Gardens, Villages & Châteaux of Normandy and Brittany

6 Jun – 26 Jun 2020

  • Region:
    • Europe
    • France
  • Status: limited
  • Code: 22021

Tour Highlights

  • Led by Stephen Ryan, with the assistance of Craig Lidgerwood, this cultural garden tour explores the gardens, agricultural landscapes, villages, towns and great monuments of two of France’s most beautiful and historic regions: Normandy and Brittany.
  • An introduction to the wide range of gardens in French history, featuring visits to medieval monastic gardens, grand Renaissance estates, and intimate modern creations.
  • Private gardens (several listed as ‘Jardin Remarquable’), many visits will be hosted by their owners.
  • Work inspired by the great André Le Nôtre at the Château Champ de Bataille and Château de Sassy, and the influences of Edwin Luytens and Gertrude Jekyll at Le Bois des Moutiers.
  • Le Jardin du Vastérival, residence of the late Princess Sturdza, containing one of the finest plant collections in France.
  • The beautiful, unspoilt northern coast of Brittany with its deep-cut inlets and inland wooded valleys enjoys an exceptional climate due to the Gulf Stream; we explore the Jardins de Kerdalo with a rich collection of plants, the private manor house garden, Le Jardin du Pellinec; and Le Grand Launay which boasts a beautiful modern garden built around an old castle.
  • A journey ‘in the footsteps of the Impressionists’, to Monet’s garden at Giverny, the coast he painted, and the port town of Honfleur; the Musée d’Art Moderne André Malraux (Le Havre) containing one of the most extensive collections of Impressionist paintings in France.
  • Visits to major monuments such as the Abbeys of St-Georges de Boscherville and Mont Saint-Michel; Romanesque and Gothic Cathedrals such as Notre-Dame (Rouen) and St-Étienne (Caen).
  • The megalithic site on the south coast of Brittany in Carnac, where we examine the largest Neolithic alignment in the world (3500-3000 BC).
  • The Bayeux Tapestry Museum, containing the 11th-century embroidered cloth depicting the Norman conquest of England.
  • Explore a rich variety of village architecture in a number of ‘Les Plus Beaux Villages de France’ including the pretty half-timbered houses of Lyons-la-Forêt and Dinan, the walled towns of Vitré, Vannes and Saint-Malo, and the charming washhouses of Pontrieux.
  • Sampling of French regional produce, with visits to specialist local markets; tastings of Normandy’s Livarot, Pont l’Évêque cheeses, apple juice and calvados, and Brittany’s crêpes, seafood, the famous custard cake, ‘Far Breton’ and the ‘Kouign-Amann’ (cross between a croissant and a palmier).
  • Fine dining in renowned restaurants including historic restaurant La Couronne, Rouen.


This tour certainly exceeded our expectations. The mix of history and wonderful (often private) gardens made for a memorable tour.  David & Chris, QLD.

On the ‘Gardens, Villages & Chateaux of Normandy & Brittany’ tour the weather was generally pleasant and the venues were lovely and very interesting. I loved the charm of many of the French people, their generosity of hospitality, the stunning countryside, and the food, especially when it was local fresh and not nouvelle cuisine.  Rhyll, VIC.

21-day Cultural Garden Tour of Normandy & Brittany

Overnight Rouen (6 nights) • Honfleur (2 nights) • Bayeux (3 nights) • Bagnoles-de-l’Orne (2 nights) • Auray (2 nights) • Perros-Guirec (3 nights) • Saint-Malo (2 nights)


The following itinerary describes a range of museums and gardens which we plan to visit. Many are accessible to the public, but others require special permission which may only be confirmed closer to the tour’s departure. The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours, flight schedules and confirmation of private visits. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents prior to departure. The tour includes breakfast daily, lunches & evening meals indicated in the detailed itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch and D=evening meal.

Rouen - 6 nights

Day 1: Saturday 6 June, Paris CDG – Lyons-la-Forêt – Rouen
  • Afternoon tea in Lyons-la-Forêt village
  • Introductory Meeting
  • Welcome Dinner

Today we set out from Paris Charles-de-Gaulle Airport to the magnificent regional city of Rouen, to begin our journey through the gardens, great houses, villages and historic monuments of Northern France.

En route we stop in Lyons-la-Forêt, one of France’s most picturesque villages, for an afternoon tea in the Hôtel Les Lions de Beauclerc. Most of its houses, many of which have façades featuring intricate wooden frames, are from the 17th century, but Lyons was once a Roman settlement and afterwards site of a castle built by Henry I of England, son of William the Conqueror. Kings were attracted to the region by its magnificent hunting grounds in the nearby beech forest. Lyons also has an excellent covered market from the 18th century, which was used in both Jean Renoir’s and Claude Chabrol’s films of Madame Bovary. We shall also pass the house of one of France’s greatest musicians, Ravel. Ravel, Debussy and Erik Satie all derived inspiration from Normandy’s beautiful landscapes.

After stopping in Lyons-la-Forêt we continue our journey to Rouen, arriving in the evening. After checking into our hotel, and some time at leisure, we shall have a brief introductory meeting followed by a welcome dinner at the Brasserie Paul, near our hotel. (Overnight Rouen) D

Day 2: Sunday 7 June, Rouen – Saint-Martin-de-Boscherville – St Pierre-de-Manneville – Rouen
  • Romanesque Abbey of St Georges-de-Boscherville
  • Manoir et Parc de Villers, St Pierre-de-Manneville
  • Orientation walk of Rouen
  • Evening meal at restaurant La Couronne

Our excursion from Rouen takes us first to the Abbey St Georges-de-Boscherville. A Celtic shrine existed here for several centuries until in the 7th century a chapel dedicated to St George was built over it. In the 11th century the great chamberlain Raoul de Tancarville founded here a college for canons that was transformed into a magnificent Benedictine abbey. We shall visit the abbey with its fine Romanesque carvings and explore its garden, dedicated to plants believed by the monks to cure souls.

