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SPAIN, PORTUGAL & FRANCE

Quintessential Portugal, Spain & SW France

Luxury Food, Wine & Cultural Tour

Description

If you want to visit 3 countries but not miss the essentials then this is the tour for you! This great self-driven tour is a balanced mix of cities, sights and countryside, as well as giving you free time and excellent private tours. On this self- drive itinerary we take you to Portugal:  Lisbon, Sintra, Obidos, Pinhao and Porto, we take you to Spain:  Santiago de Compostela, Burgos, Bilbao, San Sebastian, Girona and Barcelona and we take you to France: Bordeaux, Dordogne and Carcassonne. A chance to discover 3 country’s history, authentic foods, beautiful scenery and an opportunity to relax as well as to discover the great outdoors – all in 18 days (or more if you like).

DAY 1 LISBON

On arrival at Lisbon Airport your private chauffeur will be waiting for you and will transfer you in a luxury vehicle to your hotel. You will check into your genuine Art Deco 4* Boutique Hotel in the center of Lisbon which echoes the glamour of the 1940's. Classified as a historic building, this small and unique hotel is located on a quiet street right alongside the cosmopolitan Avenida da Liberdade. We are sure you will be tired after your journey, but a short siesta is the answer before you start to get acquainted with this fabulous city.

If San Francisco had a sister, it would be Lisbon. Both cities have twin bridges and famously foggy weather. Both are situated on the best natural harbors on the west coast of their respective continents. Both have trolleys rattling up and down their steep hills past characteristic buildings. And both have survived horrific earthquakes. In 1755, an estimated 9.0 earthquake leveled two-thirds of Lisbon. Within a month, a new city was designed, and downtown Lisbon was rebuilt on a progressive grid plan, with broad boulevards and square squares. Today, Lisbon is a charming mix of old and new. Bird-stained statues mark grand plazas, taxis screech around cobbled corners and the hip and trendy hang out in Art Nouveau cafes. Just like it did during the days of Magellan and Vasco da Gama, the city continues to welcome ships into its large port. Even today, Lisbon still feels like Europe's gateway to the world. We can recommend many restaurants in Lisbon for you to discover some local Portuguese cuisine this evening!

In a Nutshell: Private Chauffeured Transfer from Lisbon Airport to hotel, Overnight in a genuine Art Deco 4* Boutique Hotel in the center of Lisbon

DAY 2 LISBON

This morning, after breakfast, your Officially Licensed guide will be waiting at your hotel. You will leave for a Private Gourmet and Historical Tour to introduce you to the Portuguese culture, cuisine and its incredible mix of Mediterranean tradition and exotic influences from all corners of the World. You will discover delicious local products and learn the history of Portugal's great capital.

Your private tour of Lisbon will start with the Moorish St George's Castle, renamed after conquering the Moors, where you will be able to take in the impressive views over the sea.

Within the walls of the Castle you will stop at a friendly Cafe for your first Portuguese tasting of the day where you may like to try Ginginha, the famous Portuguese Cherry Liqueur, have a glass of Portugal's famous fortified wine Port or join Portugal's strong cafe culture with an aromatic coffee.

Leading down from the castle to the river, you will then cross the Alfama, Lisbon's salty sailors' quarter. Its tangled street plan is one of the few parts of Lisbon to survive the big quake, making the Alfama a cobbled playground of Old World color. Urban-jungle roads are squeezed into a maze of confusing alleys, designed to frustrate invaders trying to get up to the castle. What was defensive then is atmospheric now. Gnarled houses snuggle together in their romantic shabbiness; the air drips with laundry and the smell of clams and raw fish.

Onward now to the Baixa and Chiado districts where there are many well-known cafes to enjoy another stop for a coffee and a typical Portuguese cake. Then to Rossio, passing by the famous Santa Justa elevator, where you will hear about the only tea produced in Europe, grown in the Atlantic Island of Sao Miguel, in the Azores. You will be visiting a specialized gourmet locale stocked with authentic local delights such as the typical Bacalhau (dried, salted cod), exclusive wines, traditional sweets, chorizo sausages and much more. A taste of the authentic dried salted cod is a must!

From here you will head to Praca do Comercio - Commerce Square - a vast waterfront place, where the royal palace stood until the 1755 Great Earthquake. Here you will sample authentic Portuguese Beer and taste the delicious cod cakes. Your tour of Lisbon would not be complete without including Vinho Verde do Minho (the famous green wine of Minho) and you will able to enjoy a glass accompanied with Azeitao cheese, spicy chorizo sausage and delicious bread.

You will then head to the Belem area of Lisbon where many of the great Portuguese explorers embarked on their voyages of discovery. You will learn about and see the Belem tower - built in 1515 as a fortress to guard the entrance to Lisbon's harbor - used as a starting point for many of the voyages of discovery and thus the last sight for the sailors of their homeland. Here also you will also be able to appreciate the monument to the discoveries and the church of Jeronimos. A delightful lunch awaits you in Belem at the Pasteis de Belem factory where besides the best custard tarts in the country since 1837 you will also be able to enjoy a choice of delicious sandwiches.

