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2018 Orchid Digest France Tour:

The Native Orchids of France: Burgundy, the Vercors,
Massif Central, Périgord, and the Aveyron


Join the Orchid Digest for a twelve-day guided tour through five of France’s beautiful regions to discover and observe many wonderful native orchid species. France has approximately 160 indigenous orchid species, all of which are terrestrial. We will see a substantial number of these species with a special focus on the rare Cypripedium calceolus (aka les Sabots de Vénus as the French call them) that are endemic to three locations on the tour. The month of May is prime blooming season in the areas on the itinerary. In addition to Cypripedium calceolus we will see a wide variety of species, natural hybrids and occasional anomalies of Ophrys, Orchis, Dactylorhiza, Serapias, Cephalanthera, Anacamptis, Limodorum, Listeria, Himantoglossum, Neottia and more.

The trip begins on Tuesday, May 15, 2018, in Dijon, and will conclude on Saturday, May 26, 2018, in Montpellier. The itinerary features four days in Burgundy, two days in the Drôme and the Vercors (the pre-Alps), one day traveling through the Auvergne, three days in the Périgord Noir, and two days in the Languedoc. While the orchids are the raison d’être for the tour it also features stops at many of France’s extraordinary historic, cultural, and geological sites. No trip to France is complete without indulging in the many regional gastronomic specialties and wines, which we will definitely do along the way, including a cooking class with a chef who has earned the distinguished title of «meilleur ouvrier de France.

Tour Leader: Nancy Benay is a long-time orchid hobbyist and francophile, who has traveled for over 50 years (hélas), studied and lived in France at different times. She loves all orchids and maintains an eclectic collection of species and hybrids, but in recent years she has concentrated on “hunting” and gaining expertise in the beguiling French native orchids, so much so that in 2016 she purchased a small house in the rural village of Nadaillac (population: 360 inhabitants) located in the Nouvelle Aquitaine where she spends several months each year. This is the second native orchid tour that Nancy has organized; the first one was for the Orchid Conservation Alliance in Spring 2016 that showcased the orchids of Southern and Southwestern France. Contact Nancy with your questions about details of the trip: ndbenay@gmail.com or 949 552-7713.

Local orchid experts and guides will join us at each stop along the tour.

Cost: The price for the 12-day tour from Dijon, France, to Montepellier, France includes guides, bus transportation, admission to parks, cultural and historic sites, food, water and hotels. Not included are airfare or other means of travel to France. Participants are responsible for arranging their transportation to Dijon, France and from the last stop in Montpellier, France.

Single: $3400
Double: $3100 per person

The tour is limited to 14 people on a first come first serve basis.

To reserve your spot click here!

Payment of the balance will be due on April 1, 2018.

Meals: All meals are included in the price of the tour. Lunch will generally be a picnic on days we are visiting orchid sites but occasionally in a restaurant depending on our location and schedule. Beverages such as wines and other alcohol, sodas, and coffee, etc. are not included and are the responsibility of the traveler. If you have a special dietary requirements please be sure to inform the tour organizer in advance of the trip.

Lodging: Comfortable accommodations in hotels and B&Bs with private bathrooms. Insurance: Travel and repatriation insurance are required.

Terrain: Most sites are easily accessible and may require a short walk or an occasional easy hike. Good hiking sneakers and a hiking stick are recommended.

Transportation: We will travel in a 24-seat bus with licensed drivers throughout the tour starting in Dijon to Montpellier.

Burgundy : Tuesday, May 15- Saturday, May 19 :
Hotel: La Bergerie (located 3 kms outside of Dijon)
Route de Corcelles les Monts
21000 Dijon
Tél : 03 80 76 85 00

Drôme and the Vercors (pre-Alps): Saturday, May 19-Monday, May 21 :
B&B: Les Chambres d’Hostun and the Gîtes de Saint-Martin-d'Hostun
1 place Camille d’Hostun
Tel : 06 14 68 70 5

Périgord: Monday, May 21-Friday, May 25 :
Hotel: Le Relais de Nadaillac and B&B: la Chambre d’Hôtes le Faget
Le Relais : 05 53 51 09 14 ;
Le Faget : 05 53 51 52 33

Aveyron: Friday, May 25 : (hotel tba ; near Millau or Mende)

Day 1: Tuesday, May 15 : Arrive in Dijon in the afternoon, 3-4 pm at the latest. Nancy Benay will meet participants at the Dijon train station; transfer to the hotel by local taxi. Evening : group meeting following dinner at the Bergerie.

Day 2: Wednesday, May 16: Morning visit to Moloy to see Cypripedium calceolus in bloom. Walking tour of the village and short hike to the blooming site in the nearby forest. Afternoon visit to the Mont de Marcilly (4500’ elevation) known for its limestone grassy fields where Orchis purpurea, Orchis militaris, Himantoglossum hircinum and Aceras anthropophorum should be in bloom in addition to a wide range of other native flora. Return to la Bergerie late afternoon. Dinner at the Bergerie.

Day 3: Thursday, May 17: When in Burgundy and the Cote d’Or a must visit is to the medieval city of Beaune, famous for it medieval Hôtel Dieu, plus wine tasting at a local chateau and winery. We will also explore the famous wine trail of the Côte d’Or. Morning in Beaune to visit the Hotel Dieu, explore the town, and shop. Lunch at a local restaurant. Afternoon: winetasting and touring the wine trail. Return to La Bergerie early evening.