After lunch we visit one of the magnificent country manor houses of Normandy, the Manoir de Villers, a beautiful half-timbered manor house begun in the time of Charles VII (1403-1461) and added to for three centuries. A special delight will be a guided tour of the manor’s interior in which the owners M. and Mme Robert Mery de Bellegarde will show you the magnificent family furniture collection. It is surrounded by themed gardens where we shall enjoy a light lunch prepared by our hosts.

We then return to Rouen for an orientation tour of this beautiful historic city. The city grew up as an important centre of Roman Gaul, called ‘Rotomagus’, a derivation of the Celtic name ‘Ratuma’. It became an important ecclesiastical centre from the 3rd century and part of the Duchy of Normandy and then the Norman kingdom (1066), until lost to the French by King John in 1204. Rouen surrendered to Henry V of England in 1419 after a protracted siege, but was reclaimed by France in 1449. By the end of the 15th century it had become a centre of the French Renaissance.

Rouen has some of the finest Gothic architecture in France. The façade of its cathedral fascinated Monet, who painted it at different times of the day. Other churches include the 15th-century church of St Ouen and the church of St Maclou (1437), both notable examples of French flamboyant architecture. The Gros-Horloge is a Renaissance pavilion containing a 15th-century clock, and the Tour Jeanne d’Arc is where the saint was imprisoned before her execution. The Hôtel de Bourgheroulde (1501-37) is the best example of the city’s medieval domestic architecture.

Tonight we dine together at restaurant La Couronne. Housed in a superbly preserved half-timbered home, it is considered the oldest inn in France, dating from 1345. (Overnight Rouen) BLD

Day 3: Monday 8 June, Rouen – Buchy – Bosc-Roger-sur-Buchy – Montmain – Rouen
  • Buchy village market
  • Le Jardin de Valérianes, Bosc-Roger-sur-Buchy
  • Les Jardins d’Angélique, Montmain

A second day trip from Rouen takes us first to the small village of Buchy, where we shop for our lunch in the Monday market. Like so many local markets in Normandy, Buchy’s Monday market features exclusively local produce. Many of local farms specialise in organic products. The medieval covered market hall has fixed wooden tables that were originally butchers’ blocks.

Three kilometres outside Buchy, Le Jardin de Valérianes, tucked away in a corner of the countryside, was created by a couple of passionate gardeners, Michel and Maryline Tissait, who named the garden after their two daughters. This English-style garden of over 4000 square metres offers much visual pleasure with its combination of perennials, roses, trees and bushes.

Next, we travel to Montmain to visit the Jardins d’Angélique, which comprise two wonderful gardens. Originally created by Gloria and Yves Le Bellegard in memory of their daughter Angelica, the two separate gardens are distinct in character. South of the manor house is a formal garden with walkways and clipped hedges, Italianate in style with box-edged beds of perennials and ornamental grasses, punctuated by yew topiary and a central fountain. It is designed to complement not only the rear elevations of the house, but to provide marvellous panoramas of the surrounding countryside. To the north is a flowing ‘English-style’ garden: dreamy, romantic, with grassy paths winding between hundreds of shrubs, plants and trees.

In the late afternoon we return to Rouen, where the evening is at leisure. (Overnight Rouen) B

Day 4: Tuesday 9 June, Rouen – Giverny – Auzouville-sur-Ry – Rouen
  • Monet’s House and Gardens, Giverny
  • Le Jardin Plume, Auzouville-sur-Ry

This morning we depart Rouen for Giverny, in the heart of Normandy, where the great Impressionist Claude Monet lived for forty-three years. We visit the artist’s beautiful home and garden, a dominant theme of his later paintings, created when as an old man he was unable to travel. The water-lily pond and wisteria-covered Japanese bridge were of his own design and his favourite motifs. Monet’s house, ‘Le Pressoir’, and its gardens have been faithfully restored and opened to the public. Our visit to his house will include a stroll through the garden with its thousands of flowers, including the Nympheas. We cross the Japanese bridge hung with wisteria to a dreamy setting of weeping willows and rhododendrons. Monet’s studio barge floated on the pond. In September the lawns are typically full of pink colchicums. The dahlias are eye-catching, and there are usually roses and nasturtiums in bloom at the house garden. No wisteria flowers, but the vine covers the bridge, and the pond is surrounded by greenery and impatiens.

In the afternoon we drive to Auzouville-sur-Ry to visit Le Jardin Plume, where owners Sylvie and Patrick Quibel have converted their orchard into a parterre. There is also a spring garden, summer garden and autumn garden. The summer garden is a kind of modern knot garden with a very formal layout of clipped box in a square edged pattern. Each ‘box’ is then filled with a very natural planting of grasses and perennials but the colours are superb – lots of golden yellow, deep red and burning oranges. The overall mix of formal and informal, the sombre green of the box and the jewel-like colours of the flowers is really superb. In September the box hedges are typically filled with vibrantly coloured flowers, interspersed with grasses. Favourite plants here are dahlias, crocosmias, heleniums, kniphofias and of course grasses – giving the plumes the garden is named for. (Overnight Rouen) B

Day 5: Wednesday 10 June, Rouen – Varengeville-sur-Mer – Tourville-sur-Arques – Rouen
  • Le Bois des Moutiers, Varengeville-sur-Mer
  • Church & Sailor’s cemetery, Varengeville-sur-Mer
  • The Shamrock Garden, Varengeville-sur-Mer
  • Château de Miromesnil, Tourville-sur-Arques

Today we head north to the coastal village of Varengeville-sur-Mer where we shall visit two gardens owned by the Mallet family.

