Activity note: Hotel check-in available from 2:00 p.m.
Afternoon: After arriving at the hotel, check in and get your room, then take some time to unpack, freshen up, and relax before our Orientation session. A sign will be posted with the time and location. Orientation: The Group Leader will greet everyone with a warm welcome and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule and any changes, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures including contact numbers for key staff, and answer any questions you may have. In addition to the Group Leader, our program will be staffed with a resident instructor who is also an official licensed guide and who will give lectures and provide on-site commentary during most field trips. Another outstanding benefit of this program is included tickets for museums and the Paris Mètro. The Group Leader will explain how to use them. We have set aside some free time in the schedule for your personal independent exploration. Please note that program activities, schedules, and personnel may need to change due to local circumstances. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.
Dinner: At a restaurant near the hotel, enjoy a 3-course welcome dinner including wine. In France, meals are accompanied by complimentary bread (“pain”) and water (“eau” or “l’eau”), so you need not ask for them. Other beverages available for purchase.
Evening: At leisure. Continue getting to know your fellow participants, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.
Activity note: Travel via Paris Métro (public transportation system), accessed by going up/down flights of stairs and walking through pedestrian tunnels; elevators/escalators not available in most stations; occasional crowded conditions. The motorcoach ride to Vaux-le-Vicomte is approximately 1.25 hours depending on traffic. Extent of walking determined by personal interest.
Breakfast: At the hotel enjoy a French-style buffet with hot and cold choices plus juice, coffee, tea, water.
Morning: Our instructor will provide an informative overview of French art. By the 12th century, France was at the helm of intellectual and artistic life in Europe, most recognizable through its architectural contributions. The birthplace of Romanesque and Gothic architecture and the home of patrons and artists alike, from Fouquet and Poussin to Monet. French history has long been intertwined with influence of art. We’ll then take the Métro to one of the greatest museums and one of the most important collections of art in the world, the Louvre. Once there, we will divide into teams to search for a list of masterpieces while exploring. The Louvre has been the dominant architectural presence in Paris since 1190, when King Philippe II had it built as a fortress. It expanded as new fortifications developed and was transformed into a royal palace in 1364. King François I began turning the medieval Louvre into a Renaissance palace in 1546. French kings couldn’t leave anything they inherited as it was, so renovations continued through the reign of Louis XIV, who was born there. After the “Sun King” abandoned Paris for Versailles, the Louvre transitioned from royal art gallery to public museum following the French Revolution. The controversial glass Pyramide was inaugurated in 1989.
Lunch: At a local restaurant, choose from a tasty buffet.
Afternoon: We will then board a motorcoach with our leadership team and travel to the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, possibly the most magnificent private residence in France. It was built by Nicolas Fouquet (1615-80). The ambitious Fouquet ascended politically and became a patron of the arts. Rising from a member of the Parisian Parlement to Louis XIV’s Superintendent of Finances in 1653, he commissioned the grand baroque estate and set a precedent for French architecture and design. Combining architecture, interior design, and landscape into a unified masterpiece, magnificent Vaux-le-Vicomte was the inspiration for the even more elaborate palace of Versailles.
Dinner: Delight in a traditional French dinner with a local family.
Evening: Return to Paris by coach.
Activity note: Walking up to 3 miles (about 5km). Use of Paris Métro.
Breakfast: Hotel buffet.
Morning: Our instructor will lead a class to learn basics of the French language and to practice pronunciation. One of the most common languages in the world, French is spoken by more than 400 million people worldwide. This is an opportunity to master essential phrases you will need to use during your week-long Parisian adventure.
Lunch: Taking the Métro to Montmartre with our Group Leader and instructor, you will be given a list of restaurant choices and “tickets repas” to purchase your meal. Your assignment will be to read the menu and order in French. Try not to use your dictionary or guidebook unless absolutely necessary.
