Intimate France Tours eNews

Issue 1, November 2011

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www.intimatefrance.com

 

info@intimatefrance.com

 

(800) 676-1247

 

At Intimate France, we specialize in small groups - usually eight travelers or fewer, never more than 16. Read more about how we are different.

 

OUR TOURS IN 2012

Provence, France - April 29-May 11

Tour priced at $3,895 per person sharing accommodation. Singles $550 extra.Tour begins and ends at Marseille Airport.

(more information)

 

Normandy-Loire Valley, France -

May 13-25

Tour priced at $3,895 per person sharing accommodation. Singles $550 extra.Tour begins and ends at Charles de Gaulle Airport., Paris

(more information)

 

Dordogne, France - Sept. 2-14

Tour priced at $3,895 per person sharing accommodation. Singles $550 extra.Tour begins and ends at Bordeaux Airport.

(more information)

 

Austria: Alps, Abbeys & Vienna - Sept. 16-28

Your priced at $3,895 per person sharing accommodation. Singles $550 extra.Tour begins at Munich Airport, ends at Vienna Airport.

(more information)

 

 

INTIMATE FRANCE BLOG

George Nevin

owner/founder

Intimate France Tours

 

 

Back from our
fall 2011 tours

Our Intimate France tours of Benelux (Belgium-Netherlands-Luxembourg) and Champagne, France, covered 4,600 km. (no, really, that's an actual figure, not an estimate), or 2,858 miles in our language, as they say.

 

Our intrepid travelers had a blast, to hear them tell it, and as for me (George, the guy who puts it all together), I truly enjoyed both tours.

 

The beauty of Benelux

In Benelux, I particularly appreciated the tidy Dutch architecture, stately Amsterdam, the amazing art of Netherlands and Belgium (Vermeer, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Rubens), the exceptional food and the tasty beer.

 

Did I mention we ate extremely well?

 

  BENELUX ALBUM

 

  CHAMPAGNE ALBUM

 

Yummy eats everywhere

 

Starter, Envy, Amsterdam

 

A tip of the hat to my friend, Steve, who with his wife, Suzanne, was in Amsterdam the week before our group arrived. "We had a spectacular meal at Envy," he emailed me. "You have to go there!"

 

So we did, and we were not disappointed. Visit Envy here.

 

Amsterdam - watch
out for the bikes

If you haven't been to Amsterdam at all, or not lately, a word of advice – the bicycles are truly taking over, and each rider seems bent on putting us poor tourist pedestrians in our place. Be very, very careful crossing the street, or crossing a bike lane, of which there are many.

 

Just be glad you don't have to park your car in Amsterdam. This is one resident's answer to the dearth of parking:

 

 

Tiny electric car, Amsterdam

 

After 12 days of exploring the Netherlands and Belgium, with a couple of days in Luxembourg as a bonus, I said goodbye to my Benelux travelers (except for truly intrepid Bettie from Louisville and Alba from Indiana, who went on with me to our Champagne tour) and headed south.

 

The last Last Supper

Along the way we found an incredible sight - a very large, very old copy of Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece The Last Supper, painted in oil on canvas only a few years after the master created his original.

 

The advantage of the copy (which dates from about 1520-1530) is that you can see details that have faded from the original on display in Milano - and there are no lines of tourists around the block to see it!

 

Last Supper copy, Belgium

 

The copy, which was made by Leonardo's workshop in Italy, came to Belgium in 1545. Today it's on display at the Abbey of Tongerlo, about 45 minutes east of Antwerp, Belgium. Find out more about the painting and Tongerlo Abbey here.

 

For my posting on the Fodor's travel forum on Tongerlo and the painting, go here.

 

On to Champagne

Our Champagne tour group gathered Saturday morning, Sept. 17, at Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris, and by 11 a.m. we were touring the former Royal Abbey of Chaalis. It's a beautiful spot, made more amazing by the existence of dozens of lovely artworks - paintings, statues -  in the château there.

 

Over the next 12 days we saw amazing sights - the birthplace of Joan of Arc, the Champagne vineyards of Reims, the World War I battlefields at Verdun - and generally had a ton of fun.

 

Oh, we also sipped some fine Champagne from time to time.

 

At lunch, Joan of Arc village

 

KEEP IN TOUCH

Phone: (800) 676-1247

 

WHO LIKES CHATEAUX? WE ALL DO!

