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Europe by Rail – London, Paris and Brussels

Description

Photos courtesy of Akorn Destination Management

This 10 day itinerary by luxury rail encompasses the highlights of London, Paris and Brussels with visits to Windsor, Kew Gardens, Paris, Vaux le Vicomte, Brussels.

Day 1 - Arrival LondonDay 2 - London - City TourDay 3 - London– Windsor– Kew Gardens Day 4 - London~ParisDay 5 - Paris - Vaux-le-Vicomte & VersaillesDay 6 -Paris - Louvre & Musée D'OrsayDay 7 - Paris~BrusselsDay 8 - Brussels - City TourDay 9 - Brussels - Continue City TourDay 10 - Departure Brussels
After clearing customs, you will be transferred by private vehicle to your hotel. After check-in, the remainder of your day is at leisure to settle in to this historic city on the River Thames.

Most visitors to England arrive in the capital London. Its wealth of sights, stores, restaurants and theatres is world famous, offering visitors countless iconic attractions to explore. The surrounding countryside of southern England has a gentle landscape with country lanes, rolling hills and shimmering fenlands interspersed with historic cities such as Oxford, Cambridge and Bath.

An expert local guide and your chauffeur will be waiting to meet you for a full day sightseeing tour (8 hours) of London. You will visit the Tower of London, where the Beefeaters guard the dazzling Crown Jewels, and where you will gain excellent views of Tower Bridge from the Medieval Palace. Proceed afterwards to St. Paul’s Cathedral, rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of London in 1666.

After lunch at leisure, continue to the South Bank of the Thames in London. Here, two of London’s newest and most exciting exhibitions are located. The Old Bankside Powerstation is home to the Tate Modern Gallery. You will see many of the interesting works of contemporary art on display here. You will also visit the Sam Wanamaker’s reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre that stands alongside The Thames. Tour the exhibition dedicated to the Elizabethan stage and then visit the theatre itself.

London has a history dating back over 2,000 years and is one of the largest cities in Europe, offering a world of charm and sophistication. Visit The Tower of London and Tower Bridge, which is one of the most recognisable bridges in the world, standing gracefully on the River Thames. The Houses of Parliament are situated alongside Westminster Abbey in Parliament Square. Buckingham Palace became a Royal Residence in 1761 when George III purchased it. Queen Victoria was the first Monarch to reside at the Palace in 1837.

Travel west out of London with your driver, private vehicle and guide to visit Windsor Castle, the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world. With a history spanning nearly one thousand years, it is the Official Residence of Her Majesty The Queen and is her preferred weekend home. Subject to opening restrictions, you may see the State Apartments, St. George’s Chapel and Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House. You will also gain excellent views of Eton College from the castle ramparts.

Later today, head back towards London to visit the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew. The gardens today present an enjoyable mix of landscaped lawns, formal gardens, and greenhouses. The various greenhouses display plants from across the world in climate controlled environments, while Kew Gardens Gallery houses art and photographs illustrating botanical themes. Queen Charlotte’s Cottage (open only in summer) is a pretty summerhouse lying alongside a lake. The Chinese Pagoda is arguably Kew’s most recognizable structure. The Grass Garden has over 600 varieties of grasses.

This morning you will be transferred by private vehicle from your hotel to St Pancras train station. You will be assisted with check-in for your Eurostar train through the Channel Tunnel to Paris. You will have reserved seats in standard premier class, and a light lunch will be served as you travel. You will be met on arrival at the Gare du Nord and assisted with your transfer by private vehicle to your hotel.

Spend a half-day in the company of your guide and discover the Marais, one of Paris’s most historic and well-preserved districts. Once a favourite of Henri IV and Louis XIII, the bourgeois district fell to ruin after the Revolution in 1789, but began its revival in the 1960’s, having escaped the mass redevelopment of the city during the mid-nineteenth century. Nowadays the Marais is a lively neighbourhood with plenty of bars, boutiques and Paris’ Jewish community. Explore the district’s narrow streets, dotted with splendid mansions and other examples of Medieval and Renaissance architecture. Stroll on the Place des Vosges, formerly called Place Royale before the Revolution. This square is lined with pink brick and covered arcades, and is a unique example of early seventeenth-century architecture. One of France’s most famous writers, Victor Hugo, wrote a large part of “Les Misérables” whilst he lived here from 1832 to 1848.

France is permeated with style and joie de vivre! The French claim credit for developing the Gothic style of architecture and cathedrals that stand as legacies of soaring stone for future generations. Creators of everything from palaces o subway stations, painting, literature, cuisine, fashion and savoir-faire, France’s contribution to culture is  unsurpassed.

