2012 Southern France with Nina


Monday, April 9, USA to Marseille
Overnight flight from USA to Marseille. (Optional early arrival in Marseille.) Important: if you miss a connection, either call me on my cell phone at (+39) 3466245308, email me, or leave a message at the hotel.

Tuesday, April 10, Arrive Marseille
Upon arrival at Marseille airport, transfer by taxi to the Grand Hotel Beauvau, (+33)4/91549100. Bring me a receipt and I will reimburse you. Use the rest of the day for recovery. Dinner at Bobolivo Restaurant. Overnight in the Grand Hotel Beauvau, Marseille.
Wednesday, April 11, Marseille city tour
Breakfast at the hotel (and every morning on tour.) Today Nina will guide us on a tour of Marseille. First we will walk to the old Greek harbour, right across from the hotel. We will then go by bus to Notre Dame de la Garde, a fabulous church with a great view. Next, we will visit the Château Pastré, a former country house built during the 1860’s in a reinterpretation of the Louis XIII style, subtly mixing Marseille bricks and the blonde stone of Arles. Since 1994 it has been the home of the Earthenware Museum, with more than 12,000 ceramics from Marseille, the region, France and Europe, from Neolithic times to the present-day. After returning to the center by bus, Nina will show us the best ice cream place in town. Dinner at Restaurant Le Natique. Overnight in Grand Hotel Beauvau
Thursday, April 12, Marseille, excursion to Cassis
Today we will take a bus to Cassis and a boat-trip to the Calanques (the fjords). Arrive in Cassis via the panoramic Crêtes road, with beautiful views of the sea and the village. Lunch at La Vieille Auberge. Return to Marseille. Dinner on your own, overnight in Grand Hotel Beauvau.
Friday, April 13, To Carcassonne 
9:00 departure for Carcassone stopping first at the Pont du Gard (great museum), followed by a fantastic lunch at Frederique Esperandieu’s house. Upon arrival, the hotel will assist us with our luggag since it is a bit of a hike from the parking lot to the hotel. Assuming that we will have slept off the effects of the lunch while continuing to Carcassonne, lead us on an orientation walking tour of the city after we check in. Dinner on your own, overnight in Best Western Hotel Le Donjon, +33 (0)4-68-11-23-00, Carcassonne.
Saturday, April 14, Carcassonne, excursion to Alet-les-Bains
Today we will take an excursion to Alet-les-Bains then wine and lunch at the Domaine Faure. In the afternoon, visit Rennes le Chateau before returning to Carcassonne. 
Dinner on your own, overnight in the Western Hotel Le Donjon.
Sunday, April 15, To Toulouse via Castres
Departure from Carcassonne to Toulouse stopping first in Castres. 
Castres was one of the stopover points of the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage for those travelling along the Arles route. In 1317 the city was established as an Episcopal See and remained so until 1790. During the Religious Wars, Castres, a Huguenot bastion, became a fortified town; a number of monastic buildings were destroyed.– short walking tour in the town and visit of the “Goya museum”, lunch on your own. Then we’ll drive to a medieval castle south of Castres – Château Magrin – – with quite a view towards the Pyrenees in the south and the Montagne Noire in the north. The castle is also a museum which explains how woad is grown and the various stages involved in making the blue dye. Merchants in Toulouse and the surrounding area – “the princes of pastel” – became very rich through this trade. And if we have time – a short stop to take a look at the Canal du Midi, before we hit the “autoroute” to go to Toulouse. Dinner at the Bistro des Beaux Arts, overnight in the Hotel des Beaux Arts, (+33) 5 34 45 42 42, Toulouse.

