7 Days South East Coast of France Tour Itinerary
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Your tour of the SE coast of France starts in Montpelier. This is France’s 7th latest city and lies a few kilometers off the south coast. This Mediterranean town is home to one of the oldest universities and medical schools in the world (founded in 1220) and counts Nostradamus as one of its most famous alumni.
What is included:
Day 1: Montpellier
Today your tour starts in the old town which is a maze of cobbled lanes and lively squares filled with Renaissance architecture and splendid 18th Century mansions.
Lunch in Place de la Canourgue with its pretty rose gardens and traditional French cafes.
In the afternoon visit the Tour de Babote – a 12-century tower in the city center and then visit the rue de bras de fer – a colorful stepped alley where all the steps are brightly painted in different colors. Arrive at the impressive 16th Century Cathedral of St Pierre with its twin circular towers, which dominate the entrance of this 16th Century building. Planted in 1593 the Botanical Gardens of Montpelier ‘ Les Jardins des Plantes’ is the oldest botanical gardens in France and perfect for an afternoon stroll.
In the evening dine at ‘L’arbre blanc’ this 17-story residential building is designed in the shape of a tree with cantilevered balconies to represent branches and was designed by Sou Fujimoto. Enjoy amazing views across the city from the rooftop restaurant.
Day 2: Montpelier to Avignon
Until the 18th Century, Avignon was actually considered a papal state and it was only in 1791 that Avignon was recognized as French.
This papal influence is clear to see in the enormous Palace des Papes (Popes’Palace) that dominates the city and was home to the Popes that fled the corruption in Rome. This palace is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and your private tour will include a visit to the papal apartments in the palace. The next stop is the famous Pont St Benezet, the inspiration for the song ‘ Sur le Pont d’Avignon ‘ and this bridge is a key landmark in the city.
It was originally constructed in the 12th Century but now much of the bridge has been washed away with only about 25% of the original structure remaining. This is not the only famous bridge in the region, your tour will also include the Pont du Gard, this incredible three-leveled aqueduct was built to transport water to nearby Nimes. This is the tallest aqueduct in France and is widely thought to be the best preserved Roman aqueduct in France and was given UNESCO World Heritage status in 1985 and definitely worth a visit.
In the evening, have a dinner cruise along the Rhine and see Avignon by moonlight.
Day 3: Avignon to Marseilles
Marseilles’ position as a key strategic port goes back to 600 BC when the Greeks first created the port and are steeped in history – even the French National anthem: le Marseilles is based on Marseilles.
Our tour starts at the Basilica Notre – Dame de la Garde which was built by King Francois I to protect the city and is the highest building in Marseilles standing at an impressive 490 feet above sea level.
On top of the Basilica is a statue of the Virgin Mary which is said to protect the city and its inhabitants for those of you less mobile there is a train from the Vieux port that goes directly to this amazing Byzantine monument. From there admire the view across the city and the Mediterranean. From there it is a short walk to the Vieux port – the real heart of Marseilles. This is where locals and tourists mix – sample some delicious Bouillabaisse (a local specialty) with freshly caught seafood at one of the many fish restaurants dotted about the port.
In the afternoon we have a private tour of the Mucem (Museum of Civilisations of Europe and the Mediterranean) which is Marseilles’s newest museum and was opened in 2013 to commemorate Marseilles being recognized as a European City of Culture.
The museum itself is a contemporary design that is in stark contrast to the historical buildings in the rest of Marseilles and is built on the site of the original Fort of St Jean. There are close to a million exhibits on display that show how civilizations in the Mediterranean and North Africa have developed over the past centuries.
Day 4: Marseilles to Toulon
We start the day with a cable car ride up to the top of Mont Faron, a 584 M mountain overlooking the city and port of Toulon. From the summit the views are spectacular and on a clear day, you can just see Corsica in the distance. Your tour continues with a private tour of the Musee du Debarquement, a museum that commemorates the allied invasion of Provence in 1944.
In the afternoon explore the wonderful port, home to a large French Naval base as well as local fishermen and sailors. Lunch in one of the many fashionable restaurants along the harbor.
Provence is the oldest wine-making region in France and specializes in making rose wine and the general consensus amongst wine lovers is that the best rose in the world is from Provence.
This evening you will have a private tour of a local award-winning wine estate where you can learn about how this delicious wine is produced as well as taste various different vintages.
Day 5: Toulon to St Paul de Vence
Nestled in the hillside above the coastal towns lies St Paul de Vence, one of the oldest Medieval villages in the region. Many of the buildings in the village date from the 16th Century and the city walls were constructed in 1528 by Francis Valois I, the then King of France.
This old town is picture perfect with winding cobbled streets that are flanked by half-timbered houses containing art galleries, artisan craftsmen, and of course traditional village cafes.
Today your guide will take on you on a private tour of this stunning hilltop village where you will spend the day. Visit a few of the art galleries and stop for lunch in one of the pretty cafes in the place de la Grande Fontaine where (as the name would suggest) there is an impressive fountain.
Day 6: St Paul de Vence to Nice
Nice was originally named after the Greek Goddess Nike and so was possibly the original Nike Town!
Nice was an Italian city until relatively recently (1860) when the Italians gave the City to France as recognition of French support in helping the Italians against the Austrians. The strong Italian influence can be seen throughout the city and many of the locals speak both French and Italian.
It is not just French and Italian influences that can be seen in this city. At noon every day, a cannon is fired across the city. This tradition was started by an Englishman in 1860. Sir Thomas Coventry. Sir Thomas used to get very frustrated that his wife could not serve the midday meal at noon and so he requested to the mayor that a canon be fired every day at noon and he would cover this cost. when Sir Thomas moved back to the UK the locals, having been so used to managing their time with the aid of the midday that the cannon petitioned for the cannon shot to continue at noon. To this day a cannon is fired every day at noon in Nice!
We start the tour in the old town, which is a myriad of winding narrow streets leading to gilded shaded squares with little bistros and cafes.
Your private tour will also include a visit to the magnificent Opera house and the Town Hall and Rosetti Square, home to Nice Cathedral. The Cathedral is unlike many French Cathedrals rather modest from the outside, but once inside admire the lavish Baroque designs, gilded ornate chapels, sculptures, and paintings, all with a distinctly Italian feel.
Stop for lunch in the famous flower and produce market which is also in the old town.
The afternoon begins with a private tour of the Musee Marc Chagall. Chagall’s influence was not just limited to the paintings and exhibitions in this building, he also decided how the building should be constructed based on where he wanted his works to be displayed. Amongst the 17 works from Chagall the exhibition also houses the famous Resistance, Resurrection, Liberation triptych, painted before, during, and after the Second World War.
End the day with a walk along the famous Promenade des Anglais – so named after the high society English tourists that visited Nice, including Queen Victoria and Winston Churchill.
Day 7: Nice
This morning starts with a private cookery lesson with a local chef where you will learn to cook local delicacies and bake your own bread. Your private lesson will be planned beforehand so that you get to cook the food you want to eat. Learn tips and hints from a local and create the perfect pissaldiere, a delicious rustic Mediterranean dish originating in Nice.
In the afternoon your chauffeur will be on hand to help you with your luggage for your transfer to Nice airport and onward trip.
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Salut from France! I’m Debbie, founder of Luxury France Tours.
Having developed into a Francophile on a trip to the French Alps many years ago while still in school, I moved to France after a career traveling the world led to me meeting my (now) French Husband in Johannesburg. I created Luxury France Tours as a way of sharing my love of France & igniting this passion in others.