Afternoon: We will regroup at a specified time and place, then walk to Place du Tertre, the heart of bohemian Montmartre. Continue mastering your skills in French — and bargaining! — by finding an artist to draw or paint your portrait. We’ll then embark on an exploration of Montemartre behind the scenes. The main square has been a gathering place for artists for generations and is still a focal point of the local artistic scene. It is situated next to the famous Basilique du Sacré-Coeur (Sacred Heart Basilica) built on the summit of Butte de Montmartre, the highest point in Paris. If you prefer not to climb the steep steps to the entrance, you can ride in the funicular. Inside the church, there is a climb of 234 steps up a spiral staircase to the dome with one of the most spectacular views in the city.
Dinner: At a local restaurant, enjoy a plated meal, plus coffee, tea, water.
Evening: At leisure.
Activity note: Use of Paris Métro (subway), and climbing stairs.
Breakfast: Hotel buffet.
Morning: Accompanied by our Group Leader and instructor, we will take the Métro for a field trip to the center of Paris, the Île de la Cité. It was originally occupied by the Iron Age Parisii tribe, who legend says claimed their name from Prince Paris of Troy. It became a prominent settlement in Roman Gaul as Lutetia and later capital of the Merovingian dynasty. Today, it is home to some of Paris’s most iconic sites including the Sainte-Chapelle, the Conciergerie, and Cathédrale de Notre Dame. The Sainte-Chapelle, one of the glories of Gothic architecture, was begun in 1239 and completed less than a decade later. Originally part of the royal palace of Capetian monarchs, it was built by King Louis IX to house religious relics he acquired from the Holy Land including the Crown of Thorns, a piece of the True Cross, a nail from the Crucifixion, and more — all of which cost more than the construction. The sense of other-worldliness in the upper church creates a sensation of being inside a jewel box due to its slender columns and flamboyant architecture. A former palace and prison, the Conciergerie rises out of the Île de la Cité’s western bank. The seat of the medieval kings of France, it was expanded and fortified under Louis IX and Philip IV in the 13th century. During the French Revolution, it became a prison where many spent their last days while awaiting the guillotine, including Marie Antoinette. Though rebuilt throughout the 19th century, numerous parts remain from medieval times, including the Hall of the Guards. Notre-Dame Cathedral was conceived in 1160 by the Bishop of Paris who wanted a much grander edifice than the existing Merovingian building. Construction began in 1163 and was not finally completed until 1345. Severely damaged during religious conflicts, rededicated during the French Revolution to the Cult of Reason, and damaged again during World War II, it remains one of the largest and finest examples of Gothic architecture anywhere.
Lunch: At a crêperie, choose a salad and savory or sweet crêpe.
Afternoon: We will re-group at the hotel for an afternoon cruise along the Seine to view the magnificent monuments lining the river. After our river cruise, the remainder of the afternoon is free for personal independent exploration to see more the many marvels of Paris before dinner.
Dinner: Taking the Métro to a neighborhood restaurant, we will dine early with a 3-course plated meal plus coffee, tea, water.
Evening: Next, we will walk from the restaurant to attend a performance (usually ballet) in the opulent splendor of the Palais Garnier. Napoleon III commissioned a new Paris opera house in 1861 to be designed by Charles Garnier as part of his extraordinary reshaping of the capital during the Second Empire. The primary home of the Paris Opera, it is considered the most famous opera house in the world and one of the city’s main cultural sights.
Activity note: The motorcoach ride is approximately 1-1/2 hours, depending on traffic.
Breakfast: Hotel buffet.
Morning: This morning we will travel by motorcoach to Giverny, where Claude Monet created and painted his incredible gardens. Looking into the very gardens that inspired him, we’ll learn about his famous art and the Impressionist movement with commentary by our instructor. Walking through the water garden and Clos Normand, you may feel as if you have stepped right into one of the Monet’s famous water lily paintings.
Lunch: At the restaurant in Giverny just beyond the Monet house.