Monday, April 16, Toulouse city tour
Walking tour in Toulouse including the Saint-Sernin basilica, the monastery of the Jacobins etc. Cruise on the Garonne, through the St Pierre lock and a trip along the green Canal de Brienne that links the Garonne to the Ponts Jumeaux, where Toulouse’s three canals meet. We then go on to view Toulouse’s monuments from the Garonne. We then travel past the quays of the Garonne and view the prestigious historic monuments in the old city. Dinner at Le Troquet, overnight in Hotel des Beaux Arts.
Tuesday, April 17, Toulouse, excursion to Albi
Depart at 9:00 for an excursion to Albi – UNESCO world heritage site. With the Toulouse-Lautrec museum – the largest public collection in the world devoted to the Albi-born artist Toulouse-Lautrec. A remarkable collection of works by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, as well as a modern art collection with works from the late 19th to the mid-20th centuries. The cathedral Sainte-Cécile –  a masterpiece of the Southern Gothic style presents a startling contrast between its austere, defensive exterior and its sumptuous interior decoration. Built as a statement of the Christian faith after the upheavals of the Cathar heresy , this gigantic brick structure was embellished over the centuries: a 78m high bell tower the Baldaquin over the entrance (1515 – 1540). Inside, the frescoes of the vault, full of colour, are the work of Italian Renaissance painters (1509 – 1513). The painting of the Last Judgement(1474-84) provides a “cartoon strip” vision of Heaven, Earth and Hell. Executed using the tempera technique, it originally covered more than 200m2. The albigensians (cathars) – Albi was the first place to offer the Cathars refuge Website:  www.albi-tourisme.fr After visiting and lunch at La Temporalite Restuarant in Albi, we will visit the museum and then return to Toulouse. Dinner on your own, overnight in the Hotel des Beaux Arts.

Wednesday, April 18, Toulouse to Biarritz
On our way to Biarritz we will stop at Lourdes, a major Christian “miracle” site. Continue on to Biarritz and the  Mercure Biarritz Centre Plaza, (+33)5/59247400. Dinner at Restaurant Txango, overnight in the Mercure Biarritz Centre Plaza.
Thursday, April 19, Biarritz, excursion to St. Jean de Luz
The town of St Jean de Luz is a busy fishing port, but has also a large number of residences from the 17th and 18th century built by shipowners and basque merchants. The seafront promenade is very pleasant, punctuated by gateways of the houses overlooking the sea. We’ll visit the beautiful 17th church St Jean-Baptiste where the marriage of Louis XIV and l’Infante (Marie-Thérèse of Austria) was celebrated, a place where Spanish and French culture blends. We will then go up to the village Sare, one of “The most beautiful villages of France” (official label) – nestled at the foot of the legendary mountains of Axuria and La Rhunefrom where we’ll have lunch at the restaurant “Lastry” and a nice little train ride with beautiful views: La Rhune, Basque Mountain – From the top of its 905 metres, the sacred Basque Country mountain of La Rhune provides one of the best panoramas imaginable (rated *** in the Michelin Guide). As far as the eye can see, it takes in the peaks of the Pyrenees and follows the Basque coast bordering the Atlantic Ocean from San Sebastián to Biarritz and on to the beaches of Les Landes. Dinner on your own, overnight in the Mercure Biarritz Centre Plaza
Friday, April 20, Biarritz to Bordeaux
Departure from Biarritz with stops at the Dune de Pilat and lunch on your own in Arcachon. When we reach the Bordeaux region, we will swing off at a winery for an informal visit and an opportunity to pick up a bottle or two of the local product. Dinner at Restaurant Le Croc Loup, overnight in the Bordeaux Centre Sainte Catherine Hotel,
(+33) (0) 5 56 81 95 12.
Saturday, April 21, Bordeaux city tour
Walking city tour of Bordeaux. Dinner at Le Parlement des Graves. Overnight in Sainte Catherine Hotel.
Sunday, April 22, Bordeaux excursion
It has been rumored that the wine is pretty good in this region. Let’s go visit a winery so we can bring some of it home. Country lunch at Chais Pascal in St. Emilion. Return to Bordeaux and overnight in Sainte Catherine Hotel. Dinner on your own.
Monday, April 23Return flight to USA or Paris Option
Those of you returning to the USA will take taxis to the airport. For those of us going to Paris, we will first shop for a train lunch and then depart Bordeaux at 10:48 by train and arrive Paris at 14:41. We will then take taxis to Hotel Louve-Rivoli for three nights. Included in the package is B&B at the hotel and dinners at some favorite nearby restaurants. You are on your own for transportation and museum entrances, so you can pick and choose what it is you want to do in April in Paris.

John Blue & Gary Behnke, Laurence Barker, Ken & Julie Ortolon, Dale Fleishman & Ron Jenkins

Jim Ernest & Sue Edwards, Dale & Patsy Meyers, Sharon Budd & Sue Fox
Sara & Charlie Lewis, Carrol Smith & Mary Ann Griffin