Visit the authentic coastal communities of France
See a different side to France, away from the hustle and bustle of Paris and the well-to-do Riviera and visit authentic coastal communities, a compelling contrast to the region's historical city centres.
On this, the first day of your tour, you'll take a direct flight from London's Heathrow airport to Montpellier. From here you'll be collected by private coach to make the transfer to your central hotel, the ibis Montpellier Centre Comédie. After time to settle into your room, head over to a local restaurant with the rest of your group and Tour Manager for a first night, welcome dinner
Get to know your surroundings a little better today as you embark on a guided tour of Montpellier, a city that escaped the Roman gentrification of most other southern French metropolises, not being founded until the 10th century by aristocrats from Toulouse.
Your tour will allow you to experience the many centuries of development that have taken place here, as you wander through 12th century Mikves (Jewish bath houses), disappear down medieval alleyways and stop to soak in 18th and 17th century modern mansions, known locally as hôtels particuliers.
It also includes the central Place de la Comedie, colloquially called l'oeuf (the egg) because of its original oval shape. Since Montpellier's humble beginnings, this spot has long been a meeting point for residents and visitors alike and boasts the accolade of being one of the largest pedestrianised areas in Europe.
This morning make our way to charming Avignon. Travelling by coach, you may catch your first glimpse of this city, best known for the Pont St Bénezet, its famous broken bridge. If not there will be time later for you to make a visit.
All but four of its arches were washed away in a devastating flood in 1668 - and today the surviving arches have become an iconic symbol of the city, and the feature of a famous song. The city is also famous for the Palais des Papes - Palace of the Popes - which was the seat of the Papacy for six successive Popes during the 14th century after Pope Clement V escaped the violent chaos and corruption of Rome and moved to Avignon.
Admire both of these striking landmarks - which now form the heart of a UNESCO World Heritage site on your guided tour which even includes entrance to the palace itself. The afternoon is free for you to explore Avignon at leisure. Stroll through the city's broad,tree-lined avenues and explore the intriguing network of alleyways and passages that connect beautiful open squares and pretty churches.
Travel by rail to the unpretentious fishing town of Sète today. Hugging the Mediterranean coastline, this busy port still sees daily fishing expeditions, which of course means some excellent seafood restaurants. Specialties of the area include turbot, mussels and oysters which thrive offshore in Thau Lagoon or by its local name, Étang De Thau.
Your time is at leisure, so you may choose to take a trip out to the lagoon via a clever network of canals that connect that centre of town with these seafood farms. Here you can visit the Étang De Thau Museum to learn about the history of the shell-fishing trade and discover how the farmers and fishermen made their living. You can also sample some of these freshly caught delicacies while savouring the beautiful scenery from a terrace that runs along this unique seascape.
Another option is to make your way up Mont Saint Clair, the lone hill Sète encircles. From the top you'll be treated to stunning panoramic views of this charming town. It's also worth spending time relaxing somewhere along the eight miles of beaches that separate the land from these fish-rich seas, famed as being some of the most impressive in this region of France. Back in Montpellier this evening, you'll sit down to another delicious three-course dinner.
Check out of the hotel following a leisurely morning and ahead of an excursion to Aigues-Mortes, perhaps one of the most beautiful sites in Provence. Encased by square medieval walls, this ancient fortified city is symmetrically perfect, white-washed terracotta topped houses contrast charmingly with the surrounding green countryside, in fact Aigues- Mortes is also famous for its nearby salt marshes.
Roman Legionnaires stationed nearby were paid a portion of their wage in salt from these very marshes - an intriguing facet of local history. What makes this sight spectacular is the marshes glow a pink colour, due to the microscopic algae in its waters.
Here you have free time to explore the city, discovering its historic secrets. After time spent sightseeing, perhaps enjoy an early dinner before transferring back to the airport.
Provisional departure and return times, where available, can be found together with dates and prices by clicking on the 'Prices & Availability' button. We will write to you around 10 weeks before your departure date with the precise meeting times for your tour group.
Visit the authentic coastal communities of France