week.
If you spent time in Chantilly prior to the start of the main tour, it is very easy to take a short 25 minute train from Chantilly in to the Gare du Nord in Paris.
After our week enjoying the Loire Valley region, the end of our main tour is after breakfast on Tuesday 1 October when we check out of our hotel in Tours.
Many of us will then be traveling on to Bordeaux for the post tour option (see below) but you are of course free to go wherever you wish (or simply stay on in Tours longer, too!).
Why not add another of France’s wine regions to your tour, and travel on with us to Bordeaux for another two or three (or more) nights.
Bordeaux is where the French would claim (and many would agree) the world’s absolutely finest red wines are grown. And not only wine. We include a stop in Cognac on the way to Bordeaux, and will see how Cognac is made and enjoy a sample of what may be the finest type of brandy in the world.
Details of the main tour itinerary and the pre and post tour options can be seen here.
We’ve balanced the opposing concepts of including lots of activities and also allowing you free flexible time on this cruise/tour.
Perhaps the most distinctive thing about this experience is that because we always return back to Tours every evening, you can vary your own activities any way you like because you’ll never worry about the ship sailing without you on board, as can sometimes happen on a cruise or regular coach tour that travels between various different overnight stays.
We’re also reasonably flexible about adding to or varying the tour ‘real time’ as we are traveling. As long as the group as a whole agrees and the schedule allows, we’re happy to make changes to enhance the experience for all group members.
Accordingly, while including accommodation every night, breakfasts, one lunch and two dinners, touring, wine-tastings, sightseeing and admissions, we’ve left plenty of time open for you to choose exactly the experiences, meals, and other activities you personally wish.
Everything is optional, so if you want to spend a lazy day strolling around one of the lovely towns we stay in rather than a more active day out and about sightseeing, that is of course totally possible. It is all up to you.
Some of what the tour includes comprises :
On the Coach
- Large luxury coach so there’s always an average of at least 1.5 seats per person, giving you best views and comfort while touring
- Bottled water available for purchase at modest price
- On-board rest-room, reclinable seats, plenty of space for carry-ons and purchases
- David Rowell (the ‘Travel Insider’ himself) as ‘cruise director’ (ie tour leader)
- Local specialist guides
Where we visit
- Tours – Our central base for the tour, home to many excellent restaurants on the banks of the Loire River.
- Chantilly – Optional pre-tour in this lovely historic town just north of Paris.
- Honfleur – beautiful seaside town immortalized in pictures by Monet and others.
- Rouen and/or Bayeux – beautiful medieval cathedral city and/or a chance to see the famous Bayeux Tapestry.
- St Malo – Historic city on the Brittany coast.
- Mont Saint Michel – iconic sight/site just off the Brittany/Normandy coast.
- Jersey – an option to visit this “Bailiwick”, one of the Channel Islands, semi-independent and more English than French.
- Chambord Castle – One of the largest and most instantly recognizable of the Loire valley castles.
- Amboise – A lovely medieval market town with links to the former French Royal Family and Leonardo da Vinci.
- Château du Clos Lucé – Leonardo da Vinci’s final residence.
- Chateau d’Amboise – Such a nice castle that it was confiscated by the Crown in the 1400s, making it their own.
- Chenonceau – Another very distinctive chateau, see the picture at the top of this page.
- Mushroom Cellars – For something very different, see how mushrooms are grown and taste them fresh from the cellars.
- Vouvray Sparkling Winery Tour u0026amp; Tasting – Blind taste testing of two champagnes and two “other sparkling wines” with our last group in France showed the Vouvray sparkling wine to be the clear winner as best of all French sparkling wines (and much better value too!). Here’s your chance to decide if you prefer Vouvray to Champagne, too.
- Winery Tour u0026amp; Tasting – We’ll add another winery tour and tasting. We’ll decide when and where, based on weather and other activities.
- Outdoor Picnic – We’ll move our activities around a bit so on the day with the best weather we’ll enjoy a lovely outdoor picnic lunch, including assorted French national and local specialties, and of course, some liquid refreshment to wash it all down with.
- Cognac and Bordeaux – Our optional post-tour in the south-west of France, to possibly France’s best wine region of all.
- Plus some free time to go anywhere and do anything you may wish, and with all day touring optional too of course.
Food and drink inclusions
- Breakfasts every morning
- Welcome cocktails the first night
- A group welcome dinner on the second night to accelerate the getting to know each other process, with a drink or two as well (of course)
- Two winery visits and tastings (one still, one sparkling)
- An outdoor picnic lunch (with drinks)
- Group farewell dinner – a sad experience for sure, but we try to make it as convivial as possible, and, yes, of course there’ll again be a drink or two on offer
Of perhaps equal importance in understanding the distinctive and special nature of this tour is not just what the tour includes, but also what it omits.
What the tour proudly does NOT include!