Your private guide will arrange a taxi back to your hotel for you but not before providing you with many personalized suggestions for the rest of your time in Lisbon.

In a Nutshell: Private Gourmet and Historical Tour of Lisbon and Belem, Overnight Lisbon

DAY 3 SINTRA & CASCAIS

After a leisurely breakfast this morning, a representative from our car rental company will arrive to your hotel with your luxury rental vehicle equipped with automatic transmission and GPS.

Please have handy your passport, driving license, International driving license and a credit card for your rental car collection. To speed up the collection process, so that the rental company can prepare the contracts ahead of time, we will send copies of this information beforehand but the originals may be required to be shown on the day.

You will then head out of the city and journey to Cascais, an old fishing-town, now considered a high-end district - where you will be able to stroll the cobblestone sidewalks, admire the traditional tile-work on the buildings and maybe indulge in some shopping at the designer boutiques. We suggest a visit to the Museu Condes de Castro Guimaraes, a pretty little museum, which is housed in a historic villa with gardens, featuring an array of tapestries, paintings, furniture and other objets d'art.

Stop for lunch where takes your fancy - there are various restaurants and small locales to choose from and we will provide you with our delicious recommendations.

You may then like to drive up the coast (approx. 30 minutes) to The Roca Cape - the most western point of Europe: "where the earth ends and the sea begins" in the words of the great poet Luis de Camoes. Here you will feel the adventurous essence of the Portuguese and envision how this spirit impelled them into discovering new worlds.

You will then head inland for Sintra, an approximate 30 minute drive from the Roca Cape. Sintra is gorgeous little mountain city, home to the one and only Palacio da Pena (Pena Palace),the greatest expression of 19th-century romanticism in Portugal. The Pena Palace is the most extraordinary palace in Portugal, built in the 1840's for Queen Maria II by her husband and rivaling the castles of Ludwig of Bavaria.

This afternoon you are booked for a private visit to the Pena Palace. Your private guide will take you for your private guided visit of the interior and then you will have free time to stroll in the forest and luxuriant gardens with over five hundred different species of trees originating from the four corners of the earth.

After such an interesting day out of the city it is then around a 45 minute drive back to Lisbon where you can relax for the rest of the evening. Wherever you dine this evening, at one of our recommended restaurants or on the suggestion of your Lisbon private guide, a glass of Fine Portuguese Wine will surely accompany your meal.

In a Nutshell: Provision of Rental Vehicle with automatic transmission and GPS, Private guided visit to Palacio da Pena

DAY 4 OBIDOS & DOURO VALLEY

After a delicious breakfast this morning, you will then leave Lisbon behind as you head north to the Douro Valley. On the way we suggest making a short detour (about 5 minutes off the highway) to visit one of the hidden gems of the Portuguese countryside: the medieval town of Obidos.

This completely walled town presents itself with pride and white washed houses that the Moorish occupation left behind in a maze of narrow cobbled streets on the way up to the castle. Here you can enjoy a stroll while you explore the charming town before having a coffee break or, depending on the time, having lunch. In Obidos it will be hard to choose either to pop into the little ceramic shops along the way or enjoy the pleasures of the famous local Cherry Liquor known as Ginjinha. Take all the time you please to relish this lovely and relaxing place.

Onward now to the Douro Valley and finally, you will arrive at Pinhao in the heart of the Douro Valley, considered one the most spectacular wine regions of the world with its characteristic terraced vineyards as the sloping hills meet the meandering river below. You will check into your hotel, a charming 5-star property dating back to the XVIII century when it was an old Port winery, with a privileged location in the heart of the Douro valley and overlooking the Douro River. Later, you may wish to explore Pinhao. Spectacularly located at the confluence of the Douro and Pinhao rivers, this small town is the epicenter of the Port wine making area and a place where the soil and climatic conditions are considered to be at their very best. Port wine is a wine developed in Portugal by the British. To make the wine, it ferments for only 2 to 3 days, has brandy added, and then is aged in wooden barrels. How long it ages determines the taste and how sweet the wine is.

This afternoon, you may like to enjoy a guided visit to a great Douro Valley winery that is just a short stroll from your hotel. We will be delighted to include a visit and a tasting of their wines in your itinerary if you so wish. Or you may like to take cruise on the Douro River, there are various Rabelo (old style boats) trips that depart from the dock close to your hotel. You may wish to eat at your hotel tonight, but there are also many local good quality restaurants we can suggest.

In a Nutshell: Drive to the Douro Valley via Obidos, Optional afternoon Douro Valley Winery visit with wine tasting. Overnight in a charming 5* Hotel in Pinhao in the Douro Valley

DAY 5 DOURO VALLEY

After a delicious breakfast at your hotel this morning, get ready to experience the love of the land as you drive out for a day into the valley. Many great photo opportunities and fine wines await you today!