Afternoon: Returning to Paris, there will be some time to freshen up and relax before our next field trip, to the Musée d'Orsay. We will resume our educational adventure and take the Métro to become immersed in the world's largest collection of Impressionist art. The former Gare d’Orsay railway station, built in Beaux-Arts style for the Universal Exhibition of 1900, was refurbished, repurposed, and reopened as the Musée d’Orsay in 1986. The collections of painting, sculpture, and decorative objects gathered here show the tremendous diversity of artistic creation in the Western world from 1848-1914, showcasing remarkable works of the early modern era including the Impressionist, post-Impressionist, and Art Nouveau movements.
Dinner: At the Musée d'Orsay restaurant, enjoy a 2-course meal.
Evening: At leisure.
Activity note: Standing in line at the Eiffel Tower before taking the elevator to the top.
Breakfast: Hotel buffet.
Morning: Our program would not be complete with a visit to one of the most famous structures in the world, the Tour d'Eiffel (Eiffel Tower). It was built from 1887-89 as the entrance arch for the Exposition Universelle, a World's Fair marking the centennial celebration of the French Revolution. Now recognized worldwide as the iconic symbol of Paris, Eiffel’s grand plan initially met with skepticism by some and outrage by others. A committee of 300 architects, painters, sculptors, and writers protested, “We…passionate devotees of the hitherto untouched beauty of Paris, protest with all our strength, with all our indignation in the name of slighted French taste, against the erection…of this useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower.” It remained the world’s tallest man-made structure until 1930. This unique monument has been continually adapted to new technologies and spectacular visual demonstrations.
Lunch: You may have lunch on your own or join the Group Leader for a picnic on the Champs des Mars.
Afternoon: Departing the Eiffel Tower via the Métro, we’ll ride to a bakery for a hands-on opportunity to see how real French bread is made and. Under expert instruction, develop your baking skills as you create your own mouth-watering brioche or croissant. Take notes while making this scrumptious French specialty and impress friends and family back home.
Dinner: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions and give directions.
Evening: At leisure.
Activity note: Walking up to 3 miles (about 5km), negotiating Métro stations. Climbing the Arc de Triomphe includes a lift followed by 46 steps to the top.
Breakfast: Hotel buffet.
Morning: We will take the Métro to one of the city's many open-air markets where you can browse the stalls and mingle with Parisians during their morning shopping. Experience the sights, smells and delicious treats of the marché! Believe it or not, one of the most fascinating and instructive sites in Paris is the Père-Lachaise cemetery. When it opened in 1804, some of the immortals French history and culture were re-buried here, including Héloïse and Abelard, Moliere, and many others. Père-Lachaise soon became the most prestigious final resting place for the great, near-great, and merely rich. The 70,000 burial plots range from simple headstones to elaborate monuments and mausoleums. Among the renowned artists, heroes, movie stars, musicians, and statesmen lie Balzac, Bizet, Sarah Bernhardt, Chopin, Édith Piaf, Proust, Oscar Wilde, Yves Montand and Simone Signoret, and Jim Morrison.
Lunch: On your own to enjoy what you like.
Afternoon: Take this opportunity for personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. Please refer to the list of Free Time Opportunities. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions and give directions.
Dinner: At a local restaurant, enjoy a farewell dinner with new Road Scholar friends.
Evening: Tonight we bid farewell to Paris from atop the Arc de Triomphe. Begun in 1806, it honors those who fought and died in military service, especially the Napoleonic Wars, and stands over France’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Inspired by the Arch of Titus in Rome, it stands 164 feet tall with a museum in the attic detailing its construction. Reflect on all you have learned and experienced in our program as you view the city from on high. Returning to the hotel via Métro, prepare for departure in the morning.
Activity note: Hotel check-out is by 12:00 Noon. See the Travel Information section regarding transfers. If you are an independent traveler (POP status), see “Ground Transportation from Last Location.”
Breakfast: Hotel buffet (depending on your travel connections). This concludes our program. If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Please join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Visit us at www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!