Road Scholar : Home
Christmas in France: Joyeux Noël

Program Number: 20444RJ
Start and End Dates:
12/15/2014 - 12/27/2014; 12/14/2015 - 12/26/2015; 12/15/2016 - 12/27/2016;
Duration: 12 nights
Location: France
Price starting at: $3,535.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Holidays
Meals: 23; 11 Breakfasts, 5 Lunches, 7 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

12-15-2014, 12-14-2015, 12-15-2016

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
   Hotel St Martin
  COLMAR, France 3 nights
   Villa Beaumarchais
  Paris, France 4 nights
   Hotel Artea
  AIX EN PROVENCE, France 4 nights
 Hotel St Martin
Type: Hotel
  Description: A purely Alsatian town with streets lined with decorated carved-wood homes, an authentic Louis XVI facade... Welcome to Hôtel Saint-Martin, set between the Church of Saint Martin and the Old Customs House (Koifhus). Infused with charming spirit, the hotel shines out in the heart of Colmar. Refined atmosphere, attentive hospitality, romantic décor with its Renaissance turret overlooking an inner courtyard with a superb spiral staircase... this handsome dwelling has everything to ensure the perfect success of your holiday or business stay. Its relaxation and reading areas (tourist information available) with free WiFi provide peace and quiet to ensure absolute relaxation at all times. Simply step across the threshold and the old town with all its history are yours: Unterlinden and Bartholdi museums, the Pfister House and House of Heads as well as Little Venice and Tanners’ District... Colmar, also famous for its Christmas markets and music festival, is a must stopover place for gourmet dining along the Alsatian Winery Trail.
  Contact info: 38 Grand Rue
Colmar,  68000 France
phone: +33 3 89 24 11 51
  Smoking allowed: No

 Villa Beaumarchais
Type: Hotel
  Description: The Villa Beaumarchais is located in the heart of the Marais district and is just a short distance from the Carnavalet Museum.
  Contact info: 5 rue des Arquebusiers
Paris,  75003 France
phone: +33 (#)1 40 29 14 00
  Room amenities: All the rooms include satellite television, air conditioning, phone, internet access, minibar, private bathroom with a hair dryer.
  Facility amenities: The hotel offers free WiFi in public areas, a bar, and a fitness room.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes

 Hotel Artea
Type: Boutique Hotel
  Description: The former house of the music composer Darius Milhaud, Hotel Artea combines the charm and the quality of an old Aix townhouse with modern facilities. Just a few minutes from the pedestrian heart of Aix-en Provence, the Théâtre de Provence and the Cours Mirabeau, Hotel Artea is the perfect base for exploring this lively town. The SNCF train station is only a 5 minute walk from the hotel.
  Ship Information: n/a
  Contact info: 4 Boulevard de la République
Aix-en-Provence,  13100 France
phone: +33 (0)4 42 27 36 00
  Room amenities: 50 rooms are spacious, simply furnished in traditional style and have air-conditioning, complimentary Wi-Fi Internet access, cable television with English language channels, direct-dial telephone, mini-fridge, soundproof windows, private bathroom with bathtub and hairdryer.
  Facility amenities: Bar, 24-Hour Front Desk, Elevator, Soundproof Rooms, Heating, Baggage Storage, All Spaces Non-Smoking (Public and Private), Air Conditioning, Meeting Room, Free Wi-Fi is available in all areas.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights after: TBD Contact Road Scholar Travel Services for rates and reservations.
  Check out time: 11:30 AM

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
The program begins at orienatation in the early evening at the Colmar hotel. You will be staying at Hotel St Martin that night.
  End of Program:
The program ends after breakfast at the Aix-en-Provence hotel. You will be staying at Hotel Artea the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required.
  Parking availability:
Transportation (For Independent Travelers)
To Start of Program
  Location:  COLMAR
  Nearest city or town:  Mulhouse
  Nearest highway: A35
  Nearest airport:  Mulhouse
  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.
  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. Independent travelers may choose to take the train from Arles to Marseille and then a shuttle to Marseille airport.
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: Departures from the USA
(Monday, December 15)
 In Transit: International flight to France.

Day 2: Arrival Strasbourg and Orientation
(Tuesday, December 16)
 Morning: Arrivals and transfers from the Strasbourg train and bus stations to the hotel in Colmar, approximately one hour away
 Afternoon: Check in at your hotel and take the afternoon to unpack and relax before orientation. We will gather in our private meeting room where the Group Leader will greet you with a warm welcome and introduce everyone. We will review the up-to-date daily schedule and any changes, discuss responsibilities, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer any questions you may have. Please be aware that program activities and scheduled times could change due to local circumstances. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.
 Dinner: Welcome dinner at a local restaurant.
Accommodations: Hotel St Martin
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 3: Colmar / Gertwiller Gingerbread and Obernai
(Wednesday, December 17)
 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: Your guide will give a presentation on Alsace's Culture and Christmas traditions. Afterward, enjoy a guided walking visit of the old town of Colmar, seeing the festive illuminations with its theme of "The Magic of Christmas."
 Lunch: On your own to explore local cuisine.
 Afternoon: Depart by coach for Gertwiller where you will visit the famous Gingerbread House. Afterward, continue by coach to the medieval town of Obernai where you will enjoy free time at the gourmet traditional market.
 Dinner: On your own to explore local cuisine.
Accommodations: Hotel St Martin
Meals Included: Breakfast