This morning you will be making a wonderful visit to a very special and world famous winery. Sitting in a privileged location in the Douro Demarcated Region, this Quinta is famous for its sophisticated wines as well as for the dramatic views. This single vineyard property dates as far back as the early seventeenth century, long before the Douro became the worlds first demarcated wine region in 1756. Recently they have begun a new venture with Jean Michel Cazes from one of our favorite wineries of the Bordeaux region, Chateau Lynch Bages. At the winery you will have a full private visit of the vineyards (with mind blowing views of the River Douro) and cellars, followed by a tasting of their incredible wines and ports with an exceptional lunch, perfectly accompanied by their top wines from the aperitif through to dessert.

After lunch you will then head to another great Quinta in the fantastic Douro Valley where you will enjoy a private visit to another of our favourite wineries. This family run winery has a small production (for Douro standards), but offers great wines and even better views. A relatively young winery, with its first harvest taking place in 2007, the estate now occupies 30 hectares of land, 14 of which are vineyards. Both sophisticated techniques and traditional methods are used and despite the short number of years that the Quinta has been active; this young estate has now established itself as a quality winemaker! Red, White and Rose wines are produced with love and precision and some innovative and special edition products will delight your senses. After a complete private tour you will enjoy a tasting of their great wines.

Please note: If you would prefer to leave your rental car at the hotel and not self-drive today then we would be delighted to include transportation for you.

As ever, we have many suggestions for you to experience the best of Portuguese food and wine for dinner

In a Nutshell: Private guided visits to two prestigious wineries with tastings of their finest wines and lunch at one. Overnight Douro Valley

DAY 6 PORTO

Today, after breakfast, you will be leaving the Douro Valley behind and you will be driving to Porto. The drive is an approximate 1.75hrs and on arrival, you will head to check in to your luxury 5* wine hotel and spa, in Vila Nova de Gaia in the midst of the famous Port Wine Lodges. Port houses have aged their wines in Vila Nova de Gaia for over three centuries and today over fifty wine companies are based in its narrow, twisting streets. Here, the ageing and blending of most of the world's supply of Port wine takes place beneath a sea of red roofs emblazoned with some of the most famous names in wine-making.

What better place to be situated than in the heart of Port Wine History! Many of the oldest Port firms were founded by British merchant families and are owned by their successors to this day.

Your hotel descends from a family who entered the Port trade in 1838, and were among the most distinguished and enterprising of the Port families. Their descendants maintain this tradition as owners of three of the most famous Port companies. Your luxury hotel is named in celebration of the family's historic link with the city, and it draws on its owners' expertise in both fine wine production and luxury hotel management to become one of the world's leading wine hotels.

You can now leave your Portuguese rental car behind as a representative of the rental car company will collect it from your hotel.

At midday, and just a short walk away from your hotel you are booked for a visit to a prestigious Wine Lodge, one of the oldest of the founding Port houses, established over three centuries ago in 1692, in the midst of the famous Port Wine Lodges of Vila Nova de Gaia. For many, it is the archetypal Port house and its wines the quintessential Ports. It is dedicated entirely to the production of Port wine and in particular to its finest styles. The history of the firm is in many ways the history of the Port trade itself. Since its foundation the company has remained independent. Now well into its fourth century, it has thrived and prospered, establishing itself as one of the world's most respected historic wine houses. This has been achieved through the perseverance, pioneering spirit and continuity of purpose of successive generations of family involvement. Your tour will conclude with a delightful private tasting of some of their best ports.

We have many suggestions for a perfect late afternoon foray into the historical center of Porto for a bit of local culture and a fantastic dinner. Alternatively, you may like to just relax at your hotel and take advantage of the panoramic outdoor and indoor swimming pools, gymnasium and fantastic well-being area of the Hotel Spa.

In a Nutshell: Drive to Porto, Prestigious Port Wine Lodge visit with top range port tasting, Overnight in a luxury 5* spa hotel in Porto.

DAY 7 SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA

This morning, after a leisurely breakfast, you will checking out of your Porto hotel and your chauffeur will be waiting to transfer you to Spain! You are heading to Santiago de Compostela today but on the way you will be stopping in Guimaraes with time for a walk around.

This historical town is called the birthplace of Portugal, as Afonso Henriques who went on to be the first king of Portugal, was born here in 1110. Guimaraes has beautifully preserved its illustrious past which you will find evident in the graceful iron verandas, granite balconies and porticos, mansions, arches, time-smoothed paving slabs, towers and cloisters. Its medieval center is a labyrinthine of lanes and picturesque plazas framed by 14th-century buildings. Its glory was officially recognised in 2001, when Unesco declared its old center a World Heritage Site.

Onward now to Santiago de Compostela. Please remember that Spain is an hour ahead of Portugal so remember to put your clocks forward! Your chauffeur will drop you off at your grand luxury 5* hotel, set in a beautiful 15th-century building, a former pilgrims' hospital.

