This tour features WPHT’s (The Big Talker) Chris Stigall
JUNE 28 – JULY 9, 2017
There are several countries with a gastronomical culture as rich as the country is old, and France is, by any expert’s measure, in the Pantheon of gastronomy. We’ll embark on this special event tour with a visit to some of my favorite dining establishments in Paris. We’ll pay special attention to sampling some regional cuisines of the country, paired with fine wine, before we take the Bullet Train to Dijon, where we’ve barely left the train station and already our motor coach is traversing the wonderful “Route des Grands Crus”. A wine lover’s paradise and dining fit for a king and queen….. Burgundy!
Paris remains one of the world’s most spectacular cities. The French prize beauty, in architecture, engineering, fashion and cuisine. Nowhere is this more evident than in the City of Lights. I will lead you on a private sightseeing tour of all the great iconic landmarks and boulevards in this wonderful metropolis. The Eiffel Tower. The Arc de Triomphe. Les Champs Elysees. Trocadero. Saint Germain. Notre Dame. La Sainte Chappelle. Le Pantheon. Luxembourg Gardens. Les Invalides and Monmartre to take us back in time when the likes of Picasso and Van Gogh roamed this little quarter and enjoyed the same accordion hits that you can enjoy today.
What do say we start on Les Champs Elysees savoring a cafè “grand crème?” I would award a prize to the first person who can pass by a “patissierie” (pastry shop) without stopping to gaze in awe but I’d never actually have to award the prize because no one can resist the beauty. This is Paris!!! You will fall in love with this jewel of civilization the way I have time and time again.
Have you ever phoned a loved one from the top of The Eiffel Tower? Now’s your chance!
Champagne / Nazi Surrender
We’ll take a separate day trip also on the bullet train to discover Champagne Country. This is a walking tour in the tiny city of Reims, which happens to be the capital of Champagne, part of France’s cherished patrimony. It also happens to be where General Eisenhower took the surrender of the Nazi regime to end World War Two, although Stalin had something to say about this episode in which he was not calling the shots! You will enter the map room that Ike and Monty used and see all their ORIGINAL maps on the wall. In this very room, preserved, is where General Jodl captitulated to the allies, thus ending the Thousand Year Reich in its homicidal infancy.
A gastronomical lunch, a guided tour of a major Champagne house like Veuve Cliquot or Mumm, the famous cathedral where most French kings were coronated will round out our Reims visit.
We are spending our nation’s holiday, July 4th, on the sacred D Day Beaches. The German massive guns at Longues Sur Mer have gone silent on the bluffs overlooking the sea; but they’re still there for all to see. Mulberry Harbor stuns the first time visitor as we climb the hill to reach the plateau above the village of Arromanches. Private John Steele is still snagged up on the church steeple in Sainte Mere Eglise. The cliffs of Pointe du Hoc remain ever imposing – just as the Rangers left it and Omaha’s pain and sacrifice are made real to succeeding generations by our men interred on the bluff overlooking the sacred stretch of sand known as Omaha.
We’ll walk the D-Day beaches to commemorate that fateful day. I will be by your side constantly with the requisite historical narration, with one exception. I never walk the cemetery (OUR CEMETERY) at Colleville sur Mer with you. You decide how to visit this pristine patch of Normandy, granted to America in perpetuity. Undoubtedly we’ll meet others from around the world who will similarly convene to both remember and honor the sacrifices that were made. Many vestiges of the battles remain intact and we will carefully and thoroughly explore them. We’ll start on Pegasus Bridge where Major Howard earned fame as he led the gliders to crash landings next to the Orne River and the Caen Canal. This bridge was of great strategic importance; and we’ll explain why once there.
While at Pegasus we’ll try to arrange our usual photo opportunity or greeting with Madame Gondree. Madame was there the night our troops (British) captured the bridge, thus kicking off the invasion just after midnight on the morning of June 6th.
Madame Gondree was just 6 years old that night and now she welcomes visitors from the four corners of the world to the same house in which she resided then. The house, as duly noted with a plaque hung on its exterior, is officially recognized as the “first house” liberated during the D Day Invasion. Today Madame Gondree makes one mean omelette for visitors as the ground floor has been converted to a café and a British Military museum, full of any and all manner of D Day memorabilia!
We’ll visit Cozy’s Corner (also known as Cosy’s Bunker) at Juno beach and learn of the role our brethren from Canada played in the invasion. This will be the first German bunker we’ll visit up close and you won’t believe the position it’s in after the Canadians scored a direct hit. I’ll also tell you the story of my friend Will Delude, who was there the morning of the 6th of June, 1944, at Juno. Remind me to tell you about Will’s rosary beads he wore the morning of the invasion.
