Tailormade tour Dordogne, Basque Country and Tarn fly-drive tour France

9 nights/10 days

St Jean de Luz • Tarn • Dordogne

This fly-drive holiday offers more than a taster of south-west France starting with a stay in the Franco-Spanish Basque country in one of the loveliest seaside resorts in France, and with a route taking you across Gascony to the Tarn, with bastides, art and vines to discover, culminating in the comfort of the Dordogne with a range of sporting options as well as gardens and castles to visit. You stay in authentic hotels, typical of each region.
Holiday price guide

Available year-round subject to the opening period of the hotels, from about £2,370 per person.

Luxury fly-drive tailormade holiday to the Dordogne, the French Basque country and the Tarn

This 9-night fly-drive touring holiday of the south-west of France including the Basque Country, the Tarn and the Dordogne combines the Atlantic coast and the Pyrenees with the mighty rivers of the Tarn and the Dordogne and culture that dates from prehistoric times through the Middle Ages. There is a wealth of scenery, flavours and local languages to experience. You start at Bordeaux and collect your hire-car for a drive south-west through the Landes, characterised by its sweet-smelling pine forests and long stretches of uninterrupted beaches along the Côte d’Argent. You pass Biarritz and Bayonne and reach your first stop, the picturesque fishing port and seaside resort of St Jean de Luz. You have three nights here to explore both the coastline and the countryside, perhaps venturing into nearby San Sebastian in Spain. You then cross the cosy countryside of Gascony, home of Armagnac and the Three Musketeers to reach your next base for three nights in the village of Cahuzac-sur-Vère near Gaillac, where your hotel occupies an idyllic rural setting with views over vine-clad hills. Here, you’re but 15 minutes from dramatic Cordes-sur-Ciel and just half an hour from Albi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the birthplace of Toulouse-Lautrec. Again, time for rest in the countryside or sightseeing nearby before continuing this touring holiday into the Dordogne. Your base for the final three nights of the holiday is in a village on the banks of the River Dordogne, ideally placed for the major sites to visit, including the Dordogne valley itself with its charming villages and ruined castles, the prehistoric sites of Lascaux and Les Eyzies and the market town of Sarlat. Plenty of time too to sample the local delicacies for which this area is renowned. You return to Bordeaux for a flight back to London.

Highlights

St Jean de Luz • Visit San Sebastian • Walk in the Pyrenees • Visit Biarritz • Drive across Gascony • Tarn • Visit the Toulouse-Lautrec museum in Albi • Visit the ancient bastide of Montauban • Taste the Gaillac wines • Visit Cahors in the Lot valley • Dordogne • Visit the prehistory at Lascaux and Les Eyzies • Kayak on the River Dordogne • Visit the castles of the Dordogne • Visit the market town of Sarlat

Day by day

Arrive at Bordeaux and collect your hire-car. 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 and pass Toulouse, and then head north-east, crossing the river Tarn near Gaillac and on to your stop at Cahuzac-sur-Vère, where you spend three nights.

The small commune of Cahuzac-sur-Vère is the quintessential rural French settlement, with its narrow winding streets and blond stone buildings, picturesque central square and war monument. The houses of the Cahuzacois cluster around the Catholic church of the same name as the commune, giving it a very mediaeval appearance. Stretching out on each side, however, is a landscape rich in exciting opportunities to explore. Montauban, less than an hour northwest of Cahuzac-sur-Vère is the second oldest of the bastides of southern France, founded in 1144AD. It was voted a French City of Art and History, with a city centre characterised by its towering castle, impressive bridge, and boulevards. Wine-tasting opportunities are available at the Domaine de Montels and the Mas des Anges, if you would like to sample the wine of the area. Alternatively, Montauban is known for its other culinary specialities, such as sugared almonds and biscuits with jam, not to mention the fabulous produce of its chocolatiers. Also nearby is Albi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and bursting with the remarkable history of France. The most immediate point of interest in this small town is its red-brick mediaeval cathedral, St. Cecilia’s. Witness how its imposing exterior blends into the delicate wood and stone decoration of its interior. Adorning the whole western wall are extensive murals depicting the Last Judgement. Just next door, the Bishop’s palace houses the Toulouse Lautrec museum, dedicated to the works of the post-impressionistic iconographer Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. From outside the cathedral, you can make your way west to the square which overlooks the River Tarn or pass the museum to walk across the thousand-year-old Old Bridge. Albi retains the look and feel of its traditional way of life. Other points of interest nearby might include the fortified villages and vineyards of the Gaillac countryside, the tours of the old mining town Carmaux that extend 350 metres underground, or the Viaduc du Viaur, designed by Gustave Eiffel himself, in Rodez.