Your hotel is a blend of history, art and tradition, the dream of pilgrims and an emblem of Santiago. It is located in the Old Town, on Obradoiro Square, near the cathedral, creating an area of spectacular beauty in one of the most visited provincial capitals in the world.

Santiago de Compostela is known as the end of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route and is the alleged burial site of the apostle St. James. It became a symbol of the Spanish Christians' struggle against Islam, being destroyed by the Muslims at the end of the 10th century; it was subsequently completely rebuilt in the following century. This town is a very well preserved historical city and a place deeply instilled with faith. St. James remains lie within the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, sanctified in 1211. The Cathedrals elaborately carved stone facades open onto grand squares within the medieval walls of the old town. The squares and narrow streets of the Old Town contain Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and Neoclassicist buildings. The cathedral, considered a masterpiece of Romanesque architecture is home to the remarkable Portico de la Gloria, a medieval sculpture.

Please note : If you would like to experience Saint James Way, our chauffeur will take you to the most beautiful strip of the Padron/Escravitude/Santiago route, a trail of around 20km. You could then arrive to Santiago de Compostela in style, walking as an authentic Pilgrim!

In a Nutshell: Chauffeured transportation from Porto to Santiago de Compostela via Guimaraes, Overnight in a Grand Luxury 5* Hotel in Santiago de Compostela

DAY 8 SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA

Today, after breakfast, your officially licensed guide will meet you at your hotel and you will set off to discover the sights of Santiago de Compostela, capital of northwest Spain's Galicia region.

You will first visit Santiago de Compostela Cathedral the most outstanding building of Romanesque art in Spain, and final destination of the Way of St. James, which, during centuries, has brought Christendoms pilgrims to the apostle’s tomb. The crypt of Saint James the apostle lies directly beneath the Baroque style main altar of the Cathedral. And in the Cathedral's Museum you will see all the historic and artistic treasures, from the earliest basilicas.

You will then meander through the intricate alleys and narrow streets of the old city center and be able to admire some of its most ancient stores and buildings. Santiago's old quarter has the UNESCO World Heritage designation and you will see why as you look at the palaces, churches, alleyways and squares in the historic center.

You will also make a visit to the traditional market where many of its traders are the producers, harvesters, butchers and fishmongers selling their very own fresh vegetables, fruit, local cheeses, catches of the day etc. En-route you will be introduced to the famous Galician gastronomy - the Galician Rias offer a wide variety of fish (mostly eaten boiled or grilled) and seafood, so you will surely delight in tasting the typical dishes such as Fair-style octopus, seafood, fried peppers from Padron and the famous empanadas or meat pies, accompanied by a glass of Albarino wine.

Your private guide will leave you with many personalized suggestions for some more great Galician food for lunch and for more sightseeing for the rest of your day. For example, a walk in the beautiful open space that is Alameda Park dating back to the 19th century offers a privileged and stunning view of ancient Santiago!

In a Nutshell: Private guided morning tour of historical Santiago de Compostela, Overnight in Santiago de Compostela

DAY 9 BURGOS

After a delicious breakfast this morning, a representative of our car rental company will be waiting with your rental vehicle equipped with automatic transmission and GPS.

Please have handy your passport, driving license, International driving license and a credit card for your rental car collection. To speed up the collection process, so that the rental company can prepare the contracts ahead of time, we will send the copies of this information beforehand but the originals may be required to be shown on the day.

It is now time to leave Santiago de Compostela behind as you head to Burgos - an approximate 5 hour drive away.

On arrival you will check in to your excellent 4* hotel, located in the heart of Burgos, by the River Arlanzon and a few minutes walk from the Cathedral. The building itself, a magnificent Gothic creation built in the 16th and 17th centuries, is as impressive as the setting.

Burgos is a historical Castilian town, and a stroll in the old pedestrian town, in purely Castilian style, is well worth it to get the feel of the Castilian way of life marked by its intact medieval architecture.

THE architectural masterpiece of Burgos, however, is the beautiful Gothic cathedral, designated by UNESCO as World Heritage, which looms over the city. The 3 main doorways of the Cathedral are flanked by ornamented bell towers and beneath these majestic spires lays the tomb of Burgos' favourite and most roguish son, El Cid - the 11th-century mercenary.

Take a stroll around the old town this late afternoon and dine on some typical local specialties such as "lechazo" (suckling lamb slow-roasted in a wood flamed oven) and "morcilla de Burgos" (spiced-blood-and-rice sausage).

In a Nutshell: Provision of Rental Vehicle with automatic transmission and GPS, Drive to Burgos

DAY 10 BILBAO

Today, after breakfast you will be heading North as you drive to Bilbao - an approximate 1,5 hour drive. On arrival in Bilbao head to the famous Guggenheim Museum, designed by Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry where you have entrance to visit. This museum, of modern and contemporary art, features permanent and visiting exhibits of works by Spanish and international artists. The curves on the building were designed to appear random and the architect has been quoted as saying that "the randomness of the curves are designed to catch the light. When it was opened to the public in 1997, it was immediately hailed as one of the world's most spectacular buildings in the style of Deconstructivism, although Gehry does not associate himself with that architectural movement. Architect Philip Johnson called it "the greatest building of our time".