We will start with Le Bois des Moutiers. The residence and garden have been in the family’s possession since 1898. At that time, a young English architect, Edwin Luytens, who was to become famous for his houses and for the layout and architecture of imperial New Delhi, was asked to modify both the residence and the garden. Luytens designed Munstead Wood for Gertrude Jekyll, and the influence of both of these great English designers is evident in the gardens of Le Bois des Moutiers. The influence of Gertrude Jekyll is seen everywhere, including the design and plantings of the front garden, which slopes toward the sea.

After a picnic lunch in the garden,  we drive a short distance to Varengeville-sur-Mer Church and sailors’ cemetery. Varengeville is an astonishing commune perched atop white limestone cliffs. It has attracted many artists including Claude Monet, and is famous for its church, with its stained-glass windows by Georges Braque. From the sailors’ cemetery, where Georges Braque, Albert Roussel and Porto-Riche are buried, there is a superb view of Dieppe and the cliffs towards Le Tréport.

We then head back to the village to visit the second garden of the Mallet family, the Shamrock Garden. Created in 1984 by Corinne Mallet, it displays a wonderful Hydrangea Collection including 2000 plants from over 1200 varieties. It has been since given the status of French National Collection .

In the late afternoon we continue to the Château de Miromesnil at Tourville-sur-Arques, a splendid 17th-century (Louis XIII) château, where Guy de Maupassant was born. It is located within a large plantation dominated by a two hundred-year-old cedar of Lebanon, and contains a very fine kitchen garden. Its vegetable plots are surrounded by a bewildering variety of flowers. The park is enclosed by old brick walls and features fruit trees, rose trees, magnolias, arborescent peonies and a magnificent variety of clematis. Following dinner at the Château de Miromesnil we return to Rouen for the night. (Overnight Rouen) BD

Day 6: Thursday 11 June, Rouen – Le Neubourg – Rouen
  • Château Champ de Bataille, Le Neubourg
  • Afternoon at leisure in Rouen

This morning we depart Rouen and travel south to Le Neubourg to visit the Château Champ de Bataille, belonging to interior decorator Jacques Garcia. Garcia has completely renovated the 18th-century castle and gardens over the past 20 years. The château boasts a magnificent garden based in part on the classic French style and heavily influenced by drawings by the French designer Le Nôtre – hence its inclusion in Monty Don‘s first programme of his new BBC2 series, French Gardens, which aired on 1 February 2013. Monty was exploring Gardens of Power and Passion in and around Paris, with emphasis on those designed by André Le Nôtre, the son of Louis XVIII’s gardener at Les Tuileries. The original gardens at Champ de Bataille fell into disrepair and had virtually disappeared when the present owner, Jacques Garcia, took it upon himself to recreate a garden in the grounds of the château. An outline plan of the former gardens had survived, which revealed the basic outline and terraces of the missing garden. This was used only as a general guideline, rather than copied slavishly. The resulting garden (which was begun in 1993 and took 12 years to complete) is a masterful blend of classical French and Italian design and inspiration, with modern influences. Parterres, follies, classical temples, fountains, lakes – 43 hectares of park and garden in all, crowned by a stunning view that stretches over a mile down the garden from the main terrace of the Château du Champ de Bataille.

After a light lunch in restaurant Le Café Garcia, located in the former stables of the château, we return to Rouen for an afternoon at leisure. (Overnight Rouen) BL


Honfleur - 2 nights

 Day 7: Friday 12 June, Rouen – Varengeville-sur-Mer – Sainte-Marguerite-sur-Mer – Honfleur
  • L’Etang de Launay, Varengeville-sur-Mer
  • Lunch at Le Piment Bleu, Varengeville-sur-Mer
  • Le Jardin du Vastérival, Ste Marguerite-sur-Mer

This morning we leave Rouen to visit L’Etang de Launay, the recently created private gardens of Jean-Louis Dantec, with its highly-pruned specimen trees leading to a lake and ponds, with extensive woodland planting beyond. Only 20 years in the making, this very private garden has already gained a reputation as one of the finest woodland gardens in Europe.

After a lunch at Le Piment Bleu, located in the grounds of the Château de Varengeville, we drive to Marguerite-sur-Mer to visit the gardens of Vastérival, residence of the late Princess Sturdza. Vastérival is acclaimed as containing one of the finest plant collections in all France. The gardens are very informal, consisting of some twenty acres surrounded by a natural woodland. Cleverly designed paths wander throughout the garden, through the rich under plantings of the woodlands, and issue into glades with countless surprises. The garden is world-famous for its collections of rhododendrons, hydrangeas, maples, birches, viburnums and camellias.

In the late afternoon we make our way to the old trading and fishing port of Honfleur, situated at the mouth of the Seine, where we shall spend two nights. (Overnight Honfleur) BL

Day 8: Saturday 13 June, Honfleur – Le Havre – Honfleur
  • Morning at leisure: Old Port of Honfleur and Saturday Market
  • Musée d’Art Moderne André Malraux, Le Havre
  • Dinner at Le Manoir des Impressionistes, Honfleur

This morning there will be time at leisure to explore Honfleur, with its old, picturesque port, characterised by its houses with slate-covered frontages, painted by many artists including Gustave Courbet, Eugène Boudin and Claude Monet. Honfleur is also famous for its Saturday market, taking place around the lovely Sainte Catherine church, the largest timber church in France.