The story of the “disinterred tank” is one you will never forget. Like most visitors, including myself back in 1982, you’ll probably have no idea what kind of a tank this was by looking at its odd gun. It doesn’t matter though……. when you learn about what this tank and its men went through on June 6th you’ll be amazed.
On a lighter note: you’re in oyster country now, as you shall see. It’s France: indulge a little!
On to the promontory above the sea that gives you a bird’s eye view of the Mulberry Harbor. Careful where you walk… the plateau is honeycombed with German tunnels.
To conceive of the harbor today is really not that difficult: a man-made wharf, or pier, sitting parallel to the shore line just off-shore, and perpendicular road sections (strung together) emanating from the wharf to the beach.
The conception is easy. Making it functional was the great challenge. We’ll show you the element that made it all possible: the Kite Anchor. Without the Kite Anchor it’s possible that the promise made to Stalin in Tehran by Roosevelt and Churchill (to finally open up a second front in the West) would not have been honored. That’s how crucial the Mulberry was; and I’ll give you the time to visit the highly informative, small museum here at Gold Beach where you’ll understand how the Mulberry was built, complete with an undulating pool to simulate the tides.
The story of Longues Sur Mer, the four massive German batteries, is little known. The mayor of the village had the foresight to retrieve the big guns from the scrap yard post-war and put them back in their place in the bunker…… but it’s the bunker that took the direct hit that will surprise, and sadden you.
When in Normandy we usually reside in the pittoresque village of Port en Bessin. From our lovely, modern hotel you may walk to the shoreline 200 meters away, past the colorful fleet of scallop fishing trawlers. This village is the scallop capital of France, and thus a very active commercial fishing port.
The sunset here is phenomenal.
Omaha is divided into 3 parts: The Beach. The Visitor Center. The Cemetery. The Visitor center will bring you to tears. Enough said. The cemetery needs no elaboration. The Beach DOES need a lot of elaboration from your tour leader. Why? Because all 5 beaches have become pleasure beaches down through the decades. Aside from Gold, there is virtually nothing on the sandy beaches by way of remnants or detritus. All the bunkers, sniper posts, tanks, cannons, Widerstandnesten, Higgins boats and subterranean German passageways are all just off the beach, in the bluffs, the dunes (Utah) and lining the all-important ravines (or “draws” as the military termed them.)
You are not simply going to the D Day Beaches. You are going to UNDERSTAND how the invasion unfolded, with a particular emphasis on Omaha and Utah. What went wrong? Too much. What went right? Who saved the day?
Pointe du Hoc. Your homework assignment before we head over to France is to google Pointe du Hoc and see the aerial view. Then you may walk into the craters or between them once there.
Yes: I will take you to the Granite Spike where President Reagan spoke to “our boys” in 1984. It sits atop one of the most elaborate German positions in all of Normandy and you may go inside its labyrinth and see for yourself.
JFK once said “life is unfair” when he spoke about the awful human loss during war and the fact that some, and some generations, are never called for war.
Well….. on another lighter note….. Private John Steele never had to buy a beer post-war in Normandy. There are inns, squares, schools, hotels, restaurants and shops named for Private John Steele, and the focal point of all this attention is Sainte Mere Eglise, the little village 10 miles inland from Utah Beach, heading up the Cotentin Peninsula towards Cherbourg.
Private Steele had the good (odd) fortune that night (British at Pegasus, Americans down the other end) of gliding towards the ancient church and having his parachute snag on the church steeple. Given the way he’s feted in Normandy you would think he was MacArthur and Patton all rolled into one!
Utah Beach. In a word: everything that went awry on Omaha went well on Utah. So well in fact, that the larger risk became too many men successfully landed on the beach before our engineers could demine the beach.
Utah is also critical to understanding the issue of the “white bread” German soldier versus the others wearing Hitler’s colors that day in Normandy. Teddy Roosevelt’s eldest son and namesake had a roaring debut during the invasion here on Utah, but sadly didn’t live long thereafter to savor the eventual victory.
The military museum at Utah has been tripled in size and houses one of the best collections of souvenirs, armament and personal objects anywhere.
We will conclude our D Day visit with the vast, audio-visual collection known as the MEMORIAL TO PEACE museum. This is a perfect encapsulation of the history of the whole war, with of course a special section devoted to the D Day Invasion. This is also where I recommend you purchase any books or CD’s about the war as it has the largest selection. This museum was built by the French government during the Mitterand presidency and it covers the whole war very well, including the Rape of Nanjing, the Holocaust, Stalingrad, Pearl Harbor, Midway, Guadalcanal and Nuremburg, just to name some of the highlights.
