October 25 - November 4, 2023
- Fabulous lodging, from an elegant Relais et Chateaux castle nestled riverside, to a 4-star hotel in the heart of a charming medieval town.
- One of Southwest France’s most photographed sites: the cliffside town of Rocamadour (also known for its excellent cheese!)
- Beautiful Sarlat-la-Canéda – one of the best-preserved medieval small cities in France
- Visit Lascaux II, a brilliant reproduction of the most famous cave art discovered in Europe and the world (the real cave of Lascaux is nearby). Forget the Mona Lisa – this art, dating from around 40,000 BC, represents the earliest large-scale art in the human record.
- Unique sites around every bend in the road: from the beautiful hanging garden of Marqueyssac, to postcard villages, to the lovely estate of Josephine Baker!
It’s no secret that we love exploring every corner of France – and we’re here to tell you that this fairytale region will sweep you off your feet! With “hanging villages” perched on clifftops, overlooking pristine vineyards and ancient river valleys, the Dordogne is an enchanting place that feels delightfully under the spell of an earlier time. From its famed ancient cave paintings to its foie grass, this is, in many ways, the cradle of France’s art and culinary history.
Day 1 – 2
Depart the US today on your overnight flight to France – destination, the French city of Toulouse! There are easy connections from Paris, and our travel agent will gladly assist you with your flight arrangements.
The following morning, our group will convene at the Toulouse airport, on France’s southwest plateau. We’ll gather in our comfortable van to begin our journey across three spectacular river valleys that bisect this plateau region. Our home for the first three nights is the Chateau de Mercuès, overlooking the River Lot.
Bienvenue – welcome to France!
Breakfast at our chateau hotel (member, Relais et Chateaux). We’ll venture into the riverbend city of Cahors – known for its earth-toned, stone buildings that “play” with the sunlight, its secret gardens, and pleasant ambiance. We’ll explore parts of Cahors, bask in the pretty squares, and line up a great photo of the UNESCO heritage Valentré Bridge, spanning the Lot.
In the afternoon, we’ll taste wine at the Chateau de Mercuès – whose vineyards sprawl just downstream from the castle itself. Later, those who wish to take another local excursion can go to nearby Crayssac, where dinosaur prints are preserved in the rock.
Breakfast in the Chateau de Mercuès. Today, we’ll follow the Lot upstream, where the mountains of the Massif Centrale lay. We’ll discover the village of Saint Cirq Lapopie: not only a “most beautiful village of France,” but voted (in 2012) as the French people’s “favorite town.” Well . . . that’s an accolade!
Nearby, we’ll visit the Peche Merle cave, where prehistoric art can be viewed in its original form.
We’ll return to the Chateau de Mercuès for dinner and our overnight.
We say adieu to our hosts, then venture north – out of the Vallée du Lot, and into the Dordogne Valley. Our drive will take us by one of Southwest France’s most photographed sites: the cliffside town of Rocamadour. After lunch and a chance to explore, we’ll descend the river to beautiful Sarlat-la-Canéda – known as one of the best-preserved medieval small cities in France (and used as the filming location for a host of TV and movie projects). Sarlat will be home for the next three nights, so we’ll happily settle in.
We’ll enjoy a walking tour of the old town (location of our lodging), then free time to explore. Dinner and overnight, Sarlat.
After breakfast, we’ll enjoy a short drive northeast to several remarkable sites: the Lascaux II cave, and the villages of St. Leon and St. Anand de Coly. Lascaux II is a brilliant reproduction of the most famous cave art discovered in Europe and the world – said to perfectly mimic the real cave of Lascaux (very nearby). The art, dating from around 40,000 BC, represents the earliest largescale art in the human record. The lovely villages, each intertwined with its respective river, remain little disturbed over the years, and represent France of the field and village era.
We’ll return home in the afternoon for down time. Dinner and overnight, Sarlat.