You may like to stay for lunch at the Guggenheim Museum and we will be delighted to make an advance reservation for you at Michelin 1* restaurant Nerua. There are actually 2 restaurants in the Guggenheim Museum: Nerua, haute cuisine restaurant (one Michelin star) run by Josean Alija, and Bistro Guggenheim Bilbao offering a less formal fare.

If you want to spend some more time in the city after the museum, another option would be to enjoy some typical local tapas along our cherished tapas route which we will provide. In the Old Quarter you can relive Medieval Bilbao, with its cobbled streets, charming corners and squares, which have witnessed the port's hustle and bustle that made the Village grow. Its walls, Saint James's Gothic Cathedral, the Plaza Nueva (New Square), the emblematic San Anton Church and the ancient ruins it was built on, and the busy Mercado de la Ribera (Seaside Market) account for more than 500 years of history and an urban life not affected by the passing of time.

On now to San Sebastian - just over an hours drive away, where you will check-in to your elegant 4* boutique hotel, with a beach front location. It is without a doubt one of the best hotels in the center of San Sebastian.

San Sebastian will immediately draw you in due to its beauty alone and is probably best known for the still, brilliantly sparkling waters of La Concha Bay surrounded by luscious green hills. Maybe take a moonlit stroll along the promenade of the lovely La Concha Bay to fully appreciate the beauty of your new surroundings.

You make like to Michelin dine this evening at one the famed Michelin 3* restaurants for which we would be delighted to assist with prior booking.

In a Nutshell: Drive to San Sebastian via Bilbao, Bilbao Guggenheim Museum entrance

DAY 11 SAN SEBASTIAN

This morning your officially licensed guide will await you and together you will experience a private gourmet & cultural tour of San Sebastian, its wonderful "beach in the city"; renowned as the best city to eat in Spain (if not the world!) The city of San Sebastian spreads around the famous La Concha beach, whilst inland are the beautiful green mountain landscapes of Guipuzcoa of which San Sebastian is the provincial capital.

Your guide will show you around all the most interesting parts of the city where you will be privileged not only to go to the best bars, frequented by local foodies, but also to sample the specialities of each place, accompanied by the best Txacoli wine. Although tapas were invented in Andalucia they became perfected in San Sebastian and here are known as Pinchos (written as Pintxos in the Basque language). Each bar is bursting with so many different and creative pinchos and in true Spanish tradition enjoy one or two pinchos at the bar and then move onto the next!

In the afternoon, you might wish to further explore San Sebastian on your own. Of course, your private San Sebastian guide will give you many suggestions of interesting things to see and do in your free time. The Old Town of San Sebastian is bordered by three natural elements: The Urgull Mountain (Monte), the Urumea River and The Concha Bay, so great for taking a walk. The town itself is surrounded by three mountains that have protected all the beautifulness of the city for centuries. The Urgell, Igueldo and Ullia Mountains are ideal for hiking up to the hill tops to appreciate the views. At the top of Monte Urgull you will also see the remains of the walls and canons from the city's military past and, guarding the city, stands the Sacred Heart statue (Cristo de la Mota). It's no Rio de Janeiro but this giant statue of Christ measures over 12 meters. On the other side of San Sebastian there is Mount Igueldo where the best way to get to the top is by using the funicular railway which has been operating since 1912 and is the oldest in the Basque Country.

This evening, why not re-visit some of the authentic tapas bars you visited with your guide, or you may wish to fine dine in style at one of the World Famous Michelin 3* Restaurants of the area - Akelarre, Arzak or Martin Berasategui - for which prior reservations are necessary and we will be delighted to assist with a booking.

In a Nutshell: Private Guided Tour of San Sebastian with tapas hopping; Overnight in San Sebastian

DAY 12 BORDEAUX

This morning you will leave for the legendary Bordeaux wine region (2.5 hours), the home of the most sought-after and expensive wines in the world. Bordeaux takes its name from the region's main city and spreads 60 miles around the city on the biggest estuary in Europe along 3 rivers, Gironde, Garonne, and Dordogne, creating the appropriate setting for wine production.

Bordeaux has 57 appellations, with about 7,000 wine-producing chateaux and 13,000 wine growers! Bordeaux's reputation as a great wine region rests on its most superb reds, legendary and long-lived wines made by historic wine estates (chateaux), which can improve for several decades. About 75 to 80 percent of Bordeaux's wines are red, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, which give vigor, tannin and excellent cellaring qualities, and Merlot which brings a softness and suppleness. White wines are produced mostly from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon and sometimes also Muscatel.

