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Christmas in France: Joyeux Noël

Program Number: 20444RJ
Start and End Dates:
12/14/2013 - 12/26/2013; 12/14/2015 - 12/26/2015;
Duration: 12 nights
Location: France
Price starting at: $3,330.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Holidays
Meals: 23; 11 Breakfasts, 4 Lunches, 8 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian    

The festive decorations, culinary wonders and cultural traditions of France during the Christmas season come alive during this holiday adventure into the heart of Colmar, Paris, and Aix-en-Provence. Sample traditional holiday cuisine and admire the craftsmanship of local artisans as you wander through the region’s incredible Christmas markets, and learn about the fascinating history of these locales — now decked out in holiday finery.


• Explore Strasbourg and delight in the offerings of its traditional Christmas market, the oldest holiday market in France.
• Attend a traditional Christmas concert in Alsace with local residents.
• Discover Aix-en-Provence’s unique Christmas market and make a typical provencal Christmas dish at a cookery workshop.

Activity Particulars

Use of the Metro (including stairs) while in Paris. Walking about 1.5 miles per day on flat terrain. Some standing during field trips.

Date Specific Information

12-14-2013, 12-14-2015

Enjoy the latest in hearing technology — listening devices — on this date.

Itinerary Summary

Arrival Colmar, 3 nights; train to Paris, 4 nights; train to Aix en Provence, 4 nights; transfer to Marseille airport departure.

Overnight flight from the U.S.A.
1 night
Arrival Paris
3 nights

Walk along the historic streets of Colmar, learning about the town’s heritage and architectural wonders as you delight in its holiday theme of “The magic of Christmas.” Journey to Gertwiller — the Alsatian capital of the Gingerbread — to sample this treat at the town’s famous factory and museum. In the old town of Obernai, join a local expert for a look at the traditional characters of the Alsatian Christmas celebration. Prepare a traditional Alsacian Christmas meal with a local chef in Colmar. Thrill in the sights and experiences of Strasbourg’s Christmas Market — the oldest in France.

Train to Paris
4 nights

Admire the City of Light’s most noted landmarks — the Eiffel Tower, the Champs Elysée, Notre Dame Cathedral and Sacred Heart Basilica on Montmartre Hill — as they are festively decorated for the holiday season. Take in the animated windows of department stores along Grands Boulevards, the Opéra quarter, Place Vendôme and more. Sample macaroons at the famous pastry shop Ladurée.

Train to Aix en Provence
4 nights
Transfer to Marseille

Learn about the history of Le Suisse shortbread during a field trip to Valence. Sing French Christmas carols, cook a Christmas dish in the Provencal tradition and explore the Christmas markets. Enjoy field trips to the villages of Aubagne and Allauch, and learn how provençal figurines of the Nativity Scene are made during a visit to a local santon factory.


The epicurious and the curious find much to admire in Western Europe’s largest nation, whose agricultural riches and terrain of beaches, mountains and fertile fields have drawn residents for thousands of years. The northern region hosts the nation’s Parisian capital, as well as unique Breton culture, while the sun-drenched Mediterranean coast sports the chic beach-goers and the terraced vineyards of the interior.

Colmar: Comfortable hotel in the heart of Colmar. Paris: Comfortable, centrally located hotel. Aix en Provence: Charming hotel at the foot of the city’s fortress walls.
Meals and Lodgings
   Villa Beaumarchais
  Paris, France 3 nights
   Hotel Le Rapp
  COLMAR, France 4 nights
   Aquabella Hotel
  AIX EN PROVENCE, France 4 nights
 Villa Beaumarchais
Type: Hotel
  Description: Nestled at the corner of the Passage du Grand Veneur, the Villa Beaumarchais echoes the charm of typical lanes of the Place des Vosges.
  Contact info: 5 rue des Arquebusiers
Paris,  75003 France
phone: +33 (0)1 40 29 14 00
  Room amenities: Cable television, complimentary newspaper, air conditioning, phone, internet access, minibar, wake-up calls, private bathroom, bathrobes, hair dryer, pay movies, in-room safe
  Facility amenities: Buffet breakfasts, room service, air conditioning, mini bar, WiFi, safe.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: TBA Please contact Road Scholar Travel Services for rates and availability.

