Social Programme / Tours

Full Day Tours

VERSAILLES AND GIVERNY
Tuesday, 10 June, 08.45-17.00.
Versailles, created during the golden age of French royalty, remained the government headquarters and the political heart of France from 1682 to 1789, when the Revolutionary mob invaded the Palace of Versailles and carried Louis XVI and Queen Marie-Antoinette off to captivity in Paris.
Versailles owes its reputation to the Sun King’s resplendent Royal residence and gardens, built and decorated by the greatest artists of the time.
Our visit includes the State Apartments and the Hall of Mirrors (where the treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919). Each State Apartment is dedicated to an Olympian deity. The Salon d’Apollon, which served as the Throne Room, is dedicated to Apollo (needless to say) god of the Sun.
The glittering Hall of Mirrors, 70 metres long, was built to enhance the magnificence of the palace and glorify the Sun King’s own absolute power.
After a visit to the palace, our group will have free time to enjoy and dream as they wander through the magnificence of the formal Le Nôtre gardens with their geometric paths and shrubberies, hedges and flowerbeds, pools, fountains and sculptures.
Visit of Claude Monet’s Home in Giverny
Drawn by the verdant hills, haystacks and lily pads on the Epte river, Impressionist Claude Monet settled in Giverny in 1883 until his death in 1926. By 1887, John Singer Sargent, Paul Cézanne and Mary Cassatt had placed their easels beside Monet’s and the village became an artists’ colony.
The impressionist Monet was a brilliant innovator, excelling in presenting the effects of light at different times of the day, as depicted in his series of paintings of the Rouen Cathedral and of the well-loved water lilies.
Today, the Foundation Claude Monet maintains Monet’s house and gardens. They were lovingly restored as Monet himself designed them and are now open to the public. All are a delight. From April to July, Giverny overflows with roses, hollyhocks, poppies and honeysuckle, and the pond beneath the little Japanese bridge blooms with water-lilies, cherished by gardeners in rowing boats.We can also admire his house with its fresh yellow walls and tiled floors, each room bathed in light, the shutters and garden furniture still painted in the exact green chosen by the master. The Foundation also includes his collection of 18th- and 19th century Japanese prints.
Visitors today can wander the paths of the garden and view the same palette of bright colours that Monet painted as he admired his thousands of flowers. The Japanese bridge, hung with whisteria, leads to a dreamy setting of weeping willows and rhododendrons.
Free time after the visit for shopping in the village or to visit on your own the American Art Museum.
Lunch included
Cost: 108 EUR

FONTAINEBLEAU-BARBIZON/VAUX-LEVICOMTE
Wednesday, 11 June, 08.00-18.00.
The Château de Fontainebleau lies in the middle of a spectacular forest setting where kings of France had long enjoyed hunting. It was before King François l decided to build himself, in the 16th century, a luxurious though more peaceful royal palace, more intimate than Versailles. He therefore commissioned a colony of Italian artists - most notably Michelangelo’s pupil Rosso il Fiorentino and il Primatice-to carry out a most remarkable work of decoration. Fontainebleau is not the product of a single vision but is a bewildering cluster of styles from different periods, reaching across the centuries from King Louis VII to the Emperor Napoleon III, the last of a long succession of royal and imperial dynasties.
Much of French history has taken place behind its walls, including Louis XIII’s birth, Louis XIV’s revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and Napoleon’s farewell to his officers and his empire, before his departure to exile on the island of Elba on April 20, 1814.
After visiting the château, we drive through part of the 40.000 acre Forest of Fontainebleau, now a country retreat for Parisians, to the rustic village of Barbizon. This resort provided inspiration for the 19th century painters, drawn to the glades of Fontainebleau and determined to paint from nature only. The group, formed around Théodore Rousseau and Millet, settled in the hamlet of Barbizon and came to be known as the Ecole de Barbizon. Rousseau’s workshop is a museum dedicated to that school.
“What heights will he not scale” was Fouquet’s motto.
The powerful Nicolas Fouquet was appointed treasurer to Sun King Louis XIV in 1653 and used his privileged position to amass a fortune. As a patron of the arts, he supported Molière and Jean de la Fontaine.
When he decided to build a country Château, he commissionned the finest specialists: architect Le Vau and the greatest landscape gardener, Le Nôtre, to whom Vaux-Le-Vicomte owes its original splendour. The ancient town of Melun was the site chosen to house Vaux-le-Vicomte palace.
The park was Le Nôtre’s major work and the elegant symmetry of the garden is echoed by the château. A succession of terraces, the blue water in the lake, the green velvet lawns and the sandy pathways set off to perfection the warm stone and the slate blue roofs of the palace.
When it was completed in 1661, Fouquet organised an audacious and most extravagant banquet to celebrate the King’s birthday and inaugurate his exquisite new home, that was then France’s most beautiful château. But King Louis XIV was not just impressed, he was infuriated by being outclassed by his minister. That same night Fouquet was arrested and all his estates confiscated for he had presumably embezzled funds from the King’s own coffers. The château’s designers were then ordered to build another bigger palace, sparing no expense, to work their magic at Versailles. Thus the Sun King and his court shone at Versailles.
In many ways, the château is a forerunner of Versailles: state rooms decorated with fine 17th century furniture, stucco, “trompe l’oeil” painted ceilings (which produce optical illusions), precious Gobelin tapestries. Le Brun’s Salon des Muses boasts a superb frescoed ceiling of dancing nymphes. The whole creates a classical harmony.
Lunch included
Cost: 115 EUR

FULL DAY EXCURSION TO THE CHAMPAGNE COUNTRY
Monday, 9 June, 08.00-18.00
A great wine and a great cathedral provide a programme of varied interest among the gently rolling hills of the Champagne country. Much of its wine is gently brought to perfection in the hundreds of miles of cellars that lie below the chalky soil.
In the morning, a visit to one of the fine Champagne houses includes a demonstration of the processes that give the wine its sparkle, and a tasting.
Lunch included.
In the afternoon, viewing of the city of Reims and visit of the Cathedral.
Although the Cathédrale Notre-Dame suffered heavy damage during the two world wars, Reims still retains vivid memorials of its 2,000 years of history. Ancient conquests are commemorated in a Roman triumphal arch, and a more recent victory is recalled in the faithfully preserved rooms where General Eisenhower received the German surrender in 1945.
But it is in the cathedral that the city’s heritage is most apparent, for this was where the kings of France were crowned. Upon this site, Clovis, the first of their line, was baptised and anointed in 498 and, subsequently, almost every king of France was consecrated here.
A fire destroyed the first cathedral. On its site the present Cathédrale Notre-Dame was rebuilt in the 13th century and designed on a scale appropriate to its role, when Gothic architecture reached its peak of perfection, with its superb statuary (look for the Smiling Angel on the west front), its famous stained-glass windows (look for the 13th century Rose Window) and its most elegant capitals decorated with floral motifs. Careful restoration has served to heighten the harmonious purity of its design.
Cost: 118 EUR