Ooh-La-La! Iconic Vacations in France


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Indulge in getaways from Champagne country to heavenly Provence

Posted by: Xanterra on June 5, 2017

Chenonceau. Chambord. Chaumont. France’s beautiful Loire Valley is synonymous with romantic, storybook castles.

Beautiful scenery. World-class culture. Delectable cuisine. Enviable lifestyle. France has it all as a destination. No wonder it’s the No. 1 tourist country in the world. The country is also blessed with a variety of quintessential regions that distill the essence of the French experience.

Here are three ways to enjoy the best of France’s classic regional destinations.


Lovely Loire

Chenonceau. Chambord. Chaumont. France’s beautiful Loire Valley is synonymous with romantic, storybook castles. You can visit these and more on Austin Adventures’ seven-day bike tour “France/Loire Valley.” This all-inclusive small-group excursion offers the perfect way to experience the Loire Valley’s rich history, majestic chateaux, and cozy villages. Retrace the footsteps of King Charles VIII, Catherine de Medici, Leonardo da Vinci and Joan of Arc as you pedal along the gentle, rolling terrain past flowering meadows and fertile vineyards. Crisscross the gentle Loire River that meanders through the region as you visit the towns of Blois, Amboise, Tours, and Azay-le-Rideau.

Marvel at the castle that inspired Sleeping Beauty and the last residence of Leonardo da Vinci, home to many of his inventions. Ogle the “Versailles of the Loire” and manicured castle gardens fit for a king. Take time out to sample award-winning wines and visit country markets overflowing with produce, which you can savor in the delectable cuisine of the region. You might not be royalty, but you’ll surely feel like it during this weeklong itinerary.

Champagne Vineyards

Chasing Champagne

Combine the best of walking and barging on the new 10-day “Into Champagne Country: France Walk & Barge” tour from VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations. There’s no better way to soak up the flavor of this iconic corner of northern France — slow and easy. With a deluxe private barge as your nightly base, you can immerse yourself in the rural lifestyle that produces the region’s famed Brie cheeses and sparkling vintages. Take daily strolls along country trails into quiet medieval villages and through gorgeous chateaux gardens. Watch the scenery drift by as you float down peaceful rural canals.

Highlights of the trip include wandering Epernay’s elegant Avenue de Champagne, lined with many of world’s most famous champagne houses; exploring the hometown of the monk Dom Perignon, who discovered the process of champagne making in the 18th century; honoring WWI U.S. Marines at Belleau Wood; visiting the Château Champs sur Marne and the historic town of Meaux; and sampling champagne in local cellars and Brie from a family-owned producer in business since 1895. By the tour’s end you’ll be toasting, “C’est si bon!”

Fields of lavender

Provence Passage

Is there a more sensuous region of France than Provence, one so aptly memorialized by artists such as Vincent van Gogh and Paul Cézanne and author Peter Mayle? And is there are better way to visit than by strolling through its country lanes, fragrant lavender fields, renowned wineries, and outdoor markets? Country Walkers’ seven-day guided walking tour, “Lavender in Provence,” provides just such as opportunity.

Go to the source of where the region’s signature lavender plant is grown, processed, and sold and where its brilliant color carpets acres of sun-drenched meadows in the Valensole Plateau. Visit the estate chateaux of Châteauneuf-du-Pape or Gigondas above the Rhône Valley to learn about the concept of terroir and to sample their award-winning vintages. Explore the sprawling outdoor market in Vaison-la-Romaine — arranged in small squares throughout the town. Stroll the cobbled streets of the medieval hilltop village of Gordes, considered one of the most beautiful in France. And enjoy wine-and-cheese tastings hosted by master cheese-makers. After such enviable experiences you might even be inspired to capture them in paint or words.

How to Explore

By Bike

A leader in both family and adult active vacations, Austin Adventures has been recognized as one of Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Tour Operators multiple times. Most well known as the leader in national park vacations, they travel to 80 destinations spanning all seven continents. For more information on Austin Adventures, visit austinadventures.com or call 800-575-1540.

VBT is the value leader in active biking vacations and has been rated among the “World’s Best Tour Operators” by the readers of Travel + Leisure for six years. VBT offers more than 55 deluxe, small group bicycling, walking, and barge and bike vacations in 26 different countries and 11 U.S. states. For more information on VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations, visit vbt.com or call 800-245-3868.

On Foot

For more than 38 years, Country Walkers has provided active and immersive travel experiences on five continents. They offer two distinct ways to explore: scheduled, small-group Guided Walking Adventures and independent Self-Guided Walking itineraries. For more information on Country Walkers, visit countrywalkers.com or call 800-234-6900.

For more travel experiences available from Xanterra Parks & Resorts and its affiliated properties, visit xanterra.com/explore/.


Written by: Veronica Stoddart

Award-winning travel editor and writer Veronica Stoddart was the former editor in chief of the Travel Media Group at USA TODAY. She has written for nearly two dozen publications and websites.

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