Your tour of the day will be to a leading winery which is one of the oldest wine estates in Bordeaux. The Chateau has a fascinating past and takes its name from the first French Pope: Clement V (known as the Avignon Pope) who was presented with the estate in the 1300s. The vineyards of the winery cover 80 acres, producing marvelous concentrated, elegant reds with a purity of style- full bodied, well-structured and smooth, with flavours of smoky ripe plum, tobacco, earthy coffee and chocolate. The whites are full bodied with undertones of honey, apricots and melons with a refreshing vibrancy. At the end of your private VIP tour you will enjoy a very special tasting with the winery sommelier who will introduce you to some of their great wines.

You will then check-in to your chateau hotel nestled in the rural landscape amongst vineyards and horses. It is a relaxing haven of peace in a gorgeous setting, in the winery grounds, the building is like a palace!

We will, of course, provide with our delicious restaurant recommendations for you to enjoy the local French specialties.

In a Nutshell: Bordeaux, Private guided tour of prestigious winery, Overnight in a Romantic Chateau Hotel in the Bordeaux Wine Region of France

DAY 13 DORDOGNE

Today you will be leaving Bordeaux behind. Although if you would like to extend your tour itinerary to visit more wineries in the famous French wine region we can happily include more nights for you.

You will then drive to the Dordogne Valley - an approximate 2hr drive. On the way you may like to stop in Bergerac, located on the northern bank of the Dordogne River and one of the largest towns of the region. The old town or 'vieille ville' is a delight to stroll around with old half-timber houses, narrow alleys and lovely squares.

After checking in to your delightful 4* boutique hotel, a 19th Century house offering tranquility and simplicity deep in the heart of the Perigord, you may like to head out and explore.

Some of the surrounding towns of interest are: Sarlat (approx 50mins) - Boasting some of the regions best-preserved medieval architecture is a picturesque tangle of alleyways, virtually unchanged since the middle ages, lined with honey-colored buildings and embracing secret squares. The old town dates from both medieval and renaissance times.

Rocamadour (approx 1.75hrs) - On the eastern edge of the area, across the border from the Dordogne in the Lot department, Rocamadour has a beautiful and dramatic setting as it climbs up a cliff side. This small village is an important pilgrimage destination, and has been for a 1000 years as it was built on the site of a shrine to a Madonna, which became famous for its healing powers.

The Dordogne region of France has literally hundreds of caves, many of them open to visit. Les Eyzies-de-Tayac (approx 35mins) - Sits comfortably under a limestone cliff and is the doorway to the prehistoric capital of France. Early Homo sapiens lived about 40,000 years ago, and skeletal remains of Cro-Magnon man were first found here in 1868. Today a number of excavated caves and grottoes are open for public viewing. In and around the town of Les Eyzies de Tayac there are a series of prehistoric rock dwellings, with caves including some of the most significant archaeological finds of the Upper Paleolithic (from about 40,000 to 10,000 years ago) and Middle Paleolithic (200,000 to 40,000 years ago) periods.

The Grotte du Grand Roc, just a few kilometers from Les Eyzies, is a marvellous natural cave located half way up a cliff face above the Vezere River. It contains amazing stalactites and stalagmites. The main cavern is a fairy grotto but never enters out into a large space - it is more of a winding passage with thousands of tiny and small stalactites on either side clinging to the ceilings and crystallized rivers of calcified rock running down the walls.

You may like to dine this evening at the hotel where French cuisine is offered in their gourmet restaurant with 4 or 5 course dinner menus as well as a la carte.

In a Nutshell: Drive to the Dordogne, Overnight in a delightful 4* boutique hotel in the Dordogne

DAY 14 DORDOGNE

Today you have a free day in the Dordogne to head out and about and to discover this historical, serene and beautiful area. You may like to head underground and visit some more caves. The most important caves in France are here, located near the village of Montignac, called the Lascaux caves - just over an hour away. The original cave has been closed to the public for more than 50 years and is now under close surveillance in order to preserve it. However, a replica cave has been built nearby, Lascaux II, and is open to visit. In its 2 galleries the same paintings, same techniques and same pigments have been meticulously reproduced to enable everybody to discover the prehistoric masterpieces.

The Grotte de Rouffignac is one of the largest caves in the region and is around 40 minutes away from your hotel. It is a development of about eight kilometers of galleries on three levels - some are ten meters high, others just 12 meters wide. Apart from a small brook, running along the deepest galleries, most of the network is totally fossil with friezes of woolly rhinos, engravings of mammoths and hollows scratched out by hibernating bears.

You may prefer to breathe in the fresh country air today with a hike or cycle. Your hotel is in the triangle Perigueux, Bergerac and Sarlat, and there are many walking and cycling routes for you to take in the beautiful countryside.

In a Nutshell: Free day in the Dordogne, Overnight Dordogne

DAY 15 CARCASSONNE

Today, after breakfast, you will be leaving the Dordogne behind and you will leave for Carcassonne, an approximate 3.75 hour drive.

