Intimate France Tours e-News

Issue 10, November 2013

 

www.intimatefrance.com

 

info@intimatefrance.com

 

 

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  2014 TOURS

FILLING UP FAST

Burgundy-Alsace,

May 4-16, 2014

Tour priced at $3,995 per person sharing accommodation. Singles $550 extra.Tour begins in Lyon, ends in Strasbourg.

(more information)

 

Normandy-Loire, May 18-30, 2014

Tour priced at $3,995 per person sharing accommodation. Singles $550 extra.Tour begins and ends at Charles de Gaulle airport, Paris.

(more information)

 

Romantic Germany, Sept. 7-19, 2014

Tour priced at $3,995 per person sharing accommodation. Singles $550 extra.Tour begins at Munich airport, ends at Frankfurt airport.

(more information)

 

Italian Lakes & Venice, Sept. 21- Oct. 3, 2014

Tour priced at $3,995 per person sharing accommodation. Singles $550 extra.Tour begins at Milan airport, ends at Venice airport.

(more information)

 

 

INTIMATE

FRANCE

BLOG

 

George Nevin

founder/owner

Intimate France Tours

 

 

The Most Beautiful Villages of France

 

 

Visit the English-language website of the Most Beautiful Villages of France association: www.les-plus-beaux-villages-de-france.org/en/the-most-beautiful-villages-of-france

 

 

    People give many reasons for going to France, which remains the world's No. 1 tourist destination – by far. (Want to know what the No. 2 destination is? See the bottom of this blog.)

    I know someone whose husband told her as they visited a château in the Loire Valley, "You know, I get the feeling all of the activities we do in France are just killing time between meals."

    And she replied: "So, what's your point?"

    So the cuisine of France is a huge draw. I get that. But there are other great reasons to visit France. For me, one of the most compelling is to experience its lovely villages, some of the best in Europe.

 

Where the Most Beautiful Villages of France association started – Collonges-la-Rouge, in southwest France

 

    I'm not the only one who thinks this way  In 1981, Charles Ceyrac, mayor of the village of Collonges-la-Rouge, in the département of Corrèze (just east of  Dordogne, in southwest France) decided to form a non-profit association to bring economic vitality back to some of France''s struggling villages, which were suffering serious depopulation.

    He and 66 fellow mayors founded Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (literally The Most Beautiful Villages of France) and set about prettifying their small towns, in the process protecting their heritage and making them more tourist-worthy.

 

Fortified gate, Castelnou

 

    They have succeeded significantly. Today, the association counts 157 village members, each of which must number no more than 2,000 residents and boast at least two features of historic or architectural significance.

    Over the years I have visited at least 90 of the current villages on the list. Truly, I have lost count.

    Some of them struck me as absolutely magical – protected by thick, medieval walls, fairylands of stout stone houses with tiled roofs.

    Others, frankly, were a little sleepy, with little in the way of commerce (always the point of entry for visitors) and only private homes, resolutely shuttered to the outside world.

    This fall, on my swing through the Pyrénées and Languedoc areas of southern France, I was privileged to visit four Beautiful Villages that were new to me.

 

Overview, Camon

.

     Camon – Located southeast of Toulouse, this is a rather sleepy little place with a handful of   shops, a rather grand-looking château-hotel and a pleasant residential quarter guarded by a fortified gate. We spent 20 minutes there and felt we'd seen enough.

 

Stone streets of Bruniquel

 

Château of Bruniquel

 

    Bruniquel, on a hill high above the canyon of the Aveyron River northwest of Toulouse, is also sleepy, but in all ways a delight. The narrow, cobbled streets lead steeply up to the château, which commands the countryside for many kilometers around. Inside the château, parts of which are resolutely medieval, there's a bonus – still photos from a film shoot in 1975 starring German actress Romy Schneider. The film was released in the United States as Vengeance One by One.

 

Arcaded square, Lautrec

 

    Lautrec, near Albi (and Toulouse – get it – Toulouse-Lautrec?)  centers around a medieval square with a truly ancient market hall still in use today. The village's main claim to fame is the delicate rose garlic grown in these parts – drawing gourmets from all over France.

 

Market square, Castelnau

 

    Castelnau-de- Montmiral, also close to Albi, has a charming central square that is completely arcaded – the second floor of the  medieval buildings is built over the walkway below, a common feature of southern French villages. The overhang affords shelter from the blistering summer sun and the penetrating winter rain.