After lunch, we drive south to Le Havre, situated on the right bank of the estuary of the river Seine on the English Channel. Here we visit the André Malraux Modern Art Museum, which contains the second-most extensive collection of Impressionist paintings in France. There are paintings by Claude Monet and other artists who lived and worked in Normandy including Camille Corot, Eugène Boudin (with the largest collection of his works in the world), Eugène Delacroix, Gustave Courbet, Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Gauguin, Alfred Sisley, Camille Pissarro, Paul Sérusier and Édouard Vuillard. Modern art is also well represented with works by artists such as Henri Matisse, Albert Marquet, Raoul Dufy, Kees van Dongen, Fernand Léger, Alexej von Jawlensky and Nicolas de Staël.

We end the day with a dinner at gastronomic restaurant Le Manoir des Impressionistes, in Honfleur, overlooking the estuary of the river Seine. (Overnight Honfleur) BD

Bayeux - 3 nights

Day 9: Sunday 14 June, Honfleur – Ouilly-le-Vicomte – Mézidon-Canon – Bayeux
  • Château de Boutemont, Ouilly-le-Vicomte
  • Château de Canon, Mézidon-Canon

This morning we depart Honfleur and continue our exploration of Normandy with a visit to the Château de Boutemont. Dating back to the 12th century, this fortified half-timbered manor is a great example of  castles built along the coastline after the Norman victory of Hastings in 1066. It is today surrounded by an 11-hectare park listed as ‘Jardin Remarquable’. The French gardens designed by Achille Duchène at the beginning of the 20th century have since been completed by landscape architect Georges Hayat’s creations, including a Renaissance Italian garden, rose trees-decorated arches and a small ‘scent garden’.

Our final visit for the day is to the gardens of the Château de Canon, residence of M. Alain de Mezerac. Here, an 18th-century house is surrounded by contemporary gardens and a park, created by Jean-Baptise-Jacques Elie de Beaumont and his wife Anne-Louise. The family has owned this property since the Middle Ages. Their alteration of the house to the Neoclassical style, which brought on a lawsuit, resulted in a splendid two-storey structure, while pavilions and statuary in the garden landscape are English in style.

In the late afternoon we continue our drive to Bayeux, our next base in Normandy, which is famous above all for its tapestry. (Overnight Bayeux) BL

Day 10: Monday 15 June, Bayeux – Brécy – Bayeux
  • Cathedral Notre-Dame & historic centre of Bayeux
  • Bayeux Tapestry Museum
  • Château de Brécy, St-Gabriel-Brécy

Our program begins today with a walking tour of Bayeux’s historic centre and fine Cathedral of Notre-Dame. This gem of Norman architecture was consecrated on 14 July 1077 by Bishop Odo of Conteville, in the presence of his illustrious brother, William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy and King of England.

Mid-morning, we visit the special museum dedicated to the Tapisserie de Bayeux which chronicles the Norman invasion of England. This Anglo-Saxon work, presented by la Reine Mathilde (Queen Matilda, wife of William the Conqueror), to Bishop Odo in c.1080, was inspired by manuscript scrolls and the continuous narratives of the antique columns of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius in Rome. It chronicles events from the promise of Harold Godwin to bequeath his kingdom to William to the death of the Saxon king on the field at Hastings; it is fascinating for its detailed depictions of arms and the 11th-century methods and machinery of warfare.

After lunch at leisure, we drive to the Château de Brécy, residence of M. and Mme Didier Wirth. This will be a perfect introduction to the formal French garden; intimate in scale and exquisite in detail. Set in a wooded hamlet, the château would resemble a Norman farmhouse were it not for the pedimented entrance. The house dates from the 17th century, when it belonged to the Le Bas family, friends and associates of the great French architect after whom the distinctive pitched roof is named, François Mansart. The house bears many hallmarks of Mansart’s architecture. The garden, which is immediately behind the house, consists of five terraces, fine stone work, elegant parterres, pools, topiary and wrought-iron gates that provide views into Normandy’s countryside. (Overnight Bayeux) B

Day 11: Tuesday 16 June, Bayeux – Saint-Maurice-en-Cotentin – Castillon-Plantbessin – Bayeux
  • Le Jardin de la Bizerie, Saint-Maurice-en-Cotentin
  • Les Jardins de Plantbessin, Castillon

This morning we drive across the Cotentin Peninsula to visit the private gardens of La Bizerie. Benefiting from the Cotentin micro-climate, Jérôme Goutier has transformed a damp valley into a unique garden, filled with mediterranean plants as well as semi-tropical species usually found in the southern hemisphere.

After lunch we return to Bayeux via Castillon to visit the Jardins de Plantbessin, created by Colette Sainte Beuve as a water garden to complement her plant nursery. Here you will find a marvellous treasure trove of plants that includes beautiful samples of Japanese plants as well as herbs and heather, situated on a site which measures less than a quarter of an acre. (Overnight Bayeux) BL

Bagnoles-de-l'Orne - 2 nights

Day 12: Wednesday 17 June, Bayeux – Caen – Bagnoles-de-l’Orne
  • Fine Arts Museum, Caen
  • Abbaye-aux-Hommes & its abbatial church St Étienne, Caen

This morning we depart Bayeux to visit the excellent small art museum  of Caen (with works by Van der Weyden, Perugino, Poussin and Veronese), which is built within the ruined walls of William the Conqueror’s castle.