Carcassonne is a perfectly restored, medieval walled fortress town which sits majestically above the River Aude and Canal du Midi. Carcassonne has an entire city that is a castle, in La Cite, the fortified upper city; it is an excellent example of a medieval fortified town whose massive defenses were constructed on walls dating from Late Antiquity.

You will check into your lovely 4* hotel, overlooking Carcassonne with its castle and drawbridge, nestled in greenery, offering you a haven of tranquility where you can recharge your batteries after your journey. This delightful hotel is medieval yet contemporary, rural yet metropolitan and sophisticated yet comfortable.

This afternoon you will meet with your officially licensed private guide, at the "Porte Narbonnaise" near the "pont levis" who will then take you on a private walking tour of the magnificent fortified town. You will stroll down medieval streets and explore the superb castle, city ramparts and romantic buildings. The walled city of Carcassonne is world renowned as a spectacular fortified medieval city, but it has been occupied since the 6th-Century BC, first as a Gallic settlement and later as a fortified Roman city. The Visigoths seized the city in the 5th-Century, and were followed by the Saracens, who remained in control for just 30 years before the Francs expelled them. Restored by Viollet-le-Duc in the 19th-Century, the city fortress was consecrated in 1997 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, while the former military enclosure of the lower towns "La Bastide Saint-Louis" is listed as a conservation area.

After exploring the Medieval City of Carcassonne with your guide why not stroll along the cobblestone streets, browse the artisan shops selling medieval wares and enjoy a cafe au lait at one of the many cafes.

For dinner, we have various restaurant suggestions for you tonight in and around the area.

In a Nutshell: Drive to Carcassonne, Private guided tour of historic Carcassonne, Overnight at a charming 4* boutique hotel in Carcassonne

DAY 16 GIRONA

Today, after breakfast, you will be leaving France behind and you will leave for Spain and to Barcelona, a direct drive of approximate 3.25 hours. We do, however, highly recommend stopping off on the way to visit the medieval wonder of Girona. You may like to make Girona your next stay rather than just a day visit and we will be delighted to include extra nights to your tour itinerary for you. Staying in Girona city (or if you prefer in the country or on the coast) makes a great base to discover the medieval and coastal villages of the area.

Girona is a little city with a big heart that is enchanted by stretches of cobblestone streets and criss crossing bridges. Over 1000 years of history make up the charming old part of Girona, located around the single nave Cathedral, the Jewish quarter, Sant Feliu church and Sant Pere de Galligants monastery.

A visit to the Santa Maria Cathedral of Girona is well worth it to discover:

- The Gothic Nave, the widest in the world, without columns, at 22.80m (14th-16th centuries)

- The Creation Tapestry, one of a kind in Western Medieval art (11th-12th centuries)

- The Romanic Cloisters from the 12th century, and a collection of sculpture, painting, manuscripts, altar pieces and textiles (10th-12th centuries)

As you wander through the enchanting old town of Girona you will step back in time as you wind through the narrow streets and stoned walls of the old Gothic Quarter and encounter little shops, cafes and medieval homes that families have passed down through the generations. The streets here are named after the medieval activity practiced in them and the markets offered in them; l'Argenteria (silver), Mercaders (salesmen), Plaza de Vi (the wine square), l'Oli (oil), and de les Castanyes (of the chestnuts). We have many delicious restaurant recommendations for you to have lunch in Girona before continuing your journey to Barcelona.

On arrival to Barcelona you will be able to drop off your rental car at the local office before taking a taxi to your 4* boutique hotel, ideally located in the Barcelona Gothic Quarter, nearby to all major sights, but at the same time on the seafront. The rooftop terrace bar and pool provide an astonishing view of the city as well as the port, and your lovely room looks out onto the harbor. Formerly, your hotel was the residence of a wealthy Duke in the city and is deep-seated in history.

We have several dinner recommendations for fine restaurants, as well as informal tapas places nearby to your hotel, in the Gothic and Born districts, as well as in the relaxing old port area.

In a Nutshell: Drive to Barcelona, Overnight at an excellent 4* boutique hotel in Barcelona

DAY 17 BARCELONA

This morning, after a delicious breakfast, your Gourmand Breaks Officially Licensed Guide will await you at your hotel. Together you will beat the queues as you enjoy a private guided visit to the incredible La Sagrada Familia, a work on a grand scale which began in 1882. At the end of 1883 Gaudi, the most internationally renowned and emblematic architect of the city, was commissioned to carry on the works, a task which he did not abandon until his death in 1926. Since then different architects have continued the work after his original idea, but it remains unfinished.

You will then continue on your journey, now focused on the authentic gourmet foods in Spain, starting with a guided visit to La Boqueria market, Spains largest marketplace. La Boqueria is like a museum of the brightest and most delectable foods in Spain. Our expert culinary guide will lead you around the best booths and you will taste some of the most delicious local seasonal produce at one famous La Boqueria bar, frequented by celebrities. A glass of a fine brut nature cava will surely go down a treat with a tapa of Chantrelle mushrooms, or fresh cockles, squid or maybe even scrambled eggs with wild asparagus.

