Mediterranean Spain and France
Madrid ... Segovia ... Toledo ... Barcelona ... Carcassonne ... Avignon ... Nice
Day One – US Departure
Day Two - Madrid: On arrival in Madrid, we will be met by our tour manager and motor coach to drive into the city. By European standards Madrid is a young capital city, nonetheless it has its share of historic monuments. During our city tour, we will see the Royal Palace, official office of King Juan Carlos, the Cathedral of Almudena, we will drive the grand boulevard of Gran Via and walk through the heart of the old city, from Puerta del Sol to Plaza Mayor. In the late afternoon, we will check into our hotel for our overnight.
Day Three - Madrid (Segovia and El Escorial Excursion): This morning we will visit the austere monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, created by Philip II to be a legacy in stone of both his religious zeal and his political ambition. Today its massive dimensions serve as the burial place of Spain's kings and queens, the home of art treasures by El Greco, Velazquez and Titian, as well as more than 50000 books, to rival the Vatican Library. Later we will drive to Segovia, where our visit represents a journey through two thousand years of history. Our city tour will include all the highlights of this radiant city – from the Roman aqueduct, to the Gothic Cathedral, the Alcazar fortress of Queen Isabella to the cobbled streets where Christian and Muslim influence still mingle. We will return to Madrid in the late afternoon.
Day Four - Madrid / Toledo / Barcelona: Following breakfast we will drive first to Toledo, where our city tour will include all the highlights of this strategic stronghold – the steep cobbled streets where Christians, Jews and Muslims lived side by side in the Middle Ages, the breathtaking Cathedral with its 750 stained glass windows and the spectacular views over the River Targus. There will be free time for lunch and shopping, before we drive to Madrid airport for the short flight to Barcelona.
Day Five - Barcelona: This morning we will explore one of Europe's most vibrant cities from the harbor area to the authentic Las Ramblas, from the Gothic Quarter to Antoni Gaudi's unfinished Basilica of the Sagrada Familia. The afternoon and evening are free perhaps to explore some of Barcelona's highlights in more detail - the Picasso Museum, the Joan Miro Foundation - or simply sit in a streetwalk cafe and watch the world go by.
Day Six - Barcelona / Carcassonne: This morning will be free to continue exploring Barcelona, which since the 1992 Olympics has transformed itself into one of Europe's most vibrant and exciting cities. Take the cable car across the harbour to Montjuic hill, explore more of Gaudi's architecture or shop and people watch along Las Ramblas. In the early afternoon, we continue our journey to the French border and on to Carcassonne for our overnight.
Day Seven - Carcassonne: The old town is a mediaeval jewel where time seems to have stood still for 500 years. Still completely surrounded by its mediaeval fortifications Carcassonne takes us a step back in time and this morning we will explore the old world charm of the impressive chateau, narrow alleyways and massive battlements with our local guide. The remainder of the day is free for shopping and further exploration.
Day Eight - Carcassonne / Nimes / Pont du Gard / Avignon: Following breakfast this morning, we will depart Carcassonne and travel through the vineyards of Languedoc to Nimes, rich in its Roman heritage. Our walking tour will focus on the perfectly preserved amphitheatre, before we continue to the Pont du Gard, the Roman aqueduct which is considered to be one of the all-time greatest engineering feats. Later we will continue to Avignon for our next two nights.
Day Nine - Avignon: Situated on the River Rhône, Avignon was home to seven Popes in the 14th Century and our walking tour this morning will concentrate on their fortress residence, the Palace of the Popes, as well as the bridge of St. Benezet, made famous by the children’s song 'Sur le Pont d'Avignon'. The afternoon and evening are free for shopping and further sightseeing.
Day Ten - Avignon / Grasse / Nice: This morning we will depart Avignon to continue our journey ino the heart of Provence, where through the ages Greeks, Romans and Saracens made their mark, leaving a wealth of cultural treasures. We will take the breath-taking drive into the mountains above the Cote d’Azur to the town of Grasse. Worlds away from the wealth and opulent luxury of the coastal towns, this traditional Provencal town is the centre of French perfume manufacture today. We will visit one of the perfume factories during our visit before we continue to Nice for our overnight.
Day Eleven – Nice / St Paul de Vence / Nice: As the place where the Alps begin, Provence is famous for its perched villages and today we will visit St. Paul de Vence, whose spectacular location and mediaeval atmosphere attracted some of the most vibrant artistic minds of the 20th century – Chagall, Picasso, Simone Signoret, Yves Montand. There will be time to absorb the unique atmosphere, before we return to Nice for free time and last minute shopping. This evening we will enjoy our farewell dinner.
Day Twelve - Nice / USA: This morning we will be transferred to the airport to begin our journey home.