Journey northwards towards your final hotel, perhaps stopping at the historic city of Cahors, a picturesque city surrounded on three sides by the River Lot. Your base is in the village of Tremolat in the valley of the River Dordogne and within reach today for excursions to capture the essence of this popular region. The position of Tremolat on the riverside makes it ideal for kayaking and fishing, while the neighbouring hills make for fantastic hiking trails. You spend three nights here.

Whilst in this part of the Dordogne there are all sorts of activities and sightseeing possibilities, of a cultural, historical, gourmet and active nature. Sarlat is a thriving town with numerous shops and food stalls selling local delicacies such as foie-gras and other duck and goose products. There are several excellent restaurants in the town. Take a scenic drive along the river Dordogne, stopping to see the ruined mediaeval castles that dot the cliffs. Along the length of the river be sure to see the Chateau des Milandes, the chateau at Beynac-et-Cazenac, and the Chateau de Castelnaud-la-Chapelle with its collection of mediaeval weapons. Nearby are the gardens of Marqueyssac, listed as a National Monument and planted with box through which there are numerous paths, creating a maze-like effect. There are fantastic views from a belvedere. Other gardens nearby include the Clos des Sources at Vitrac and the Jardins d’Eyrignac. Other notable villages in the area are La Roque Gageac, Domme and Beynac. From La Roque Gageac it is also easy to hire a canoe or to take a river trip on one of the gabarres, a boat designed after the old river trading boats. The prehistoric sites at Les Eyzies and Lascaux should be visited but you should try to book entrances in advance as it does get very busy. If time permits, spend an afternoon in Perigueux, a larger town north of Trémolat. Once an important Roman centre, its history can be read in the Vesone Tower and the Amphithéâtre, the mediaeval Château Barrière, and the Cathédrale Saint Font surrounded by the town’s boulevards and mediaeval houses. Have lunch or an afternoon coffee in one of the chic cafés on the Place de Navarre.

Depending on the time of your flight from Bordeaux, you could stop at Bergerac or the pretty wine village of St Emilion before returning your hire-car and the 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 £2,370 per person based on two people sharing a double or twin room.

Holiday Code FRFD05

Luxury fly-drive tailormade holiday to the Dordogne, the French Basque country and the Tarn

Arrive at Bordeaux and collect your hire-car. 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 and pass Toulouse, and then head north-east, crossing the river Tarn near Gaillac and on to your stop at Cahuzac-sur-Vère, where you spend three nights.

The small commune of Cahuzac-sur-Vère is the quintessential rural French settlement, with its narrow winding streets and blond stone buildings, picturesque central square and war monument. The houses of the Cahuzacois cluster around the Catholic church of the same name as the commune, giving it a very mediaeval appearance. Stretching out on each side, however, is a landscape rich in exciting opportunities to explore. Montauban, less than an hour northwest of Cahuzac-sur-Vère is the second oldest of the bastides of southern France, founded in 1144AD. It was voted a French City of Art and History, with a city centre characterised by its towering castle, impressive bridge, and boulevards. Wine-tasting opportunities are available at the Domaine de Montels and the Mas des Anges, if you would like to sample the wine of the area. Alternatively, Montauban is known for its other culinary specialities, such as sugared almonds and biscuits with jam, not to mention the fabulous produce of its chocolatiers. Also nearby is Albi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and bursting with the remarkable history of France. The most immediate point of interest in this small town is its red-brick mediaeval cathedral, St. Cecilia’s. Witness how its imposing exterior blends into the delicate wood and stone decoration of its interior. Adorning the whole western wall are extensive murals depicting the Last Judgement. Just next door, the Bishop’s palace houses the Toulouse Lautrec museum, dedicated to the works of the post-impressionistic iconographer Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. From outside the cathedral, you can make your way west to the square which overlooks the River Tarn or pass the museum to walk across the thousand-year-old Old Bridge. Albi retains the look and feel of its traditional way of life. Other points of interest nearby might include the fortified villages and vineyards of the Gaillac countryside, the tours of the old mining town Carmaux that extend 350 metres underground, or the Viaduc du Viaur, designed by Gustave Eiffel himself, in Rodez.

