Arrive in time to meet your fellow travelers for a welcome gathering this evening. Your arrival transfer is included.
Head straight to the heart of Paris on a walking tour of the Ile de la Cite, the island in the Seine where the city was first settled. Cross the stone arches of the Pont Neuf, or New Bridge??which is actually the oldest bridge in Paris! The rest of the day is yours to explore the City of Light. Choose to climb the steps of the Eiffel Tower, satisfy your sweet tooth at a chocolate-tasting workshop, or explore inside the iconic pyramid of the Louvre, home to treasures such as the "Mona Lisa" and the "Venus de Milo."
Travel outside the city to the village of Giverny, and visit the home of Impressionist painter Claude Monet. Wander around weeping willows and green lily ponds in the gardens that inspired some of his greatest works of art. Then head to Honfleur, a colorful port town sitting where the Seine meets the English Channel. Enjoy lunch and stroll the streets of this seaside community, where many great artists have painted the rainbow of fishing boats afloat in the harbor. Later, continue to Bayeux, an ancient city that has been sacked by Vikings, conquered by the English, and occupied by the Germans in World War II.
Visit a historic estate cider farm for a guided tour of the orchards, processing workshops and calvados cellar. Then enjoy a tasting of apple and pear juice, as well as ciders, pommeau and calvados for the adults. Depart for Upper Normandy and the quaint village of Giverny; where Impressionist painter Claude Monet lived and worked from 1883 until his death in 1926. Monet felt that his flower and water gardens here were his greatest works of art and to this day, they are meticulously maintained.
This morning, delve into the story of D-Day and the battle to liberate France during a hands-on, sensorial World War II history experience. Feel the weight of real GI equipment, try on a field jacket, and taste the chocolate bars carried in soldiers' kits. Climb aboard a military vehicle and drive to the nearby Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, the first American World War II cemetery established on European soil. After lunch, spend a free afternoon exploring historic Bayeux. Later, gather for a delicious crepe dinner.
Venture to the amazing Mont-Saint-Michel, an island stronghold perched on a rock off the Normandy coast. Built in the eighth century, this UNESCO World Heritage site has been attacked and besieged, but rarely captured??perhaps due to the quicksand that surrounds the fortress at low tide! Head out on an orientation walk, then enjoy free time to wander winding lanes and cobbled streets, climbing from the base of the mountain to its crowning medieval abbey. Meander through the cloister of the monastery or discover the island's history at a museum. Return to Bayeux and choose to view the incredible Bayeux Tapestry, tracing the Norman conquest of England in colorful embroidery.
Say au revoir to Normandy and enter the lush green Loire Valley. Set foot inside the amazing cave dwellings known as troglodyte homes??charming houses built in and around cliff-side caverns. On an underground walk, delve into the geological history of the region and learn about the local troglodyte lifestyle. Continue to the ancient city of Blois, perched above the lovely Loire River, and enjoy a free evening to relax or explore this hillside city's many staircases.
Wake up this morning and head out on the water for a canoeing excursion along the Cher River. Paddle past picturesque medieval towns to the incredible Chateau de Chenonceau. This fairy-tale castle spans the river, while the gardens enclose sculpted hedges, a fantastic fountain, and a tricky maze. Later, venture to the last home of Leonardo da Vinci??the spectacular Chateau du Clos Luce. Young travelers can pick up a special "inventor's notebook" and set out to invent a machine using da Vinci's ingenious tips and tricks.
Today, be amazed by the Hall of Mirrors in the magnificent Palace of Versailles, a World Heritage site. Imagine yourself decked out in velvet and gold as you stride between sparkling rooms on a guided tour, or explore the endless winding pathways in Versailles' vast gardens. Return to Paris and enjoy a free afternoon to wander the banks of the Seine, munch on macarons, or shop in elegant boutiques. In the evening, gather for a farewell dinner.