Breakfast in the hotel. Then we’ll explore charming sites along the Dordogne itself. They will include the beautiful hanging garden of Marqueyssac, and the postcard village of Castelnaud la Chapelle. It will be a delightful day spend on both banks of the Dordogne. Return to Sarlat for down time, dinner, and our overnight.
We’ll say farewell to our new friends in Sarlat, then explore the Upper Dordogne, as we relocate to the the lovely town of Uzerche, on the River Vézère. Our route will take us through some of the most celebrated villages in France, and across the Dordogne via the Viaduct de Pays de Tulle. One significant stop will be in the rose-red village of Collanges la Rouge: it’s France’s original “Plus Beau Village” – most beautiful village. Dinner and overnight at the Hotel Joyet de Maubec, Uzerche.
After a good breakfast in our hotel, we’ll venture out. We’ll visit the Haras de Pampadour – one of France’s National Stud farms, where we’ll learn about horse breeds and their role in the nation’s identity. We’ll also plan to visit an ancient paper-making “factory” – powered by a still-functioning water mill. Optionally enjoy walks in the area, amidst ancient bridges and waterfalls. Free time in Uzerche; and a dinner celebration of our great times together. Overnight, Uzerche.
After breakfast, we’ll depart Uzerche, driving northwest to the city of Limoges. Limoges is synonymous with porcelain: We’ll have an opportunity to delve into the manufactured arts and Old Town Limoges’s take on “style.”
By the late-afternoon, we’ll arrive at the Limoges airport, where we’ll board a plane to Roissy (Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport). We’ll spend our last night in a comfortable and convenient airport-area hotel.
The following morning, we’ll depart on our flights home to the US. Bon voyage!
- Comfortable ground transportation in France
- Accommodation with breakfast in high-standard boutique hotels; 3 lunches and 6 dinners
- All activities/admissions per the itinerary
- Guide and concierge service throughout the trip
$5,279 / person (double occupancy; single supplement, $1,150)
What's Not Included
Price does not include airfare, alcohol, other meals, or optional trip insurance.
I've traveled extensively and have never had a trip that felt as intimate and custom-tailored as this. The planning, flexibility, and attention to detail were second to none. The level of professionalism and our guides' extensive knowledge of French history, their ability to tailor outings to our individual interests - I could go on and on. A top shelf trip of a lifetime. Thank you, Caroline and Chumley!
Explore Up Close provides the ultimate travel experience with a boutique, personalized touch. They curated each day of a recent France trip perfectly - with a mix of learning, exploring, relaxation as well as great company from our fellow travelers and guides!
If you want first-class service within a small group of traveling companions that you can really get to know, then definitely consider Explore Up Close.
Trip insurance safeguards your travel investment, your belongings, and most importantly, you. Though trip insurance is optional, we strongly encourage travelers to purchase trip insurance in the event you have to cancel or leave a trip for any reason. Please note, all trip participants should wait for confirmation from Explore Up Close that the trip has the minimum sign-up required to be a “go” before purchasing travel insurance or airline tickets. Please confirm with Explore Up Close before making any additional travel arrangements.
Once you have received confirmation from Explore Up Close, we recommend contacting a travel insurance provider directly to request a quote and compare pricing and features. You can find other providers that may fit your needs at www.insuremytrip.com, or we can gladly connect you with our travel agent.
Please note, all trip participants should wait for confirmation from Explore Up Close that the trip has the minimum sign-up required to be a “go” before purchasing airline tickets.
Explore Up Close will provide a recommended flight itinerary for your consideration, which is intended as a helpful suggestion. We encourage travelers to choose airfare depending on their personal preferences, as some travelers may prefer to travel independently and meet at our destination, or may wish to extend their travels at the beginning or end of the trip. Our travel agent is available to assist you with booking flights and trip insurance.
Again, please confirm with Explore Up Close before purchasing your airline tickets or making additional travel arrangements!