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
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
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’
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
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
Free time after the visit for shopping in the
village or to visit on your own the American
Cost: 108 EUR
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,
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
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
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
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.
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