- NO Early starts
- NO Crowded coaches (maximum group size 22 people)
- NO Characterless hotels on the outskirts of cities
- NO Checking in and out of multiple hotels
- NO Series of long days of endless travel on a bus
- NO Huge groups being rushed through tourist trap after tourist trap
- NO ‘Shopping opportunities’ at over-priced trashy souvenir shops
- NO Group meals, at fixed times, with limited fixed menus, in generic cafeterias
- NO Regimented inflexible schedules and mandatory events
- NO Obnoxious inexperienced ‘out of their depth’ first time travelers
- NO Crowded schedules leaving no flexible free time
Our “Ship” (Hotel)
We have selected Le Grand Hôtel de Tours as our official hotel for the main four night stay on this tour. It is a historic building (constructed in 1927) and now rated as a four star hotel, and is conveniently located close to the train station, near to several nice inner-city parks, the city hall, and in the middle of retail shopping, supermarkets, and major stores such as Galeries Lafayette.
They offer a choice of different room types, plus several large suites.
The standard rooms are comfortable but not very spacious, and if you prefer, it is only a small amount extra to upgrade to the larger superior rooms, or their best premium rooms, all recently redone in distinctive Art Deco style to reflect the period when the hotel was first constructed and opened.
Buffet breakfast is included each morning.
As we generally do with our tours, we’ve created variable pricing depending on how many people come on the tour. With the small-sized groups we offer, but with full-sized coaches, the cost per person is quite sensitive depending on the people traveling, so rather than set a price that is unfairly high or unrealistically low, we set it fairly for all sized groups.
To keep it simple, we have three prices, shown immediately below. We will not operate the tour with fewer than eight people, and normally would not accept more than 22 in total (but if you had a last-minute extra person who wanted to come along with you, we’d probably make an exception for that).
So encourage your friends to come, and not only get the special savings (mentioned next) but also bring the tour price down for everyone.
- $2795 if the group is 8 or 9 people
- $2695 if the group is 10 – 11 people (We have 13 people so far)
- $2595 if the group is 12 – 16 people
- $2495 if the group is 17 – 22 people
(a) Send in your request to join the tour prior to the end of day on Monday 20 May and you’ll get an early bird $100 per person discount off these tour prices.
(b) Why not bring a friend or two with you, for more shared fun and fellowship.
To encourage you to do this, and your friends to travel with you, we’ll offer a 1% discount for each extra person you bring with you (other than anyone you are sharing your room with to start with).
Bring another couple, and they get a 2% discount – and you get the same discount too! Bring two couples and all of you get a 4% discount, and so on (up to a maximum of ten people and 10%).
No Single Supplement !
We are so very pleased to be able to offer our many single travelers this tour with no single supplement in the standard rooms!
Regular cruises charge anywhere from 50% to 100% over the regular per person rate for singles. We’ve managed to avoid any single supplement at all on this cruise/tour.
You’ll be staying in the hotel for a week, and so, just like on a ship, you might want to consider treating yourself and upgrading from a standard room or “cabin” to a more special “stateroom” – one of the hotel’s Superior Rooms, Premium Rooms, or even a Junior Suite.
- Upgrade to a Superior Room + $199 (per person share twin)
- Upgrade to a Premium Room + $299 (per person share twin)
- Upgrade to a Junior Suite + $499 (per person share twin)
Pre and Post Tour Option Pricing
We’ll confirm this pricing when we’ve a sense of the numbers joining for each option, but as a rule of thumb, plan on about $300/day. (Please visit this page for our daily itinerary and full details of the pre and post tour options.)
Shorter Tour Adjustments
You are free to join and leave the tour on any day at all. If you’re not doing the complete seven night “cruise” then you get a reduction for each night not taken. This is $275/day.
Application to Join
Terms and Conditions
Our standard terms and conditions apply to this tour.
In addition, please note these extra terms :
1. Your confirming deposit of $500 per person is required within seven days of your participation being confirmed. Full payment is due on or before Monday 24 June, 2019. Please note that pricing includes a 3% cash/check discount, if you’d prefer to pay by credit card, we ask you to accept the passed on extra 3% cost for us to process your credit card charge.
2. US, Canadian, and many other citizens require a current passport that will not expire until at least three months after the date of their planned return from the EU in order to be admitted to the EU, but do not require a visa. Citizens of other countries should check with the airline that will transport them to the UK to determine what passport and visa requirements may apply.
3. There’s plenty of room in the coach’s luggage bays for as much luggage as you choose to bring. Note that airlines charge massively for extra luggage so we recommend being prudent, but from our point of view, bring as much as you like.
4. Tour price is based on a wholesale EU/US exchange rate in the range of 1.12 – 1.18 (as shown, eg, in Yahoo Finance/Money – on 31 Jan 2019 the rate was 1.15). If the exchange rate moves outside this range, and prior to full payment having been received by you, we will adjust the price up or down to reflect the change in underlying tour costs. If the tour price increases by more than 10%, you may cancel without penalty and receive a full refund of your deposit. Tour price is locked in place once full payment has been received.
We recommend you should consider travel insurance as prudent protection. Rather than attempt to sell you some policy ourselves that may or may not suit your needs, we recommend you go to this insurance shopping site, which offers comparisons between something like 100 different policies offered by 18 different insurers, giving you all the options you need.
For more information about travel insurance than you probably ever thought you’d want to know, please click the link to read our three-part series on the subject.