As a global tour operator, we are committed to operating every one of our trips in a way that respects and benefits local people, their culture and economy, while minimising our impact on the natural environment.
We travel in small groups – on this trip the maximum group size is 12 passengers – which means we can stay in small, locally-owned or family-run hotels and guesthouses. Wherever possible we use public transport, and on this journey you will mostly travel by train and occasionally by public bus. There is just one journey where we take a private transfer, between Bagneres de Luchon in the French Pyrenees and San Sebastian in Northern Spain. While in the Loire Valley, we spend a day cycling in the countryside and you may also choose to hire a bike to explore Sarlat in the Dordogne.
To give you maximum flexibility, most meals are not included in the tour so that you can choose where you wish to eat, but your tour leader will encourage you to make the most of the area’s local produce, by recommending authentic local restaurants, bars, markets and other eating places. For example, weather permitting we may enjoy a picnic by visiting a fromagerie for cheese, boulangerie for bread, charcuterie for cold meats, and so on – which means we can enjoy some local interaction with shopkeepers, shop in the way that locals do, and support a number of small businesses. In San Sebastian, we can try pinxtos (Basque tapas-style dishes) in a number of bars, again spreading income and trying local specialties. We also enjoy a local wine-tasting in Bordeaux, which is famed for its vineyards.
After a three-year process, we were proud to become a carbon neutral company in 2010 and we operate this tour on a carbon neutral basis. We offset 182kg of CO2 emissions per passenger, by making contributions to a range of internationally accredited renewable energy projects in destinations where we travel. As well as an ongoing programme to measure, reduce and offset the carbon emissions from our offices, stores and trips, we also offer passengers who book their flight through us the option to offset those emissions. To date, we have offset more than 45,000 tonnes of carbon emissions.
We have a Responsible Travel Code of Conduct which we adhere to as a company, and we expect our staff and travellers to demonstrate the principles of responsible travel too. We provide a number of responsible travel tips to facilitate this, for example advice on what clothing is appropriate and respectful. For example, Segovia has the highest concentration of Romanesque churches in the world and if you choose to enter any of them we will request that you dress modestly, covering your knees and shoulders and avoiding skimpy tops.
As a tour company, our responsibilities don’t stop when our tours end. In 2002, we established a charitable foundation so that our passengers and staff could support grassroots community projects around the world. To date, it has raised over £2million for over 75 projects involved with health care, education, human rights, child welfare, sustainable development, and environmental and wildlife protection. We match every donation made by passengers and pay the administration costs, so every penny that is donated goes to a good cause.
Experience real French culture and get off the beaten track
From €510 - €780 5 days excluding flights