Off the coast of France, surrounded by swirling seas, a magnificent cathedral rises from the rock: Mont St. Michel. Discover this ancient abbey—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—as well as the idyllic village of the same name, plus Brittany’s verdant landscapes and unique blend of Celtic and French cultures.
- It's Included:
- Accommodations: for 3 nights at the Grand Hotel de Courtoisville or similar, and 1 night at a Paris airport hotel (included in the cost of your main trip)
- 5 meals: 4 breakfasts and 1 lunch
- Included tours: St. Malo, Mont St. Michel Abbey, Chartres Cathedral
- Exclusive services of a resident Grand Circle Program Director
- All transfers
Fly from the U.S. to Paris, France.
Arrive this morning or afternoon in Paris. You are met at the airport and transferred to your airport hotel, located 18 miles from the Paris city center.
You have the balance of the day to relax after your overseas flight. Later, join your fellow travelers for a Welcome Briefing with your Program Director.
This morning after breakfast, you’ll depart for the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Chartres Cathedral. Since the majority of its construction in the late twelfth century, the cathedral has remained largely unscathed by the ravages of time, nature, and even the French Revolution. When you explore it today, and soak in its elegant flying buttresses or its 150 stained glass windows, you will witness much the same view that greeted pilgrims 800 years ago. Be sure to note the striking labyrinth pattern on the cathedral floor; though some theorize that it was once used for ritual purposes, the labyrinth’s true origins remain mysterious to this day.
This evening, check in to your hotel in the historic port town of St. Malo. As early as the Middle Ages, St. Malo controlled the flow of boat traffic in both directions: from the sea to the River Rance and vice versa. Holding such power went to the heads of its rulers, who for three years declared St. Malo its own country—not subject to France, nor even Brittany. After a Welcome Drink at the hotel, you’ll have a chance to experience the realm they created tonight when you enjoy dinner on your own. If you like seafood, you’ll be especially well-rewarded, as St. Malo has the greatest concentration of seafood restaurants in Europe.
After breakfast, embark upon a walking tour with a local guide to discover all that St. Malo has to offer within its ancient walls. A highlight of your discoveries will be a visit to the home of a corsair. The corsairs attacked the vessels of other nations, often plundering some or all of their bounty, but the corsairs weren’t officially pirates because they had letters of authorization from the King of France himself. Building elaborate mansions (including one the size of a city block) to display their wealth, the corsairs were truly a class unto themselves, as you’ll discover during your visit.
The remainder of the day is yours for discovery at your own pace. Perhaps you'll choose to stroll through the grey granite arch of Porte St. Vincent into the Old Town at Place Chateaubriand, where shops and cafes line the streets facing the castle.
Or join our optional tour to visit medieval Dinan. You'll stop by a local creperie for a glass of cider and a traditional crepe before embarking on a walking tour of the town with a local expert.
Return to St. Malo for dinner on your own.
After breakfast, head to the tiny town of Mont St. Michel, connected by causeway to the mainland and home to only a few dozen full-time residents. Enjoy an included tour of the medieval town and its eleventh century Romanesque Abbey, world-famous for its dramatic clifftop perch, as well as its rich history. Breton legend has it that the archangel Michael appeared to Aubert, the local bishop, in 708 AD and demanded that a church be built on this stony promontory, but Aubert—somehow unfazed by the appearance of a celestial vistor—said no. Aubert changed his mind, so the story goes, when Michael burned a hole into the bishop’s skull with one finger. The first structure was built soon after, and was then expanded dramatically in the eleventh century, taking the striking form we see today. You may decide for yourself whether the finished Abbey resembles a mostly-closed fist with the spire as one extended angelic finger.
Savor an included lunch in St. Michel, then continue to the quaint fishing port of Cancale, known as the "Oyster Capital of the World." Whether you stroll along the rocky jetty or peruse the crates of dripping wet fresh mollusks set up streetside by local vendors, there’s no escaping the rich bounty of the sea.
Return to your hotel this evening for dinner on your own.
After breakfast, you’ll begin your transfer to Honfleur. En route, visit the Peace Memorial Museum in Caen, a state-of-the-art facility that does an outstanding job of presenting the events of World War II, including D-Day, very vividly. It’s an excellent way to put into context what you’re going to see at the Normandy beaches the next day. You’ll have time here for lunch on your own.
Then you'll join your fellow travelers to begin your Seine: Paris to Normandy River Cruise. Please note: If you have chosen this extension, you will transfer to Honfleur on Day 3 of the main trip.