The Arc de Triomphe is probably one of Paris‘ focal points, also known as the Etoile. It is the site of the grave of the Unknown Soldier and stretches into one of the most famous boulevards in the world, the Champs Elysees. Of course, the most famous symbol of Paris is the Eiffel Tower, named after the engineer who designed it, Gustave Eiffel, while Notre Dame ranks as one of the world’s most famous places of worship. The Paris Opera in its day was the largest theatre in the world with a stage that could accommodate 450 performers. The vast Louvre is the world’s largest palace and greatest museum, showcasing the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo.

Head out to the south east of Paris to visit an architectural wonder of the 17th-century: the Château of Vaux-le-Vicomte, which was built for Nicolas Fouquet, Louis XIV’s financial advisor. Amazed at the magnificence and jealous of the opulence of this magnificent castle, with French gardens designed by Le Nôtre, the Sun King took inspiration for the future construction of his Versailles Castle. Vaux-le-Vicomte is the innovative work of French Formal Garden and offers the perfect harmony between garden and architecture.

Please note: Every Saturday evening from May through to October, Vaux le Vicomte can be visited by candlelight. Over 2,000 lit candles within the castle and its gardens create a romantic and magical atmosphere.t

This afternoon visit Versailles. Situated to the west of Paris, Versailles is the location of the vast palace that was constructed in the seventeenth century for Louis XIV, the ‘Sun King’. Housing up to 4,000 people, the palace was the glory of his reign and the epicentre of political power in France at the time. It became the model for grand houses all over Europe.

During your half-day tour, explore the complex network of rooms and apartments that make up this grand palace, including the Gallery of Palace History, Apartments of Mesdames (the six daughters of Louis XV) before touring the opulent Grand Apartments – a collection of seven prestigious and lavishly-decorated rooms, all named after Roman Gods, which served as a parade apartment for the King’s official acts. Your tour culminates in the magnificent Hall of Mirrors. Afterwards, take a stroll in the formal ornamental gardens and see the Grand Canal that stretches into the distance across the park.

Originally the Royal residence of the Kings of France, the sprawling Louvre Palace contains one of the most important art collections in the Western world, spanning from remotest antiquity to the mid-nineteenth century. Your half-day tour takes you to some of the most famous exhibits such as the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. The contemporary main entrance to the museum, a glass pyramid designed by architect I. M. Pei, caused much controversy when first built, but now is emblematic of the museum and much-admired.

After lunch continue to the famous Musée D’Orsay, housed in a converted railway station, this collection’s main attraction is the Impressionists: Renoir, Sisley, Pissarro and Monet are all well-represented. The Post-Impressionist collection includes works by Van Gogh and Cézanne.

Time permitting you might like to visit the famous Latin Quarter. This area of Paris was made famous by the writers and intellectuals who held court here in the first half of the 20th century. Take a stroll around the back streets to see the lovely old houses which were once the home of artists. You will see the Sorbonne, Paris’s world-famous university founded in 1253 and also the Panthéon and its crypt.

Today you will be met at your hotel and privately transferred to the Paris railway station. Here you will be shown to your pre-reserved 1st class seating on the high-speed Thalys train and your luggage will be handled on board for you. Upon arrival at the Brussels railway station you will be met from the door of the train and your luggage will be handled for you.

The balance of the day will be yours to settle in or start exploring Brussels on your own.

The small country of Belgium offers visitors a wealth of history and culture, boasting delightful medieval towns and some of the world’s most famous artists such as Rubens and Van Dyck. The lively city of Brussels is the political centre of Europe. The country is steeped in history; from the architectural gems throughout the picture postcard towns of Ghent and Bruges to the fields of Flanders that were the scenes of many bloody battles during World War One. Belgium is also famous for its tasty food and drink such as its chocolate, mussels and traditionally brewed fruit beers. It is split linguistically with the official language being French but a large portion of the population speaking the local dialect of Flemish.

Today your local English-speaking guide and driver will meet you at your hotel for a 4-hour sightseeing tour of the city. Enjoy a walking tour of the old town, which will start with a visit to the Grand-Place, the magnificent square at the heart of the old quarter, considered to be one of Europe’s most ornate market squares. Close to the Grand-Place is Brussels’ most famous resident, the Manneken Pis, a bronze statue of a small boy watering the fountain. Your tour will then take you further afield to the Atomium, from the top of which you will enjoy a panoramic view of Brussels.