 

 ******

Most Popular Tourist Destinations, 2011

(with number of visitors)

 

1. France, 79.5 million.

2. United States, 62.3 million

3. China, 57.6 million

4. Spain, 56.7 million

5. Italy, 46.1 million

6. Turkey, 29.3 million

7. United Kingdom, 29.2 million

8. Germany - 28.4 million

9, Malaysia - 2.,7 million

10. Mexico - 23.4 million

 

Source: UN World Tourism Organization

 


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, Belgium, the Netherlands and the Alps.

 

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

    Our small group size allows us to 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.

 

    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.  

 

    At Intimate France, we believe that cookie-cutter hotels, tourist-oriented restaurants and fast-paced sightseeing are barriers to enjoying the real Europe.   

 

      Over time we have discovered small, family-run hotels, local bistros and insider sights. You’ll visit the top attractions in each town while also having experiences that are more typically European.

 

CONTACT
INTIMATE
FRANCE

 

(800) 676-1247

 

 www.intimatefrance.com

 

An occasional newsletter from George Nevin, founder/owner, Intimate France Tours

FOOD, FABULOUS FOOD

Favorite Dishes from Our Fall 2013 Travels

 

 

Pimientos de Padron – These green peppers originated in Galicia, extreme western Spain, but now can be found all over that country – and indeed in the United States. Most of them are mild, but about 1 in 10 is hot – Spaniards call this the "Padron lottery." I found these peppers in Jaca, Spain.

 

 

Café Gourmand – A perfect way to end a French meal, this dessert combines an excellent espresso with three sweet and tiny nibbles – a passion fruit sorbet, a sandwich cookie of meringue and chocolate, and a rice pudding topped with chopped mango. Restaurant Amphitryon, Colomiers, France

 

JUST BACK FROM EUROPE

 

 

The village of St. Antonin-Noble-Val, on the Aveyron River in south-central France, has two major things going for it – it's exceptionally pretty, and it's coming to a theater near you in 2014. Details.

 

TOURS IN 2014 GOING, GOING ...
 

    Our 2014 tours are filling nicely, though most still have limited vacancies. Call us at (800) 676-1247 for up-to-date status.

 

Details of 2014 tours.

 

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2015


Don't go buying your air ticket yet, but we have a very preliminary idea of our destinations in 2015:

 

SPRING 2015 IN NORTHERN EUROPE

 

Belgium and Netherlands, early May

Austrian Alps, abbeys and Vienna, late May

 

FALL 2015 IN CENTRAL & SOUTHERN EUROPE

 

Dordogne, France's most beautiful area, early September

Northern Spain, including Salamanca, late September

 

Keep reading our e-Newsletter for updates as we firm up these plans. Once we announce a firm schedule for 2015, call us at (800) 676-1247 for an idea of which tours are proving popular. Every year, some would-be travelers are disappointed when Intimate France tours are full, so book early to avoid disappointment.

 

Remember, most tours max out at eight travelers, meaning no Big Bus Blues for you! That also means that our groups can fill quickly, and well in advance.

 

FRESH INTELLIGENCE –

REPORT FROM FRANCE

FALL 2013

We spent the month of September in southern France, with a soupçon of Spain thrown in to keep things interesting. Here are some highlights.

 

 

In the village of St. Antonin-Noble-Val, we came across a film crew in the scenic heart of town, near the 18th-century covered market. Turns out Hollywood is making a movie, The Hundred-Foot Journey, starring Helen Mirren and executive-produced by Steven Spielberg. It's about an Indian family that moves to France and opens a restaurant across the street from a Michelin-starred French restaurant. It's expected to be released in August 2014. (Inset photo, above, shows the film crew's directional arrow with legend "HFJ.")

 

 

The extremely attractive village of Collioure lies on the Mediterranean just north of France's border with Spain. It attracted painters who called themselves Fauves ("wild beasts") in the early 20th century, and it's easy to see why. Among the Fauvists: Henri Matisse.

 

 

Lourdes, a small town in the Pyénées of southern France, hosts more than 7 million visitors a year, most of them Catholics seeking healing and forgiveness. It's an attractive town with pleasant amenities, but it wasn't so pleasant on June 19, 2013, when the Gave de Pau River flooded much of the town. See next photo.

 

 

Lourdes' religious district was covered in muddy water from the June 2013 floods. By the time our group arrived in September, most of the damage had been repaired.

 

 

I tell my groups that World War I was far more devastating to France than was World War II. Case in point – this monument honoring soldiers from the tiny village of Montségur who died in the first war (the top list, 21 names) and the second (three names).

 

 

Another beautiful village we encountered, Penne, is extraordinarily attractive. It boasts a 12th-century château perched improbably on a column of rock. How did they ever build it?

