VINTAGE SOUTHERN FRANCE
AND THE PYRENEES
JUNE 29 - JULY 10, 2023
Whether you are in search of culture and antiquity, with fine architecture and interesting places to visit; or you enjoy traveling on scenic railways that climb mountains; or you want to potter around at your leisure – there is something for everyone on this tour which covers the length of France, from the Alps to the Pyrenees!
The tour includes many scenic highlights: the mountains of the Alps and Pyrenees, the Mediterranean coast of France, the hills of Provence and the Cevennes; as well as many places of historical interest including the Roman amphitheatre in the beautiful city of Nimes.
The railway highlights include a number of routes listed as some finest in Europe such as the Mediterranean coast east of Marseille towards the Italian border and the lines heading inland from Nice to Digne-les-Bains and Tende. The tour also includes two steam rides on some lovely heritage railways, but the highlight is the famous Little Yellow Train that takes us high up into the Pyrenees.
Day 1 Thursday June 29
Depart London St Pancras today on the Eurostar service to Paris Nord. On arrival at Paris Nord, you will be met and transferred to the four star hotel Mercure Paris Gare de Lyon for check-in. Evening on your own to relax and explore Paris if you like.
Day 2 Friday June 30: (B)
Catch the morning TGV from the nearby Gare de Lyon. We arrive in Nice mid-afternoon, and after a short coach transfer to the hotel, the remainder of the day will be free for you to enjoy Nice, walking through the narrow streets and alleyways of the Old City – described as a “Baroque Experience” – then strolling along the Promenade des Anglais seafront. Note that for the transport enthusiasts there are modern trams in Nice, and a tram stop not far from our hotel. Alternatively, if you are flying, you will arrive via Nice airport and transfer directly to the hotel.
Day 3 Saturday July 1: (B,D)
Today we will ride a slow train on the line SNCF calls the “Train des Merveilles”, from Nice to Tende following the Roya Valley and crossing the Alps into Italy. There are many viaducts and even more tunnels with wild mountain-and-valley scenery. This is an exceptional route and of interest to any railway enthusiast; it includes three spirals and a summit higher than Ben Nevis. We alight at Tende, a charming Alpine town nestled in the deep valley. After time to explore it and have lunch, we travel back down the line as far as Breil-sur-Roya to visit this excellent railway museum. Return to Nice by train at the end of the afternoon. Tonight, we have our Welcome Dinner in a restaurant near the hotel.
We have a ride the long non-electrified metre gauge CF Provence line from Nice to Digne, a distance of 151 km in a new 2-car DMU with large windows on a very scenic line, on the “Train des Pignes”.We alight at Puget-Theniers to join the steam train hauled by an ex-CP (Portugal) 2-4-6-0T mallet along the same line to Annot. Annot is a fascinating little town in the mountains, and if you venture behind the main square, it seems you have stepped back in time to the 1500s, with old, but well-kept, buildings and narrow streets. We return to Nice by coach in time for dinner.
Day 5 Monday July 3: (B)
This morning we travel by train from Nice to Nimes. In the afternoon, we will be joined by a local guide for a guided walk through the historic centre of Nimes. During the walk, we will see some of the Roman buildings still standing such as the Amphitheatre considered to be “the best preserved in the whole of the Roman Empire” and the Maison Carée, a remarkably well-preserved square temple. The amphitheatre may be being prepared for Bastille Day celebrations, but if it is possible to visit it, we will.