Brussels offers all that is the best of Europe: beautiful buildings, sumptuous museums, superb dining, excellent beers, exceptional chocolates, and handmade lace! Two quite distinct languages receive equal billing in this worldly city: Dutch, as spoken in the north of Belgium, and French, spoken in the south.

During most of its history, Brussels was dominated by foreign powers, beginning with the Romans, Vikings, Spain, France, Austria, England, and finally The Netherlands. Under the patronage of Philip of Burgundy in the 15th century and Charles V of Spain in the 16th century, Flemish painting, tapestry-work, and lace-making reached artistic excellence in Brussels. The famous Battle of Waterloo in which Napoleon was defeated took place some ten or so miles outside Brussels. By 1830 the Dutch were driven out and an independent nation-state of Belgium created, the first monarch, Leopold of Saksen-Koburg, being related to the English royal family.

The heart of Brussels is the Grand Place, an irresistible historic square as beautiful as any in Europe. It has a special charm on Sunday mornings when the square is transformed into a flower and bird market. Be sure to visit the 15th-century Town Hall, late 17th-century guildhalls, the City Museum as well as the Royal Museum of Ancient Art where the rich collection of Flemish and Dutch oil paintings is unrivalled. Among the many churches, Cathedral St. Michel, St. John the Baptist and Notre Dame de la Chappelle stand out as most important architecturally.    Nearby is the famous Maneken-Pis, a bronze statue of a small boy watering the fountain. The statue is the celebrated mascot of the city, said to embody the rebellious spirit of Brussels.

Continue your discovery of the Belgian capital city and learn about Art Nouveau as you visit one of the four houses of Victor Horta, a creative genius and the leading Belgium Art Nouveau architect. The Horta house and workshop were built between 1898 and 1901 on two lots in a fashionable district of the town.

Also visit the gardens of the Van Buuren Museum, a little jewel is the heart of Brussels. There is great harmony of style and time between the J Buyssens’s garden and the Art Deco house. The actual garden is made of 3 different gardens: the Picturesque Garden, The Labyrinth and The Garden of the Heart “. The Picturesque Garden was designed by a landscape architect, in the twenties, and represents the geometrical ideas of the Art Deco.

Alternatively, opt for a full-day excursion to Ghent & Bruges. Ghent is the principal seat of the county of Flanders and its medieval quarters and splendid castle are redolent of history. Bruges, a beautiful medieval city of canals, is often called the “Venice of the North”.  Or if your travel schedule can be extended, we highly recommend you stay overnight a few days in each city.

Ghent
Filled with cathedrals and museums, Ghent is a city dating back to Roman times. It is now the capital of the province of East Flanders and one of Europe’s largest inland ports. It served as the principal seat of the Counts of Flanders and its massive castle dates from the 11th century. The Rembrandt moors in the centre of town near the church that houses the  famous painting by Van Eyck, “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb”. Ghent also claims the title “City of Flowers”, as it is surrounded by nurseries devoted to azaleas, rhododendrons and begonias.

Bruges
With its extensive system of canals and bridges, Bruges is often called the “Venice of the North.” The city, which has a population of 119,000 inhabitants and is the capital of West Flanders, was one of the most important cities of commerce from the 13th to the 15th centuries. Virtually surrounded by water which follows the course of the old fortifications, the town is linked by canals to the ports of Zeebrugge, Ostende and Ghent.

The beauty of the buildings, along with its famous lace and the wealth of art treasures, combine to make Bruges one of Belgium’s most popular tourist centres. The Halle dates from the 13th century and long served as the main market. Also from the 13th century, the Belfry is the finest in Belgium and the most prominent architectural feature of Bruges. The Basilica of the Holy Blood has a lower chapel dating from the 12th century, the upper from the 15th-16th centuries and the Stadhuis is the oldest Gothic Town Hall in Belgium, dating from 1376. Located on the central square, it’s a wonderful spot to sip tea or coffee in the afternoon. The Groeninge Museum contains the municipal collection of paintings, some of them late Old Masters and some works of the 19th-20th centuries. Opposite the museum is the early Gothic church of Onze Lieve Vrouwekek which traces its origins back to the 10th century.

Your driver will meet you in your hotel lobby and transfer you in the comfort of your private luxury vehicle to Brussels airport where you are assisted with check-in.

Pacific Destination Center Europe Specialists are here to help personalize your holiday for the Most Memorable Experience – Just give us a call at 800-227-5317, or email us at info@pacific-destinations.com with your desired destinations and focused activity wish list, or special occasion celebration and we will get started on your personalized dream holiday.

 

Phone one of our Europe Specialists at 1-800-227-5317 to start planning your European Holiday now!

CST #2023415-40

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