Tailormade tour Grand self-drive tour of France France

11 nights/12 days

Champagne • Burgundy • Provence • Albi • Dordogne • Loire • Normandy

The Grand Tour of France is a self-drive touring holiday that allows you to traverse France, from the Pas-de-Calais in the north, to Provence in the south and to the Dordogne in the west. Our Grand Tour of France is a luxurious tapestry of different textures and colours, reflecting the variety of the regions of France and all the diversity a touring holiday in France can reveal.
Holiday price guide

Available year-round subject to the opening period of the hotels, from about £2,180 per person.

Luxury self-drive tailormade touring holiday to France

Highlights

Champagne • Burgundy • Visit Beaujolais • Provence • Visit Avignon • Albi • Dordogne • Loire • Visit Chinon • Visit Chateau de Villandry • Visit Saumur • Normandy • Honfleur • Visit Rouen

Day by day

You cross by Eurotunnel from Folkestone to Calais, and then drive south-east passing the historic towns of Arras and Laon into the Champagne region, to spend one night at Epernay. Nestling between the Aisne and Marne valleys, Epernay and its nearby rival, Reims, are at the heart of the Champagne vineyards. If time permits, visit a winery such as Champagne Tribaut. This family run business supplies such prestigious companies as Krug and Taittinger and opens its cellars and vineyards for tours and tastings.

Journey south from Epernay passing the mediaeval town of Troyes and the cathedral city of Dijon, into the arable land and rolling hills of Burgundy. Another of France’s most prestigious wine regions, Burgundy is set apart by the golden hue of its limestone villages, which turn ochre in the light of the setting sun and seem to cast the communities back to their mediaeval roots. You stop in the village of Gilly-les-Citeaux, surrounded by the vineyards of Burgundy and near the famous villages of Vosne-Romanee and Nuits-St-Georges. You spend one night here.

Today’s drive follows the course of the Saone and the Rhone to the village of Crillon-le-Brave in the Vaucluse, and near the Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Beaumes-de-Venise vineyards, at the foot of Mont Ventoux. It is a drive of 4 to 5 hours but there is plenty to do along the way with all sorts of interesting side excursions that you could choose from. You can choose to dally a while in Burgundy itself, perhaps visiting Beaune or any of the wine villages nearby, or veer off the main route to visit the Benedictine abbey of Cluny, founded in the 10th century, or take a detour into Beaujolais, with its steep vineyards and villages of golden-brown stone. Then continue following the Rhone valley south, perhaps with further sorties into the Roman towns of Vienne or Orange, before reaching Crillon-le-Brave where you stay for two nights.

From Crillon-le-Brave we suggest you spend today visiting the Luberon with its charming landscape of vines, olives, lavender and sunflowers, hill-top villages of golden stone such as Bonnieux and Gordes, and perhaps stopping off at the town of Fontaine-de-Vaucluse with its spring waters and associations with romantic poets dating back to Petrarch.

Today’s route can be covered in just over four hours, but there are various interesting deviations that you might be interested in. The first is to visit the Roman aqueduct, the Pont du Gard, and then to journey north-west through Uzes and Ales and into the Cevennes national park. At some point north of Ales you cut across in a south-westerly direction so long as you join the A75 in order to cross the famous Viaduc de Millau, designed by Norman Foster and which crosses the valley of the River Tarn. Shortly after crossing the bridge you take a more straightforward route to Albi on the River Tarn where you stay for two nights.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Albi is 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. Nearby, visit the vineyards of Gaillac and its neighbouring fortified villages, navigate the beautiful mediaeval streets of Cordes sur Ciel.

Today we recommend taking the day to take a leisurely drive from Albi towards Montauban and then to venture into the land of the Three Musketeers, Gascony. Gascony is a charming, soft and gentle land of brown-stone villages and golden fields, gently undulating, and whose numerous castles bear witness to the fortifications of by-gone centuries, when this land was a bastion of the English, ceded to France only in 1453. Gascony is known for its Armagnac and its sunflowers, its rural way of life and is still very much a secret part of France. Stop off in the pretty towns of Auch, Lectoure or Condom before reaching your base in the Dordogne.

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 Dordogne valley is scattered with ruined castles that you see as you drive along the river. Sarlat is a bustling and very pretty market town you might want to visit and prehistory presents itself in the caves at Les Eyzies and Lascaux. If you head east instead you reach the town of Bergerac and its vineyards.

From Tremolat you pass the vineyards of St Emilion and Pomerol before taking the motorway north passing Cognac, Saintes and Poitiers. Your stop is south of the mediaeval town of Chinon.

