Bethanie's First Trip to

Bethanie contacted us for her journey to France with two heartfelt intentions: to create a cherished romantic trip with her fiancé and to celebrate her birthday in a memorable way.

Happy Travelers at the Eiffel Tower at Night

However, her excitement was dampened when she discovered that her fiancé would not be able to join her due to unforeseen circumstances, just 11 days before their planned departure. Despite this big disappointment, Bethanie made the decision to proceed with her trip, determined to make the most of her time in France. 

Knowing Bethanie must be crushed by the turn of events, we strove to make her feel exceptionally welcome in France by picking her up from the airport ourselves. On the drive to the Loire Valley, we asked if she would rather continue her trip as planned or have us accompany her on the unguided experiences.

She replied she was a seasoned solo traveler but would very much like company with or without guides.

On this occasion we had extra time and love what we do, so we happily went along on several of her adventures. Her trip lasted a total of ten days. The first six were in the Loire Valley and the last four days were spent in Paris where she would celebrate her birthday.

She flew in from Egypt, where she also owns a thriving tour company, Escape to Egypt Tours and Retreats. I was a little nervous as I had never given a tour to a tour operator before!


After picking Bethanie up at CDG, we drove about three hours through the beautiful French countryside to Saumur in the western Loire Valley. It was Fall and she was amazed at how the rolling green hills, planted with various crops, contrasted with the off white tuffa stone villages perfectly. The farmer’s fields are divided by ancient stone walls, where we saw raptors, pheasants and foxes roaming about. We chatted happily, answering her questions about life in France as an expat and comparing it with her expat life in Egypt. 

Saumur is our home in France and is not on the American tourist trail. We delight in bringing guests here and showing off a vibrant and real French town, without any touristy vibes at all outside the high season in summer. Upon arrival, we celebrated with a glass of Cremant, the sparkling wine of our region, at a lovely four star hotel in a stunning 19th century chateau that would serve as her base for the next few days.

In France, it’s very important to eat during lunch time (12-2), so we headed straight to a delicious meal with an incredible up-close view of Bethanie’s first French castle. After getting her settled into a lovely room, where the hotel staff were kind enough to place her welcome basket for us, the three of us set off on a walking tour of Saumur.

She particularly enjoyed the half-timbered houses and the peak-a-boo views of the chateau from various points in town. Bethanie ended the day with shopping and a dinner on her own.

The next morning we met her at her hotel, where we were soon greeted by one of our favorite guides Laetitia. The first destination for the day was at Leonardo da Vinci’s chateau Clos Luce. Laetitia gave us a guided tour of the inside of the chateau and an art exhibition of his drawings and manuscripts.

The chateau made of charming red brick is filled with replicas of his inventions. Complete with a hologram show and dutiful restorations of his bedroom, studios, and workshops. We learned more about how important his work was in bringing the Renaissance from Italy to France. 

Bethanie’s favorite part of the experience was the outdoor interactive replicas of Leonardo’s machines. Set in the chateau’s lush green gardens, where a meandering stream feeds the beautiful flowers on its banks and spills out spectacularly into a lily filled lake. We made fun memories as we saw how fast we could spin da Vinci’s tank and pull up water from the lake with his Archimedes screw. 


Down the street we had a gourmet lunch of classic French cuisine with a stunning panoramic view of the Loire river. The afternoon ended with a wine tasting outside of Amboise at Plou et Fils. This estate has over 75 hectares of vineyards and there are 16 wines to taste. The tour of the vineyard explained the French wine-making process and the history of the land. Followed by another guided tour of the troglodyte cellars which described the different techniques of the aging process that produces the best wines.

Finally, we were rewarded for our hard work with the tasting. Yes, we did taste all sixteen wines but we could never come to a consensus on which one was the best! Laetitia drove us back to Bethanie’s hotel for refreshing before our fist Michelin meal of her trip. 

Another memorable experience happened the following day. Bethanie mentioned to us that she was talking with her mother who could trace her ancestry back to Eleanor of Aquitaine, queen of France and then England! Eleanor and her famous son, Richard the Lionheart, are buried at The Royal Abbey of Our Lady of Fontevraud, which is only a few kilometers away from her hotel. A few decisions later she decided to scrap the day’s itinerary and we were off to the abbey. 

The abbey is a huge 900 year old complex of white stone buildings nestled in the lush green of the Loire Valley. The length and width of the nave is impressive and Eleanor and Richard are entombed before the altar in painted stone sarcophagi. They looked regal, frozen in time wearing their gold crowns and royal robes. After Bethanie finished contemplating her lineage and wiped a tear away, we discovered the rich history behind this World Heritage Site. From an abbey cherished by kings to one of France’s most feared Napoleonic prisons, this experience was an education Bethanie said she will never forget. 

The next couple of days were filled with all the Loire’s must-see chateaux. The elegance of the Ladies Chateau de Chenonceau, the impressive size of royal Chambord and the fairy tale towers and gardens of Chateau Usse that inspired Perrault’s Sleeping Beauty.

