We have decided that we'd like to take an RS tour of France next year, but have not yet decided which one. I'm interested in your thoughts, tour alums. We thought we'd be choosing between "Loire to the South of France" and "Best of Eastern France," until I read the description for the "Paris and Heart of France." We've been to Paris a couple of times, and loved it, but we were more interested in some of the other places the tour goes, especially Guedelon, Bayeux, and Normandy. Our "turn-ons" are art, history, wine, and food. Which probably means any of the tours would be wonderful. We're thinking about tacking on the Basque areas of France and Spain, if time allows. What do you think? Thanks for your feedback!
Hi. I have taken the Paris/Heart of France and the Eastern France tours. I enjoyed the Paris/Heart of France tour except that I took it in summer and suffered from crowds not only in Paris, but also at Mont St. Michelle and Giverny - also somewhat at the chateaux. Several of these were on a kind of "must see" list. Some I hope to revisit at different times of the year. I never have to see the Mona Lisa again, though, or take any structured tour of the Louvre. Not worth it for the crowds.
Eastern France, however, was full of places I had not known much about, and each place was a delightful discovery, excepting Nice, which I did not care for and which seems not to be the end town now. This tour seems to have somewhat fewer hours on the bus than Paris/Heart, which I prefer. The places visited are very diverse: wine regions, WWI sites, Alsace with its little villages, Roman ruins, medieval hospital, Alps, the Mediterranean, and more wine regions interspersed. It helped that this tour was scheduled earlier in spring. I must say, it vies for first or second in my list of favorite RS tours.
Between Paris/Heart and Eastern, I would pick Eastern. I have not been to Loire/South, but since it too avoids Paris (and after my recent crowded experience in that city), I might pick Loire/South over Heart, too, if I had to choose.
We took the Loire to the South of France two years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it, despite lousy weather. We got our Paris fix by arriving a few days early and seeing the museums, monuments. We had been there a few times as well, so we knew what we wanted to see and planned it accordingly. Then a short train ride to Chartes. The cathedral is quite a site, the tour terrific, and that is pretty much it for churches on this tour. Lot's of history, cave art (very special) ruins, Roman and others. Arles is where van Gogh spent time, but they have none of his work. We loved the Chagall museum in Nice. We have looked at the Paris and Heart of France tour. We also want to visit the places you mentioned, but for us it would be best to spend less time in Paris and more time in "the Heart", whch is why we choose the tour we did. And, we wanted to extend our vacation in Provence. So, we rented a car in Nice, a flat in Lourmarin, and enjoyed a week of day trips to small towns in Provence, winerys, markets and restaurants before dropping the car at the airport and flying out of Mariselle. I think the Basque country would be fun, probably doing it ahead of whatever tour you choose, due to geography.
It is a hard choice to make! Whatever you choose, you will be delighted and you will enjoy the tour! I went on the Loire to the South of France a few years ago and loved it. I had a choice between that tour and the Best of Eastern France and the only reason I choose the Loire to the South of France is I wanted to see the Loire Valley. No one can really tell you which tour to take, but I would suggest you look at all the online scrapbooks on this web site, go to YouTube and search for videos on all the places each tour goes to and read up on the places that the different tours take you to. A picture is worth a 1000 words and the only way you will be able to choose is if you get an idea of what you will be seeing. Go to Tumbir, Instagram and Pinterest along with You Tube to see the photos of the places each tour goes to. It is worth the time and effort and it is all free! This website too has tons of free videos you can watch for free. All of France is filled with art, history, wine and food so no matter what tour you choose they will all be there in any tour. What it comes down to, is what peaks your interest, how many days do you want to go on a tour, each tour varies, 11 days, 14 days or 13 days and what is the best tour to take so that you could tack on Basque areas. Read the reviews of each tour on this website. You seem to be most interested in the areas that the Paris and Heart of France goes to so go with your gut feeling and it will be the right decision. Have a great trip.
Hi Jane, I've done both the Paris and the Heart of France and Loire to the South of France tours. The Heart of France tour was great, covered a lot of territory and was very informative. I especially enjoyed the time we spent in Normandy and Mont St. Michel (very special!). The tour was pretty fast paced.
The Loire to the South of France tour was also wonderful, lots of food and wine, beautiful scenery. Loved Sarlat and Carcassonne. There is some overlap between the two tours, i.e. Chinon, Chenonceau, Amboise (wish we had more time there). This one felt a bit slower paced and we had a little more free time.
I love France and am planning to do the Eastern France tour in 2015. I don't think you can make a mistake, just depends on what part of the country you're interested in focusing on.
I have not done the Eastern France tour for comparison, but I can tell you I did the Heart of France tour this year and it was fantastic. The highlight for me was Normandy and the day at the D-Day Beaches. If you like history, this really makes the tour for you. The local guide we had was incredible and as someone who had never taken much interest into WWII detail, this day opened my eyes to the incredible events of that day and I am now hooked on learning more. It's an important place to see and felt really life-changing. Mont St. Michel is also a one-of-a-kind place and since you stay a night on the island, it's a very special experience most travelers don't experience. This tour is well-balanced in terms of wine, food, history, culture, museums, etc. It is a short tour though so it flies by pretty fast but you can always book your flight for later or earlier and see more on your own. I did this tour in the Spring which made for a memorable time at Giverny and Monet's Gardens but weather can be a mix of rain and sun that time of year. All in all though this is a fabulous tour.
Wow: You guys rock! This was just what I wanted: your personal experiences, highs and lows (mostly highs). I know we'll probably end up deciding by which tour best fits our schedule (or budget), but I love seeing what was special about each tour for each of you. Thank you so much for your thoughtful responses. Happy travels!
My travel buddy and I have been struggling with this question for months We want to do the Paris tour... Then tack on eastern France or the Loire south France tour. They both look great. I took the advise and looked at the videos and read the Rick book and forums. I think we will end up tossing a coin. Time of the year advise? We can go on the early spring or last fall trips. Is one tour more active? We like to get out and move. We also enjoy the wine tasting. Any more anyone can add to help us choose?
I did Loire to South of France this past May. I easily added on Paris as a pre stay and took the short train ride to Chartres the day the tour started. Others went directly to Chartres from Paris but I can't pass up a couple of nights in Paris! There is enough free time in Chartres to do it justice if you can't miss Paris, too. How much longer Mr. Miller will be healthy enough to share his knowledge and passion of The Cathedral with people is questionable.
If you go on one of the first two dates you'll have an experienced guide and few crowds. This tour has lots of art, (Chartres, Cave art,
Chagall and Matisse Museums). There are endless local foodie experiences which I will not spoil their surprise. There are wine tastings, and a winery tour followed by a lovely lunch there made by the winery family, WWII sights and French History sights, and many outdoor activities. The pace is relaxing and you have plenty of free time and optional activities. The scenery and small town/village stops were 'wows' to me.
Your tour ends in Nice and it's easy to add some post days in the area and go off to explore the many tiny towns/villages. If you don't add Paris you could splurge at the end. Half the group went back to work, the other half continued traveling!
I have Eastern France on my list within 5 years. My DH and I traveled independently to Normandy & Paris in 2006. You just might have to toss a coin to decide!