Journey northwards towards your final hotel, perhaps stopping at the historic city of Cahors, a picturesque city surrounded on three sides by the River Lot. Your base is in the village of Tremolat in the valley of the River Dordogne and within reach today for excursions to capture the essence of this popular region. The position of Tremolat on the riverside makes it ideal for kayaking and fishing, while the neighbouring hills make for fantastic hiking trails. You spend three nights here.

Whilst in this part of the Dordogne there are all sorts of activities and sightseeing possibilities, of a cultural, historical, gourmet and active nature. Sarlat is a thriving town with numerous shops and food stalls selling local delicacies such as foie-gras and other duck and goose products. There are several excellent restaurants in the town. Take a scenic drive along the river Dordogne, stopping to see the ruined mediaeval castles that dot the cliffs. Along the length of the river be sure to see the Chateau des Milandes, the chateau at Beynac-et-Cazenac, and the Chateau de Castelnaud-la-Chapelle with its collection of mediaeval weapons. Nearby are the gardens of Marqueyssac, listed as a National Monument and planted with box through which there are numerous paths, creating a maze-like effect. There are fantastic views from a belvedere. Other gardens nearby include the Clos des Sources at Vitrac and the Jardins d’Eyrignac. Other notable villages in the area are La Roque Gageac, Domme and Beynac. From La Roque Gageac it is also easy to hire a canoe or to take a river trip on one of the gabarres, a boat designed after the old river trading boats. The prehistoric sites at Les Eyzies and Lascaux should be visited but you should try to book entrances in advance as it does get very busy. If time permits, spend an afternoon in Perigueux, a larger town north of Trémolat. Once an important Roman centre, its history can be read in the Vesone Tower and the Amphithéâtre, the mediaeval Château Barrière, and the Cathédrale Saint Font surrounded by the town’s boulevards and mediaeval houses. Have lunch or an afternoon coffee in one of the chic cafés on the Place de Navarre.

Depending on the time of your flight from Bordeaux, you could stop at Bergerac or the pretty wine village of St Emilion before returning your hire-car and the flight back to London.

Holiday price guide Prices from £2,370 per person based on two people sharing a double or twin room.

Holiday Code FRFD05

Our prices include ● Scheduled flight with British Airways London to Bordeaux return
● Hire of a Group B car for the duration of the holiday
● 3 nights’ bed and breakfast in a Classic double room at Parc Victoria in Saint-Jean-de-Luz
● 3 nights’ bed and breakfast in a Grand Confort double room at the Château des Salettes in Cahuzac-sur-Vère, near Gaillac
● 3 nights’ bed and breakfast in a Superior double room at Le Vieux Logis in Trémolat
● 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 St Jean de Luz 2 hrs 20 minutes
Saint-Jean-de-Luz to Cahuzac-sur-Vère 4 hrs 30 minutes
Cahuzac-sur-Vère to Tremolat 3 hours
Tremolat to Bordeaux 2 hours

Luxury fly-drive tailormade holiday to the Dordogne, the French Basque country and the Tarn

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 holiday to the Dordogne, the French Basque country and the Tarn

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

Luxury fly-drive tailormade holiday to the Dordogne, the French Basque country and the Tarn

About Dordogne

The Dordogne region at the heart of Perigord abounds in clear, flowing rivers, craggy hillsides of golden rock, hill top villages and castles built of the local stone, and attractive houses with grey slate roofs and mini turrets, with vines trained along their walls. A holiday in the Dordogne is ideal for those seeking a combination of activity, sightseeing and relaxation. There are pre-historic grottoes to explore, market towns of mediaeval houses and cobbled streets such as Sarlat, numerous sporting activities such as riding and cycling and castles to visit. Plus, the gastronomy of the Dordogne is renowned for its truffles, foie gras, `magret de canard` and walnuts. The Dordogne region possesses much of the essential delights for a visitor to France. A self-drive touring holiday is an excellent way to travel to the Dordogne, perhaps discovering the chateaux and manor houses of northern France along the way. A quicker alternative is to travel to the region by train, collecting a hire-car on arrival which allows you to explore at your own pace.

Highlights of Dordogne

Cultural highlights include ceramics, wine festivals, foie gras and truffles, wild mushrooms, castles, valleys, water-sports, and local walks.

Climate of Dordogne

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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