Discover the essence of France, peeling back layers of history and delving into local culture as you make your way through beautiful scenery from the Dordogne to the Loire Valley, Normandy, and Paris, visiting six World Heritage sites along the way.

Starting at: $6,997 * Includes airfare, taxes & all fees Make a Reservation Ask Us A Question or Call 855-330-1542
 The historic Mont St. Michel off the coast of Normandy
 Chenonceau, one of the most romantic chateaux in the Loire Valley
 The medieval city and castle of Carcassonne
 Medieval town square of Sarlat
 River boats or <i>gabare</i> on the Dordogne River. Credit: France Tourism Bureau
 The medieval village of Rocamadour, a World Heritage site
 The castle and town of Saumur in the Loire Valley
 The chateau of Chenonceau, Loire Valley
 Mont St. Michel, Normandy
 Travelers outside a megalith in Saumur. Credit: Catherine Chamoux
 World War II cemetery near Omaha Beach, Normandy
 German gun emplacements at Pointe du Hoc. Credit: Atout France/R-Cast
 Memorial sculpture, Omaha Beach
 Section of the famous Bayeux Tapestry
 Monet's gardens at Giverny
 The Louvre's entrance, designed by I.M. Pei
 Panorama of Paris

France Through the Ages

15 days from $6,997 | includes airfare, taxes and all fees

Discover the essence of France, peeling back layers of history and delving into local culture as you make your way through beautiful scenery from the Dordogne to the Loire Valley, Normandy, and Paris, visiting six World Heritage sites along the way.

or Call 855-330-1542

Tour Details

WHAT OUR TRAVELERS SAY

"France through the Ages" was a feast for the body, mind, and soul!

- David B.

Even though each of us has traveled to France on several occasions, taking "the road less traveled" on Smithsonian's "France through the Ages" tour was thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening. This was our first Smithsonian tour but assuredly will not be our last. 

- Marie L.

This tour offered me a glorious buffet of France. Each day we got to sample new things and they were all wonderful. With my appetite fully whetted, I want to return and see more. 

- Sharon S.

JOURNEYS DISPATCHES

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SPECIAL VALUE

This tour is specially designed for a small group of 16 to 24 Smithsonian travelers and offers outstanding travel value. Prices include airfare, airline taxes, fuel surcharges, and departure fees.

Overview

Immerse yourself in the richness of French culture, the breadth of its history, and the beauty of its artistic and architectural treasures on a journey to five distinct regions of France. Explore the ramparts of Carcassonne and Albi, and delve into prehistory among the cliffside villages of the Dordogne region; then venture to the sumptuous châteaux of the Loire Valley. Trace centuries of history in Normandy, visiting the medieval abbey of Mont St. Michel as well as the poignant World War II sites along the coast. Delve into the effervescent cities of Paris and Toulouse on guided tours, and experience the hospitality and gastronomy of provincial France.

Highlights Include

  • Southwest France:  Stay in the historic heart of Toulouse, and explore the fortified town of Carcassonne, surrounded by some of the longest medieval city walls in Europe. Venture to the market town of Albi, birthplace of artist Henri Toulouse-Lautrec.
  • Dordogne River Valley: See world-renowned prehistoric cave art at the International Center for Cave Art at Lascaux IV and visit the cliffside pilgrimage site of Rocamadour. Tour medieval Sarlat and cruise the Dordogne River past dramatic karst formations and clifftop castles. Enjoy a private, guided tour of the Château de Milandes, once the home of American entertainer Josephine Baker.
  • Loire Valley: From your base at an 18th-century manor in Saumur, discover a romantic landscape dotted with historic châteaux. Tour the Château de Chenonceau, a Renaissance masterpiece that spans the River Cher; the Château du Clos Lucé, where Leonardo da Vinci spent his final years; and the World Heritage site of Fontevraud Abbey.
  • Normandy: Ascend cobblestoned streets to the fortified abbey of Mont St. Michel, and see the renowned Bayeux Tapestry. Then gain insight into the extraordinary events of D-Day while visiting Utah Beach, Sainte-Mère-Église, Pointe du Hoc, the American cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach, and Le Mémorial museum in Caen.
  • Along the Seine: Stroll through Monet’s gardens at Giverny, then end your journey in Paris with a highlights tour. 

"France through the Ages" was a feast for the body, mind, and soul!

- David B.

Even though each of us has traveled to France on several occasions, taking "the road less traveled" on Smithsonian's "France through the Ages" tour was thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening. This was our first Smithsonian tour but assuredly will not be our last. 

- Marie L.

This tour offered me a glorious buffet of France. Each day we got to sample new things and they were all wonderful. With my appetite fully whetted, I want to return and see more. 

- Sharon S.

Itinerary

Day 1 and 2 — Depart the U.S. for Toulouse, France

Arrive in the charismatic university town of Toulouse and settle into your hotel. Take the afternoon to relax or go for a walk in the city center. Then  gather for a welcome dinner and a briefing about the journey ahead. (D)

Day 3 — Toulouse and Carcassonne

Travel to the fortified city of Carcassonne, set on a hill overlooking the surrounding plains. Bristling with turrets and encircled by ramparts, this castle town—which dates all the way back to the Romans—seems straight out of a fairytale. Venture into its narrow alleys, learning about the centuries of restorations that have earned the town World Heritage status. Return to Toulouse for an afternoon at leisure. (B)

