Tailormade tour Bordeaux, the Basque Country and Carcassonne fly-drive tour France

9 nights/10 days

Bordeaux • St Jean de Luz • Carcassonne

This touring holiday of the south-west of France introduces you to the Bordeaux region with its world-class wines and historic chateaux, the French Basque country for its dramatic coastline and cultural heritage, and the heritage site of Carcassonne. You see the ocean and the mountains, vineyards and mediaeval castles, staying in three different places and exploring in your hire-car.
Holiday price guide

Available year-round subject to the opening period of the hotels, from about £2,220 per person.

Luxury fly-drive tailormade touring holiday to Bordeaux, French Basque country and Carcassonne

This 9-night fly-drive touring holiday of the south-west of France combines an enormous variety of scenery, cultures and architecture. This gentle touring holiday concentrates on the southwest of France, starting with a flight into Bordeaux. Here collect your hire-car and spend three nights amide vineyards in a village on the outskirts of Bordeaux, with the Medoc and St Emilion within easy reach. Your hire-car will allow you the freedom to explore the region, including the city of Bordeaux itself. After three nights here you drive southwest through the Landes, characterised by the sweet-smelling pine forests that encircle tranquil lakes and long stretches of uninterrupted beaches along the Côte d’Argent bordering the mighty Atlantic. The thermal town of Dax makes for a good stop en-route, or you may consider a short diversion to the beaches of Biscarrosse or Mimizan. Your second stay is in Saint-Jean-de-Luz in the French Basque country, almost on the border with Spain. There is easy access to Biarritz, just 10 miles away, and San Sebastián on the other side of the Spanish border, one of the great food capitals of Europe. You have time to relax on the lovely sandy beach as well as to walk in the foothills of the Pyrenees. Your next stop is in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Carcassonne, one of the most perfect mediaeval towns in Europe and in the region of Languedoc. From here explore the Cathar castles or the Minvervois vineyards, or venture as far as the Mediterranean coast near Narbonne. At the end of the three-night stay in Carcassonne you return your hire-car to either Toulouse or Bordeaux, depending on which flight is best for you.

Highlights

Bordeaux • Visit St Emilion • Visit the Medoc vineyards • Explore Bordeaux centre • Optional cookery lesson • St Jean de Luz • Visit San Sebastian • Visit Biarritz • Walk in the Pyrenees • Carcassonne • Visit the Cathar castles

Day by day

Upon arriving in Bordeaux, collect your hire-car and make for your hotel on the outskirts of the city of Bordeaux, standing amidst some of the most renowned vineyards in the world. You spend three nights here.

The city of Bordeaux is a thriving hub of wine-making in the Aquitaine region. On the bank of the Gironde Estuary, just south of the Médoc Peninsula, and about 40 minutes’ drive from world-famous Saint-Emilion, Le Saint-James is the ideal place to be based in order to explore this region. Track down one of the impressive wine châteaux dotted across the region, such as the Château Rauzan Gassies and the Château Mouton Rothschild, to taste the fruity Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, and experience the distinctive vanilla and coffee aromas that develop as the wines of the area age. Other grape varieties in the region include Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. Within the port city of Bordeaux, much more than wine-tasting is on offer. Stroll around the city streets to get a feel for the wealth of extensive and interesting architecture. Recommended stop-off points include The Amphithéâtre de Bordeaux dit Palais Gallien, the Cathédrale de Bordeaux, the Opéra National de Bordeaux, and the Basilica of St. Michael. Making your own way around this city and exploring in your own time is the best way to experience the place first-hand. To delve deeper into the heritage of the city, visit the Musée d’Aquitane, the Musée des Beaux-Arts, or catch a show at the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux. Hidden amidst the local vineyards and rolling hills, lie other important historical sites. During your stay here, you might want to arrange a cookery lesson.

The drive of about 2 hours and 30 minutes to St Jean de Luz in the French Basque country and near the border with Spain takes you across the flat, pine-forested Les Landes and almost parallel to the Cote d’Argent, a long stretch of sandy beach that borders the Atlantic Ocean. You reach the pretty fishing port and seaside resort of St Jean de Luz where you spend three nights.