After lunch at Café Mancel in Caen, we explore the Abbaye-aux-Hommes, and its church St Étienne. This masterpiece of Romanesque church architecture, which survived the 1944 Allied bombardment, was begun by William the Conqueror as his mausoleum. One reason for the finesse of this building, which influenced many later Romanesque churches, was the abundance of good building stone in the region.

We stay for the next two nights in a lovely small heritage hotel, Le Manoir du Lys, at Bagnoles-de-L’Orne, owned by a family noted for their fine cuisine, which we shall sample at our evening meals. The hotel is set in a pretty garden on the edge of the Andaine Forest. (Overnight Bagnoles-de-l’Orne) BLD

Day 13: Thursday 18 June, Bagnoles-de-l’Orne – Saint-Biez-en-Belin – St-Christophe-le-Jajolet – Bagnoles-de-l’Orne
  • Le Jardin d’Atmosphère du Petit Bordeaux, Saint-Biez-en-Belin
  • Jardins et Terrasses du Château de Sassy, Saint-Christophe-Le-Jajolet

Today we drive out of Normandy toward the Maine region. Our first visit is to Le Jardin d’Atmosphère du Petit Bordeaux, in the town of Saint-Biez-en-Belin. This delightful garden was voted the ‘Preferred garden of the French’ in the Pays-de-Loire region in 2014 by viewers of the France 2 television channel. It was also awarded the ‘Jardin Remarquable’ label in 2007 by the French Minister of Culture. This private garden, which covers 1.5 hectares, has been created since 1987. A wonderfully mature garden, it is full of trees under planted with hydrangeas, day lillies, hostas, ancient roses, acers and dogwood. Every season has its own interest and two large ponds provide focal points in the garden. There are more than 4000 different plants including collections of Acers, Hydrangeas, Cornus (including the beautiful Cornus kousa ‘Salomi’), roses and grasses.. We shall have lunch in the gardens before making our way to Saint-Christophe-Le-Jajolet.

We drive through the majestic Forêt d’Écouves to the gardens and terraces of the Château de Sassy. This is a spectacular formal garden, a benchmark of the French formal style, featuring clipped yews. It was designed in the first decades of the 20th century by the famous Achille Duchêne for Etienne d’Audriffet. The designer took his inspiration from the great Le Nôtre, who was responsible for the gardens of Versailles and Vaux-le-Vicomte. The garden, which rolls out like a great carpet below an 18th-century château, is located in the Pays d’Argentan between hedged farmlands and the vast plains of the north. Its strict formality beautifully counterpoints a pastoral landscape of hedges and clumps of fruit trees where thoroughbred horses graze. A deep perspective of terraces with intricate broderies (‘boxwood embroideries’) planted in the shapes of Arabesques passes tiers of moats and features a round pool. A lovely small pavilion flanked by two monumental fastigiate yews and rows of shaped lindens forms the perspective’s centrepiece. (Overnight Bagnoles-de-l’Orne) BLD

Vannes - 2 nights

Day 14: Friday 19 June, Bagnoles-de-l’Orne – Vitré – Vannes – Auray
  • Guided tour of the medieval town of Vitré
  • Guided tour of the walled town of Vannes incl. Saint-Pierre Cathedral

Today we leave Normandy and travel through the scenic department of Mayenne to reach Brittany. Our first stop is the medieval town of Vitré, the eastern gateway to the region, located on the slopes of the Vilaine river valley. A guided tour will take us from the Château de Vitré to the heart of the old merchant town. Vitré has a rich heritage. One of Brittany’s best-preserved towns, it has remained remarkably similar for the last 500 years. The original appearance of Vitré is preserved in its half-timbered houses, ramparts and religious buildings. Its medieval districts are characterised by sturdily-constructed buildings and dark, sinuous streets. During the Renaissance, merchants built large private, ornately decorated mansions within the city walls; these are still visible today.

After a picnic lunch at Pré des lavandières, we travel west to the south coast of Brittany. Nestled in the Gulf of Morbihan, in one of the world’s most beautiful bays, Vannes boasts all the discreet charm of a fortified town with two thousand years of history. There you will have the opportunity to sample Far Breton and Kouign-Amann – two of the region’s famous specialities. Far Breton is a traditional custard cake with prunes, while Kouign-Amann (pronounced ‘queen a-mahn’), is made with flaky, buttery, caramelised pastry.

A guided tour will lead us through its remarkable old quarter, home to the impressive Saint-Pierre Cathedral. We also take a walk along the town’s ramparts. These 13th-century fortifications, which were regularly remodelled until the 17th century, provide wonderful views of the city’s formal gardens and its cathedral. (Overnight Auray) BL

Day 15: Saturday 20 June, Auray – Pont-Aven – Carnac – Auray
  • Pont-Aven Museum
  • Guided tour of Carnac: stone alignments and circles
  • Dinner at Crêperie Saint Sauveur, Auray

This morning we leave Auray for Pont-Aven, a small and picturesque Breton village which owes its fame to the artistic life that flourished here between 1860 and the mid-20th century. There we shall visit the world’s first gallery devoted to the work of the Pont-Aven School. Reopened in 2016 after having been completely renovated, the museum hosts paintings from post-Impressionist Gauguin and his fellow-artists. You will then have time at leisure to explore the village, walk along the River Aven and sample the town’s ‘galettes’ – butter biscuits invented here in 1920.

After lunch we travel to Carnac to explore the largest Neolithic alignment in the world (3500-3000 BC), with almost 3000 upright stones arranged in 11 almost parallel lines over several kilometres, and consider the various explanations which have been offered for their purpose and function.

