About Intimate France – We travel every spring and fall to Europe's most beautiful destinations. Our small groups (between eight and 16 travelers) guarantee you the utmost in personal service and attention to detail. Contact us: IntimateFrance.com or (800) 676-1247. More about us. 

THIS MONTH'S FEATURED TOUR — NORMANDY-LOIRE VALLEY
MAY 21-JUNE 2, 2017

 

 

Luca Deboli via Wikimedia Commons

Mont St. Michel, crowned by a medieval abbey, rises above the waters of the Bay of Mont St. Michel.

 

You'll love this tour if:

• You adore ultra-fresh seafood and dishes featuring rich Normandy cream

• You've always wanted to see UNESCO-listed Mont St. Michel

• The old port of Honfleur really floats your boat

• Claude Monet's gardens at Giverny call to you

• The world-renowned Bayeux Tapestry weaves a web of enchantment

• Normandy's D-Day beaches and monuments have you humming 'America the Beautiful'

• The thought of seaside St. Malo, encircled by granite walls, gives you shivers

• The Loire Valley chateaux transport you magically to the middle ages

DETAILS HERE

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

 

CONTINUING OUR 'JUST BACK FROM EUROPE' PHOTO ALBUM

 

 

 

Languedoc, France — think Provence, but 50 years ago

 

By George Nevin

Founder-owner, Intimate France

 

Since well before Peter Mayle published A Year in Provence (1989), France's Provence region has represented the world's idealized South of France landscape, culture and lifestyle. The perched villages ... the farm-fresh cuisine ... the art of Cézanne and van Gogh ... proud monuments to 500 years of Roman rule.

 

Today's reality has rubbed quite a lot of luster off that ideal. Along its coast, Provence can be cheek-to-jowl tourists. Its villages can be likewise overrun, and just try to get a reservation at a secluded little hideway hotel or a top table at certain peak times of the year.

 

However, despair not. The spirit of Provence not only survives, it thrives in the part of France just to the west and south — a place called Languedoc.

 

 

 

The old cité of Carcassonne, on a hill above a river and the 18th century town of the same name.

 

To pronounce Languedoc close to how the French do it, say "long-duck," with the U in duck close to an "uh" sound but rounded a little.

 

Languedoc, which may be the world's only region named after a linguistic dialect ("langue d'oc" is the name of a southern French variation of Latin, quite different from modern French), begins at the Rhône River on the east, then extends south and west to near the border with Spain.

 

 

The so-called Devil's Bridge, medieval beauty on the outskirts of the adorable village of Ceret.

 

In September, our group of eight gathered in the thriving French town of Toulouse and set off for 12 days and nights in Languedoc and the region immediately to its south — Roussillon. Within hours we had launched our adventure — a tour of the impressive, 15th century fortress of Salses.

 

 

The fortress of Salses, a splendid example of medieval Spanish military architecture.

 

What makes Salses so special is that it was built in the late 1400s at the order of Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, because this part of present-day France was ruled by Spain until 1659. In that year, under the Treaty of the Pyrenees, the border was moved 30 miles to the south and fortresses such as Salses, no longer on the frontier, were rendered militarily useless.

 

From here, after a stopover in Pérpignan, historic capital of Roussillon, we swooped to the Mediterranean coast and the lovely village of Collioure. After checking into our centre-ville hotel, we strolled the cobbled streets and took seats at a beach cafe for a refreshing drink and some superior people-watching.

 

 

 

Seaside cafe, Collioure, late in the day — superior people-watching opportunities.

 

 

What followed were nearly two weeks of world-class sightseeing, dining, exploring and experiencing a region that, apart from UNESCO-listed Carcassonne, was blissfully unencumbered by tourist hordes. Oh, and did I mention the wines were outstanding and very affordable?

 

 

 

Fortified entry gate of Castelnou, designated One of the Most Beautiful Villages of France.

 

 

 

Our group at Les Palmiers, an outdoor-seating-only restaurant in Pézenas.

 

 

Our group enjoys a guided tour of the Noilly-Prat vermouth facility, Marseillan.

 

 

Amazing village of Mirepoix, a bastide ("new" town) of the 12th century.

 

 

 

Along the Tarn River in lovely Albi, birthplace of artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

 

On our last tour day, we spent an hour in the cozy village of St. Antonin-Noble-Val, where key scenes from the 2014 film "Hundred-Foot Journey" were filmed.

 

 

St. Antonin-Noble-Val spreads along the banks of the Aveyron River.

 

Throughout our tour, we enjoyed superior dining as only the French can do it.

 

 

 

Gazpacho, normally a Spanish dish but much-loved in Southern France.

 

 

 

Lentils, frisée, matchstick apples, poached egg, avocado cream, Table du Sommelier, Albi

 

 

 

Steak, fried onions and ratatouille, Restaurant d'Ici et d'AilleursCastelnou.

 

 

And finally, a simple but elegant chocolate dessert, Table du Sommelier, Albi.

 

 

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

IN OUR NEXT INTIMATE FRANCE E-NEWSLETTER — CONTINUING OUR PICTORAL SCRAPBOOK
WITH IMAGES FROM OUR FALL 2016 TOUR OF SPAIN'S MEDITERRANEAN COASTLINE