BEST KEPT SECRETS
FRENCH-SWISS BORDERLAND SOJOURN
(7 DAYS / 6 NIGHTS)
STARTING 2018 PRIVATE TOURS ONLY
**Traveling alone: add $515 for a private room (rates are based on double room occupancy).
DATES: 2018 May 27- June 2
DATES 2019 May 26-June 1, June 2-8, July 7-13, July 14-20
(Minimum Age: 21 .)
Treat yourself to a lavish vacation and discover the savors and charm of a French region on the Swiss border, whose distinct cultural heritage, natural beauty, and delicious cuisine have remained traditional and authentic. Wine-tasting and local food will be prominent daily features of this mouthwatering gastronomic sojourn. You will explore the wine country, lush mountain countryside and exceptional rural villages with the title "Most Beautiful Village in France" while experiencing pleasant French indulgences and the serenity and rustic sophistication of a region that is a real hidden treasure. You will also take a day trip to a refined and luxurious Swiss vacation spot, Montreux, famous for its affluence and incredible Mediterranean micro-climate where you will tour Switzerland’s most famous castle.
(Be sure to look at the detailed itinerary below the highlight section)
You will be based in the fortified city where Victor Hugo and the inventors of the cinema were born. Sojourning in one hotel for the whole trip means you can unpack your bags and make yourself at home in the city for a relaxing trip without having to repack or change hotels. You have options throughout the sojourn so you can choose according to your interests and make this an active walking tour or a relaxing getaway. Options include:
- UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Tour the Royal Saltworks of Arc-et-Senans & Salins-les-Bains
- Authentic Experiences: Experience the French lifestyle in typical restaurants, cafés, markets and leisure activities
- Outdoor Activities: Canoe down a small scenic river, hike along a series of 31 torrents and cascades
- Wine Tasting: one of France's most unique noble wines, Vin Jaune, in its birthplace: Chateau-Chalon
- Castle: tour Switzerland's most famous lakeside castle where you will taste Swiss wine
- Michelin-Star Cuisine: Eat in two restaurants considered outstanding by Michelin
- “Most Beautiful Village of France”: Explore two of France's most charming rural villages
Besançon is a small city of 120,000 that is the capital of a region that draws nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts from all over Europe. It is a hidden gem that owes much of its rich history and architectural charm to its surprising and unique mix of Roman, German, and Spanish influences. Read more about Besançon.
You'll stay in a locally owned boutique hotel in the former religious quarter of the old city center: until just a few years ago, the hotel was a convent. The hotel belongs to your guide's father who renovated the building with the help of his wife. Genuine antiques decorate the hotel, many of which give a mischievous wink at the building's religious past. You'll have a buffet breakfast every morning in the charming dining room. Read more about the hotel.
You will be traveling with Dr. Francis Mathieu (part-owner of Sojourner Tours and tenured college professor of French).
"I can't wait to share my hometown with you. As a child, I was surrounded by history. My parents were antique dealers so I grew up in an apartment over their shop which was full of historic treasures. My bedroom window overlooked the buildings where Victor Hugo and the Lumiere brothers were born. We'll stay in my father's hotel set in a former convent and decorated with antiques and I'll share my knowledge as we visit the city and region. This itinerary includes excursions to the mountainside village where I spent part of the summer with my grandparents as a child as well as visits to artisans who make some of my favorite local products: Comté cheese and Vin Jaune."
There will be an assistant for groups over 8 people.
BEST KEPT SECRETS FRENCH-SWISS ITINERARY
Arrive in Besancon, the Regional Capital
AFTERNOON: Upon arrival, you have time to settle into your comfortable room in the charming boutique hotel Le Sauvage*. While other guests are still arriving, you can relax at the hotel or start exploring the city as you please.
RECEPTION & DINNER: At 6 pm, you will join your guide and the rest of the group in the hotel to celebrate the beginning of the tour French-style with a typical apéritif and a laid-back dinner catered by the hotel.
*A similar hotel may be substituted if room availability is low: reserve early to help secure the best rooms.
Roadtrip to Remote Villages in Wine Country
MORNING: Your first stop is the wine producing village of Chateau-Chalon which is part of France’s smallest wine region: the Jura. Perched on a massive limestone escarpment with a panoramic view over the vineyards, this village and its medieval houses proudly bear the title of “Most Beautiful Village of France”. There you will taste the highly esteemed Vin Jaune or “yellow wine”. Then you'll head back down in the valleyfor either a hike in the back country or a leisurely lunch in a nearby village.
AFTERNOON: You'll choose one of two options:
- OPTION: You will eat typical seasonal foods in another of France's "Most Beautiful Villages". Following lunch, you will visit a Medieval abbey and have free time to stroll around the cobblestone village of Baume-les-Messieurs, ranked one of "the most beautiful villages in France".
- OPTION: Hike down a small mountain to marvel at the awe-inspiring succession of small and large Hérisson Waterfalls. You'll have a rustic lunch at a chalet that caters to hikers.
