Private small-group tour with TripUSAFrance

By Alice Meyer
This item appears on page 44 of the January 2020 issue.

My husband, Bob, and I and nine friends enjoyed 12 fabulous days and 13 nights seeing France like locals, not tourists, with Julia and her father, Stephane, of Trip­­­USAFrance (Arlington, VA; 703/485-6894, During the whole tour, April 12-25, 2019, we felt like we were guests of the family while experiencing a varied and enriching itinerary. 

TripUSAFrance has a well-thought-out package for nine days of travel in the south of France described on their website. However, I had a file full of info on additional places that I didn’t want to miss, so I worked with Julia to add three days to our itinerary.

The process was easy. Their website provides instructions for requesting individualized travel. Julia got back to me with a couple of iterations until we agreed on a plan. She and her family checked out the places I suggested (a time-consuming undertaking), after which she proposed a thoroughly efficient itinerary that we happily used.

With the number of travelers in our group, we paid $4,700 per person plus airfare to Montpellier.

We stayed in a very nice little hotel in Palavas-les-Flots, Hotel Les Coquilles, with views of the Mediterranean from our balcony and a very attentive staff. From there, we ventured out daily to tour. Julia and Stephane are excellent drivers, and at each destination we were led on a walk by either Julia or a local guide who provided interesting commentary.  

The travel included remarkably preserved Roman sites at Nîmes and Arles; the Pont du Gard aqueduct; the medieval walled city of Carcassonne; the medieval village La Couvertoirade; the lovely Musée Fabre in Montpellier, and the Palace of the Popes in Avignon. We also toured places off the beaten path, like the unique little towns of Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert and Les Baux-de-Province. 

We saw Roquefort cheese production and visited the Château d’Exindre winery for a tour and tasting, the Calisson candy factory and a Marseille soap factory. Château de Flaugergues was interesting, both inside and out, and our visit there included a wine tasting. 

At Carrières de Lumières, an abandoned mine in which art is displayed on the surface of the marble walls, there was an impressive sound-and-light show of the works of Vincent van Gogh.

The restaurant choices were nonpareil. Every meal that was on the itinerary was a culinary pleasure and at the same time was family-like, as we dined at a big table with Julia and Stephane. 

One day, a beautiful French picnic was prepared and catered by Julia’s mother, Cathy. Stephane played his guitar and sang, delighting us all. During the picnic, we had fun competing at the lawn game pétanque. 

Other activities that added to the warmth and enjoyment included experiencing the Friday farmers’ market by the Mediterranean coast in Palavas-les-Flots and taking a cooking class that produced a fine meal.

At the top of our list of delights was a visit to Julia’s uncle’s oyster-processing facility and restaurant, where we ate as many of the most delicious fresh oysters as we wanted! 

We were truly pleased with every aspect of this travel adventure. TripUSAFrance has a winning formula.

Matthews, NC