From Bordeaux to Provence

Overview

Trace an arc across southern France, from the green Dordogne Valley, famed as the world’s treasury of prehistoric art, to the wild uplands of the Massif Central, la France Profonde (“deep France”) of traditional ways and quiet farm villages. In the Dordogne, we’ll be joined by a celebrated expert in Paleolithic art as we view cathedral-like galleries of mystical paintings created by extraordinary artists 30,000 years ago (and see some special caves that few travelers ever discover). On our culinary explorations, we’ll sample all the regional delights (jambons crus, saucissons, wild boar, peppery Le Puy lentils, luscious bleu d’auvergne, and cantal cheeses), and savor two special dinners at Michelin-starred restaurants. Our walks bring us to hilltop villages and hidden realms scented with herbs and wildflowers, and we’ll spend a magical market day in medieval Sarlat, with its ancient honey-colored stone houses along the Dordogne River. One overnight in the Massif Central will be at the extraordinary inn of Michel Bras, one of France’s most famous chefs, and we finish our adeventure admiring the wild beauty of the Ardéche Gorge. This unique journey will bring us into the heart of France. Allons-y!

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-4
Saint-émilion / Les Eyzies, Capital of Prehistory / Lascaux

Meeting in Bordeaux, we hike through vineyards to the ancient wine town of Saint-émilion, with a tasting at the elegant Château Guadet wine estate. In Les Eyzies, we’ll be joined by a gifted expert to explore the twists and turns of magnificent galleries of Paleolithic art at Lascaux II (by torchlight to experience the paintings in flickering natural light!) and at Rouffignac, Font-de-Gaume, and special lesser-known sites.

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Days 5-7
Market Day in Sarlat / Chateau de Beynac / Lot Valley / Grottes de Cougnac

We explore the lively weekly market in Sarlat’s old quarter, hike along the Dordogne River, visit the stunning clifftop castle of Château de Beynac, and discover the off-the-beaten-path caves at Grottes de Cougnac.

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Days 8-9
Laguiole / Aubrac Plateau / Chemin de St. Jacques / Michel Bras

Visit ancient Laguiole, where renowned knives have been produced for two centuries, and walk on the Camino de Santaigo, a beautiful stretch of the historic pilgrim trail in the wild Aubrac Plateau. At world-famous Michel Bras, we enjoy a special dinner and a warm welcome from the Bras family. Michel Bras’ son Sebastian, the chef, gave back his three Michelin stars in 2017 to gain more culinary freedom.

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Days 10-12
Massif Central / Ardèche Gorge / Vallon Pont-d’Arc

In the bucolic Massif Central, we pass through historic villages and sample the rich local cheeses (St. Nectaire, Laguiole, or Roquefort), then head to the dramatic Ardèche Gorge, where we visit the perfect replica of the Paleolithic paintings at Caverne du Pont-d’Arc and savor our lovely hotel set among lavender fields. Depart on Day 12 via Avignon.

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Highlights

Highlights

Trace an arc across southern France’s lush and historic landscapes
Visit fantastic galleries of Paleolithic cave art, both famous and little known, with expert local guides
Enjoy lovely walks between villages, several dinners in Michelin-starred restaurants
Experience market day in medieval Sarlat, with its Old Town of honey-colored 16th century buildings

Details

Length: 12 days
Cost From: $7995  
Arrive: Bordeaux, France
Depart: Avignon, France
Lodging: 11 nights charming hotels and inns
Meals: All meals included except 1 lunch and 2 dinners (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Activity: Cultural Adventures, Walking, Culinary
Trip Level:

Easy to moderate walks and hikes, 2-4 hours a day, van support (for luggage or if you wish to skip a day's hike)

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