 Hotel Le Rapp
Type: Three-Star Hotel
  Description: This charming hotel is ideally located in the heart of the old Colmar, an historic city known for its delicious wines and yearly Christmas market. The hotel is located in a quiet lane close to the Maison Pfister, the Place de l'Ancienne Douane and restaurants of Little Venice and offers tastefully decorated rooms well equipped and nicely furnished. Enjoy traditional and seasonal cuisine and the tasty wines of Alsace in the comfort of the hotel's restaurant. Also, take advantage of the 40 m² indoor swimming pool with underwater massage. After a strenuous work-out in the fitness centre you can unwind in the sauna and the marble steam bath.
  Contact info: 1-3-5 rue Weinemer
COLMAR,  68000 France
phone: +33 (0)3 89 41 62 10
  Room amenities: Hairdryer, AC , phone, TV + cable, towels. WiFi. Internet socket. Soundproof. Fully equiped bathroom with bath and shower.
  Facility amenities: Restaurant, Bar, Newspapers, Elevator, Soundproof Rooms, Heating, All Spaces Non-Smoking (Public and Private), Air Conditioning, Restaurant With Dining Menu, Sauna, Massage, Turkish Bath/Steam Bath, Indoor Pool, Indoor Swimming Pool (All Year), Meeting/Banquet Facilities, Dry Cleaning, Fax/Photocopying, Free Wi-Fi is available in all areas.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes

 Aquabella Hotel
Type: Three-Star Hotel
  Description: Ideally located in the heart of the old town of Aix-en-Provence, at the foot of the ancient fortifications and in the centre of the markets of Provence with their subtle perfumes, Hotel Aquabella offers an exceptional environment. From your window enjoy the view of the roof tiles polished by the years and the brightness of the sun which sparkles on the water of the swimming pool. Have a drink in lounge-bar "L' Instant" or savor the specialities of the Orangery restaurant and The Terrasse de la Tour. Guests can relax at the Aquabella’s spa, Gym & Spa Sensoriel. Guests have access to the sauna, hammam, and hot bath. There is also a Kneipp shower and ice fountain, and gymnastics classes are also available. The hotel’s outdoor swimming pool is open from May to September.
  Contact info: 2, rue des Etuves
Aix-en-Provence,  13100 France
phone: +33 (0)4 42 99 15 00
  Room amenities: The guest rooms at the Aquabella are all air conditioned and equipped with free Wi-Fi access, mini-bar and hairdryer. Bathrobes are also provided.
  Facility amenities: Restaurant, Bar, 24-Hour Front Desk, Newspapers, Grounds, Terrace, Elevator, Safe, Soundproof Rooms, Heating, Baggage Storage, All Spaces Non-Smoking (Public and Private), Air Conditioning, Sauna, Fitness Center, Solarium, Spa, Hot Tub, Turkish Bath/Steam Bath, Outdoor Swimming Pool (Seasonal), Room Service, Meeting/Banquet Facilities, Laundry, Dry Cleaning, Fax/Photocopying, Free WiFi
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights after: TBD Please contact Road Scholar Travel Services at 1-800-241-1404 for rates and bookings.
  Check out time: 11:00 AM