Continuing your private walking tour through the Gothic quarter of Barcelona you will see a few architectural feats: the famous Barcelona Cathedral, Sant Jaume Square and the amazing Santa Maria del Mar Church, which is a beautiful and important 14th-century church and considered the finest and most complete example of Catalan Gothic architecture anywhere. You will, of course, enjoy a wander through Las Ramblas, the colorful must-see pedestrian area. Our guide is a real specialist in local history and will amuse you with fascinating local stories and funny anecdotes. Following this, your tour will take the path of Picasso on the famous Avignon Street. You will pass the Picasso museum (your guide will be able purchase tickets if you wish to visit this afternoon). Now you will taste some of the best natural artisan Spanish cheeses at a charming local cheese shop. The knowledgeable owner will divulge the secrets of the best Spanish cheeses while you taste some of the delicious specialties paired with some excellent Priorat wine. For something sweet, your tour will stop at the oldest venue in Barcelona for dried nuts and fruits, homemade nougats and chocolates. This quaint and local store, specializing in roasting coffee beans and nuts for over 150 years, is still decorated with its original furniture and old wood-burning stove.

Your luxury private tour will be rounded off with a light lunch of exquisite delicatessen produce which will include Spains best Iberic bellota ham - Joselito, fine cold meats and sausages, some of the finest local preserves of wild tuna, anchovies,or clams from Galicia, a selection of the best Spanish olive oils, etc., all enjoyed at one of the best delicatessens in the city. In addition there are English speaking sommeliers on hand to guide you through more than 6000 wines. Your guide will leave you at the finale of your tour when you are settled safely into this amazing delicatessen enjoying your meal.

The rest of your afternoon will be free to enjoy as you wish. Prior to leaving you, your guide will be happy to provide a lot of suggestions for really good places to eat, cafes, shops, etc.

In a Nutshell: Private guided tour of La Sagrada Familia and the Gothic Quarter and Born Areas of Barcelona with gourmet food and wine tastings, Overnight Barcelona

DAY 18 DEPARTURE

Your tour concludes with a lovely breakfast at your hotel, followed by a chauffeured transfer to Barcelona airport for your onward journey home.

We very much hope you will join us for this unforgettable wine, food and cultural adventure!

In a Nutshell:Chauffeured transfer to Barcelona Airport

Your tour includes:

  • Accommodation for three (3) nights at an elegant art deco 4* hotel in the very heart of Lisbon (superior room, double occupancy)

  • Accommodation for two (2) nights in a 5* riverside hotel in Pinhao, Douro Valley (river-view room, double occupancy)

  • Accommodation for one (1) night in an elegant 5* wine hotel and spa in Vila Nova de Gaia, Porto (executive room, double occupancy)

  • Accommodation for two (2) nights in a Grand Luxury 5* Hotel in Santiago de Compostela (superior room, double occupancy)

  • Accommodation for one (1) night in an excellent 4* hotel in the heart of Burgos (superior room, double occupancy)

  • Accommodation for two (2) nights in an elegant 4* Boutique Hotel with views of the Concha Bay at San Sebastian (sea view room, double occupancy)

  • Accommodation for one (1) night in a delightful chateau hotel in the Bordeaux wine region (prestige room, double occupancy)

  • Accommodation for two (2) nights in a delightful 4* boutique hotel in the heart of the Dordogne (prestige room, double occupancy )

  • Accommodation for one (1) night at a delightful hotel in Carcassonne (deluxe room, double occupancy)

  • Accommodation for two (2) nights in a 4* palace hotel in the Barcelona Gothic Quarter (port view room, double occupancy)

  • Seventeen (17) full breakfasts

  • Provision of a luxury rental car (Mercedes E, Audi A4 or similar) with automatic transmission and GPS for the days as stated in your itinerary

  • Chauffeured transfers in a luxury vehicle, as indicated in the itinerary

  • Privately guided tours with our Officially Licensed Guides, where stated in the itinerary

  • All the culinary, cultural visits and Food and Wine tastings indicated in the itinerary

  • Online Personal Travel Webpage including daily itinerary, general local information, details of places of interest, suggestions for restaurant reservations, and your free time, etc.

  • Handy elegant Personal Travel Journal, which includes the extended information from your Personal Travel Website, that you can take with you as you go and keep as a souvenir to look back on.

  • 24/7 Back Office Assistance

Your tour does not include:

  • Flights

  • Meals and drinks not stated in the itinerary

  • Personal expenses such as telephone, minibar, etc.

  • Tips and gratuities at restaurants etc. at your discretion, NOT obligatory

  • Travel Insurance may be included in your quotation on request. We strongly recommend you to take out separate cancellation insurance.

Prices:

Please note our tours are available for PRIVATE GROUPS ONLY and are not scheduled mixed group tours. Price is available upon request and varies depending on the number of guests and time of year. Feel free to contact us for your personal quote