Le Pays Basque

Saint Jean Pied-de-Port 2011-05-21 DSC_0236

Tenacious, proud, spirited, intelligent, friendly and enigmatic, the Basque people have managed to keep their ancient language and customs alive even under French rule. Most of the French Basques live in the mountainous region of the Pyrenees while some inhabit the coastal regions From Bayonne to the Spanish Border.

The mountainous region is mostly agrarian where sheep, goats and cattle roam lush green valleys and verdant high pastures in summertime.  All of the houses and buildings are painted white with doors and windows painted either red or green – the colors of the Basque flag.

The Basques are passionate about their cuisine, especially their fresh ewe’s milk cheese and their hot red peppers known as Piment d’Espelette. Theirs is a rich culture of music and traditional dances that are nearly as important as their national pastime, the game of pelota.

During our venture to this unique area, we will:

• Stroll around the coastal town of Saint-Jean-de-Luz with its bustling weekly market, its vast array of interesting shops (hand-made espadrilles anyone?), and a vast boardwalk lined with period houses. There’s a wide beach with warm, soft sand where we can sit for a while and perhaps dip our toes in the eastern Atlantic Ocean;

• Travel the coastal road above the treacherous shoreline of the Atlantic

• Wander two timeless beautiful villages with lovely shops and traditional houses of red and white;

• Explore Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port (literally at the door of the mountain pass) a major stopover and resting place for pilgrims on their way to Santiago di Campostella in Spain.

• Sample local and famous Basque fermented cider at a local Ciderie (cider house);

• Taste locally produced wine at a Basque winery (perfect with traditional Basque cheeses);

• Ride a cogwheel train up the side of a mountain populated with free roaming, mostly tame ponies and sheep, for a stunning views of both the Pyrenees and the Atlantic coast.

• Sample the Fromage de Brebis (fresh ewe’s milk cheese) with its own DOC label;

• Discover Biarritz – one of the surfing capitals of the world.

Friday 5/31/2013 – 6/5/2013

We will meet in Bordeaux and drive to the Pays Basque.  Prices and further details coming very soon.

Please fill out the form below if you are interested in further details to this very unique place.

Lascaux – The Most Famous Painted Prehistoric Cave

Font-de-Gaume,, Painted Caves, Cro Magnan, Prehistoric, Reindeer, Dordogne, Culture, France

Discovered in 1940 by a teenage boy, the cave of Lascaux, located in the Dordogne region of France, opened the world’s eyes to the beauty and sophistication of prehistoric cave art.  Preserved for over 17,000 years, the images are life-like and depict the animals that roamed this area of France at the time the paintings were made. The paintings are striking not only for their rich color but also for the realistic reproduction of the animals, the shading to indicate form and shape, and the primitive attempt at the portrayal of perspective, something that would not be addressed, let alone mastered, until the Renaissance.

Since the discovery of Lascaux, many more sites have been found in this region.  In 1979 UNESCO designated the Vézère River Valley, of which Lascaux is a part, as a World Heritage Site that includes 197 prehistoric sites and 25 decorated caves.

According to Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lascaux the original cave was closed to tourists in 1948 because of severe deterioration of the paintings due to the carbon dioxide humans introduced into the cave.  Since that time, the French government has made it possible for us to see the main part of Lascaux with an exact replica called Lascaux II.

A Day Visiting the Vézère River Valley

2013-01-05 St. Leon Sur Vezere TownDuring the upcoming boutique tour to the Dordogne, we will spend an entire day exploring the Vézère River Valley including a guided tour in English of Lascaux II.   During the day, we will visit a giant limestone cliff on which there is evidence that ancient, as well as medieval, man lived and a medieval village.  There will be an opportunity to visit Les Eyzies (considered the town of prehistory) and the famous Museum of Prehistory, which has the 3rd largest collection of prehistory artifacts in the world.  (Photo of St. Léon-sur-Vézère courtesy of Rob at http://www.ourfrenchgarden.com)

Lascaux II has a website where you can get an idea about what the cave looks like and some of the drawings and symbols seen in the cave.  Click here for the English language site.  The site is vast and takes a little time to get acquainted with it.  The music can be turned off by clicking the word ‘sound’ at the bottom of the page.  After clicking on ‘Visit the Cave’ just under the word ‘Lascaux,’ an informative map appears in the lower right hand corner indicating where in the cave the photos are located.  Also, a menu will appear by moving your curser to the left of the screen. Clicking on the separate photos will bring up a menu with links to additional, and more detailed, information.   Screen


  • Stepping-Stones: A Journey through the Ice Age Caves of the Dordogne by Christine Desdemaines-Hugon
  • The Cave Painters by Gregory CurtisThe first book I read about cave art was
  • Mapping Human History, Genes, Race, and Our Common Origins by Steve Olsen


The Bradshaw Foundation offers an interactive map showing the migration patterns of humans out of Africa with a timeline.  It also indicates periods of different ice ages.

