France brings to mind iconic sites, and cuisine that’s considered some of the best in the word. When traveler Arash and his wife Adriana set off on our Paris, Normandy, Brittany Coast & the Loire Valley tour, they uncovered all of that—and so much more. Here, Arash answers 10 questions about their unforgettable tour, and their travel experiences with Go Ahead.
Traveler Arash and his wife Adriana strolling through the gardens of Versaille
1. Go Ahead Tours: You’ve traveled on quite a few trips with us! What set this tour of France apart from others you’ve taken?
Arash: “I’m a bit of a history buff, and the opportunity to visit Normandy and the D-Day and WWII sites was humbling, somber, and beautiful at the same time. The itinerary had a great variety of cities and sights, which allowed us to experience SO much. I particularly loved the fact that we started in Paris, but quickly left to see the countryside and then returned to spend more time in Paris (on the tour extension), which provided a nice contrast.”
“I’m sure I’m not the first, nor the last, to also sing the praises of our Tour Director, Ronen, who was terrific. The depth of his historical knowledge and ability to impart it to us in an interesting way was exceptional. He was very approachable and authentic, so it felt like we were traveling with a friend.”
Traveler Arash’s snapshot of Château de Chenonceau
2. The Eiffel Tower often comes to mind when thinking of France—but there’s so much more to see! What were some of the other gems you came across?
“Where do I start? There were so many terrific places. The Rouen Cathedral. The Normandy American Cemetery. The city of Saint-Malo and its surrounding city wall with amazing views of the sea. The monastery of Mont Saint Michel and the surrounding quicksands. Leonardo da Vinci’s house in Amboise. Château de Chenonceau and its beautiful architecture and gardens. And who can forget the gardens of Giverny?”
3. Any regional French dishes that you’re still dreaming about?
“The cuisine was influenced by the sea and local ingredients, and was good. I don’t think this particular France tour focused much on cuisine. I do recall the Calvados tasting was fun, informative, and delicious. Plus, I’m always on the lookout for authentic macarons now.”
Is there anything prettier than France’s historic stained glass windows? This stunner was captured by traveler Arash
5. How did you feel visiting Normandy and Brittany, and standing where important historical events took place?
“This was a terrific France tour overall. The itinerary took us through iconic and historically important cities. The regions of Normandy and Brittany were delightful, and our tour guide provided the right historical lens to appreciate the changes that have taken place in these areas over the last thousand years.”
“The important historical events and people who either inhabited these cities, or were tied to them in some way (like Joan of Arc and Rouen, or Catherine de Medici), came to life because of our Tour Director’s ability to weave the history into the tour along a continuum. In hindsight, I would say the feeling I had was one of a deeper appreciation of the history in France.”
A vineyard snapshot from the Loire Valley, captured by traveler Arash
6. I’d love to hear more about the Loire Valley! What made that region so special?
“The Loire Valley, with its romantic castles, vineyards, and central role in the cultivation of culture during the French renaissance, was a treat. I would say that part of the tour was interesting because of its historical association with Catherine de Medici and King Henry II of France, and other important historical figures. Visiting the Château de Chenonceau was the highlight.”
7. Dreaming about a trip is part of the fun! Do you have any tips for other travelers who are planning an adventure?
“Being a foodie, I have learned that it’s a good idea to research restaurants ahead of time for your free days and evenings on tour. I use the ViaMichelin smartphone app to help figure out what’s available and try to make reservations ahead of time when possible.”
Go Ahead travel tip: Tap into your Tour Director’s expertise any time—they know the area like the back of their hand, and can share their favorite restaurants to visit during free time on tour in France!
8. In general, why do you travel?
“To widen my horizons, learn about history, become familiar with the local people, and increase my understanding of other cultures. There is SO much to see and learn, and our time on this planet is finite. Plus, everyone needs some time away from work and our usual, busy lives.”
Arash’s photo of Sacré-Cœur Basilica at dusk
9. What are some of your favorite things about traveling on guided tours with Go Ahead?
“Go Ahead takes the stress out of traveling to previously unknown places. I feel that my time on tour is very efficiently managed, which allows me to experience many more things than if I had to figure out the nitty-gritty of each place myself. Additionally, the tours have taken us to places that I would simply not have known to visit.”
“The local tour guides were uniformly excellent across the board on my France tour. I particularly appreciate that more often than not, the “local” guides themselves are foreigners who have lived and worked in France for years and can give a third-person point of view on the history. Our Tour Director, Ronen, was fantastic, and his commentary enriched the experience that much more.”
10. How has seeing the world changed you for the better?
“I think many of us who enjoy travel get a deep sense of appreciation for discovering the world around us, uncovering the unique attributes of different people and their cultures, and learning about the historical links that cross borders and boundaries. I believe it’s this deeper understanding and appreciation that’s changed me for the better.”
Traveler Arash looking at Giverny through his own lens