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
The program begins at Orientation at 5:00 p.m. at the program hotel. You will be staying at Villa Beaumarchais that night.
  End of Program:
The program ends after breakfast on the final program day. You will be staying at Aquabella Hotel the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required.
  Parking availability:
Transportation (For Independent Travelers)
To Start of Program
  Location:  Paris
  Nearest airport:  Charles de Gaulle (CDG)
  Transportation to site: A group arrival transfer is organized for all participants who purchased an air-inclusive program and arrive on the group date. Independent travelers may join the group transfer or take a taxi directly to the hotel or take one of the Air France buses. Tickets can be purchased by anyone regardless of airline. Paris Shuttle, a third party service, offers discounted shared shuttle and private transfer rates to Road Scholar participants. The rate they offer is about 10% discount off their published rate. By using the web link below, you can take advantage of these rates and book your transfer for arrival in or departure from Paris. You will need to pay in advance with a credit card to confirm reservations and print your own voucher.
  From End of Program
  Location:  AIX EN PROVENCE
  Nearest city or town:  Marseille
  Nearest highway: A8
  Nearest airport:  Marseille airport
  Transportation from site: A group departure transfer is organized for all participants who purchased an air inclusive program and depart on the group date. Independent travelers can take a taxi from the hotel to the airport or can ask the hotel for assistance in arranging a shuttle transfer.
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Travel to France
(Saturday, December 14)
 In Transit Overnight: Overnight flights to Paris

Day 2: Arrival in Paris
(Sunday, December 15)
 Morning: Arrivals at Charles de Gaulle airport and independent transfers to the program hotel in Paris. Please note that rooms are not generally available until early to mid-afternoon, so you should plan to drop off your luggage at the hotel and then take some time to explore Paris or relax and have a leisurely lunch (on your own). There are Paris maps available at the hotel, and your Group Leader and hotel staff will be present to provide recommendations and directions.
 Afternoon: Check in at your hotel and take the afternoon to unpack and relax. In the early evening you will meet with your group at the hotel for introductions, a review of the program itinerary and site orientation.
 Dinner: Welcome dinner at a local restaurant
Accommodations: Villa Beaumarchais
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 3: Montmartre / Ile de la Cite
(Monday, December 16)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel
 Morning: This morning enjoy a lecture at the hotel on “France’s history, regions, and traditions.” Then travel to Montmartre and the Sacred Heart Basilica to admire the Christmas nativity scene and learn about Christmas religious celebration in France.
 Lunch: On your own to explore local restaurants in Montmartre
 Afternoon: Field trip to Notre Dame Cathedral followed by an Overview of Paris by coach to admire the streets and monuments, shops, the Champs-Elysées and the Eiffel Tower lit and stylishly decorated for the Christmas season. In an en route lecture learn about “Paris, capital of France, the City of Light.”
 Dinner: Dinner at a local restaurant
Accommodations: Villa Beaumarchais
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 4: Grands Boulevards / Dessert at Ladurée
(Tuesday, December 17)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel
 Morning: Field trip on foot to the Grands Boulevards to enjoy the festive and animated windows displays in the big departments stores, the Opéra quarter, Place Vendôme, and Place de la Madeleine.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant
 Afternoon: Stop at the famous pastry shop, Ladurée, for a gourmet Parisian dessert. Afterward enjoy free time in Paris.
 Dinner: Dinner on your own to explore local restaurants
Accommodations: Villa Beaumarchais
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 5: Colmar
(Wednesday, December 18)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel
 Morning: Transfer by coach to Paris Gare de l’Est. Then travel by TGV train (Train Grande Vitesse; i.e., high-speed train) to Strasbourg, on your way to Colmar, the Alsatian Wines Capital, also known as “Little Venice."
 Lunch: Lunch on your own on board the train
 Afternoon: Your coach will meet you at the train station in Strasbourg to take you to your hotel in Colmar. After you check in and drop off your luggage, enjoy a guided walking visit of the old town of Colmar, seeing the festive illuminations with its theme of "The Magic of Christmas." The town center which is essentially pedestrian has numerous architectural treasures such as monuments, churches, museums and alleys, built from the Middle Ages to the 19th century.
 Dinner: Dinner at a local restaurant
 Evening: This evening enjoy the music of Christmas in a concert.
Accommodations: Hotel Le Rapp
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 6: Gertwiller Gingerbread / Obernai
(Thursday, December 19)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel
 Morning: At the hotel enjoy a lecture on "Alsace’s Culture and Christmas Traditions." Afterward depart by coach to Gertwiller, the Alsatian capital of the gingerbread. Visit Gertwiller’s famous Gingerbread House (a traditional factory and museum). While there listen to Alsatian tales and legends and taste gingerbread. A large variety of gingerbreads exist in Alsace. These are manufactured according to the traditional recipes of yesteryear: gingerbread glazed with icing sugar or chocolate and decorated with a traditional Christmas image, tender gingerbread with local honey or gingerbread filled with chocolate, or almond cream. It is a tradition in Alsace to decorate Christmas trees with gingerbread. Afterward continue by coach to the medieval town of Obernai and enjoy free time at the gourmet traditional market.
 Lunch: Lunch on your own to explore local restaurants
 Afternoon: This afternoon explore the old town of Obernai with a local expert, walking in the footsteps of the famous characters of the Alsatian Christmas and the traditional decorations: Saint Nicholas, Christkindel, Hans Trapp, the Three Wise Men, the Christmas Tree, and the nativity scenes. Taste “manalas”; traditionally these all-butter brioche, in the shape of a little man, were the delight of the family celebration of the feast of St Nicholas on December 6th.
 Dinner: Dinner on your own to explore local restaurants
Accommodations: Hotel Le Rapp
Meals Included: Breakfast

