Nicola Forsyth describes this 11-night self-guided holiday from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean by train, taking in some of southern France’s most beautiful cities - while stopping to admire remarkable artworks and savour famous French wine and delicious cuisine along the way.
In a nutshell:
Journey by train across southern France, taking in its most unique cities, including Bordeaux, Avignon and Nice via the Canal du Midi, Rhône delta and Côte d’Azur, as well as Carcassonne. Make use of the self-guided tour notes, which will give you insight into the region’s history and world class art, including Rubens and Matisse.
Price: £1,590 per person
What's included: 11 nights at four selected hotels (four 4-star hotels; one 3-star hotel); street plans and detailed notes for self-guided city walking tours for all cities; 2 dinners; 11 breakfasts.
Departures: April, May, June, July, September, October.
Nearest station to start of trip: Bordeaux St Jean
Nearest station to end of trip: Nice Ville
How to travel by train to Bordeaux: It's easy to travel from London to Bordeaux by train. You have to change stations in Paris from Gare du Nord to Montparnasse, which can take about half an hour on the Paris metro (though we recommend you leave at least 50 minutes for the entire transfer - see our guide to How to transfer between train stations across Paris). For more details on the train journey from London to Bordeaux, including some suggestions for where to stay near the train station in Paris if you want to break up the journey and spend more time in Paris, see our flight-free journey planner: Train from London to Bordeaux.
Optional extra: Shorten the journey to 9 nights, taking in Bordeaux, Carcassonne, Avignon and Nice (from £1170pp).
What's the trip like:
Starting in Bordeaux, home to France’s famous wine of the same name, visit the Museum of Fine Arts where you can marvel at works by Rubens and Matisse before cooling your tired feet in the Miroir d'Eau water feature. Be sure to round off the day with a visit to the wine-themed Cité du Vin before enjoying a well earned glass or two of the city’s finest.
On Day 2 you will take a scenic three hour train journey along the Canal du Midi, passing the ancient towns of Auch and Toulouse, before arriving in Carcassonne, where you will stay for two nights at the Hotel du Donjon within the old town walls. Spend the following day exploring Carcassonne’s panoramic views of the Pyrenees. Stop by the citadel (La Cité) and traverse the ancient streets of La Ville Basse (or lower town). For a different perspective, take a boat ride on the Canal du Midi (pay locally).
On Day 3, you will leave Carcassonne by train for Avignon (3hrs changing at Nîmes), skirting the Rhône delta and the flamingo-frequented lakes of the Camargue en route. You will spend the next three nights at the centrally located Hotel de l’Horloge. Consider spending your first full day in Avignon getting to grips with the compact city - taking in its famous bridge, the Pont d'Avignon and the Palais des Papes. Climb the tower for incredible views over the Rhône and wander the gardens of Le Rocher des Doms, to look across the Rhône Valley and Provençal countryside. On Day 6 you could take a short train ride to Provence, stopping to see the 15th Century castle at Tarascon the amphitheatre at Arles and the well-preserved Roman ruins in Nîmes.
Day 7 starts with a 50 minute taxi ride to Collias where you will stay at the Hostellerie le Castellas for two nights. Enjoy the more relaxed pace of life here by lounging around the hotel’s pool or wander the nearby Gardon Gorge. Start afresh the next day (Day 8) with a visit to the Pont du Gard, then follow the walking notes for an easy route to the aqueduct (12km, 4hrs. Bus and taxi options available). Nearby, and accessible by bus, is Uzès, a pretty town with a ducal palace and ancient arcades. For a scenic route back to Collias via vineyards and orchards consider walking (14.5km, 5hrs).
On Day 9 you will take a taxi back to Avignon, before a train ride to Nice where you will stay for the final two nights at the Villa Victoria. Finish the day with an evening stroll along the Promenade des Anglais on the seafront.
Spend your last day (Day 10) taking in the local sights, including: Vieux Nice (the Old Town), the bustling marketplace, the Russian Orthodox Cathedral, Roman baths and a museum or two. Be sure to end your trip with a glass of France’s finest.
How to enquire/book this holiday:
This holiday is provided by Inntravel, one of the founding tour operator members of Green Traveller. One of the great things about this holiday is its flexibility: you have a choice of start/end dates and you can add additional nights on to the itinerary. If you'd like to know more about this holiday, please see more details on the relevant page given below and if you'd like to book it, do contact them directly or complete their booking form and a member of their team will be in touch with you.