 

The Château of Amboise stands high above the Loire River.

 

    Say what you will about the French, they sure know how to build a castle! The lower valley of the Loire River is home to the most splendid assembly of châteaux in France, and probably in all of Europe.

    Our Normandy-Loire Valley tour (May 13-25, 2012) spends four nights in Amboise, the prettiest town in the valley, giving us access to four magnificent castles:

  • Château of Amboise, where Leonardo da Vinci is buried.
  • Château of Chenonceau, called the Castle of Women because a queen and a king's mistress battled over its possession.
  • Château of Azay-le-Rideau, a fairytale castle rising from a lake guarded by swans.
  • Château of Chambord, a huge castle (440 rooms, 365 chimneys) in the midst of a forested hunting preserve.

    In addition there are two "bonus" châteauxVillandry, which we visit not for its castle but for its magnificent garden, and Clos Lucé, the gracious home of Leonardo, who spent his last years in Amboise.

 

The Perfect 'Frenchwoman' Isn't French

 

    Our Burgundy group was enjoying a delightful lunch at an authentic country bistro in the village of Chablis when Marv looked across the room at a chic woman dining with a man.
    “Look at her,” he said. “She’s the perfect Frenchwoman. Stylish hair, thin, beautiful clothes.”
    The rest of us had to agree.
    It was toward the end of a delicious lunch at Le Vieux Moulin, a cozy inn straddling the Serein River in the heart of Chablis.
    Moulin means “mill” in French, and Chablis wine is a wonderful, mouth-filling, flinty white that bears no resemblance to its sweet American namesake – but that’s another story.
    A moment later, it became clear that Marv was wrong. The woman was talking to her lunch companion in American-accented English.
    Our group of nine finished our meal  and drifted out the door – all but Joanne, who was still curious about the American woman.
    Approaching their table, Joanne asked her, “Did anyone ever tell you that you look exactly like Joan Baez?”
    Before the woman could respond, her lunch companion answered for her: “That’s because she IS Joan Baez.”
    Joanne was equal to the encounter. “You look more elegant and beautiful than ever,” she said.
    Then she left the American and her companion to finish their lunch in peace.
    We later found out that Ms. Baez was indeed traveling in Europe at that time. As for how she happened to be lunching in a modest Chablis restaurant, our curiosity may never be satisfied.

Scallops - a Dish Fit for a King (or Queen)

 

The scallop presentation at Les Quatre Saisons, Sarlat

 

France's Dordogne region is not far from the Atlantic, but it is not directly on the coast, either. Strange, then, that two of the best scallop dishes you could ever hope to taste can be found at restaurants in the Dordogne.

Lying about 75 miles from the ocean and a bit northeast of Bordeaux, Dordogne is generally thought by the French to have the country's tastiest cuisine.

 

You won't go wrong ordering the scallops at:

  • Les Quatre Saisons, Sarlat-la Canéda. This classic preparation includes scallops grilled to perfection, posed on a bed of smoked salmon, with an egg, delicately scrambled and then returned to its shell.
  • Le Saint Louis, Périgueux. This bistro, more casual than Les Quatre Saisons, often features a scallop main course: four meaty scallops are pan-seared, then drenched in a delicate beurre blanc. The scallops are served with sides of tender green beans and a tangle of flat pasta.

 

Hallstatt may be Austria's prettiest lakeside village.

Our Sept. 16-28, 2012, Austria tour visits Hallstatt.

 

Our Tours in 2012

 

As this issue of eNews went to press, all tours in 2012 had vacancies, but please call us first at (800) 676-1247 to confirm availability as these small groups can fill quickly.

 

All tours cover 12 full days of sightseeing and 12 nights of lodging. Breakfast is included every day, as well as eight other meals during the tour - lunches and dinners. The sightseeing is extensive - we don't believe in 'optional' visits at extra expense to you. We also pride ourselves on the quality of food we offer.

 

All tours in 2012 are priced at $3,895 per person sharing accommodation. Singles, add $550. Save $100 per person by booking before Dec. 31, 2011. Book here.


Provence, France - April 29-May 11

Detailed itinerary

 

Tour priced at $3,895 per person sharing accommodation. Singles $550 extra.Tour begins and ends at Marseille Airport.