Day 6 Tuesday July 4: (B)
We have a very scenic train trip through the Cévennes from Nimes to La Bastide-St. Laurent. We return to Alés where our coach will be waiting to transfer us to Saint Jean-du-Gard, and the “Train a Vapeur des Cévennes” whose ex-SNCF 2-8-0 steam locomotive was only recommissioned in 2011. This is a lovely 13 km train journey along the Gardons valley, and we do a return trip with a visit to the workshops. There are some fantastic views of the river valley and the Cévennes scenery. After our visit, we return to Nimes by coach
Day 7 Wednesday July 5: (B)
Today we will travel to Avignon (a walled city next the River Rhone) and Pont du Gard, an impressive Roman aqueduct built in the 1st century AD. Beginning in Avignon, we have a guided tour around the Papal Palace (the biggest Gothic palace ever built, anywhere), followed by free time for lunch and your own exploration. With around 650,000 visitors each year it is regularly among the top ten attractions in France. With its size, architecture and historical significance the Palace regularly serves as an exhibition centre. During your free time, we suggest you visit the famous medieval bridge, the Pont d’Avignon on which one dances as the 15th century song “Sur le Pont d’Avignon” says. After lunch we go to Ponte du Gard and another guided tour, with the chance to visit the excellent museum. The Pont du Gard is the highest of all Roman aqueducts and is the best preserved along with the aqueduct of Segovia. Because of its historic importance it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985. Today it is one of France’s five top tourist attractions with around 1.4 million visitors each year.
Day 8 Thursday July 6: (B)
The highlight today is a trip on the very scenic Le Train Rouge, as we transfer to Perpignan for one night. We begin the day with a train journey from Nimes to Carcassonne, and, if it is running with a suitable timetable, the branch south to Quillan. There our coach will meet us and take us to Axat, the upper terminus of Le Train Rouge. After time for lunch we head to Axat station. If the weather is dry, the first part of the journey through mountains and gorges will be on open wagons. Half way down we change a historic railcar to complete the journey to Rivesaltes. Our coach will be waiting to take us to the hotel in Perpignan.
LE TRAIN ROUGE
Day 9 Friday July 7: (B)
We will travel from Perpignan to Villefranche-Vernet where we pick up our Little Yellow Train, one of the great railway journeys of the world – a historic metre-gauge electric railway in the French Pyrenees, opened in 1909, and still going strong. The line rises through dramatic scenery from an altitude of 427 metres at its lower terminus at Villefranche de Conflent, to a summit at Bolquère Eyne, France’s highest railway station, lying at an altitude of 1592 metres (5226 ft) above sea level. It then drops down to a high Pyrenean valley, and its terminus at Latour de Carol. On arriving at Latour de Carol, we immediately join our standard gauge train direct to Toulouse, arriving late afternoon. Overnight in Toulouse.
LITTLE YELLOW TRAINhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TL8fiyG44T0
TOULOUSE (ABOVE AND BELOW)
Day 10 Saturday July 8: (B)
In the morning we visit the 500-mm narrow gauge Chemin de Fer Touristique du Tarn. Due to a weak bridge awaiting repair, they run a diesel train over part of the line, and we will have a charter on this, followed by a visit to the depot and workshops. Return to Toulouse for a free afternoon to explore this attractive city, known as the “pink city” due to the unique architecture made of pinkish terracotta bricks. Transport highlights include a tram line and a driverless metro.
Day 11 Sunday July 9: (B,D)
Our coach will take us to the medieval walled city of Carcassonne where you will have free time to explore the narrow streets and the castle. The walled city is one of France’s “must see” attractions, yet in the 19th century, the government wanted to demolish it. Fortunately, it won a reprieve, and is still here today. This afternoon we will have a cruise on the UNESCO World Heritage Canal du Midi. At the end of the afternoon, we return to Toulouse by coach, and meet up for our Farewell Dinner in a restaurant near the hotel.
THE WALLED CITY OF CARCASSONNE
Day 12 Monday July 10: (B)
Return to Paris and on to London on the Eurostar train. Upon arrival back at St Pancras London end of the tour.
ALL PRICES ARE PER PERSON
DOUBLE ROOM OCCUPANCY$3,245
SINGLE ROOM SUPPLEMENT$895
DEPOSIT TO HOLD SPACE CONFIRMED$800
FINAL PAYMENT DUE BY MARCH 29, 2023
TOUR CONDITIONS **PLEASE READ CAREFULLY**
Tour Price: All tour prices are subject to change without notice, at any time. All prices based on double room occupancy. Those people that use a credit card for payments a 3% conveyance fee will be added to the tour price. We reserve the right to change tour prices if necessary without prior notice.