Day 7: Alsatian Cooking Class in Colmar
(Friday, December 20)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel
 Morning: This morning enjoy free time in Colmar.
 Lunch: Lunch on your own to explore local restaurants
 Afternoon: This afternoon learn how to prepare some Alsatian Christmas dishes with a local chef in Colmar.
 Dinner: Dinner at the cooking studio: partake in the meal you just prepared and enjoy Alsatian wine tasting.
Accommodations: Hotel Le Rapp
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 8: Christmas Market of Strasbourg / Sauerkraut and Mulled Wine Tasting
(Saturday, December 21)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel
 Morning: Travel by coach to Strasbourg, one of the biggest “Christmas capitals” in France. Explore on foot the old town, including Notre Dame cathedral, and the picturesque district, ”la Petite France,” with its magnificent half-timbered houses dating from the 16th and 17th centuries.
 Lunch: For lunch partake of the local specialty, sauerkraut, at a traditional restaurant.
 Afternoon: This afternoon visit the traditional Christmas market, the oldest in France, which has been in existence for over 440 years. Taste traditional mulled spiced wine at the Christmas market; a delicious concoction of star anise, cinnamon sticks, vanilla pods and orange peel infused in red wine and served warm. Enjoy some free time in Strasbourg, then take the coach back to Colmar.
 Dinner: Dinner on your own to explore local restaurants
Accommodations: Hotel Le Rapp
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 9: Dijon / Aix-en-Provence
(Sunday, December 22)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel
 Morning: Early departure by coach to Dijon. In Dijon, enjoy a walking tour of the city followed by the guided visit of the Musee des Beaux Arts.
 Lunch: Have lunch in a Chateau in the middle of a vineyard.
 Afternoon: Continue by high-speed train (TGV) to Aix-en-Provence and get settled in your hotel.
 Dinner: Dinner at a local restaurant
Accommodations: Aquabella Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 10: “13 Desserts’” Market of Aix-en-Provence / Calissons Factory
(Monday, December 23)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel
 Morning: This morning learn about Provence's "art of living" and its traditions in a lecture at the hotel. Then enjoy a guided walking visit to the Christmas market in Aix, including a stop at the traditional "13 desserts" market. Afterward visit a Calissons factory and discover how this delicious local specialty is made. No visit would be complete without a tasting. Calissons are a delicious candy made of a paste of candied fruit and ground almonds topped with a thin layer of white icing.
 Lunch: Lunch on your own to explore local restaurants
 Afternoon: This afternoon enjoy free time to explore Aix-en-Provence.
 Dinner: Dinner at a local restaurant
Accommodations: Aquabella Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 11: Santons de Provence / French Christmas songs / Christmas dinner
(Tuesday, December 24)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel
 Morning: This morning visit a a santons factory and learn about these provençal figurines of the nativity scene, the various stages in the mold creation, painting and firing. The Provençal word "santoun" means “small saint”. Santons are handmade from clay by craftsmen. They represent the inhabitants of the village visiting the Christmas creche: pétanque players, fishmongers, doctors, bakers, shepherds, etc. Here the traditional creche is in fact an ideal model of a Provençal village and its inhabitants.
 Lunch: Have lunch on your own.
 Afternoon: This afternoon learn and sing traditional French Christmas carols.
 Dinner: Christmas Eve dinner at a local restaurant
Accommodations: Aquabella Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 12: Aubagne / Allauch
(Wednesday, December 25)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel
 Morning: This morning enjoy free time in Aix (time perhaps for Mass at the Cathedral). Then, board a coach to Venelle for lunch.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant
 Afternoon: Travel to the village of Aubagne to visit the santons exhibition. Enjoy a field trip to the old town of Aubagne, including “le Petit Monde de Pagnol" nativity scene, a reconstruction of the landscape of hills of Aubagne, with 200 figurines that depict characters from the movies and life of Marcel Pagnol. The field trip continues to Allauch, a typical Provencal village. Visit its traditional creche with more than 300 santons.
 Dinner: Farewell dinner at restaurant
Accommodations: Aquabella Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 13: Departure
(Thursday, December 26)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel
 Morning: Group transfer to Marseille airport
Meals Included: Breakfast