Day 4 — Albi and Sarlat

Head north today, stopping in the historic town of Albi, known as the birthplace of artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and also the center of the Cathars, a breakaway religious sect that were targeted by the Crusaders in the 13th century. On a tour of this stunning, rose-colored town—also a World Heritage site—visit the fortified Palais de la Berbie, which houses the works of Toulouse-Lautrec, and the imposing Cathédrale Ste-Cécile, the world’s largest brick cathedral. Continue to the rugged karst landscapes of the Dordogne River Valley. Arrive in Sarlat-la-Canéda, a stunning medieval town of ochre-colored, half-timbered houses and settle into your hotel in the town center. (B,D)

Day 5 — Sarlat and Lascaux IV

This morning, tour the International Center for Cave Art at Lascaux IV, an exact replica of the original cave where prehistoric paintings were discovered by local teenagers in 1940.  After lunch at a charming local inn, enjoy a private guided visit of the Château des Milandes, a 15th-century castle that was once the home of American-French entertainer Josephine Baker. Learn about the life of this remarkable woman, who sang, danced, and served in the French Resistance during World War II. Returning to Sarlat in the late afternoon and enjoy an evening at leisure. (B, L)

Day 6 — Sarlat and Rocamadour

Set off on a guided walking tour of Sarlat’s historic center, then explore this charming town on your own. In the afternoon, travel to Rocamadour, a medieval village and pilgrimage site that clings to a sheer limestone cliff. Set off on a walking tour followed by lunch on your own, then take a leisurely cruise along the Dordogne River, the lifeblood of this fertile region. Glide past cliff-top castles and fortified medieval villages, uncovering layers of history from the region’s early humans to the 12th-century reign of Eleanor of Aquitaine and beyond. Return to Sarlat in mid-afternoon and enjoy time at leisure before dinner. (B, D)

Day 7 — Le Dorat and Saumur

Depart the Dordogne region and travel north through the rolling countryside to the beautiful Loire Valley, where France’s kings and nobility built more than 300 châteaux during the Renaissance. Stop in the market town of Le Dorat for a typical country lunch at a local restaurant. Continue to Saumur and check in to your hotel, a converted 18th-century mansion on the banks of the Loire River. (B,L)

Day 8 — Saumur

Take a private tour of the 12th-century Fontevraud Abbey, the resting place of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry II, and their sons Richard the Lionheart and King John. Discover the dramatic history of the site, which played a role in the Crusades and was turned into a prison during the reign of Napoleon. Return to Saumur for dinner. (B,D)

Day 9 — Saumur and Chenonceau

Spend the morning at the Renaissance masterpiece of Chenonceau, known as the “Château des Dames” for the numerous women who had a hand in its elegant design. Tour the château, which spans the Cher River in graceful arches, and learn about the historic figures who spent time here, from Catherine de Médicis to Voltaire. After lunch in a former troglodyte cave, visit the Château Clos Lucé where Leonardo da Vinci spent his final years. (B,L)

Day 10 — Mont St. Michel and St. Crépon

Head west from the Loire Valley to the Normandy coast. Here, perched high on a rocky tidal island, the fortified abbey of Mont St. Michel has drawn pilgrims for centuries. On a guided tour of this World Heritage site, learn how the abbey evolved in the face of the Hundred Years’ War and the French Revolution. Enjoy time to explore the small village surrounding the abbey and have lunch on your own. Continue to Normandy’s Calvados region and arrive in the early evening at your lodgings, a restored farmhouse in Crépon,  where you’ll dine tonight on fresh regional fare. (B,D)

Day 11 — Crépon, Bayeux, and Caen

Bayeux was the first town to be liberated during the Battle of Normandy and its medieval center was miraculously spared from wartime bombing. At the excellent Bayeux Museum, examine the 1,000-year-old Bayeux Tapestry, a 224-foot embroidery that depicts the Norman Conquest of England in 1066 in astonishing detail. Your exploration of Normandy’s poignant World War II sites begins at the British Cemetery on the outskirts of town. Then continue to Caen to visit Le Mémorial, one of the best World War II museums in Europe. Time permitting, venture to Arromanches late this afternoon to see the remains of the Mulberry harbor used during the D-Day invasion. (B,D)

Day 12 — D-Day Landing Beaches

Step back in time at the moving sites where the Allied forces overcame overwhelming odds to retake to French coast—and alter the course of World War II. Visit Pointe du Hoc, where American Rangers scaled towering cliffs to establish a beachhead. Imagine the chaos of June 6, 1944 on Utah Beach, now a serene, sandy expanse edged by gentle dunes.  Walk through the picturesque village of Ste-Mère-Eglise, where the 82nd Airborne Division successfully parachuted on the eve of the attack. End the day at the American Cemetery, strolling amid seemingly endless rows of marble crosses and Stars of David overlooking Omaha Beach. (B,L,D)

Day 13 — Giverny and Paris

On your way to Paris, make a stop at Giverny to visit the home and gardens of Impressionist artist Claude Monet. In the beautiful gardens, discover the familiar lily pond and Japanese footbridge that he rendered in paint; and see his home, now restored to its original design. Arrive in Paris late this afternoon and settle into your centrally located hotel near the Champs-Élysées. Dinner tonight is on your own in this culinary capital. (B)

Day 14 — Paris

Set out on a Paris city tour this morning, viewing the sites of historic and architectural importance. Your tour includes a visit to one of two of the city’s most renowned museums: the Louvre or the Musée d’Orsay. During a free afternoon, explore the City of Lights as you wish. Then gather tonight to toast your French sojourn at a farewell dinner. (B,D)

Day 15 — Depart for the U.S.

After breakfast this morning, transfer for the airport to catch your flight home. (B)

Included meals are denoted as follows: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Reception (R), Dinner (D)

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