  • Boat ride on the sparkling Mediterranean from the fishing port of Cassis
  • Stately Aix-en-Provence, one of France's loveliest towns
  • Perched villages - among the most beautiful in Europe
  • Exciting, colorful outdoor markets
  • Many meals include wine at no extra cost
  • The ancient Abbey of Sénanque
  • The wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape
  • The ocher-colored village of Roussillon
  • Lodging in a comfortable inn in the vineyards
  • Avignon, with possible visit to the Palace of the Popes
  • The stunning, ruined fortress of Les Baux-de-Provence

Normandy-Loire Valley, France - May 13-25

Detailed itinerary

 

Tour priced at $3,895 per person sharing accommodation. Singles $550 extra.Tour begins and ends at Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris.

  • Comfortable hotels and charming inns - all with private bath
  • The gardens, studio and home of Claude Monet in Giverny
  • Old Bayeux, and its most famous sight, the Bayeux Tapestry
  • Outstanding cuisine, including meals at renowned restaurants
  • D-Day beaches & monuments, including the American Cemetery
  • Magnificent Chartres Cathedral, with world-class stained glass and statues
  • Old Rouen, capital of Normandy, including a monument to the martyrdom of Joan of Arc
  • Belle Epoque resorts of Deauville and Trouville
  • Outdoor markets
  • Fresh seafood - some of the best in France
  • Stunning coastal scenery
  • Abbey of Mont St. Michel
  • Local cheeses, cider & calvados
  • Cathedrals, castles, markets, cafés, art, fine dining, exceptional wines

Dordogne, France - Sept. 2-14

Detailed itinerary

 

Tour priced at $3,895 per person sharing accommodation. Singles $550 extra.Tour begins and ends at Bordeaux Airport.

  • The village of Brantôme, folded in a bend of the Drônne River
  • Ancient Périgueux, already a center of commerce and learning in Celtic times
  • Lunch at a restaurant holding the coveted Michelin star
  • St. Jean-de-Cole, one of France’s most beautiful villages
  • Historic Sarlat, containing a remarkable ensemble of renaissance buildings
  • Hilltop Dômme, looking over a vista of rivers, cliffs and fields
  • The riverside villages of La Roque Gageac and Beynac
  • Dordogne River cruise
  • Lascaux II, replicating the cave paintings called the “Sistine Chapel of antiquity”
  • The stone village of St. Emilion, source of exceptional wines
  • Art, villages, castles, fine dining, gorgeous scenery

Austria: Alps, Abbeys, Vienna - Sept. 16-28

Detailed itinerary

 

Tour priced at $3,895 per person sharing accommodation. Singles $550 extra.Tour begins at Munich Airport and ends at Vienna Airport.

  • Comfortable hotels and charming inns – all with private bath
  • Magnificent Vienna - palaces and monuments of a faded empire
  • Stately Innsbruck, capital of the vast Alpine wonderland of Tirol
  • Outstanding frescoes of Klosterneuberg
  • Soaring Alps, thundering waterfalls, deep valleys, icy glaciers
  • Medieval villages on the Danube - Dürnstein, Melk
  • Outdoor markets
  • Picture-perfect Hallstatt, beside its mountain lake
  • Explore a salt mine
  • The baroque abbey of Melk
  • Medieval Salzburg, birthplace of Mozart
  • Cathedrals, castles, markets, cafes, art, fine dining, exceptional wines

 

 

INTIMATE FRANCE: HOW WE ARE DIFFERENT

    After 25 years of travel and research, we founded Intimate France in 1994 to share our accumulated wisdom and exciting discoveries with you. In the years since then, we’ve taken hundreds of Americans to France, Italy, Spain, Croatia, the Benelux countries and the Alps.

 

    Our small groups (usually eight, and never more than 16) assure the utmost in personal service, attention to detail and flexibility.

 

    Because our groups are small, we can take care of you and your needs the way you deserve. Our long familiarity with Europe has taught us the hidden, authentic visits and sights not in any guidebook. With Intimate France, you’ll visit the top attractions in each town while also having experiences that are more typically European.

   

    At Intimate France, we believe that cookie-cutter hotels, tourist-oriented restaurants and fast-paced sightseeing are barriers to enjoying the real Europe. Our cheerful, experienced, bilingual guides love Europe with a passion and want to share this feeling with you. Our carefully planned itineraries feature a multitude of enriching visits – all included in the tour price. Optional excursions at additional expense are virtually non-existent.  

Make an Intimate France tour your best trip ever.