After completing our moving pilgrimage to the D Day Beaches we’ll cruise in our private motor coach southeast towards the region of Burgundy, (Bourgogne.) The Burgundy region is every bit as famous as Bordeaux in terms of fine wine, although it’s best known for its whites while Bordeaux is best known for its reds. Burgundy is verdant and conjures images of picnics outdoors on a sunny hillside, replete with local wines, cheeses and saucisson (the dried, cured and seasoned pork sausage.) Did somebody say “don’t forget the French bread?”
We’ll head off in our comfortable motor coach to discover the “Route des Grands Crus,” a series of the greatest wine growing plantations in the region, with a stop in the famous Romanee Conti, where we’ll amber among the pristine vines of this landmark and see the massive entrance gate. A visit to Burgundy would be incomplete without a true “degustation” session, (a tasting.) But we’re going one better; we’ve arranged to have an accomplished chef entertain and instruct us with a fun discussion on how to buy the best ingredients and then he’ll give us a lesson in fine French cooking—and yes, you’ll be able to taste his “haute cuisine.” This is a true hands-on cooking lesson during which you learn from a master and it’s always lots of fun!
Burgundy is also known for its stunningly beautiful chateaux (castles.) My friend Jean has chosen what he rates as the best of them all to visit, Le Clos de Vougoet, and, time permitting, we’ll also stop and marvel at Le Chateau de Savigny. Jean has had a home here for 30 years and has run countless tours of Burgundy and I’m sure you’ll agree that Le Clos de Vougoet is a masterpiece. The small city of Beaune is a jewel of architecture and we’re going straight to the main attraction, Les Hospices de Beaune museum.
As this is the focal point of our Gastronomical Tour we will discover how one of France’s richest and flavorful cheeses is made. It’s also one of my favorites: Epoisses. We’ll be young at heart again as we visit the tasty and colorful Cassissium visitors’ center. All the samples you can drink as well!
We’ll enjoy learning about fine wine production and enjoy a tasting session at a regional producer’s vineyard. If we’re in Burgundy we’re in Dijon mustard country. Let’s visit the original producer of this famous product and see how it’s crafted still by hand and local knowhow. We’re also heading to Mulot & Petitjean to sample the landmark’s gingerbread creations.
Each gastronomical tour/visit we undertake is also a chance to purchase colorful, tasty treats inexpensively for yourself or to bring home as gifts. I’ll make some suggestions!
Also…. before we leave France I’ll give you a chance to purchase some fine Belgian chocolates…. my favorite brand…. Leonidas.
The dining included in this tour event? It’s varied and you will have choices; but I limit the choices to suit American taste buds. For the more adventurous I’ll be happy to find some French delicacies for your dining enjoyment. I recommend that everyone try at least one evening the roasted quarter leg of duck, which is as common in France as a hamburger is in America. And the desserts? Well…..let’s just say that in 30 plus years in France I’ve never had an American guest leave dissatisfied with the desserts in France. You can’t taste them all so I’ll take you to Galeries Lafayettes, their gourmet food department, and we’ll also let you take some of the most beautiful food photos you’ll ever see. I’ll make plenty of suggestions for food items to take home for yourself or for gifts.
Please note: as this is a Gastronomical Tour you will enjoy a level of elegance and refined cuisine that matches your image of classic French dining in a perfect setting, complimented by fine service and fine wines.
OPTIONAL TOUR EXTENSION TO PROVENCE
(SIX NIGHTS/SEVEN DAYS)
Provence has always been known as a unique corner of France that has all the attributes of the rest of the country; i.e.; history, cuisine, culture, joie de vivre—but the inhabitants of Provence have one undeniable advantage: the sunshine that is sometimes lacking up north is in abundance in Provence! We’ll start our discovery of Provence in “l’arriere pays” that is: the back country, away from the sea and into the heart of old Provence, land of lavender, sun baked olive groves, dining al fresco, and a sip of pastis.
LES BAUX DE PROVENCE. UZES. PERNES LES FONTAINES. GORDES. NIMES. ARLES.
As our motor coach traverses this beautiful region we’ll make one our first stops the village of Les Baux de Provence. The terrain and climate here are quite similar to the American Southwest, i.e.: dry and sunny. Marvel at the symmetrical placement on craggy slopes of the vineyards and be taken aback from time to time at the stunningly rich color of the lavender fields that attracted Cezanne, Van Gogh and Chagall. We’ll visit the quintessential villages of Provence like St. Remy, Les Baux, Allauch, Remoulins and Uzes.
Better known must see stops include The Palace of the Popes at Avignon, the Roman Amphitheatre in Arles and the Roman Arena in Nimes. My two favorites in Provence as concerns history would be The Pont du Gard and the Maison Carre in Nimes. Both are breathtaking in their beauty and architectural prowess.
