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Bordeaux (France) to Bilbao (Spain) and into the Pyrenees

Tour Highlights

Travel along the stunning Atlantic coastline and through the majestic Pyrenees Mountains from the wine region of Bordeaux to the contemporary art city of Bilbao.
In Bordeaux we will discover its excellent wines, incredible architecture and vibrant culture. We will also explore the delightful vineyards of St. Emilion and Medoc, and the stunning lagoon and sand dunes of Arcachon Bay. In Lourdes (in the picturesque Pyrenees Mountains), we’ll visit the famous sanctuary. Then in spectacular Pyrenees National Park we’ll see the majestic peaks, deep valleys, charming villages and the wonder of Gavarnie - an incredible amphitheater surrounded by 16 summits of over 3000 metres high!  We’ll enjoy a walking tour in Bayonne, one of southern France’s prettiest towns, en route to Biarritz - the resort town of royalty. While here, we’ll explore lively fishing villages and traditional Basque farms. Our final base is Bilbao, home of the iconic Guggenheim Museum - the symbol of the city. Bilbao has lovely riverside walking paths and pedestrian-friendly streets with endless shops, bars and restaurants. In this region we’ll discover chic San Sebastian, the famous iron “hanging bridge” over the Nervion River, and the Magdalena Palace on its rocky peninsula. All along the way we will sample many of the local wines and culinary specialties of the regions we visit.

Tour Highlights:

   • The World Heritage Sites of Bordeaux and St. Emilion
   • Vineyards & wineries of St. Emilion and Medoc regions
   • The resort town of Arcachon and the Pilat Dunes
   • Oyster tasting in the port of Larros in Gujan-Mestras
   • Lourdes - one of the most important pilgrimage sites
   • Spectacular Pyrenees National Park
   • Bayonne - Capital of the French Basque Country
   • Biarritz and the picturesque Basque villages
   • Coastal San Sebastian’s old town and Albaola 
   • Art and architecture of Bilbao & Guggenheim Museum
   • Bay of Santander on Spain’s northeast coast
   • Cruise on Nervion River to Getxo 

* Those joining any of our tours to Europe must be able to walk fairly long distances and climb stairs easily.

Tentative Itinerary

We depart for Bordeaux, direct from Montreal.
We arrive in Bordeaux and enjoy a small drive to familiarize ourselves with this elegant city and enjoy a typical bistro lunch. Then we’ll proceed to our centrally located hotel. The rest of the day is free until our Welcome Dinner.
We explore Bordeaux with its gorgeous neo-classical architecture, tree-lined avenues, charming old quarters with their sculpted mascarons (faces) and the revitalized quarters along the Garonne River. There will be free time for lunch and to further explore the narrow streets of the old town or stroll along the lively quaysides. This afternoon we visit “The City of Wine” - an interactive exhibition and feast for the senses located in an architectural marvel.
We first explore the gorgeous streets and monuments of the medieval village of St-Emilion. Then we visit a renowned winery and taste some delicious Saint Emilion wines, with some free time to explore. Afterwards we head to the mythic “Route des Châteaux” with its unique concentration of world-renowned properties, and taste the famous Margaux wine in Medoc.
We head to beautiful Arcachon Bay, site of the Dunes of “Pilat” - the biggest sand dunes in Europe, and we’ll enjoy a leisurely cruise on the bay. Since the bay is also the home of the traditional culture of oysters, we’ll stop in the quaint port of Larros in Gujan-Mestras at a local producer to taste some oysters with a glass of local white wine while overlooking the bay!
We travel into the Pyrenees and the town of Lourdes, famous for its sanctuary visited by millions of people from around the world each year. This afternoon we’ll visit the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, a place of beauty and serenity. Every evening here thousands of pilgrims join an impressive torchlight procession.
We enter the picturesque Haute-Pyrenees region and proceed to the Pont d’Espagne - gateway to Pyrenees National Park (France’s oldest National Park). The park contains 6 high valleys that border Spain and boasts exceptional biodiversity. We’ll enjoy a trail walk to take in the beauty of the rushing streams, waterfalls and ancient pine forest. Then we visit Cauterets - a charming and lively mountain village famous for its thermal baths, ski resorts and delicious “Berlingots” sweet. We conclude with the Unesco World Heritage Site of Gavarnie where we’ll see a spectacular natural amphitheater created by glacial erosion, topped by 16 summits of over 3000 meters!
We head for the Basque Coast and stop in the fortified town of Bayonne - an official “Town of History and Art” for its 2000-year -old heritage. The town also boasts many gourmet traditions that reflect both its Basque and Gascon influences. On our walking tour we’ll see the Gothic cathedral, the old town restoration, the ramparts, the cloister, Château-Vieux, the lively pedestrian streets and food market. We continue to Biarritz for a 3-night stay.
19th century Biarritz was an aristocratic capital, thanks to Napoleon III who built for his wife a magnificent palace by the ocean. On our tour we’ll see the lighthouse which offers breathtaking views, the “Chambre d’Amour” (Love Chamber), the fisherman’s wharf, the “Rocher de la Vierge (Virgin Rock) and the city center with its market square, cafes and boutiques. The afternoon is free to enjoy the wonderful ocean vistas or to relax in one of the world-renowned Thalassotherapy centres in town.
Today we explore the Basque Mountains with their green hills strewn with typical farms and villages with whitewashed walls and timbered houses. See the villages of Ainhoa and Espelette, known for the paprika that hangs on the house facades, so we’ll enjoy a tasting of this paprika acclaimed by chefs worldwide. We continue to St Jean de Luz - a town of sailors and famous travellers. The fishing port here is still active, and the old town is full of “labourdine” architecture steeped in history. On our walking tour we’ll see the house of Louis XIV, the Maison de l'Infante, the Church of St. John the Baptist and walk along the Bay.
En route to Bilbao we visit the Maritimes Heritage Museum in Albaola to learn about the Basque whalers and fishermen. Then we proceed to the chic town of San Sebastian - once the meeting place of kings and aristocracy, and a popular place in which to stroll along the wonderful seaside promenade with its elegant buildings. We will take the funicular up the cliff for spectacular panoramic views of the bay, ocean and surrounding islands. After a walking tour of the old town there will be free time to stroll in the maze of the old streets. We continue to Bilbao where we’ll stay for the remaining 4 nights of our tour.
On our Old Quarter tour we’ll see the Church of San Nicolas (patron saint of sailors), Santiago Cathedral, the Teatro Arriaga, the Mercado de la Ribera (the largest covered market in Europe) and the Plaza Nueva, built in neoclassical style. We then visit the famous Guggenheim Museum, to marvel at the building itself and enjoy the masterpieces of modern and contemporary art housed within. The afternoon is free to spend more time at the museum and further explore the city.
We head to beautiful Santander, known for its “Palacio de la Magdalena” - once the royal summer residence situated at the mouth of the Bay of Santander on the rocky La Magdalena Peninsula. We’ll enjoy a leisurely tour of this pretty town and some free time for lunch and a stroll on the charming “Paseo de Pereda” promenade with the historic “Jardines de Pereda” gardens.
We begin with a visit of the Maritime Museum in Bilbao, followed by a boat trip along the Nervion River to the marina of Getxo. See the famous iron “hanging bridge” - an architectural wonder and the world's first bridge to carry people and traffic on a high suspended gondola. Then we’ll enjoy a walk in the fishing village of Algorta before returning to Bilbao where we’ll have a taste of some local drinks and “pintxos” in a typical Gastrobar - a wonderful way to bid farewell to our fellow travellers and Bilbao!
We fly home, with a change in Munich.

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