Full itinerary for our sacred and historical France tour with historian Henry Lincoln and cultural expert Allysha Lavino. 10 days of travel - history, mystery, Rennes-le-Chateau, Knights Templar, Mary Magdalene, Cathars, sacred geometry, the real DaVinci Code, French culture, food, and wine.
Ancient Mystery Quest
in the South of France
SEPTEMBER 14 - 23, 2018
Waking each morning to fresh croissants, our days are spent roving ancient ruins, examining hidden histories, hiking incredible landscapes, and experiencing firsthand the secrets of the Languedoc. We return from days exploring the French countryside to private rooms at a charming B&B, Au Coeur de Rennes. Gathering for a glass of bubbly before dinner, we relax around the table with a 5-course, home-cooked French feast. Wine and conversation flow through the evening as we discuss the mysteries of the region, examine the history before our eyes, laugh over cultural differences, and truly experience the la vie française.
Our Adventure begins in Toulouse, where our coach whisks us off to the fairytale castle of Carcassonne. Across Time’s drawbridge, we sink into the past in this fortified medieval city. Wine and conversation flow during a decadent French dinner followed by a quiet stroll round the ramparts.
We begin the day with a tour of the feudal fortress and basilica of Carcassonne, exploring the history of the Cathars and Albigensian Crusade. Settling into the slower pace of country life, we take the winding way to the 8th century Abbey of Saint Hilaire nestled in the heart of small-town Occitania. This evening we head on to Rennes-les-Bains where a five-course, home-cooked meal awaits us.
Waking leisurely to a fresh breakfast, we make our way to the neighbouring village of Esperaza where the local market has taken over the town. Enjoying this sensory spectacle, we stroll the streets in search of local goodies, souvenirs, and gifts. This afternoon we explore Rennes-les-Bains, getting to know our home-away-from-home with its healing hot springs and Roman foundations.
Up the hill to the mysterious hamlet of Rennes-le-Château where the story that inspired The Da Vinci Code comes to life. We visit the coded church, learn to follow the clues, and see for ourselves the secrets that have been hidden throughout the centuries. Over dinner we're joined by Henry Lincoln for an evening of questions and lively discussion.
We begin the day at a little-known, natural grotto on a very specific spot. Tracing the mystery through the landscape, we visit secret spots along the trail before a lovely picnic near the ancient zero meridian. A leisurly afternoon at a local vineyard lets us taste the famous sparkling wine of this region, ancestor of Champagne and touted by the locals as far more delicious.
Filling our water bottles at the mineral-rich spring of Campagne-les-Bains, we head off to the ancient halls of Puivert castle, once a gathering place for travelling Occitan minstrels. This afternoon we embark on a secret Adventure buried deep in this stunning countryside. Wandering into the forests of fée, the path before us is full of surprises.
A relaxing morning of free time in Rennes-les-Bains. Sit by the river with a book, enjoy the local hot springs, or take a hike through the surrounding countryside. Then we truly step into the secrets of the region to experience the magic of the ancestors for ourselves with a visit to a hidden hamlet marked by the ancient Celts. We finish our day at a delightful restaurant in the old Bishop’s Palace of Alet-les-Bains.
A beautiful drive leads us to the idyllic castle of Puylaurens, one of the eagle’s nest Cathar Castles found throughout the Languedoc. On to the Gorges de Galamus, a peaceful hermitage nestled on sheer cliffs and a stop at the church of Bugarach, a quirky town set at the foot of a mystical mountain.
At the the Fountain of Fontestorbes, we discover a beautiful cave and waterfall with strange behaviours. After coffee or tea near the Fountain, we are off to Montségur, legendary home of the last Cathars. We enjoy the mysteries, history, and landscape before heading back for a gastronomical paradise of traditional French delights!
Packing up to head home, we find ourselves subtly enlivened by these days in the Languedoc. We wave farewell to our new friends and the stunning landscape of Old Occitania as our coach carries us back to present day and the airport in Toulouse.