Saint-Jean-de-Luz is sits on the Pyrenean border between France and Spain and is renowned for its pretty architecture, sandy beach, gastronomy and light. The coastline here is a mixture of cliffs and sandy beaches, creating interesting scenery, and there are the foothills of the Pyrenees in the distance. This fishing port has a charming town centre, lined with picturesque 17th century shipowners’ houses. Many of the buildings are in the distinctive Basque half-timbered style, often with the beams painted a dark red or green, with matching shutters at the windows. The Church of Saint Jean Baptiste was the site of the marriage of Louis XIV in 1660. Its interior makes it a unique religious building, split onto three levels, and adorned with extravagant gold decoration, while in the centre of the main room hangs a model ship, harking back to the nautical history of the town. To the north is the sophisticated and larger resort of Biarritz and inland is the historic town of Bayonne. Just across the rocky Pyrenean border in Spain is San Sebastián - an essential day-trip. As well as its reputation for excellent cuisine, San Sebastián boasts of an impressive heritage and royal connection. The La Perla spa building on the waterfront was built for the Queen María Cristina and is still believed to be one of the most beautiful in the world. St Jean de Luz hosts numerous festivals including a Sardine festival at the end of July and beginning of August, a classical music festival in September and an International Basque Choral Singing Festival at Halloween.

Our recommended route today is one that shows you another region of France and takes you across country. It will take you through a little-known part of the country. You start by heading in the direction of Pau but before Pau you turn north to Aire sur l’Adour and then you are in the region of Gascony, land of Armagnac and the Three Musketeers. The countryside is rolling, it is a warm golden yellow with houses of the same colour, often with shutters in light blue, and brown roofs, it produces sunflower fields and vines, and its little towns and villages are strewn with abandoned castles, dating from the Middle Ages when this land was ruled by the English crown. Auch is the capital of Gascony and worth a stop, perhaps at lunchtime. You continue to the pink-tinged city of Toulouse and then join the motorway to Carcassonne.

The Gallo-Roman upper town of Carcassonne is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and historically of great significance in France. Walk along the city walls, past the castle’s amphitheatre, the basilica, and its 53 watchtowers, before making your way into the 12th century Château Comtal to view its archaeological exhibits and tour its inner ramparts. The lower Carcassonne town subverts its title as a city, instead offering a peaceful, somewhat sleepy atmosphere, with a central square that holds a weekly market and a number of small cafés. From Place Carnot, walk further out into the town centre to discover the quaint individual stores that sell unique gifts, or La Ferme, which sells fine food and wines. For a stunning experience of the region’s châteaux, drive south to the Cathar Castles that pepper the dramatic landscape and guard its deep valleys, particularly the Château de Peyrepertuse. The Canal du Midi is perfect for a long afternoon stroll or book a boat trip one afternoon to intensify the atmosphere of Carcassonne from the water. Beyond the walls of La Cité lie the wine regions of Minervois, to the north, and Corbières, to the south. If wine-tasting appeals, head into one of the many châteaux dotted around the countryside of these two regions. The Château Canet is the perfect spot to try some of the Muscat wines so typical of the Minervois region, as well as the olives from its three olive groves. Château Rives-Blanques in Cépie produces wines made available all over the world that you are encouraged by your warm hosts to taste on your visit. The less visited area of Saint Chinian, situated at the foothills of the Black Mountains and in the Parc Naturel Regional du Haut Languedoc, is worth a visit, known as it is for high quality produce; perhaps stop off at the Château de Combebelle.

Depending on the most suitable flight time, you can fly from Toulouse or Bordeaux. Return your hire-car and then take your flight back to London.

The expert advice and experience of the travel consultants resulted in a fantastic bespoke holiday.
Mr B, May 2019

Holiday price guide Prices from £2,220 per person based on two people sharing a double or twin room.

Holiday Code FRFD02

Luxury fly-drive tailormade touring holiday to Bordeaux, French Basque country and Carcassonne

Upon arriving in Bordeaux, collect your hire-car and make for your hotel on the outskirts of the city of Bordeaux, standing amidst some of the most renowned vineyards in the world. You spend three nights here.

The city of Bordeaux is a thriving hub of wine-making in the Aquitaine region. On the bank of the Gironde Estuary, just south of the Médoc Peninsula, and about 40 minutes’ drive from world-famous Saint-Emilion, Le Saint-James is the ideal place to be based in order to explore this region. Track down one of the impressive wine châteaux dotted across the region, such as the Château Rauzan Gassies and the Château Mouton Rothschild, to taste the fruity Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, and experience the distinctive vanilla and coffee aromas that develop as the wines of the area age. Other grape varieties in the region include Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. Within the port city of Bordeaux, much more than wine-tasting is on offer. Stroll around the city streets to get a feel for the wealth of extensive and interesting architecture. Recommended stop-off points include The Amphithéâtre de Bordeaux dit Palais Gallien, the Cathédrale de Bordeaux, the Opéra National de Bordeaux, and the Basilica of St. Michael. Making your own way around this city and exploring in your own time is the best way to experience the place first-hand. To delve deeper into the heritage of the city, visit the Musée d’Aquitane, the Musée des Beaux-Arts, or catch a show at the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux. Hidden amidst the local vineyards and rolling hills, lie other important historical sites. During your stay here, you might want to arrange a cookery lesson.