We then head back for dinner to Auray which features the picture-postcard ancient quarter of St-Goustan, with its delightful 15th and 16th-century houses. The bend in the River Loch was a natural setting for the town and it soon became one of the busiest ports in Brittany. In 1776, Benjamin Franklin landed here on his way to seek the help of Louis XVI in the American War of Independence. Here we shall eat together at a local crêperie. The word crêpe is French for pancake and is derived from the Latin crispus meaning ‘curled’.  Crêpes originated in Brittany and were once called galettes, meaning flat cakes. (Overnight Auray) BD

Perros-Guirec - 3 nights

Day 16: Sunday 21 June, Auray – Mûr-de-Bretagne – Penvénan –  Perros-Guirec
  • Les Jardins du Botrain, Mûr-de-Bretagne (subject to confirmation in 2020)
  • Jardins de Pellinec, Penvénan

This morning we depart Auray for Les Jardins du Botrain, located outside the small town of Mûr-de-Bretagne. Inspired by English garden design, this romantic garden in the centre of Brittany is a place of relaxation and contemplation. Surrounding an 18th-century manor house with its unique apiary, the gardens consist of many rooms, including a Japanese garden, a rose garden, an iris garden, an area of hostas, acers, a pond and even a small lake.

After lunch we explore a private manor house garden, Le Jardin du Pellinec. Inspired by the gardens at Kerdalo, the seven-acre garden on the Pellinec estuary that has excellent soils was started in 1997. The microclimate has enabled Monsieur Jean to grow a huge diversity of plants laid out in visual harmony. The view is ever changing; at high tide, the sea laps at the garden edges, creating a spectacular sight. This superb garden was awarded 1st prize ‘Bonpland’ in 2008.

In the late afternoon we continue to our hotel located outside the town of Perros-Guirec, on the northern coast of Brittany at the centre of the ‘Coast of Pink Granite’. The combination of pink rocks, blue sea and a few islands on the horizon make this area very picturesque. While based in Perros-Guirec we shall visit a number of private gardens as we journey through the area’s rocky coastline, deep-cut inlets and inland wooded valleys. (Overnight Perros-Guirec) BLD

Day 17: Monday 22 June, Perros-Guirec – Trédarzec – Perros-Guirec
  • Eco-musée des Monts d’Arrée, Natural Regional Park of Armorique
  • Les Jardins de Kerdalo, Trédarzec (subject to confirmation in 2020)

In the morning we travel through the Natural Regional Park of Armorique. We shall drive up to the highest and oldest hills of Brittany, Les Monts d’Arrée, stopping in the town of Saint-Rivoal where we shall visit the eco-museum and be introduced to the Park’s unique fauna and flora by our local guide.

After lunch we visit to the gardens of Kerdalo. The garden, in a valley near the Brittany coast, was the subject of a book by its owner-designer, Prince Peter Wolkonsky: “Kerdalo: Un Jardin d’Exception” (Paris, 1995). He began to create the garden in 1965. Originally a manor farm in its enclosed valley with natural springs, the formal garden merges into a wooded valley with a lake, pools and grotto with a rich collection of trees and shrubs. Since his death in 1997, his daughter Isabelle and her husband Timothy have restored the garden. They both trained as horticulturalists at RHS Garden Wisley.(Overnight Perros-Guirec) BL

Day 18: Tuesday 23 June, Perros-Guirec – Ploëzal – Guingamp – Lanrivain – Pontrieux – Perros-Guirec
  • Château de la Roche-Jagu, Ploëzal
  • Lunch at leisure in Guingamp
  • Le Grand Launay, Lanrivain
  • Boat tour of Pontrieux’s washhouses

This morning we travel to Ploëzal to visit Le Château de La Roche-Jagu, which is surrounded by a contemporary garden in a magnificent setting overlooking the River Trieux. Inspired by medieval gardens, it features a kitchen garden, a medicinal garden and a flower garden. There are wonderful walks in the woodlands, where you can find areas of palms and camellias and water features.

Following some time at leisure for lunch in the market town of Guingamp we continue our journey inland to Le Grand Launay, a remarkable garden located in Lanrivain featuring a unique design, perfectly shaped topiary and beautiful hedging. The garden was designed by its owners, Jean and Jacqueline Shalit, in collaboration with the landscape designer Gael Boedec. Their work resulted in a beautiful, modern garden with mostly green plants and some white climbing hydrangea here and there. The garden itself is built around an old castle which gives it a specific charm. One of the most fascinating parts of the garden is the so-called ‘garden of temptation’, where boxwood snakes climb the apple tree as in the garden of Eden.

In the late afternoon we return to Perros-Guirec via the small town of Pontrieux, which is nestled deep in an estuary. Listed as one of the ‘small cities of character’ in Brittany, the town features fifty or so beautifully restored and flower-decked washhouses which adorn the banks of the River Trieux. We take a short tour by boat to view these charming washhouses and dine at a local restaurant. (Overnight Perros-Guirec) BD

Saint-Malo - 2 nights

Day 19: Wednesday 24 June, Perros-Guirec – Dinan – Bazouges-la-Pérouse – Saint-Malo
  • Guided visit of the medieval town of Dinan
  • Château de la Ballue, Bazouges-la-Pérouse

This morning we drive to Dinan. Once a fortified stronghold of the Dukes of Brittany, Dinan is one of the prettiest and best-preserved towns in the region. It’s noted for its ‘maisons à piliers’, medieval half-timbered houses built on stilts over the sidewalks. For centuries the town has served as a hub of cultural and commercial activity, from the original merchants and traders to today’s artists and craftspeople. The centre of town is dominated by an impressive castle and surrounded by ramparts. The 2700 metres of ramparts once protected the medieval citadel, which spread over thirty hectares. The ramparts were built in the 13th century when Dinan became a duchy and were continually improved until the Wars of Religion of the 16th century, after which they lost their defensive role. You may wish to take a lovely circular walk along the ramparts, starting from the castle.