Day 4, Friday, May 18: Morning visit to Voulaines-les-Templiers, located in the Châtillonnais area of Burgundy approximately an hour’s drive north of Dijon to explore a second site of Cypripedium calceolus. Afternoon visit and walking tour of Dijon’s old city. Return to La Bergerie early evening. Dinner at la Bergerie.

Day 5: Saturday, May 19. Early morning departure to drive to the Drôme (les Monts du Matin) where we will spend two days. Arrive in the village of Hostun at noon. Picnic lunch. After lunch visit two nearby orchid sites—Rochefort Samson and Beauregard-Baret that are also extremely rich in native flora of all kinds. Return to Hostun late afternoon. Special treat for dinner: cooking class with Chef Alain Berne, Terre Gourmande.

Day 6: Sunday, May 20: Visiting the Vercors (Pre-Alps). Guide: Etienne Legendre. Departure at 10am: The day will include stops at St. Nazaire en Royans, St. Jean en Royans, Combe Laval, often referred to as the “most magnificent road in the French Alps;” the Fond d'Urle, Col de la Chau, Vassieux en Vercors, site of one of the last stand-offs between the French maquis (resistance) and German forces during WWII. Return to Hostun in the early evening. Dinner in the village.

Day 7: Monday, May 21: Early morning departure from Hostun driving through the Massif Central to the village of Nadaillac in the Périgord Noir. En route we will stop for a picnic lunch and a short visit to the Auvergne Volcanoes Regional Park known for its spectacular landscapes, fauna and flora that includes 80 volcanic domes and craters that were active between 100,000 and 7,000 years ago. Arrival in Nadaillac early evening.

Day 8: Tuesday, May 22: Morning visit to the neighboring village of Gignac in the Lot (8 kms from Nadaillac). Visit the Moulin de Gignac, a restored windmill that was built in the first half of the 19th Century. The mill sits on a high grassy limestone plateau with absolutely spectacular views of the surrounding valleys. The grassy knoll is also a well estabished native orchid site. Afterwards drive to the charming town of Montignac for a late morning guided tour (with an English speaking guide) of le Centre International de l’Art Pariétal. Lascaux 4, as it is also known, opened in December 2016. It is a high tech full-scale replica of the original pre-historic polychrome cave discovered in 1941. http://www.lascaux.fr/en. Afterwards we will take a short detour to view the Chateau de la Filiolie, a privately owned chateau with its storybook architecture. Unfortunately it is not open to the public but definitely worth the stop. We will also visit the Abbaye de St. Amand de Coly, “located in the charming village of St. Amand de Coly, a “plus beau village de France.” Return to Nadaillac in the late afternoon. Dinner at the Relais de Nadaillac.

Day 9: Wednesday, May 23: Morning visit to the neighboring village of Chavagnac where we will visit a “sheep pasture” (minus the sheep) with its specatacular views of the Valley de la Vézère below (aka the Valley of Man). This pasture has an incredible variety of orchids, including 10,000 Orchis morio in season. Our guide will be Josiane Glaudon, native orchid specialist of the Dordogne. After Chavagnac we will visit a protected orchid site lovingly maintained by Josiane in a small wooded area outside the village of Ladornac. As many as 25 different species and various hybrids bloom at this site throughout the season. Lunch at La Table des Saveurs, Ladornac, an excellent local restaurant. Afternoon visit to the 14th-century Maison Forte de Reignac, a cliff dwelling and fortified Manor House built into the rock face of a cliff. Early evening return to Nadaillac. Casual dinner chez Nancy Benay, Place de la République, Nadaillac.

Day 10: Thursday, May 24: Departure at 9:00 am for la Vallée de la Dordogne and the village of Beynac for a river boat tour followed by a visit to the exquisite gardens of the Manoir de Marqueyssac. Lunch at Marquessac. Departure around 2:30 pm for the beautiful Medieval and Renaissance city of Sarlat-la Caneda. Tour of Sarlat with time to browse in the numerous boutiques. Return to Nadaillac early evening. Dinner at the Relais de Nadaillac.

Day 11: Friday, May 25: early morning departure for the Aveyron and an afternoon visit to a site protected by Natura 2000 in the Gorges du Tarn along the Causse Méjean where France’s third largest population of Cypripedium calceolus blooms usually in late May to early June. We will stay in a hotel either near Mende or Millau. Day

12: Saturday, May 26: Conclusion of the tour. Early morning departure for the train station in Montpellier, but first we will stop at the Viaduct of Millau, a cable-stayed bridge that spans the valley of the Tarn River near Millau (home of Roquefort cheese and glove capital of France). The viaduct is reported to be the tallest bridge in the world.

We will arrive at Montpellier’s St. Roch Train Station by 1 p.m. It is a three and a half hour ride via the TGV (bullet tain) to Paris’ Gare de Lyon. When booking your train travel It is advisable to select a departure time after 3 pm Montpellier also has a nearby regional airport so if you are going to fly to your next destination taxis are readily available from the train station.

Note: about the itinerary There may me some last-minute minor adjustments to the daily itinerary depending on weather conditions and/or updates on the blooming status of the orchids.