‘No forced marches’ with Intimate France

By: Jack & Yvonne Prevo
This item appears on page 26 of the September 2017 issue.

We took our third tour with George Nevin, owner and operator of Intimate France (Oakland, CA; 800/676-1247, www.intimatefrance.com), Sept. 6-18, 2015, this time to the Dordogne area of France. Rather than cover that beautiful area, in this review we will focus on what a guest on one of George’s four tours a year can expect.

We believe that Intimate France offers high-quality tours with outstanding value received for dollars spent. Expect courtesy, consideration and a genuine desire to please. Expect to be educated and entertained. You will learn the history and culture of the area being visited and enjoy the cuisine and wine.

Before the trip begins, you’ll be sent the itinerary; airport and city maps; French menu translations, and articles about places you’ll visit, some of which may be a bit remote, retaining an authentic charm unspoiled by hordes of tourists. 

Usually, the tour starts at an airport hotel on a Sunday morning. You’ll meet your fellow travelers, and George will present a short orientation. Then you’ll board his clean, comfortable, 9-passenger van and your adventure will begin. There will be an itinerary, but be prepared for an impromptu picnic or a detour to an interesting market or museum.

There are no forced marches through museums or cathedrals following a leader who is holding an umbrella aloft. Generally, after discussing an area, George will drop you off at a cultural site or pretty village and you’ll be free to explore in depth or just cast a casual glance and head to a café for an espresso and to people-watch.

Dress is casual, but don’t be so casual that you won’t be comfortable in a nice restaurant. Pack as lightly as possible, as you’ll be called on to carry your own luggage when arriving at or departing from hotels.

All tours are limited to eight guests except for tours of the Dordogne, due to its popularity. During our Dordogne tour the limit was 16, and his associate Connie Barney drove another van. Connie’s expertise in French cuisine and wine plus her knowledge of French history, geography and culture make her an excellent companion. Like George, she speaks fluent French.

Expect to eat well on an Intimate France tour. Usually, at least one lunch at a Michelin-starred restaurant is included. There is never a “set” menu; you’re free to order as you wish. George will translate as well as select the wine and handle the bill and tip. (If no group meal is planned, George can make recommendations.) Lunch and dinner are leisurely.

Held in a pretty park or on the grounds of a château, there will be at least one picnic for which George sends guests to a village’s weekly market to purchase provisions. 

George’s tours are planned to keep single-night hotel stays to a minimum, with day trips made from a centrally located town. The final night is usually at an airport hotel to make departure more convenient. You will stay in well-located, 2- and 3-star hotels that will be clean and comfortable and have private bathrooms. There is not always an elevator and there is seldom a porter.

The tour price includes hotels (with breakfasts), transport and entrance fees. The cost of our Dordogne tour was $4,095 per person. We were responsible for airfare, some meals and personal expenses.

In our opinion, traveling with George is comparable to traveling with a knowledgeable, experienced and trusted friend who truly wants you to enjoy your trip.

JACK & YVONNE PREVO

McKinney, TX

Intimate France’s four 2018 tours are each priced at $3,995 per person, sharing, with a single supplement of $550 (based on euro/dollar exchange rate): “French Riviera for Art Lovers,” April 29-May 11; “Provence, France,” May 13-25; “French & Spanish Basque,” Sept. 2-14, and “Dordogne, France,” Sept. 16-28.