The drive of about 2 hours and 30 minutes to St Jean de Luz in the French Basque country and near the border with Spain takes you across the flat, pine-forested Les Landes and almost parallel to the Cote d’Argent, a long stretch of sandy beach that borders the Atlantic Ocean. You reach the pretty fishing port and seaside resort of St Jean de Luz where you spend three nights.

Saint-Jean-de-Luz is sits on the Pyrenean border between France and Spain and is renowned for its pretty architecture, sandy beach, gastronomy and light. The coastline here is a mixture of cliffs and sandy beaches, creating interesting scenery, and there are the foothills of the Pyrenees in the distance. This fishing port has a charming town centre, lined with picturesque 17th century shipowners’ houses. Many of the buildings are in the distinctive Basque half-timbered style, often with the beams painted a dark red or green, with matching shutters at the windows. The Church of Saint Jean Baptiste was the site of the marriage of Louis XIV in 1660. Its interior makes it a unique religious building, split onto three levels, and adorned with extravagant gold decoration, while in the centre of the main room hangs a model ship, harking back to the nautical history of the town. To the north is the sophisticated and larger resort of Biarritz and inland is the historic town of Bayonne. Just across the rocky Pyrenean border in Spain is San Sebastián - an essential day-trip. As well as its reputation for excellent cuisine, San Sebastián boasts of an impressive heritage and royal connection. The La Perla spa building on the waterfront was built for the Queen María Cristina and is still believed to be one of the most beautiful in the world. St Jean de Luz hosts numerous festivals including a Sardine festival at the end of July and beginning of August, a classical music festival in September and an International Basque Choral Singing Festival at Halloween.

Our recommended route today is one that shows you another region of France and takes you across country. It will take you through a little-known part of the country. You start by heading in the direction of Pau but before Pau you turn north to Aire sur l’Adour and then you are in the region of Gascony, land of Armagnac and the Three Musketeers. The countryside is rolling, it is a warm golden yellow with houses of the same colour, often with shutters in light blue, and brown roofs, it produces sunflower fields and vines, and its little towns and villages are strewn with abandoned castles, dating from the Middle Ages when this land was ruled by the English crown. Auch is the capital of Gascony and worth a stop, perhaps at lunchtime. You continue to the pink-tinged city of Toulouse and then join the motorway to Carcassonne.

The Gallo-Roman upper town of Carcassonne is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and historically of great significance in France. Walk along the city walls, past the castle’s amphitheatre, the basilica, and its 53 watchtowers, before making your way into the 12th century Château Comtal to view its archaeological exhibits and tour its inner ramparts. The lower Carcassonne town subverts its title as a city, instead offering a peaceful, somewhat sleepy atmosphere, with a central square that holds a weekly market and a number of small cafés. From Place Carnot, walk further out into the town centre to discover the quaint individual stores that sell unique gifts, or La Ferme, which sells fine food and wines. For a stunning experience of the region’s châteaux, drive south to the Cathar Castles that pepper the dramatic landscape and guard its deep valleys, particularly the Château de Peyrepertuse. The Canal du Midi is perfect for a long afternoon stroll or book a boat trip one afternoon to intensify the atmosphere of Carcassonne from the water. Beyond the walls of La Cité lie the wine regions of Minervois, to the north, and Corbières, to the south. If wine-tasting appeals, head into one of the many châteaux dotted around the countryside of these two regions. The Château Canet is the perfect spot to try some of the Muscat wines so typical of the Minervois region, as well as the olives from its three olive groves. Château Rives-Blanques in Cépie produces wines made available all over the world that you are encouraged by your warm hosts to taste on your visit. The less visited area of Saint Chinian, situated at the foothills of the Black Mountains and in the Parc Naturel Regional du Haut Languedoc, is worth a visit, known as it is for high quality produce; perhaps stop off at the Château de Combebelle.

Depending on the most suitable flight time, you can fly from Toulouse or Bordeaux. Return your hire-car and then take your flight back to London.

Holiday price guide Prices from £2,220 per person based on two people sharing a double or twin room.