After lunch we drive east toward the Château de la Ballue, located between Brittany and Normandy, in a unique rural setting with mild hills and woods. This 17th-century château, which once welcomed guests such as Balzac and Victor Hugo, is surrounded by dramatic theatrical gardens. When the castle was built in 1620, it was surrounded by Italian-style gardens. They were abandoned in 1942 and could have remained fields of potatoes if the editor Claude Arthaud had not bought the property in the 1970s. Thanks to his inspiration the architects Paul Maymont and François Hébert-Stevens created a classic garden and a mannerist garden before the gardens were discovered again by Marie-France Barrière and Alain Schrotter. The new owners have redesigned and reinterpreted the gardens with a modern twist. There are neat traditional geometric terraces, and a lush fernery and scented groves.

In the late afternoon we continue to the port city of Saint-Malo. Encircled by its strong granite ramparts, this corsair city was destroyed in August 1944, but has been so well restored that its centre exudes an austere yet characterful harmony. (Overnight Saint-Malo) B

Day 20: Thursday 25 June, Saint-Malo – Mont-Saint-Michel –  Saint-Malo
  • Mont Saint-Michel
  • Time at leisure in Saint-Malo
  • Farewell Dinner

One of the highlights of the tour is a visit to the Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel, which perches upon a great, isolated granite cone rising from the Bay of Mont Saint-Michel, the sands of which are bared at low tide. There are quicksands here from which, according to a depiction in the Bayeux Tapestry, Harold Godwin saved some Norman soldiers. Believed by the Celts to be a resting place to which the departed were ferried on an invisible boat, it became the site of a hermitage after an apparition of St Michael to St Aubert, Bishop of Avranches (708). A Carolingian church was built in the 10th century, followed by a Romanesque basilica in the 17th century. Count Richard I of Normandy established a Benedictine Abbey here in 966 and it became a major seat of learning in the 11th century. It was progressively fortified in the Middle Ages. We shall visit the small village below the Mount and then participate in a tour of the Abbey, visiting its church, refectory, ancient scriptorium, and cloister.

Enjoy a free afternoon in Saint-Malo to explore the walled city and its ramparts. In the evening we shall meet all together for a farewell dinner in a local restaurant. (Overnight Saint-Malo) BD

Day 21: Friday 26 June, Saint-Malo – Paris. Tour Ends.
  • Transfer to Paris CDG airport

Our tour ends today with a coach transfer from Saint-Malo to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, via Rennes TGV station. On our way, we stop in Chartres, where there is time at leisure for lunch. You may also wish to visit the Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres. The site on which the cathedral stands has been in use since the 4th century, when Chartres became a bishopric. The French Gothic masterpiece we now see dates to 1194. B


21-day Cultural Garden Tour of Normandy & Brittany

ASA has selected 3- to 5-star hotels that are themselves historical buildings and/or are located in historical centres. All hotels provide rooms with en suite bathroom. Double/twin rooms for single occupancy may be requested – and are subject to availability and payment of the Double (as Single) Supplement. A hotel list will be given to all participants prior to departure.

  • Rouen (6 nights): 4-star Mercure Rouen Centre Cathedral Hotel – a modern hotel close to the stunning Rouen Cathedral in the town’s medieval centre.
  • Honfleur (2 nights): 3-star Hotel Best Western Le Cheval Blanc – located at the fishing harbour, this 3-star hotel offers 34 renovated rooms with a view of the Port of Honfleur.
  • Bayeux (3 nights): 5-star Hotel Villa Lara – opened in March 2012, located on a pedestrian street in the heart of old Bayeux, just a few steps from the famous Tapestry Museum and the Cathedral.
  • Bagnoles-de-l’Orne (2 nights): 4-star Hotel Le Manoir Du Lys – a charming manor house located on the edge of the Andaine Forest, close to the spa town of Bagnoles-de-l’Orne.
  • Auray (2 nights): 3-star Hotel Best Western Du Loch – 3-star modern hotel set in beautifully landscaped grounds.
  • Perros-Guirec (3 nights): 5-star L’Agapa Hôtel-Spa – set in a 1930s art deco-style building overlooking the Rose Coast of Brittany, offering panoramic sea views.
  • Saint-Malo (2 night): 4-star Hotel Oceania – a modern hotel overlooking the sea, located on the Chaussée du Sillon (Sillon Causeway) within walking distance from the the walled city.

Note: Hotels are subject to change, in which case a hotel of similar standard will be provided.

How to book

Make a Reservation


Please complete the ASA RESERVATION APPLICATION and send it to Australians Studying Abroad together with your non-refundable deposit of AUD $500.00 per person payable to Australians Studying Abroad.

Passport Details

All participants must provide no later than 75 days prior to the commencement of the program a photocopy of the front page of their current passport.

Single Supplement

Payment of this supplement will ensure accommodation in a double (or twin) room for single occupancy throughout the tour. The number of rooms available for single occupancy is extremely limited. People wishing to take this supplement are therefore advised to book well in advance.