DINNER: On your way home you'll stop in the regional "wine capital" for dinner.
Getting to Know Your Basetown
(Moderate physical challenge: there will be a total of 3-5 miles of walking in the city.)
MORNING: Tour Besançon’s historic city center and wander through the centuries as you encounter Roman, medieval, Renaissance, 18th & 19th-century buildings, and learn about the city’s unique blend of German, Spanish, and French heritage.
- OPTION: You can start your day with a guided visit of the historic heart of the city of Besançon & it's specialty boutiques. The tour will begin at the ancient cathedral located a stone’s throw from the hotel. You will then tour the city’s Roman Triumphal Arch and other Roman remains located next to the cathedral. Other nearby points of interest that you will visit include: Victor Hugo’s birthplace and museum (author of Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame); a Renaissance era mansion; pedestrian streets and squares. You will walk through the pedestrian shopping district and cross the river to visit Besançon’s medieval neighborhood. As you tour the city you'll be stopping in local specialty shops and the covered market to buy things for tomorrow's picnic.
- OPTION: Explore the city at your own pace.
LUNCH: You will enjoy a meal in a lovely local restaurant.
AFTERNOON: After lunch, You'll have free time to continue to explore the city at your own pace, climb up to the citadel (a UNESCO world heritage site), take a hike up to the remains of fort Bregille on a hill overlooking the city or stroll along the riverbank fortifications.
DINNER: You will be free to select your own restaurant for dinner (your guide will be happy to make recommendations).
Kayaking in "Little Venice"
(Moderately high physical challenge: the canoe ride down the river is not strenuous but will last two to three hours.)
MORNING: A short scenic drive through the countryside will take us to the town of Ornans, nicknamed "Little Venice" by locals because of the houses that line the river. It is the hometown of the 19th-century Realist painter Gustave Courbet, so you will begin this day trip with a visit to the Courbet Museum which is housed in the artist’s childhood home. You will have time to stroll through the small town.
LUNCH: You will eat in a simple gastronomic restaurant. The fine food and picturesque historic building with a terrace overhanging the river make it a local favorite.
AFTERNOON: After lunch, you will explore the river valley, you can choose either an active outdoor adventure or a leisurely drive:
- OPTION: We will go a bit upstream so that you can take a pleasant kayak ride down the river through the town of Ornans, under its bridges and continue through the lush countryside downstream. Your canoe ride will last two to three hours, ending at the foot of a small privately owned castle still occupied by an aristocratic family. There are a few rapids that your expert local river guide will coach you through.
- OPTION: Hop back in the van for a ride through the countryside along the river. The van will stop in some particularly picturesque villages so that you can stroll a bit or enjoy a coffee in a little cafe and really soak up the surroundings.
DINNER: Everyone will meet back at the kayak rental shop for a riverside picnic featuring the regional specialties that we purchased at the covered market and specialty boutiques in Besancon the day before. You will be back in Besançon around 8:00 p.m., after which you will be free to relax at the hotel or go out to explore the nightlife on your own.
(Light physical challenge)
MORNING: You will first take a guided tour of the Royal Saltworks in Arc-et-Senans, a UNESCO world heritage site, where you’ll discover a utopian village designed by the ground-breaking 18th century architect Claude Nicolas Ledoux.
LUNCH: You will stop in a small riverside village to dine in a Michelin star gastronomic restaurant set in a modest castle built in the 1700s as a hunting pavilion.
AFTERNOON: You will head to Salins-les-Bains. Along the route you’ll stop in a local ceramicist’s studio where you’ll have an opportunity to buy one of the unusual local salt shakers made of stoneware.
- OPTION Visit the Great Saltworks and the Museum of Salt, then stroll around town.
- OPTION: Take a thermal salt bath.
DINNER: You are free to choose your restaurant back in Besancon.
Road Trip to Switzerland
(Moderate physical challenge: there will be a total of 3-5 miles of walking in the city.)
MORNING: Driving through the lush green mountainous landscapes and pine forests of Eastern France will take us to the balmy “Swiss Riviera” city of Montreux at the foot of the Alps. Upon arrival, you will have free time to explore the city and its palm tree studded Mediterranean vegetation at your own pace.
LUNCH: You will be free to choose your own restaurant.
AFTERNOON: Later in the afternoon you'll have three options:
- Continue to enjoy the city on your own.
- Join your guide to enjoy a leisurely stroll along the scenic shore of Lake Geneva to Switzerland’s most notable castle: Chateau-Chillon, where you will take a narrated tour.
- Leave the city a little later than the walkers and ride in the van to the castle where you'll join the walkers for the narrated tour.
DINNER: The trip back to the hotel will take us past a popular local vacation spot where you'll stop for dinner: a village on lake Saint-Point, where chef Marc Faivre creates contemporary recipes using seasonal local ingredients. His gastronomical country-style restaurant, which was once his family’s farmhouse, makes the sophistication and refinement of his food even more astonishing. This restaurant boasts one Michelin star.
Breakfast at the hotel.