Free Time Opportunities
  Paris Musee Jacquemart-Andre
The Jacquemart-André Museum, founded by collector Édouard André and his portraitist wife Nélie Jacquemart, is in an opulent mid-19th-century residence on one of Paris’ posher avenues. It has furniture, tapestries and enamels, but is most noted for its paintings by Rembrandt and Van Dyck and Italian Renaissance works by Bernini, Botticelli, Carpaccio, Donatello, Mantegna, Tintoretto, Titian and Uccello. Don’t miss the Jardin d’Hiver (Winter Garden), with its marble statuary, tropical plants and double-helix marble staircase. Just off it is the delightful fumoir (the erstwhile smoking room) filled with exotic objects collected by Jacquemart during her travels. The salon de thé is one of the most beautiful in the city. For additional information, visit
  Musee National du Moyen Age
The National Museum of the Middle Ages is housed in two structures: the frigidarium (cooling room) and other remains of Gallo-Roman baths dating from around AD 200, and the late-15th-century Hôtel de Cluny, considered the finest example of medieval civil architecture in Paris. The spectacular displays at the museum include statuary, illuminated manuscripts, weapons, furnishings, and objets d’art made of gold, ivory and enamel. But nothing compares with La Dame à la Licorne (The Lady with the Unicorn), a sublime series of late-15th-century tapestries from the southern Netherlands now hung in circular room 13 on the 1st floor. Five of them are devoted to the senses, while the sixth is the enigmatic À Mon Seul Désir (To My Sole Desire), a reflection on vanity. For additional information, visit
  Musee de L’Orangerie
Located in the southwestern corner of the Jardin des Tuileries, this museum, with the Jeu de Paume, is all that remains of the once palatial Palais des Tuileries, which was razed during the Paris Commune in 1871. It exhibits important Impressionist works, including a series of Monet's Decorations des Nymphéas (Water Lilies) in two huge oval rooms purpose-built in 1927 on the artist's instructions, as well as works by Cézanne, Matisse, Picasso, Renoir, Sisley, Soutine and Utrillo. For additional information, visit
  Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré
The rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré is a street in the 8th arrondissement. Although relatively narrow and nondescript (especially in comparison to the avenue des Champs-Élysées), it is cited as being one of the most fashionable streets in the world, thanks to the presence of virtually every major global fashion house.
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

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