Gallery Tour Map
Physical Endurance & Practical Information
Physical Rating

The number of flags is a guide to the degree of difficulty of ASA tours relative to each other (not to those of other tour companies). It is neither absolute nor literal. One flag is given to the least taxing tours, seven to the most. Flags are allocated, above all, according to the amount of walking and standing each tour involves. Nevertheless, all ASA tours require that participants have a good degree of fitness enabling 2-3 hours walking or 1-1.5 hours standing still on any given site visit or excursion. Many sites are accessed by climbing slopes or steps and have uneven terrain.

This 21-day Garden Tour of Normandy & Brittany involves:

  • A moderate amount of walking mainly during outdoor site visits, often up and down hills and/or flights of stairs, along cobbled streets and uneven terrain. You therefore need to be a good walker and be prepared to stand for some time in front of buildings and artworks.
  • Extensive coach travel – often on minor roads.
  • The daily schedule generally involves an early-morning departure (between 8.00-8.30am), concluding in the late afternoon (between 5.30-6.30pm).
  • 3- to 5-star hotels with six hotel changes.
  • You must be able to carry your own hand luggage. Hotel porterage only includes 1 piece of luggage per person.

It is important to remember that ASA programs are group tours, and slow walkers affect everyone in the group. As the group must move at the speed of the slowest member, the amount of time spent at a site may be reduced if group members cannot maintain a moderate walking pace. ASA tours should not present any problem for active people who can manage day-to-day walking and stair-climbing. However, if you have any doubts about your ability to manage on a program, please ask your ASA travel consultant whether this is a suitable tour for you.

Please note: it is a condition of travel that all participants agree to accept ASA’s directions in relation to their suitability to participate in activities undertaken on the tour, and that ASA retains the sole discretion to direct a tour participant to refrain from a particular activity on part of the tour. For further information please refer to the ASA Reservation Application Form.

Practical Information

Prior to departure, tour members will receive practical notes which include information on visa requirements, health, photography, weather, clothing and what to pack, custom regulations, bank hours, currency regulations, electrical appliances and food. The Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade website has advice for travellers:

Tour Price & Inclusions

AUD $12,280.00 Land Content Only – Early-Bird Special: Book before 31 July 2019

AUD $12,480.00 Land Content Only

AUD $2840.00 Single Supplement

For competitive Economy, Business or First Class airfares and/or group airfares please contact ASA for further information.

Tour Price (Land Content Only) includes:
  • Accommodation in twin-share rooms with private facilities in 3-5 star hotels
  • Meals as indicated in the tour itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch & D=evening meal
  • Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included.
  • Transportation by air-conditioned coach
  • Airport-hotel transfers if travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flights
  • Porterage of one piece of luggage per person at hotels (not at airports)
  • Lecture and site-visit program
  • Entrance fees
  • Tour Notes
  • Use of audio headsets during site visits
  • Tips for the coach driver, local guides and restaurants for included meals
Tour Price (Land Content Only) does not include:
  • Airfare: Australia-Paris, Paris-Australia
  • Personal spending money
  • Airport-hotel transfers if not travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flights
  • Luggage in excess of 20kg (44lbs)
  • Travel insurance
  • Visas (if applicable)
Terms & Conditions

A deposit of $500.00 AUD per person is required to reserve a place on an ASA tour.

Cancellation Fees

If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:

  • More than 75 days before departure: $500.00**
  • 75-46 days prior 25% of total amount due
  • 45-31 days prior 50% of total amount due
  • 30-15 days prior 75% of total amount due
  • 14-0 days prior 100% of total amount due

**This amount may be credited to another ASA tour departing within 12 months of the original tour you booked. We regret, in this case early-bird discounts will not apply.

We take the day on which you cancel as being that on which we receive written confirmation of cancellation.

Unused Portions of the Tour

We regret that refunds will not be given for any unused portions of the tour, such as meals, entry fees, accommodation, flights or transfers.

Will the Tour Price or Itinerary Change?

If the number of participants on a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates ASA reserves the right to amend the advertised price. We shall, however, do all in our power to maintain the published price. If an ASA tour is forced to cancel you will get a full refund of all tour monies paid. Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of ASA make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make amendments to daily itineraries. We will inform you of any changes in due course.

Travel Insurance

ASA requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. A copy of your travel insurance certificate and the reverse charge emergency contact phone number must be received by ASA no later than 75 days prior to the commencement of the tour.

Final Payment

The balance of the tour price will be due 75 days prior to the tour commencement date.

Limitation of Liability

ASA is not a carrier, event or tourist attraction host, accommodation or dining service provider. All bookings made and tickets or coupons issued by ASA for transport, event, accommodation, dining and the like are issued as an agent for various service providers and are subject to the terms and conditions and limitations of liability imposed by each service provider. ASA is not responsible for their products or services. If a service provider does not deliver the product or service for which you have contracted, your remedy lies with the service provider, not ASA.

ASA will not be liable for any claim (eg. sickness, injury, death, damage or loss) arising from any change, delay, detention, breakdown, cancellation, failure, accident, act, omission or negligence of any such service provider however caused (contingencies). You must take out adequate travel insurance against such contingencies.

ASA’s liability in respect of any tour will be limited to the refund of amounts received from you less all non-refundable costs and charges and the costs of any substituted event or alternate services provided. The terms and conditions of the relevant service provider from time to time comprise the sole agreement between you and that service provider.

ASA reserves the sole discretion to cancel any tour or to modify itineraries in any way it considers appropriate. Tour costs may be revised, subject to unexpected price increases or exchange rate fluctuations.

Interested in this tour?
Take the next step

Make an Enquiry now

or alternatively Download PDF Reservation Application