Marseille is like a second home to me. We’ll head strait for my favorite location in the city: Notre Dame de la Garde. The view is stunning! The German Luftwaffe left a few reminders of its occupation here. I’ll point them out to you. The American army left a gift as well (not to be confused with the larger gift of liberating the country) You’ll be surprised to see it and proud to do so!
LE VIEUX PORT DE MARSEILLE
Of course we’ll also see Le Vieux Port (the focal point of the city which is not only an active port of pleasure craft but also retains its ancient function of small fish market only ten feet from the water!) The fishmongers themselves are as colorful and “salty” as their selection of fish; and they’ll be happy to take a few snapshots with you and the gorgeous Vieux Port as a background. The fish couldn’t be any fresher than at Le Vieux Port, and I hope you see some that strike you’re fancy because a little later in the day that could be your lunch. Yes; for the fish eaters among the group we will visit one of the best restaurants in France to dine on the famous fish stew of bouillabaisse.
CASSIS. LES CALANQUES.
The coast of Provence is studded with beautiful villages, one of which is Cassis. We’re going to take a leisurely boat ride a short distance from Marseille to Cassis. Along the way we’ll pass up close to Les Calanques, a nature reserve on the coast, accessible only on foot. When the most beautiful photographs of the Mediterranean show up in a travel magazine, very often they are shots of Les Calanques! As we head out of Le Vieux Port on our ship we’ll also pass Le Chateau d’If, which lies just off the coast and was the island prison setting for The Count of Monte Cristo.
The next day we’ll take the bullet train back to Paris for our departure to America on American Airlines.
Grab your beret! I’ll see you in Paris!
Kenneth G. Chase, President
Conservative Tours Inc.
- Paris and all her great monuments: The Eiffel Tower, Les Invalides, Les Champs Elysees, Place de la Concorde, Notre Dame, Le Louvre, La Sorbonne, L’Opera, Place Vendome, La Bastille.
- Two gastronomical dinners in Burgundy.
- Gastronomical lunch at the famous Le Boulingrin in Reims.
- Wine tasting at a famous Burgundy producer and an introduction to the art and science of wine production.
- Cooking lesson from a professional French chef, complete with dining.
- First class on the TGV (France’s famous bullet train).
- Admission to one of Burgundy’s best castles, Le Clos de Vougoet.
- Le Sacre Coeur & Monmartre.
- Excursion to famous destination department stores Printemps & Galeries Lafayette—tips on how to buy and save.
- Les Hospices de Beaune.
- Built in free time in Paris to visit the museums of your choice.
- Visit to Le Cassissium, La Fromagerie Gaugry
- Moutarderie Fallot to see the last authentic producer of Dijon mustard in France
- Famous home of the Gingerbread Factory of French lore: Mulot & Petitjean.
- July 4th on the D Day Beaches with historical commentary by President of Conservative Tours, Ken Chase
- Round trip airfare from our U.S. gateways to Paris, France.
- 10 hotel nights, 4 star accommodations in Paris at the Pullman Montparnasse Hotel. 3 star hotel properties in Burgundy & Normandy.
- Paris and all her famous sights.
- “Secret Parisian Stroll!” Visit some of the best street life in quintessential Paris where the tourists never go!
- Airport transfers, to and from CDG.
- Bullet train to and from Champagne capital of the world: Reims.
- Breakfast Daily.
- 4 gastronomical dining events (Three in Burgundy, one in Reims.)
- Private motor coach to visit La Route des Grands Crus in Burgundy & Normandy’s D Day Beaches
- Wine tasting and cooking lesson from professional French chef. This is also one of the gastronomical dining events.
- Admission to chateaux (two castles in Burgundy.)
- Expert Dinner or Breakfast lecture
- All sightseeing as per the itinerary. Entrance fees included as per the itinerary
- Day trip to Reims for an elegant Champagne experience, tasting session and gastronomical meal at Le Boulingrin
- Visit in Reims to Red Brick Schoolhouse where General Eisenhower took the surrender of the Nazi regime.
- All D Day sites as indicated in tour description, and more not listed, accompanied by Ken’s narration of each site’s historic significance.
- Entrance fees covered in your tour cost: Surrender Museum in Reims. Le Clos de Vougeot. Eiffel Tower. Military Museum in Normandy. Le Chateau de Savigny. La Fromagerie Gaugry. La Moutarderie Fallot. Le Cassissium. Champagne guided tour.
- 2 additional dinners: one in Paris, one on the D Day Beaches.
What’s Not Included:
- Optional group travel insurance.
- Government air tax
- Optional Tour extension to Provence for one week.
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