La Rochelle, France
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Approximately 6½ Hours
Leaf through the pages of history with a guided tour of two mesmerizing local landmarks.
You'll begin with a panoramic drive through La Rochelle's Old Harbor, taking you past the famous twin towers that guard the 12th-century port. You're headed south to the village of Saintes.
In the historic city center of Saintes, follow your guide across the bridge and into the Old Town -- a time capsule of medieval architecture. See the majestic Cathedral of Saint Pierre, where John Calvin preached between 1536 and 1564. Most of what is here today dates from the 15th and 17th centuries and is Romanesque and neo-Classical architecture.
A short distance away is the Abbaye aux Dames. Ten centuries old, the abbey served as a nun's convent until the French Revolution.
For a glimpse of the Roman history of Saintes, walk along the riverbank. Here, you'll find the ruins of the Arch of Germanicus. Built in AD 19, this arch was dedicated to the Emperor Tiberius, his son Drusus Julius Caesar, and his adopted son, Germanicus.
After your visit, enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.
Back on the coach, travel to La Roche Courbon Castle for a tour of a 17th-century storybook chateau. It is a rather breathtaking scene as your coach emerges from the picturesque countryside and rides up to this beautiful castle that inspired Charles Perrault to write Sleeping Beauty. Originally built around 1475 as a defensive fortress, the chateau was transformed into a comfortable residence for the Courbon family about 200 years later. By the 19th century, the castle and grounds were abandoned and sank into disrepair. It was restored in 1920 and remains a private residence today. Classified an Historic Monument, the castle boasts an interior just as spectacular as the outside. Follow your guide inside to explore exquisitely furnished and decorated rooms dating from the 17th century. The drawing room is brilliantly decorated with painted wood paneling and beams; there's a welcoming kitchen; and a bedroom that offers gorgeous views of the gardens.
You're free to explore the gardens on your own before the drive back to the ship.
Please note: Wear comfortable walking shoes. Shopping is limited in Saintes on Sundays. Photography is not allowed inside the castle. Use of an audio headset (included) will enhance your tour experience.