For those who have previously explored London & Paris and may wish to have a little more leisure time in the city to re-visit some favorite places while discovering new ones, and who also enjoy history, romance, art and the countryside will appreciate this tailored made 25-night itinerary. (can be modified to your interests and length of vacation time)
In this itinerary you will visit the glorious cities and countryside of England & France – London, Canterbury, Oxford & the Cotswolds, Paris, Champagne, Normandy and the Loire Valley.
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.
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.
As a tireless innovator of art and culture, and deeply immersed in history, it is not hard to see why London is one of the most visited cities in the world. London’s buildings are striking milestones in the city’s unique and compelling biography, and a great many of them – the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben – are familiar landmarks, now fused with their more modern innovative counterparts such as the Shard and the London Eye. However, with more lush parkland than any other world capital, London is not just about densely-packed city exploration. From the beautiful Royal Observatory in Greenwich and Kew Gardens, to the historical Windsor Castle, locals and visitors alike can easily find ways to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
This afternoon, continue over the North Downs to Leeds Castle. Often described as the loveliest castle in the world, it rises majestically from the moat and was a favorite residence of the early queens of England. Return to London from here. (8 hours, driver-guide or join a Small Group Tour)
The rest of your day is at your leisure.
The University town of Oxford is a walking city of fine architecture. The college buildings and quadrangles date as far back as 1249 when University College, the oldest of all the colleges was founded. Northwest of Oxford is Woodstock, a charming, unspoiled town with fine Cotswold stone houses and buildings. The extensive grounds of Blenheim Palace, the ancestral home of Sir Winston Churchill, border Woodstock. Churchill was born here in 1874 when his mother was staying at Blenheim Palace.
The rest of your day is at your leisure.
After your tour, your guide takes you on to Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons Hotel for lunch at Raymond Blanc’s Two Michelin Starred restaurant. (Subject to availability, lunch payable locally).
Afterwards, continue to the nearby Waddesdon Manor. A French Renaissance château, inspired by those in the Loire valley, built by a Rothschild in the 19th century, and filled with royal treasures. Waddesdon was created to impress, only used on summer weekends to entertain friends and family. The house is full of 18th-century French objects, of exceptional quality and history including a desk made for Queen Marie-Antoinette. In addition to the lavishly-decorated interiors, the manor houses a superb collection of furniture, porcelain and paintings. Take time also to admire the newly-restored formal garden. (8 hours, driver-guide or join a Small Group Tour)
Continue on, into the county of Warwickshire, to visit Stratford-upon-Avon, the market town that is revered as the birthplace of William Shakespeare. Follow in his footsteps, seeing where he was born, where he courted Ann Hathaway and where is laid to rest. Return to your hotel from here. (8 hours, driver-guide or join a Small Group Tour)
Located in the Heart of England, the Cotswolds are a vision of idyllic rural life, where thatched cottages and quaint villages cover a rolling landscape. A liberal sprinkling of wildflowers lead you through the picturesque villages of Bibury, Chipping Campden and Broadway, which host an array of specialist shops on a street of lovely old houses built in the 16th and 17th centuries. To the north lie the imposing Warwick Castle and Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon, and the university city of Oxford is a delight to visit with its stunning architecture. The college buildings and courtyards date as far back as 1249 when University College, the oldest of them all, was founded. Near Oxford, the grandiose Blenheim Palace was the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill and he is buried in the local churchyard. Northwest of Oxford you find Woodstock, a charming, unspoiled town with fine Cotswold stone houses and buildings.
The Cotswolds is a wonderful area of rolling hills, winding rivers, and honey-colored cottages set in peaceful villages with names like Upper and Lower Slaughter and Bourton-on-the-Water. Broadway, a much-photographed “show village,” hosts an array of antique and specialty shops on a street of lovely old houses built in the 16th and 17th centuries.
When you arrive at the railway station in Paris, you are greeted and escorted to your awaiting private vehicle. You are then transferred to your hotel.
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 to subway stations, painting, literature, cuisine, fashion and savoir-faire, France’s contribution to culture is unsurpassed.
Home to world-famous art galleries, museums and monuments, such as the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay and the Eiffel Tower, Paris is a global hub of art, fashion, gastronomy and culture. The Arc de Triomphe, also known as the Place de l’Etoile, is one of Paris’ focal points, marking the grave of the Unknown Soldier, and it stretches into one of the most famous boulevards in the world: the Champs Elysees. Of course, the city’s most recognized symbol 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 was the largest theatre in the world in its heyday, and the vast Louvre Palace contains one of the world’s largest and greatest museums, showcasing the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo!
After free time for lunch, visit one of Reims’ famous Champagne cellars to discover the history of this iconic drink and to sample some sparkling wine during a tasting session. (9 hours, driver and guide or join a Small Group Tour)
From the Norman invasion of England in 1066 to the D-Day landings of 1944, Normandy has played a significant role in European history. The romantic cliffs that give way to wild and sandy beaches where the soldiers of WWII landed have now become a site of pilgrimage for thousands of war veterans and their families. Further inland there are vast expanses of cultivated land, traditional cider orchards, and lush cattle pastures ready to be explored. The famous Mont St. Michel is also situated in Normandy on a 260-foot granite rock! Honfleur, also worthy of a visit, is a charming fishing port with a historic seafaring past, as is Deauville, a prosperous seaside resort with white beaches, wooden promenades, and turreted villas that extend along the coastline.