Day 4: Christmas Market of Strasbourg / Sauerkraut and Mulled Wine / Alsatian Cooking Class in Colmar
(Thursday, December 18)
 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: We will travel by coach to Strasbourg, one of the biggest Christmas capitals in France. Explore by 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: Enjoy choucroute (sauerkraut) at a traditional restaurant.
 Afternoon: Visit the oldest, traditional Christmas market in France and taste traditional mulled spiced wine. Afterward, we will depart Strasbourg by coach and travel through the wine route, stopping at the village of Riquewihr. Later, enjoy a cooking class where you will learn how to prepare some Alsatian Christmas dishes with a local chef in Colmar.
 Dinner: At the cooking studio. Partake in your meal and enjoy an Alsatian wine tasting.
Accommodations: Hotel St Martin
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 5: Strasbourg / TGV to Paris
(Friday, December 19)
 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: We will depart by coach for the Strasbourg train station where we will take the TGV to Paris. We will then board the coach to transfer to the hotel.
 Lunch: On your own to explore local cuisine.
 Afternoon: Enjoy a tour of Paris by bus on which you will see the main sites and monuments illuminated with holiday lights. In addition, there will be an en route lecture titled, "Paris, Capital of France, The city of Light."
 Dinner: At a local restaurant.
Accommodations: Villa Beaumarchais
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 6: Montmartre and Notre Dame / Musée d'Orsay
(Saturday, December 20)
 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: The guide will lead a presentation titled, "France's History, Regions, and Traditions." Next, we will board the coach for a field trip to Montmartre and Sacre Coeur. Admire the nativity scene and learn about Christmas traditions at Sacre Coeur.
 Lunch: At the musée d'Orsay.
 Afternoon: Continue the afternoon at the musée d'Orsay for a self guided visit using the museums audio guide system. Orsay has the largest collection of Impressionist painters in the world.
 Dinner: At a local restaurant.
Accommodations: Villa Beaumarchais
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7: The Market and the Marais District
(Sunday, December 21)
 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: Enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of a traditional Parisian open-air market where you will truly be able to experience Parisian Paris. We will gather for a wine tasting as well as charcuterie and fromage.
 Lunch: On your own in the Marais District.
 Afternoon: Take this opportunity to explore the neighborhoods of the Marais District, including what was historically the Jewish Quarter and perhaps browse Europe's largest collection of modern art at the Pompidou Center.
 Dinner: On your own to explore local cuisine.
Accommodations: Villa Beaumarchais
Meals Included: Breakfast

Day 8: Opéra Garnier and the Grands Boulevards
(Monday, December 22)
 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: Take delight in a guided tour of the Opéra Garnier followed by a walk on the Grands Boulevards to enjoy the festive and animated window displays in the big department stores such as, Place Vendôme and Place de la Madeleine.
 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: Near the hotel.
Accommodations: Villa Beaumarchais
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9: Paris / Aix-en-Provence
(Tuesday, December 23)
 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: Transfer by coach to Gare de Lyon where we will then travel by TGV to Aix-en-Provence.
 Lunch: En route.
 Afternoon: We will travel by coach to the hotel where you will check in.
 Dinner: At a local restaurant.
Accommodations: Hotel Artea
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 10: “13 Desserts’” Market of Aix-en-Provence / Calissons Factory
(Wednesday, December 24)
 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: Learn about Provence's "art of living" and its traditions during a presentation at the hotel. Afterward, enjoy a guided walking visit to the Christmas market in Aix and a tasting of calisson.
 Lunch: On your own to explore local cuisine.
 Afternoon: Enjoy free time to explore Aix-en-Provence.
 Dinner: Enjoy a Christmas Eve dinner.
Accommodations: Hotel Artea
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 11: Santons de Provence
(Thursday, December 25)
 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: Enjoy free time in Aix-en-Provence.
 Lunch: Christmas lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: Travel to the village of Aubagne to visit the santons exhibition dedicated to Marcel Pagnol.
 Dinner: On your own to explore local cuisine.
Accommodations: Hotel Artea
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 12: Santons Factory
(Friday, December 26)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.
 Morning: We will take the city bus to visit the Santons factory and learn about the 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 crèche: pétanque players, fishmongers, doctors, bakers, shepherds, etc. Here, the traditional crèche is in fact an ideal model of a Provençal village and its inhabitants.
 Lunch: On your own to explore local cuisine.
 Afternoon: Watch a French subtitled movie by the famous filmmaker Marcel Pagnol, filmed in Provence.
 Dinner: Farewell dinner at a restaurant.
Accommodations: Hotel Artea
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 13: Departure from France
(Saturday, December 27)
 Breakfast: Breakfast buffet at the hotel.
 Morning: Group transfer to Marseille airport. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Please be in touch via the Road Scholar Social Network, where you can share memories, pictures, and comments. Best wishes for all your journeys.
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.

Suggested Reading List

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A Year in Provence

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France, A Traveler's Literary Companion

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In a Dark Wood Wandering, A Novel of the Middle Ages

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Michelin Green Guide Alsace, Lorraine, Champagne

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The Botanist and the Vintner, How Wine Was Saved for the World

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