France·September 19 - 25 2023

A Secret French Seaside Paradise

Sky above, sand below and peace within!

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Overview

Few regions match the unspoiled natural beauty and architectural splendor of France’s mid-Atlantic coast. From the nonchalant glamour of Ile de Ré, where fashionable Parisians retreat to white-washed holiday cottages along sandy beaches, pristine salt marshes and picturesque ports – to the elegant neo-classical harbor of La Rochelle, France’s historic “Gateway to the West” and Rochefort - where Louis XIV established his magnificent naval capital. We’ll also explore a castle and garden that rival the grandeur of Loire chateaux and visit an astonishing Gallo-Roman triumphal arch, amphitheater, and medieval Basilica in Saintes. All the while sampling the freshest seafood, regional cuisine and wine at top-rated bistros and discovering fabulous markets, chic boutiques and exceptional artisans.

Highlights

Stay in a fortified UNESCO World Heritage town

Stay in a fortified UNESCO World Heritage town

Discover the timeless tradition of harvesting precious fleur de sel flakes

Discover the timeless tradition of harvesting precious fleur de sel flakes

 Relax on a sunset catamaran cruise along the coast of Ile de Ré

Relax on a sunset catamaran cruise along the coast of Ile de Ré

Cycle an electric bike through glorious salt marshes and a nature reserve

Cycle an electric bike through glorious salt marshes and a nature reserve

Sample your fill of the Atlantic coast’s freshest seafood and oysters

Sample your fill of the Atlantic coast’s freshest seafood and oysters

Visit the atelier of France’s only couture gold embroiderers

Visit the atelier of France’s only couture gold embroiderers

Discover the charms of two villages classed “Plus Beau de France”

Discover the charms of two villages classed “Plus Beau de France”

Reside in an historic 18th century manor house

Reside in an historic 18th century manor house

Tour roman ruins in the Gallo-Roman capital of Aquitaine

Tour roman ruins in the Gallo-Roman capital of Aquitaine

Itinerary

Here's a day-by-day itinerary of the trip

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Day 1: Tuesday, September 19th, 2023

Fly to Paris (we can help you organize a few days in the City of Light before or after the trip) and take the TGV train from Gare Montparnasse to La Rochelle. We can help with arrangements. It’s a beautiful 3-hour train ride through the French countryside. We’ll meet you at the train station and head off on the scenic ride across the iconic 3km bridge connecting the mainland to Île de Ré. We’ll begin our 3-day immersion in sun, sea and sand with lunch overlooking the port in La Flotte, one of the island’s two villages classed “most beautiful in France”.

After lunch we’ll settle in at La Baronnie hotel and spa, our privileged oasis in the heart of St Martin, Ré’s capital … before an afternoon tour of key St Martin monuments, including Vauban’s UNESCO World Heritage Citadel and the church bell tower with a panoramic view of the island. We’ll stroll back to the hotel along the quay, stopping off at an insider selection of boutiques.

The hotel’s elegant bar is our RDV point for a welcome drink before dinner in town.

Included

Lunch

Dinner

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Day 2: Wednesday, September 20th, 2023

After an al fresco breakfast in the hotel garden, we visit the lively market in La Flotte. Next, we’ll venture along the coast to admire the atmospheric ruins of a 12th century Cistercian Abbey and star-shaped Fort de la Prée built by Louis XIII. Lunch is on the terrace of convivial “bistro balnéaire” le Nautic.

You’ll have free time back in St Martin to rest, wander about town, or take a dip in the hotel pool before our sunset catamaran excursion along the coast. Our captain will share his knowledge of the island and stop by one of the finest beaches for a refreshing swim. The adventure concludes with a glass of wine before docking in Saint Martin. Dinner tonight is aneo bistrot le Serghi.


Included

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

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Day 3: Thursday, September 21st, 2023

We begin our last day on the island in Ars, another “Plus Beaux Village” where galleries, cafes and whimsical boutiques beckon along its charming, cobbled streets. Our tour begins at St. Etienne’s church with its Romanesque portal and graphic, black-tipped steeple that serves as a beacon to mariners. Acclaimed ceramist and set designer Clementine Aguettant will welcome us on a visit to her atelier.  

Flat topography, beautiful scenery, and 150 kms of smooth bike trails make cycling the ideal way to travel around the island. We’ll set off on electric bikes for the “marais salants” to meet Isabelle - a 3rd gen producer of fleur de sel, plus a gourmet range of aromatic salts and scrumptious caramels. Our fun restaurant destination is a converted oysterman’s cabin overlooking his beds. The return trail takes us through a pristine nature preserve, home to 230 species of wildlife. (Those who prefer not to cycle can be driven to our various destinations.) 

Driving back to la Baronnie, we’ll pause for a wine tasting of the island’s sparking, white and rosé cépages, followed by a final stop in St Martin at La Martiniere for arguably the best ice cream cone beyond Paris. Anyone for caramel fleur de sel?  

End of day and evening are free - with time for a massage or treatment in the hotel’s spa (we can help make your appointment in advance), before joining the lively harbor scene. We provide a range of recommendations for a memorable meal.  

Included

Breakfast

Lunch

Electric bikes

Not Included

Dinner

Message or spa treatments

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Day 4: Friday, September 22nd, 2023

We return to historic La Rochelle, the splendid port that inspired more French painters than any other – most famously Corot and Signac. Our visit includes 3 iconic towers guarding the harbor – one of which is France’s oldest lighthouse, a Cathedral dedicated to French monarch St Louis, and the neoclassical town center with mansions built by merchants enriched through early international trade. We will learn about La Rochelle’s role as gateway to colonial exploration of the Americas through the magnificent collections at the New World Museum.

