Boutique small group travel tour to southern France and northern Spain
Catalonia, Cathars and Culture: From the Mountains to the Sea – A gourmet and cultural experience
19th September to 4th October 2018
A boutique small group travel tour to Southern France and Northern Spain with a maximum group size of 10.
No single supplement for solo travellers!
A 16 night, 17 day fully escorted boutique small group travel tour to Southern France and Northern Spain stretching from the ‘Pink City’ of Toulouse to the remarkable Albi and some of the most beautiful hilltop villages in France. We’ll travel down to Sete, the ‘Venice of France’, up into the mountains to the citadels of the Cathars before heading over the border into the Catalonian region of Spain before ending our tour in Barcelona.
The pace will be leisurely, we’ll go off the beaten track, meet some locals and enjoy fabulous food and wine. We’ll explore the legends and citadels of the Cathars; learn the art of French cooking with some leading chefs; taste a wide variety of locally produced cheeses, wines and oils, take a short stroll along the Camino trail and discover the food and culture of the Catalans.
Boutique small group travel tour to Southern France and Northern Spain.
Highlights & Inclusions:
- 16 nights accommodation in 3 and 4 star small private hotels
- 16 breakfasts, 11 lunches and 9 dinners including wine/beer and soft drinks
- English speaking guide
- Air-conditioned minibus for all transfers and excursions.
- Walking tour of the ‘Pink City’, Toulouse
- Cooking Class at l’Ateliers des Chefs
- Cathedral of Saint Cecile and Toulouse Lautrec museum in Albi
- The vineyards of Gaillac
- Cordes sur Ciel – one of the most significant medieval French towns
- Hotel Sambucy and its beautiful gardens
- A guided tour of the Viaduct of Millau
- Gourmet walking tour of Sete ‘the Venice of France’
- Cathar Castles of Peyrepertuse & Queribus
- Tastings at Roquefort and Farm of Frayssinet
- Cocktail making at Maison de Noilly Prat
- Chateau L’Hospitalet – European Winery of the Year
- Banyuls & Limoux Estates
- Saint-Guilhem-le-Desert an exquisite village and Abbey
- A walk along the Camino
- Home of Salvador Dali
- Cadaques and the Cap de Creus in northern Spain
- The Ceret Museum – home to works by Picasso, Chagall, Matisse and Miro
- Walking tour of Barcelona
Boutique Small Group Travel Tour to Southern France and Northern Spain
Day 1: Toulouse ‘The Pink City’
Accommodation: Hotel Pere Leon This family run hotel is perfectly located in the centre of Toulouse. Afternoon walking tour of Toulouse and group welcome dinner. D
Days 2 – 5 Albi
Accommodation: 4 nights at Hostellerie Saint Antoine. Located in the heart of Albi in a peaceful little street, only 8 minutes on foot from the Saint Cecile Cathedral and Toulouse Lautrec museum. Enjoy the private garden and spacious and individually decorated rooms of this family run hotel now in its fifth generation of ownership
Leisurely breakfast and check out of the hotel before heading to l’Ateliers of Chefs where we’ll learn some of the tricks of French cooking before enjoying the fruits of our labour.
This afternoon we’ll transfer to the magnificent town of Albi on the banks of the Tarn. Group casual dinner. BLD
After breakfast, we’ll enjoy a walking tour of the city and its market to discover the local specialties.
A World Heritage Site and a masterpiece of the Southern Gothic style the historical centre, laid out around the Cathedral includes the largest medieval Judgement Day fresco and the most extensive collection of Early Renaissance paintings completed in France. The bishop’s city claims to be the largest surviving brick-built complex on earth. Also, located here is the famous Toulouse Lautrec museum.
Our walk will be followed by lunch with the rest of the day at free to enjoy a wander along the banks of the Tarn and a leisurely dinner .BL
Today we’re heading out to Gaillac with its busy market and local vineyards well known for its red and rose wines. We’ll combine a buffet lunch with some wine tasting before heading to Cordes sur Ciel one of the most significant medieval towns in France. We’ll watch the sun set with a cocktail or two before heading back to our hotel in Albi for dinner. BLD
This morning begins with a guided of the Viaduct of Millau, tallest in the world. This fabulous structure lies across one of the most beautiful areas of countryside in southern France.
We’ll follow this with a private visit to Hotel of Sambucy and its beautiful gardens. After lunch it’s all about meeting the producers and tasting some of the famous local delicacies including home-made delights such as marmalade, cake and custard all made from ewe’s milk and the ‘king of cheeses’, Roquefort in the village of the same name.
On return to our hotel our guide will be very happy to point you in the direction of a great local bistro.BL
Days 6-7 Sete
Accommodation: 2 nights at Grand Hotel de Sete. Exceptionally located in the heart of Sete this boutique hotel has the look of Second Empire buildings with a beautiful glass-roofed patio that makes the most of the beautiful light of Sete.
After breakfast it’s time to check-out of our hotel and transfer to St- Guilhem-le-Desert, one of France’s Most Beautiful Villages and the UNESCO listed abbey which forms part of the Saint-James of Compostela route in France. You’ll have ample time to explore the village and abbey before lunch.
This afternoon we’ll experience just a taste of the famous Camino with a 2 hour guided walk before heading to our next hotel on the coast in Sete. Dinner tonight will be in a local restaurant just a short walk from our hotel. BLD
Sete with its extensive system of canals is known as the ‘Venice of France’. Our day will start with a gourmet walking tour to meet merchants of pastry, cheese and wine and ‘les Halles’ the harbour’s colourful and authentic covered market, the finest in the region, with the best seafood and local produce.