You have a full day to explore the Loire Valley. The town of Chinon itself sits on the bank of the river Vienne, at the base of a rocky hill that supports the Chinon Fortresse Royale. The Fortress dates from the 10th century. For a more unusual angle, visit the Musée de la Poire Tapée de Rivarennes (Pressed Pear Museum). Slightly more classic visits would be to the chateaux of Villandry and Azay-le-Rideau, both not far from Chinon, or to the wine town of Saumur on the Loire, the troglodyte houses in the cliffs south of the Loire and the abbey at Fontevraud. It is worth also booking a ‘son et lumiere’ show at one of the chateaux for the evening.

Your penultimate day takes you north from the Loire valley passing Le Mans and Alencon, Lisieux and Pont-l’Eveque to your overnight stay in the countryside near Honfleur.

Stop off to visit the picturesque fishing port of Honfleur before crossing the Seine and making your way back to Calais for your return Eurotunnel crossing.

Holiday price guide Prices from £2,180 per person based on two people sharing a double or twin room.

Holiday Code FRSD01

Luxury self-drive tailormade touring holiday to France

Holiday price guide Prices from £2,180 per person based on two people sharing a double or twin room.

Holiday Code FRSD01

Our prices include ● Eurotunnel return crossing from Folkestone to Calais for car and passengers
● 1 night’s bed and breakfast in a Classic double room at La Briqueterie, Épernay
● 1 night’s bed and breakfast in a Tradition double room at the Château de Gilly, Gilly-lés-Cîteaux
● 2 nights’ bed and breakfast in a Classic double room at Hostellerie de Crillon le Brave, Crillon-le-Brave
● 2 nights’ bed and breakfast in a Deluxe double room at La Réserve, Albi
● 2 nights’ bed and breakfast in a Superior double room at Le Vieux Logis, Tremolat
● 2 nights’ bed and breakfast in a Standard double room at the Château de Marçay, Chinon
● 1 night's bed and breakfast in a Country room at Auberge de la Source, near Honfleur
● 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
Calais to Epernay 3 hours
Epernay to Gilly-les-Cîteaux 2 hours 50 minutes
Gilly-les-Cîteaux to Crillon-le-Brave 4 hours 10 minutes
Crillon-le-Brave to Albi 4 hours 10 minutes
Albi to Tremolat 4 hours
Tremolat to Chinon 4 hours 10 minutes
Chinon to Honfleur 3 hours 15 minutes
Honfleur to Calais 2 hours 30 minutes

Expressions Holidays includes these hotels in this touring holiday as suggestions, but they can be substituted by others in the same region, if you have a preference to stay elsewhere.
Hotels included in this tour
Epernay
Hostellerie La Briqueterie

Hostellerie La Briqueterie is a 5-star boutique hotel, perfectly situated for exploring the wineries of the Champagne region, including some of the most prestigious champagne houses. Delicious cuisine and excellent spa facilities afford guests a truly tranquil experience.

Classic double room

Gilly-lés-Cîteaux
Chateau de Gilly

Château de Gilly is a 5-star hotel a former Benedictine Priory in the heart of the Burgundy wine region. The hotel retains many of its original features and serves excellent cuisine for a luxurious experience.

Tradition double room

Crillon-le-Brave
Hotel Crillon le Brave

Hôtel Crillon le Brave is a 4-star boutique property nestled in the Provence countryside, excellent for exploring the Rhône wine country. Gourmet local cuisine and excellent spa facilities and secluded location afford guests a relaxing, indulgent experience.

Classic double room

Albi
La Reserve

La Réserve is an exclusive 5-star family-run Relais & Château hotel in a beautiful riverside location. Exceptional gardens and grounds and seasonal gourmet cuisine make this an ideal base from which to explore the UNESCO listed town of Albi.

Deluxe double room

Tremolat
Le Vieux Logis

Le Vieux Logis is an exclusive 4-star hotel with outstanding charm and character in a glorious countryside location. Michelin-starred gastronomy and superb manicured grounds afford guests a truly tranquil and indulgent retreat.

Superior double room

Chinon
Chateau de Marcay

The Château de Marçay is an exclusive 4-star château-hotel in beautiful natural surroundings. The excellent cuisine and luxury accommodation nestled amongst a 5-hectare park make this an enchanting experience.

Standard double room

Honfleur
Auberge de la Source

Auberge de la Source is a 4-star hotel in an idyllic country location a few miles from Honfleur and near the Cider Route and Calvados distilleries. The excellent fresh local cuisine and secluded setting afford guests a truly tranquil and authentic Norman experience.

Country room

Holiday price guide Prices from £2,180 per person based on two people sharing a double or twin room.