Lunch is at Yole de Chris, the bistro of La Rochelle’s 3-star Michelin chef overlooking the waterfront. A quick stop at Crillos Artisan Chocolatier before our 30-minute drive to Rochefort, where we will spend the next three nights at our hotel overlooking the Charente River in the newly restored 18th century Corderie Royale – Rochefort’s famous naval monument.

Dinner is at Les Quatres Saisons off the Place Colbert – whose fountain features in Jacques Demy’s classic film “Les Demoiselles de Rochefort”, starring young Catherine Deneuve.

Included

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

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Day 5: Saturday, September 23rd, 2023

Today’s low-key program will focus on Rochefort, where the Sun King and his minister Colbert established the national arsenal in 1666. Our morning visit is to the Begonia d’Or atelier, whose director is France’s only Maître d’art of golden embroidery. The artisans create custom pieces for top Parisian couture, luxury accessory and interior design brands, restore period furnishings and clothing, transmit their knowledge through workshops, and design their own embroidered items sold in the boutique. Rochefort’s legacy of gold embroidery traces back to embellishment of military uniforms.

After our walk through the town center, you are free to enjoy lunch at your leisure and either take the afternoon off to shop, explore and stroll the park and garden adjoining our hotel along the bank of the Charente River – or join an afternoon guided tour of the fascinating Old School of Naval Medicine. The museum is a handsome time capsule documenting an era of medical discovery when Royal patronage and France’s military ambitions put it at the forefront of medical innovation.

We will rendez-vous for dinner at Les Beatilleswhose menu features regional specialties made with seasonal produce from the finest local organic suppliers.

Included

Breakfast

Dinner

Not Included

Lunch

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Day 6: Sunday, September 24th, 2023

Today, we’ll take an excursion to Saintes, the former Roman capital of Aquitaine (I hour drive), with a stop midway at the magnificent Chateau and Gardens of La Roche Courbon. A medieval fortress at the conclusion of the 100 Years War, in the 17th Century it was converted to a pleasure palace surrounded by formal French gardens. Neglected since the 19th C, until a restoration campaign was begun by the grandfather of the current owner. The splendid gardens were awarded “remarkable garden” label.

Lunch today at Michelin star Dallaison is a gastronomic highlight of the trip. This is a new location for the creative young chef and his team.

Surprising Saintes has a rich treasure of monuments dating back to the Gallo-Roman era. We will enjoy a private guided visit of the amphitheater and medieval St Eutrope Basilica.

Our farewell dinner is at the hotel’s elegant Corderie Royale restaurant, where we’ll share anecdotes of a week making new friends while exploring the enchanting Charente Maritime region!

Included

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

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Day: Monday, September 25th, 2023

Following breakfast, our drivers will return us to the TGV station in Rochelle (35-minute drive) to catch a return train to Paris. 

You'll Be Staying Here

La Baronnie hotel

La Baronnie hotel

La Baronnie hotel and spa, our privileged oasis in the heart of St Martin, Ré’s capital 

 Corderie Royale

Corderie Royale

 Corderie Royale Rochefort’s famous naval monument. 

Hosts

Casey O'Brien Blondes

Casey O'Brien Blondes

This trip is being led by one of our favorite guides, Casey O’Brien Blondes – a Loire Valley resident, where she and her artist husband raised their children. Author of two books on France by Rizzoli, tour planner and guide, plus writing coach and editor – Casey is passionate about French history and knows the region intimately. 

Price

Private Room

Private Room

Everyone gets their own fabulous room!

FROM$5,995.00/pp

Take me to the ocean

The French Seaside

 The Atlantic coast is largely made up of long sandy beaches; coastal towns and villages, such as La Rochelle, Les Sables d'Olonne and Rochefort, have tended to spread along behind the shoreline, but in many parts, the beaches are backed by a band of pine forests, and can be remarkably uncrowded even in summer. 

The French Seaside

What's Included

What's Included

Everything stated in itinerary above including all meals (except where otherwise noted) plus beer or wine with dinner

Beautiful, unique hotel stays

An english-speaking trip host and facilitator

Museum or other entry fees

All transport after arrival in Rochelle

Roundtrip airfare to France, and TGV train to/from Rochelle

Spa Treatments

Additional wine, beer, or spirits beyond what is offered at dinner or included in an activity

All personal souvenir purchases

Travel and Medical Insurance (required)

FAQs

You are going to want to fly into Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris.

The trip officially starts on the morning of September 19th, but if you are traveling across an ocean to get to Paris, you may want to consider arriving a day early so you have time to relax and get acclimated to the local time zone. If you do decide to arrive early, please let us know and we will take care of booking your room for you and make sure that you are kept in the same room as you will be in when the trip starts.

We will have a zoom call about 6 weeks before the trip starts to discuss all that information and give you a packing list. Here is a great website that we love that will help you with packing and travel trips.

In September the temperatures are generally very high with maximum daytime temperatures around 89F and minimum nighttime temperatures of 77F.


This trip is being led by one of our favorite guides, Casey O’Brien Blondes – a Loire Valley resident, where she and her artist husband raised their children. Author of two books on France by Rizzoli, tour planner and guide, plus writing coach and editor – Casey is passionate about French history and knows the region intimately. 

Inquire about this trip

A Secret French Seaside Paradise

France· September 19 - 25 2023· 6 nights

FROM$5995/pp