She had quite a few more adventures in the valley. Laetita showed her all of the secrets of the Loire that only a French guide with years of experience knows about. A sprinkle of Michelin Meals, a dash of tastings, a stunning sunset balloon ride and Bethanie’s time in the Loire had come to an end.

After lunch, our private driver arrived and whisked us back to discover a bit of Paris. We’d managed to get a last-minute reservation in Bethanie’s same four star hotel, located in the Montmartre arrondissement near the Moulin Rouge.

 This cute little section of Paris sits on a hill overlooking the rest of the city. Perched above in a village-like atmosphere, it is easy to see why this was a favorite gathering place for Parisian artists in the 19th and 20th centuries. This charming place would have been the perfect romantic setting for Bethanie and her fiance. 

The next morning, after enjoying our fill of espressos and croissants, we were off to see the iconic Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe. The Eiffel Tower has been a symbol of Paris since its construction for the World’s Fair in 1889. Last October, the entire area was undergoing a facelift. Part of the tower was obscured in scaffolding as it was being prepped for its new gold paint job. The grounds were fenced off and in the process of being re-landscaped, so it would look its best for the 2024 Olympics. 

To Bethanie, this was supposed to be her quintessential French moment. Yes, she could have had her fiance at her side and the tower could have been perfect but it wasn’t. And yet due to her optimism and enthusiasm, she still made it one of the best parts of her trip.

After lunch we enjoyed some espressos as we watched the boat tours filled with happy travelers meandering up and down the Seine. An important part of visiting Paris is relaxing a bit and people watching as locals do. Don’t try to see everything because it’s simply impossible anyway!

Afterwards we strolled the Parisian streets past Princess Diana’s memorial and the designer fashion houses to the Arc de Triomphe. With 284 steps required to get to the top (164 feet) we were happy we had drank the espressos! Some have argued that the best views of Paris are from the top of the building and I agree. Centered at the end of the wide avenue, Champs-Élysées, the arch has 12 wide boulevards radiating outwards. Perched atop this colossus you have a 365 degree view and can look deep into the heart of Paris. The view was amazing as the miniature cars and people moved along the streets in this ancient city. 

Walking back to the Seine in the dark, but illuminated streets, Bethanie was surprised by the Eiffel Tower lighting up at the top of the hour. However, we were not! She had mentioned it in the initial Zoom call and in her questionnaire. Knowing she loves the iconic tower sparkling in all of its majesty, we made sure to be arriving at the river just in time for the iconic tower to illuminate with its 20,000 sparkling lights. We also got a selfie that I cherish as a wonderful memory with a client and new friend!

 While she had seen video and pictures of this hourly spectacle, witnessing it in person left her truly awestruck. Concluding the evening with a birthday dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant, we bid Bethanie goodnight, ensuring that she would have a restful night’s sleep in preparation for the adventures that lay ahead.

The following morning, one of our knowledgeable Parisian guides, Camille, arrived to accompany Bethanie on her exploration of the vibrant city. With a fond farewell, we entrusted her into Camille’s capable hands. Over the course of the next three days, Bethanie immersed herself in the wonders of Paris, often accompanied by Camille, whose expertise and passion for the city spans back to 2005.

Together, they ventured off the beaten path, uncovering hidden gems and delving into the rich tapestry of Parisian history. The professional photographer that was going to capture romantic moments between Bethanie and her fiancé was able to rearrange the shoot and instead took her to the best Instagram spots in Paris. This was important for Bethanie as she uses Social Media to convey her brand image in her own business and she got some incredible photos!

Her Parisian adventures encompassed a myriad of iconic landmarks and experiences. Descending into the mysterious depths of the Paris Catacombs, Bethanie confronted the eerie yet fascinating underground realm. They marveled at the awe-inspiring grandeur of the Notre Dame facade, explored the vast treasure filled halls of the Louvre, explored the opulent Palais Garnier, and even embarked on a thrilling haunted walking tour of Paris by night.

Bethanie’s schedule was packed to the maximum with adventures and experiences. While our usual recommendation is to maintain a more relaxed pace, Bethanie, being a tour operator herself, understood her travel limits and sought to experience as much as possible in her time in France.

After her return to Egypt, Bethanie shared that one of the major highlights of her journey had been the visit to Fontevraud Abbey. An unintended adventure that ended up being the best part of her experience. Much like her first trip to France in general: initial disappointment that her fiancé could not travel turned into a magical vacation she will always remember.

She also reached out to us last week to begin planning a return trip this Christmas, this time WITH her fiancé! 

Create Your Own Adventure

Your Adventure Your Way

We believe that your vacation should be as unique as you are. Beyond crafting itineraries, we’re creators of experiences, artisans of adventure. Imagine each destination as a brushstroke on your journey’s canvas. It’s like crafting a story, where you’re the central character.

Envision France as the backdrop, seamlessly interwoven with your narrative. This is more than travel; it’s an alchemy, where the spirit of France and your dreams and passions merge to craft a love story that’s singularly yours.

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