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Day 1: Paris – Mont St-Michel – Angers (L, D)
Meet your guide near the Pyramides metro station in Paris in the morning and board your air-conditioned coach for the 4-hour journey west toward Normandy. Arrive for lunch at the restaurant ‘Relais Saint-Michel’ (see sample menu below) and take in spectacular views over the island of Mont St-Michel as you dine.
One of the most famous places in France, Mont St-Michel has been a site of religious significance and strategic fortification since the 8th century, when the Bishop of Avranches built a small church there. In the course of its long life it has served as a place of pilgrimage for Benedictine monks and a prison during the French Revolution. Today, Mont St-Michel is a UNESCO World Heritage site and people visit from across the world to explore its narrow alleyways and hear of its fascinating past.
Tour the Abbey with your guide to discover the cloister and refectory, see how the ramparts have been strengthened to support the Gothic monastery above and learn of Mont St-Michel’s history and heritage. Afterward, enjoy free time (until 4.30pm) to explore at your leisure and see Mont St-Michel's most impressive feature: the extreme tides. At low tide, Mont St-Michel is surrounded by open beach for miles, but at high tide — just six hours later — sea water rises up to fill the streams and eddies before filling the bay and surrounding the entire island!
As afternoon turns to early evening, hop back aboard your coach and head south for the Loire Valley. Many of France’s most impressive châteaux can be found here — there are more than 300 in total! Arrive in the city of Angers in the evening for dinner with your group and an overnight stay.
Overnight: 3-star hotel in Angers
Day 2: Angers – Langeais – Amboise – Clos Lucé – Villandry – Tours (B, D)
Depart Angers after a buffet breakfast at your hotel and drive out toward Amboise. Stop first to take in views of the impressive Château d'Angers — a 9th-century château overlooking the Maine River — before continuing on through the historic communes of Chênehutte-Trèves-Cunault and Saumur to the town of Amboise.
Visit the nearby Château de Langeais, originally a medieval castle. Langeais saw violent conflict in the 10th century and, following its destruction during the Hundred Years’ War, was rebuilt in the 15th century by King Louis XI. Today this beautiful building serves as one of the finest examples of late-medieval architecture in the world. After your tour, enjoy a little free time for lunch in Amboise (own expense).
In the afternoon, explore the nearby Château du Clos Lucé, where the painter Leonardo da Vinci lived between 1516 and 1519. Clos Lucé, as it’s known locally, is now a museum dedicated to da Vinci and houses over 30 models of the various machines he invented. A copy of the Mona Lisa — his best-known painting — also hangs within the château.
Continue onward to stroll around the immaculately-manicured gardens of the Château Villandry. Marvel at the gardens’ seasonal colors and symmetry, and enjoy capturing their beauty on camera. Head onward to visit the historic town of Tours for dinner.
Overnight: 3-star hotel in Tours