Another Cave

There is an opportunity to see another splendid painted cave near Les Eyzies, Font-de-Gaume.  This beautiful bison is from that cave as did the tender painting of the reindeer above.  Font de Gaume, Painted Caves, Dordogne, France, BisonAll painted caves have similarities and differences.  In my opinion, would be well worth seeing this second cave to get a sense of how other caves differ.  Also, one day these beautiful prehistoric masterpieces may be closed to the public.  The following paintings are found in Font-de-Gaume.

The Natural and Cultivated Beauty of the Dordogne

Several times I have commented on just how beautiful and lush the Dordogne is.  The land and what it can produce seems to be endless and bountiful.  There is something about the proximity of the warm colored stone of the buildings and the plants, flowers and trees that contrast and heighten each ones’ essence.

A dear friend, Nancy, who may love flowers and gardening as much as she does travel, sent a link to a blog that fully illustrates not only the beauty of the area but furnishes photo after photo of the beautiful contrast described above.  The owner of the blog, Our French Garden, Rob, has graciously agreed to allow me to post some of his beautiful photos of his garden and the Dordogne.   Check out his blog at http://ourfrenchgarden.blogspot.com/ Thank you Nancy and Rob. Our small group journey in June will be a perfect time to visit the Dordogne. As we travel around the area the flowers should be beautiful.

Dordogne, Flowers, Perigord Noir
Dordogne, Flowers
St. Léon sur Vézère, Dordogne, Perigord Noir, Plus Beaux Village de France


This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Full Itinerary Here

A feast for the senses…fields of fragrant lavender, orchards of silvery gray-green olive trees, deep blue seas, grilled fresh fish, ruby-red wine, warm golden sun, light sea breezes; bold vivid fabrics, church bells at dusk and the clear, clean light of the impressionists.

During our stay we’ll visit Aix-en-Provence, the home of Cézanne and see his studio in town as well as the family summer home, which was inspiration for several of his paintings.  We’ll travel the route to Le Tholonet with views of Mt. St. Victoire, a favorite landscape subject of Cézanne.

You’ll take a walking tour of Arles, an ancient Roman town, and visit many of the locations Van Gogh chose to paint including the view of the Rhône River for Starry Night Over the Rhône and the Langlois Bridge.  We’ll drive to très chic Saint Rémy-de-Provence, where the artist was hospitalized at the Clinique St-Paul.  We’ll visit the hospital grounds and see the garden, a frequent subject of the artist.

Renoir moved to the warmer south in 1907 because of rheumatoid arthritis and bought a small farm, Les Collettes, in Cagnes-sur-Mer.  He painted paintings of his house, the olive trees around his farm and took up sculpture.  We’ll visit Renoir’s house, now a museum,  which will be re-opened next summer after extensive renovations.

Henri Matisse moved to the French Riviera in 1917 where he continued to paint.  It was here that he started his work with cut outs.  We will tour the museum dedicated to Matisse in Cimiez, housed in a grand 17th century villa, which contains the largest collection of his works in the world.

Monet visited the south of France during the winter months.  He loved painting Antibes from Cap d’Antibes with views of the deep blue sea in the foreground, the old fort and the snow capped alps in the background.  We will visit the artist’s favorite location for painting the fort of the old town.

In addition to the artists’ lives, we will visit villages, sample some of the best wines of the region, see Les Beaux, maybe have a hands on cooking class, take in at least one market and eat delicious and healthy provençal food.

Provence is scheduled for in the first part of September 2013.  Check “Follow” to be alerted about updates.  Or, fill in the form below for alerts about this trip.

See Full Itinerary Here


France as it used to be.

An ancient land of lush valleys, majestic castles, soaring limestone cliffs, meandering rivers, painted caves and a star studded cuisine, the Dordogne is a place where you can lose yourself for a while.  It’s a place to step back in time while visiting fortified bastides, ancient pilgrimage sites and medieval towns and villages considered to be some of the most beautiful in France.

If you like slightly off the beaten path destinations rich in a culture and tradition that still thrives, join our small group of like-minded travelers to this unique area of southwest France.  It will be a journey to delight each and every one of your senses and bring your camera, there’s an award-winning photograph at every turn and from every vista.

Solo travelers are welcome.  We will be happy to match you up with another solo traveler if desired.  Single rooms are also available.

Each outing on the itinerary includes a professional, English speaking guide, van and driver.


Adobe PDF reader is required to read the itinerary.  To download the free reader, follow this link and download file:  Adobe Reader