Holiday Code FRFD02

Our prices include ● Scheduled flights with British Airways London to Bordeaux, and Toulouse or Bordeaux to London
● Hire of a Group B car for the duration of your holiday
● 3 nights’ bed and breakfast in a Deluxe double room at Le Saint-James, near Bordeaux
● 3 nights’ bed and breakfast in a Classic double room at the Parc Victoria in Saint-Jean-de-Luz
● 3 nights’ bed and breakfast In a Classic double room at the Hotel de la Cite in Carcassonne
● Concierge service and Expressions Holidays regional helpful hints

Our prices do not include ● Early check-in or late check-out at any hotels (although we can arrange this on request at additional cost)
● Any other services not mentioned above, such as transfers and meals except breakfast at hotels
● Personal holiday insurance. This is essential and cover should be in place from when you book the holiday.
● Local tourist tax, usually between Euros 1 and 3 per person per night, and payable locally to the hotel

Additional information Driving times for this touring holiday
Bordeaux to Saint-Jean-de-Luz 2 hours 15 minutes
Saint-Jean-de-Luz to Carcassonne 4 hours 30 minutes
Carcassonne to Bordeaux 3 hours 15 minutes

Luxury fly-drive tailormade touring holiday to Bordeaux, French Basque country and Carcassonne

About French Basque Country

An Expressions tailor-made holiday to the French Basque Country is a chance to explore this rural and picturesque region of France. One of the French Basque Country's great attractions is the close proximity of sea and country. The coastline is dramatic, with its wide sweeps of sandy beaches, cliffs and fishing harbours, beautiful sunsets over the sea and the Atlantic surf breaking on rocky outcrops; yet just a few minutes' drive inland are green, rolling hills, streams and rivers and flower filled pastures. The Basque identity of this region is apparent; the place names, the local accents, the Basque colours of the red and green timbered houses of villages where pelota is played regularly and in locally woven linens. Pimentos hanging from houses are a common sight as are locals in traditional costume for festivals and feast days. We loved the Basque Country from the moment we first visited it. The luxury hotels in the Basque Country which we recommend are located in and around St Jean de Luz, an old fishing port with wide sandy beaches. An excellent way to explore the Basque country is by car, perhaps also visiting other parts of southern France including Carcassonne and Bordeaux or venturing into Spain for a touring holiday including Northern Spain and French Catalonia.

Highlights of French Basque Country

Sample traditions such as pelota and pimento festivals. Local crafts such as the makhila walking stick, fine linens and Thalassotherapy are also available throughout the region. There are excellent golf courses and sandy beaches. Notice the red and green timbered houses.

Climate of French Basque Country

Average air temperatures by month in centigrade: Jan: 10.0, Feb: 9.4, Mar: 12.2, Apr: 19.5, May: 18.0, Jun: 23.7, Jul: 27.2, Aug: 25.7, Sep: 24.2, Oct: 19.7, Nov: 15.4, Dec: 11.0. Source: Direction de la Meteorologique de France.

Luxury fly-drive tailormade touring holiday to Bordeaux, French Basque country and Carcassonne

About Bordeaux Region

An Expressions tailor-made holiday to Bordeaux is a chance to explore a region renowned the world over for its wines and its awe-inspiring chateaux, whilst Cognac is less explored yet holds a countless store of treasures waiting to be appreciated. The Bordeaux region is ideal for short breaks and touring holidays with a range of sights to discover. Cognac country is a perfect destination for the discerning traveller as it is still relatively unknown yet is within very easy reach of more popular areas such as the coastal resorts between La Rochelle and Royan about 30 minutes` drive to the west, the Medoc and Saint Emilion vineyards about 45 minutes` drive to the south and the intriguing Marais Poitevin about an hour`s drive to the north. Moreover, the cuisine has a character of its own, utilising cognac, pineau and Marennes oysters. A holiday to the Bordeaux and Cognac regions is highly recommended. A fantastic way to discover the region is to incorporate it into a self-drive touring holiday, flying to Bordeaux and then exploring this area as well as the Basque Country and Carcassonne by hire-car. It is also accessible by train, such as in our suggested rail holiday travelling to the Loire Valley and Bordeaux which also allows you to explore by hire-car.

Highlights of Bordeaux

Visit vineyards and chateaux, for tasting and buying. Visit the oyster beds. Experience the Cognac distilleries, and the Romanesque architecture. Bordeaux is the historical centre for wine however you may also visit the villages of the wine region such as St Emilion.

Climate in the Bordeaux Region

Average air temperatures in Centigrade: Jan: 10.0, Feb: 9.4, Mar: 12.2, Apr: 19.5, May: 18.0, Jun: 23.7, Jul: 27.2, Aug: 25.7, Sep: 24.2, Oct: 19.7, Nov: 15.4, Dec: 11.0. Source: Direction de la Meteorologique de France

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