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NEW Bordeaux: Vineyards, Vintages & Châteaux 2015

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Post-trip: Toulouse & Carcassonne, France

Experience the beauty of southwestern France, as you explore the vibrant, culture-rich Toulouse. Spend four nights in La Ville Rose on the Garonne River, delving into the 2000-year history and Old-World charm of this thriving city with included discoveries and time to explore on your own. And travel to nearby Carcassonne, an enchanting walled city that has inspired fairy tales and artists alike.

It's Included:
Accommodations: for 4 nights in Toulouse
5 meals: 4 breakfasts, 1 dinner
Included tours: Toulouse, Carcassonne
Exclusive services of a Grand Circle Program Director
All transfers
Now included for 2015:
Gratuities for local guides and motorcoach drivers on your extension and all optional tours
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    Disembark the Bordeaux: Vineyards, Vintages & Chateaux River Cruise Tour after breakfast and transfer by private motorcoach to Toulouse. En route, we'll stop in a French village, typical of the Midi-Pyrenees region where rivers and mountain peeks abound. The pace is leisurely and, as the local slogan goes, “the living is good.” You’ll have time for a discovery walk in the village before lunch on your own.

    Arrive mid-afternoon in Toulouse, a vibrant cultural hub renowned for its historic Théâtre du Capitole ballet and opera house. Known as La Ville Rose, for the pale-red brickwork common in its traditional buildings, Toulouse offers elegant reminders of the past stretching all the way back to the medieval era, as well as glimpses of the future, with its three major universities.

    After settling into your hotel, enjoy a short orientation walk to discover the neighborhood surrounding your hotel. This evening, dinner is on your own, followed by free time to further explore Toulouse.

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    Today, you’ll get to know Toulouse on both an included city tour and during free time to explore at your own pace.

    During a guided walking tour, you'll discover firsthand the unique blend of the city’s rich 2000-year history and thriving cultural scene as you visit the Place du Capitol, Toulouse’s stately main square and home of city hall and the renowned Théâtre du Capitole. You'll also visit the largest Romanesque cathedral in Europe, the eleventh-century Basilique Saint-Sernin.

    Then continue to uncover the gems of the “Pink City” on your own. Perhaps you’ll visit the church of Les Jacobins Monastery, home to the relics of Thomas Aquinas. Or you may soak up millennia of culture in one of the city’s museums, including Les Abbatoirs, next to the Garonne River, with its collection of modern and contemporary art, or the 19th-century Château d’Eau, which houses photography exhibits spanning the past 100 years in a transformed brick water tower. For an oasis within the city walls, perhaps you'll stroll through the Jardin des Plantes, a lush botanical garden sculpted 200 years ago. Or to see the opulence of eras passed, visit one of the ornate 16th-century hôtels particuliers, grand townhouses that were once home to the city's elite.

    With lunch and dinner on your own, you’ll enjoy ample opportunity to savor local fare, including Toulouse sausage, a regional classic made with fresh pork.

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    The day is at leisure for your own discoveries. For a timeless Toulouse experience, stroll across the Pont-Neuf, the oldest bridge over the Garonne river, finished in 1626.

    Or perhaps you’ll join our optional Albi & Lautrec tour. Post-Impressionist painter and provocateur Toulouse-Lautrec is one of the most colorful figures in Parisian art history. Today, you’ll discover the tranquil villages where he was born and spent his first years. Hugging the Tarn River, Albi glows with a pink cast thanks to the red-brick architecture for which the region is well-known. The portion of Albi known as “the Episcopal City”—a city within the city—is a UNESCO World Heritage Site encompassing the Old Bridge, the fortified 13th-century cathedral, the sprawling Palais de la Berbie, and medieval residences. After a guided city tour of Albi, enjoy an included lunch at a local restaurant.

    Then we depart for Lautrec, where you’ll enjoy a discovery walk and time to explore on your own in this village where half-timbered houses, stone ramparts, a 15th-century market, and medieval lanes transport you to another era.

    You’ll return from your optional tour in time for dinner on your own in Toulouse.

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    Today we discover the walled city of Carcassonne. The fortified hilltop citadel is divided into two districts: the medieval Cité, the largest fortified town still standing in Europe, overlooking the River Aude; and the Ville Basse (New Town), created after the Crusades. Laid out in a grid like pattern, Ville Basse is home to the 13th–century St. Michael and St. Vincent churches. Our walking tour includes La Cité, with its double-lined ramparts and the turreted Chateau Comtal fortress, which overlooks its winding, narrow streets. The Basilique St. Nazaire here shows the handiwork of the 11th-14th centuries, with a Romanesque nave and Gothic choir illuminated by stained glass windows.

    You’ll enjoy lunch on your own here and time to explore at your own pace before we return to Toulouse late this afternoon.

    This evening enjoy a Farewell Drink and Dinner in a local restaurant.

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    • Meals included:

    Transfer today to the Toulouse airport for your flight home.