After free time for lunch, continue on to the medieval town of Bayeux, where you see the famous Bayeux Tapestry, a 225-ft embroidery which depicts the story of William of Normandy’s conquest of England in 1066. You also have time to see the impressive Norman-Romanesque cathedral, consecrated in 1077. (8 hours, driver-guide or join a Small Group Tour)
The numerous monuments and memorials in the Normandy coastal area bear witness to the fierce fighting that took place here during and after the D-Day Landings of World War II. Today’s tour takes you to the American Sector where you visit some of the most important sites of this pivotal point in the war. Start inland at the strategically-important Sainte-Mère-Église, where the US 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions parachuted in to help the village become one of the first in France to be liberated. Join the famous coastline at Pointe du Hoc, which the US Rangers scaled, demonstrating a triumph of planning, training and execution by elite and well-led troops. Further Eastwards along the coast is the sector known as Omaha Beach, also captured by invading American forces, and where you examine several sites from both the German and US perspective. You will also hear about Operation Aquatint, a failed 1942 British Commando raid on the area.
Your day ends with a poignant visit to the US Military Cemetery and Interpretation Centre at Colleville-sur-Mer, the final resting place of over 9300 US soldiers located on a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach. (8 hours, driver-guide or join a Small Group Tour)
Normandy’s rich historical sights and diverse landscapes make it ideal for touring. Inland there are vast expanses of cultivated land, traditional cider orchards, and lush cattle pastures. Mont St. Michel is situated in Normandy on a 260-foot granite rock. Honfleur, also worthy of a visit, is a charming fishing port with a historic seafaring past. Deauville is a prosperous seaside resort with white beaches, duckboard promenades, and turreted villas that extend along the coastline.
At the Musée de la Tapisserie de Bayeux, one will find the town’s most cherished treasure, the Bayeux tapestry. The embroidery on a 200-feet band of linen tells the story of the conquest of England by William the Conqueror.
In the early hours of June 6, 1944, a long-planned invasion of Normandy (the D-Day Landings) erupted along the normally flat shoreline of Calvados. This invasion was the first step in the battle to overcome Nazi occupation. A fleet of over 4,000 vessels converted the beaches into beachheads with such illustrious code names as Gold, Omaha, and Utah. Today this entire region is a focus of pilgrimage for the veterans of World War II landings.
The Loire Valley’s winding river froths through a valley of vineyards, famous chateaux and castles deep in the heart of France. Today the Loire is blessed with architectural wonders ranging from medieval, Renaissance, and classical chateaux to Romanesque and Gothic churches, so much so that the valley is ranked as a UNESCO world heritage site. There is even the chateau that inspired the fairy tale legend of Sleeping Beauty! As well as boasting architectural and artistic treasures, the Loire’s rich fertile soil is another blessing, known for nurturing asparagus, strawberries and the grapes that go into their world-famous red and white wines. The Loire Valley is renowned as France’s modern-day wine region, dotted with lively cosmopolitan towns like Orléans, Tours, Saumur and Angers.
Your morning starts at the Château de Chenonceau, a masterpiece of sixteenth-century architecture. Famously straddling the River Cher, the property is steeped in royal history and features a spectacular ballroom gallery in the bridge section. Returning to the River Loire, you visit the Château Royal d’Amboise, perched on a spur above the town and enjoying a panoramic view of the valley. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was seized by the Crown in 1434 and became a favorite residence of numerous French kings during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Also in Amboise, the Clos Lucé is a handsome Renaissance manor where Leonardo da Vinci spent the last four years of his life. The museum contains working models of some of da Vinci’s inventions. (8 hours, driver-guide or join a Small Group Tour)
Your other stop today will be at the Château de Brissac, the tallest along the Loire. It is still in private hands but ten rooms can be visited by the public, filled with furniture, paintings, tapestries and other great treasures. A really memorable room is Louis XIII’s bedroom and the opera theatre, still used for concerts today. Don’t miss the duke’s cellar dating from the 11th century, where his wine can be tasted. Return to your hotel after the tour (8 hours, driver-guide or join a Small Group Tour)
Your tour will include the unforgettable sight of Chartres, which can be seen from afar as it rises majestically above the flat wheat lands of the Beauce. For many it is the most beautiful of all the great Gothic Cathedrals and inside the 12th and 13th century stained glass windows are simply breathtaking. Continue on to Rambouillet to the Chateau surrounded by forests. There is an extensive park where you will visit the dairy built for Marie-Antoinette. Also visit the National Sheepfold where you will see merino sheep, prized for the quality and yield of their wool.
Home to world-famous art galleries, museums and monuments, such as the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay and the Eiffel Tower, Paris is a global hub of art, fashion, gastronomy and culture. The Arc de Triomphe, also known as the Place de l’Etoile, is one of Paris’ focal points, marking the grave of the Unknown Soldier, and it stretches into one of the most famous boulevards in the world: the Champs Elysees. Of course, the city’s most recognised symbol 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 was the largest theatre in the world in its heyday, and the vast Louvre Palace contains one of the world’s largest and greatest museums, showcasing the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo!
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