Holiday Code FRSD01

Luxury self-drive tailormade touring holiday to France

Highlights of Burgundy

Cultural highlights include Burgundy wines and marcs, local wine festivals, the Beaujolais vineyards, and the Romanesque architecture.

Climate of Burgundy

Average air temperatures in centigrade: Jan: 6.1, Feb: 5.9, Mar: 10.3, Apr: 15.3, May: 15.8, Jun: 23.8, Jul: 25.8, Aug: 26.1, Sep: 21.2, Oct: 15.5, Nov: 9.1, Dec: 6.2. Source: Direction de la Meteorologique de France.

Luxury self-drive tailormade touring holiday to France

Highlights of Champagne

Champagne cellar visits in Reims, Epernay and in vineyards along the Aube; the old town of Charleville Mezieres, capital of the Ardennes department; Charles de Gaulle's country residence and burial site, Colombey les Deux Eglises; Reims, with one of the finest medieval cathedrals in France, once the coronation place of French kings, now with one of the best son-et-lumieres in France; Reims' magnificent Roman triumphal arch; Lac du Der, the biggest reservoir in Europe, one of the most important migration routes for Europe's waterfowl, sheltering vast flocks of cranes, passing through in their thousands in spring and autumn; the fortified hill town of Langres, ‘Carcassonne of the North’ - minus the crowds; la foret d'Orient near Troyes and Montagne de Reims, both Regional Natural Parks; river trips along the Seine, the Marne, and the Aube; the 13th century gothic cathedral of Troyes, with its spectacular stained glass windows; autumn wine festivals.

Travel around the Champagne region

The Champagne region is reached very easily from the UK by air and rail. With the most extensive rail network in Western Europe, France is a great country to explore by train. The nationally owned SNCF (Societe Nationale des Chemins de Fer) runs fast, efficient services between the main towns. Buses cover the rural areas, but services can be rather sporadic, with departures often at awkward times. To visit Champagne's cellars - the main reason for being here - by far the best option is to rent a car.

Luxury self-drive tailormade touring holiday to France

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.

Luxury self-drive tailormade touring holiday to France

Highlights of the Loire Valley

Cultural highlights include wines and wine vinegars, wild mushrooms - (visit the mushroom museum), the Troglodyte caves, and local art exhibitions.

Festivals in the Loire Valley

Son et Lumiere in the chateaux in the summer months. Summer festival in Chinon in August.

Climate of the Loire Valley

Average air temperatures in Centigrade: Jan: 7.8, Feb: 6.8, Mar: 10.3, Apr: 16.1, May: 16.4, Jun: 23.6, Jul: 25.8, Aug: 24.5, Sep: 21.1, Oct: 16.2, Nov: 11.2, Dec: 7.0. Source: Direction de la Meteorologique de France.

Luxury self-drive tailormade touring holiday to France

Highlights of Normandy

Calvados, cider and camembert, horse-races in Deauville in August, markets every day of the week throughout the region, the Route du Cidre, and the summer art exhibitions.

Climate of Normandy

Average air temperatures in Centigrade: Jan: 7.6, Feb: 6.4, Mar: 8.4, Apr: 13.0, May: 14.0, Jun: 20.0, Jul: 21.6, Aug: 22.0, Sep: 18.2, Oct: 14.5, Nov: 10.8, Dec: 7.9. Source: Direction de la Meteorologique de France.

Luxury self-drive tailormade touring holiday to France

Highlights of Provence

Cultural highlights include santons, Souleiado Provençal fabrics, herbs and lavender, wine and olive oil, melons and pastis, boules and berets.

Provence Climate

Average air temperatures in Centigrade: January: 12.2, February: 11.9, March: 14.2, April: 18.5, May: 20.8, June: 26.6, July: 28.1, August: 28.4, September: 25.2, October: 22.1, November: 16.8, December: 14.1. Source: Direction de la Meteorologique de France.

Luxury self-drive tailormade touring holiday to France

Highlights of Tarn and Lot

Cultural highlights include music festival in Toulouse, Limoux wine, the ruined fortresses of the Cathars, the craggy valley of Aveyron, the mediaeval fortified village of Cordes, Gaillac wine, the Charcuterie of Lacaune, and the Goya museum at Castres.

Tarn and Lot Climate

Average air temperatures in Centigrade: Jan 12.4, Feb 11.5, Mar 12.5, Apr 17.6, May 20.1, Jun 26.5, Jul 28.4, Aug 28.1, Sep 26.1, Oct 21.1, Nov 15.8, Dec 13.5. Source: Direction de la Meteorologique de France.

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