 

 

The red-brick town of Albi, beside the Tarn River, is one of the highlights of Upper Languedoc. Here is found the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum, showcasing the 19th century artist's very accomplished works. Toulouse-Lautrec was a fine painter as well as a poster-maker. A visit to his museum will convince you.

                                                                                          

2014 Tour Lineup

 

Hospice de Beaune, Burgundy, the city's old hospital

 

Burgundy & Alsace - May 4-16, 2014

 

Tour priced at $3,995 per person sharing accommodation. Singles $550 extra. Discounts available. Tour begins at Lyon Airport, ends at Strasbourg Airport.t.

  • Comfortable hotels and charming inns – all rooms with private bath
  • Transportation in van or mini-bus
  • Outstanding cuisine and wine
  • Château visits – Veugeot, Savigny-les-Beaune
  • Fabulous outdoor markets and picnic with local products
  • The wine villages of Burgundy
  • Walled city of Beaune and its Hospice
  • Dijon, world’s mustard capital
  • The wines of Burgundy, among France’s best
  • Proud Lyon, a center for art on the banks of two rivers.
  • Groundbreaking mid-20th century architecture – Notre Dame de Haut, by Le Corbusier.
  • The wine villages of Alsace – Riquewihr, Ribeauvillé, Kaysersburg
  • The charming regional capital of Colmar
  • The grand city of Strasbourg and its world-renowned gothic cathedral, built of red sandstone.
  • The delicate wines of Alsace, some of France’s best
  • Visits recalling a troubled past: World Wars I and II.

More information or to sign up

 

 

The Old Port at Honfleur, one of France's most scenic.


Normandy & Châteaux of the Loire,

May 18-30, 2014

 

Tour priced at $3,995 per person sharing accommodation. Singles $550 extra. Discounts available. Tour begins and ends at Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport.t.

  • Comfortable hotels and charming inns – all rooms with private bath
  • Transportation in van or mini-bus
  • Outstanding cuisine and wine
  • The gardens, studio and home of Claude Monet in Giverny
  • Old Bayeux, and its most famous sight, the Bayeux Tapestry
  • D-Day beaches & monuments
  • Magnificent Chartres Cathedral
  • Belle Epoque resorts of Deauville and Trouville
  • Outdoor markets, local cheeses, cider & calvados
  • Fresh seafood – some of the best in France
  • Stunning coastal scenery
  • Medieval Abbey of Mont St. Michel, soaring high above its bay
  • Cathedrals, castles, markets, cafés, art, fine dining, exceptional wines.

More information or to sign up

 

 

The Rhine is Germany's most romantic river.

 

Germany's Romantic Road, Rhine & Mosel Valleys - September 7-19, 2014

 

Tour priced at $3,995 per person sharing accommodation. Singles $550 extra. Discounts available. Tour begins at Munich Airport, ends at Frankfurt Airport.t.

  • Comfortable hotels and charming inns – all rooms with private bath
  • The fabled Romantic Road and its most-loved village, Rothenburg ob der Tauber
  • Transportation in van or mini-bus
  • Outstanding cuisine and world-class wines from the Rhine and Mosel valleys
  • Two castles associated with 'Mad' King Ludwig –  Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau
  • The castles, half-timbered villages and vineyards of the Rhine River Valley
  • Burg (Castle) Eltz, a 700-year-old fortress furnished as it was five centuries ago.
  • The impossibly picturesque Mosel Valley, with vineyards clinging to its steep slopes.
  • Ancient Trier, already a center of art and learning in Roman times.
  • Romantic Road villages of Dinkelsbühl, Nördlingen, Donauwörth
  • Old centers of art and architecture – Würzburg, Limburg.

More information or to sign up

 

 

 

The village of Bellagio, on Lake Como, is a highlight.

 

Italian Lakes & Venice - September 21-October 3, 2014

 

Tour priced at $3,995 per person sharing accommodation. Singles $550 extra. Discounts available. Tour begins at Milan Malpensa Airport, ends at Venice Airport..

  • Comfortable hotels and charming inns – all rooms with private bath
  • The splendor of the Italian lakes – Maggiore, Como, Garda
  • Transportation in van or mini-bus
  • Outstanding cuisine and wine
  • The splendid Palladian architecture of the Veneto
  • The magnificent villas and gardens of the lake country
  • Beautiful villages with stair-step streets and murmuring fountains
  • Medieval Verona, known for its Roman past and for Romeo and Juliet
  • Venice, perhaps the world’s most beautiful and splendid city
  • Aperitivi, gelato, formaggio, salume
  • Lovely, lively towns of Vicenza and Padova

More information or to sign up

Make an Intimate France tour your best trip ever.