From the market we’ll head to the quaint port of Marseillan where we’ll become experts at the art of cocktail making with the Cellar Master at Maison Noilly Prat and to complete our day of culinary adventures we’ll visit a shellfish farm to sample the oysters.
This evening is at leisure and as always, our local guide will be happy to direct you to the best of the local restaurants and cafes all within walking distance of our hotel. BL
Days 8-13 Collioure
Accommodation: 5 nights at Hotel La Casa Pairal. This magnificent town house was formerly the home of a 19th century Catalan family. It is a haven of peace and tranquility situated in the heart of Collioure, right on the Mediterranean coast. With just 27 rooms the hotel’s typical Catalan architecture sits amid beautiful flowers and lush green vegetation.
After breakfast and check out of the hotel we’ll be heading to the Pyrenees. En-route we’ll stop and visit the old medieval city of Pezenas, known as the Art and History city, one of the first town centres in France to be declared a protected historic monument
Lunch will be at the European Winery of the Year in the heart of the Massif de la Clape overlooking the Mediterranean. After lunch we’ll visit the Abbey of Fontfroide in the foothills of the Corbieres, the most lavish and best preserved Cistercian Abbey in France. The site includes a magnificent 3,000 foot Rose Garden and a succession of Italian style terraced gardens.
Late afternoon we’ll check into our hotel situated in the heart of Collioure. This evening is at leisure. BL
After breakfast, our local guide will help us explore this charming town and the weekly market in the neighbouring small town of Elne, the ecclesiastical capital of the Roussillon from 568 to 1602. There will be time to explore the market and lunch at leisure before we head to the beautiful old fishing village of Banyuls with its quaint narrow streets and excellent beaches. Banyuls is also the home to a wine domain where we’ll taste some of the finest old vintages.
Our final visit of the day is to the Ceret Museum of modern art, it represents all of the 20th century’s great artists in its collections including Picasso, Braques, Chagall, Matisse and Miro.
Dinner tonight is in a fine local restaurant a short walk from our hotel. BD
Today is a free day to enjoy the relaxing beauty of this charming coastal town. B
After breakfast, we’ll cross the border into Spain and take a walking tour in the Cap Creus nature reserve.
Salvador Dali, the great twentieth century painter, found inspiration here on the coast of Spain.
A well-earned lunch will have us discovering the culinary tapas specialties of Cadaques in a traditional Catalan restaurant. We’ll walk off lunch as we explore Cadaques, a traditional Mediterranean fishing village with steep cobbled streets, white-washed houses all surrounded by olive groves. The village owes its notoriety to the artists who passed through and especially Salvador Dali who made it ‘his village’. Before departing Cadaques we’ll visit the home of Salvador Dali.
Late afternoon transfer to our hotel and an evening at leisure to discover further delights of Collioure. BL
If you are not familiar with the Cathars you’ll be amazed at their history, legends and extraordinary citadels they built. Our first stop is the Peyrepertuse Castle, a huge fortress on the top of a great promontory and one of the most outstanding examples of medieval architecture in Languedoc.
From here we’ll head to Queribus Castle, an ancient royal fortress standing on an impressive rock and host to many persecuted Cathars. From its polygonal tower there are extensive views over the Pyrenees, the Mediterranean Sea, the plain of Roussillon and the Corbieres. BL
Days 13-14 Pyrenees
Accommodation: 2 nights at Auberge les Ecureuils Set in the Cerdagne Valley of the Catalan Pyrenees this mountain hotel with just 15 rooms boasts a gourmet restaurant offering fine cuisine and regional specialties as well as a spa and heated covered swimming pool.
Checking out of our hotel we head for the most emblematic site of the Catalan region – the Abbey of Saint-Martin-du-Canigou. Since the 11th century, this old Benedictine abbey has quietly watched over the valley and is one of the stages on the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage. At the foot of Mount Canigou is the ancient fortified town of Villefranche de Conflent, an ancient fortified market town. A chance for a leisurely exploration and lunch.
This afternoon we’ll take the famous Little Yellow Train of the Pyrenees. One of the great train journeys of the world. Passengers are treated to spectacular views of the rocky mountainous scenery, including villages, two historic fortresses, and a precariously perched old hermitage.
Dinner tonight will be in our hotel in the mountains at Valcebollere featuring fresh regional cuisine. BD
Today we’ll be exploring the Cerdagne region of the Eastern Pyrenees and starting on foot with a walking tour to the Lac des Bouillouses, a paradise for nature lovers with its lake and shores forming one of the most beautiful natural reserves in the Catalan Pyrenees. Lunch will be at a local farm and include wine tasting and local specialties. This afternoon is for relaxing in the hot sulphurous waters of the Bains de Llo before transferring back to our hotel for a gourmet dinner. BLD
Days 15-17 Barcelona
Accommodation: 2 nights at the 4 star Hotel Petit Palace Boqueria Garden. With its hundred-year garden and outdoor terrace this is a very special find in the heart of Barcelona.
Following a leisurely breakfast we’ll drive to Barcelona to check into our hotel, enjoy a walking tour of this fascinating city including the largest art nouveau site in the world and of course, Gaudi’s masterpiece the Sagrada Familia. Group dinner. BLD
This morning we’ll take a food and tasting tour of the famous La Boqueria which equally attracts Michelin-starred chefs and grandmothers looking for the ingredients of the unique Catalan cuisine. This afternoon is free to further explore the city or perhaps visit the Picasso Museum. Tonight, we’ll dine in style for our farewell dinner. BD
Group transfer to Barcelona airport
Boutique Small Group Travel Tour Costs to Southern France and Northern Spain(Per Person)
- 17 day fully escorted tour. NO SINGLE SUPPLEMENT FOR SOLO TRAVELLERS.
- Single occupancy of queen size room
- Reduction available for twin share
- Ground only.