Alumni & Friends Travel

Travel the world with friends

  • Ambialet, France Ambialet

    Alumni and Friends Tour: Southwest France

    Dates & Costs

    7 days: June 21-28, 2014
    Price: $1,250 per person
    (land only)
    Download the 2014 Alumni Tour Brochure

    Sponsored by the Saint Francis University Alumni Association with the Center for International Education and Outreach

    With hosts:

    • Tim Perkins, Executive Director of International Studies,
    • Christopher Collins ‘73, President of the Alumni Association, and
    • Anita Baumann ‘90, Director of Alumni Relations

     

    Invitation

    Dear alumni and friends,
    We invite you to join us on a very special journey to the Midi-Pyrénées, an area of southern France that is rich in art and architecture, food and wine, and religion and history. This region is often overlooked by travel planners, but it is truly a “hidden gem” full of wonderful sights, interesting history, and exceptional food and wine. More importantly, it is home to Saint Francis University’s French site, Le Prieuré, a 14th-century monastery that has been converted to living and learning spaces for students and that will serve as “home base” for our travelers.

    Beyond the appeal of the region itself, there is perhaps a more compelling reason to join us on this trip, and that is the opportunity to travel with alumni and friends who also have ties to Saint Francis. We both participated in last year’s Alumni and Friends Trip to Italy, which brought together 90 individuals from different class years, hometowns, and backgrounds, all of whom shared a common love for Saint Francis University. That shared bond enriched our travels, and we finished the trip not only with wonderful travel memories but also with wonderful new friends.

    Chris Collins Anita Baumann

    Please review the trip details, and you will see that this trip offers an exciting opportunity to explore a fascinating region of Southern France. Because the trip is “land only,” you have the chance to customize how you begin or end your journey—perhaps a visit to Paris or Barcelona would be the perfect way to round out your trip. The choice is up to you.

    Act quickly because space is limited. Simply complete the reservation form and forward your deposit to secure your place on this tour. We look forward to taking this journey with you.

    Sincerely,
    Chris Collins ’73, President, Saint Francis Alumni Association
    Anita Baumann ’90, Director of Alumni Relations

    Overview

    Discover the Midi-Pyrénées

    Relax and enjoy the tranquility of Saint Francis University’s French site, Le Prieuré, set high atop a hill on a presqu’ile formed by the River Tarn. Discover the wonders of this area of France—the Midi-Pyrénées— and explore historical and religious sites, including Conques and its magnificent reliquaries and the famous Chemin de St. Jacques (The Way of St. James). Visit walled villages like Cordes-sur-Ciel. Not far from Le Prieuré, explore the majestic Millau Viaduc, the work of world-renowned architect Sir Norman Foster, and just a stone’s throw from the cheese caves in Rouquefort-sur-Soulzon. Take a short drive from Ambialet to the city of Albi, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and see the home of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and the purported birthplace of the Inquisition.

    Spend some leisure time at Le Prieuré, reading or enjoying quiet contemplation in the chapel. Down the hill in Ambialet, have a go at canoeing on the Tarn, visit the hydroelectric power plant (really!), scout out the pub for un vin rouge, or sample the wares found in the shops in this village of 41 inhabitants. Explore the local markets that abound in the area, visit some vineyards where local Gaillac wine is produced, and dine at some of the region’s fine restaurants. In Toulouse—the Rose City—spend an entire day exploring the Cathedral of St. Sernin and the Church of Les Jacobins where St. Thomas Aquinas is entombed. Situated three hours from Barcelona and five hours from Paris by train, this interesting metropolis is the fourth largest city in France and home to several colleges and universities that are popular destinations for U.S. study abroad programs. Enjoy a leisurely lunch and ample time for shopping and discovering this fascinating city from an urbanist perspective.

    With the priory as “home base,” begin your adventure with a welcome dinner and Mass in the 11th-century chapel at Le Prieuré and end your journey with a gala adieu dinner on Friday evening.

    Itinerary

    Itinerary (subject to change)

    Sat., June 21 – Arrival and Orientation: Plan to arrive in Toulouse by train or air in time for one of two complimentary shuttles that will be provided. Upon arrival at Ambialet, you will have time to get settled in your room, either at Le Prieuré or at the Hotel du Pont. In the afternoon, there will be introductions and an orientation session, followed by a festive welcome dinner at Le Prieuré. (D)

    Sun., June 22 – Millau-Creissels/Roquefort sur Soulzon: Your day begins with Mass in the exquisite 11th-century chapel at Le Prieuré. After breakfast, you visit the Viaduc de Millau, the tallest bridge in the world, and then embark on a tour of the famous Roquefort caves, where you will learn about cheese making and taste samples of the famous cheese. (B,L,D)

    Mon., June 23 – Conques: Today you travel to Conques, where you will visit the Abbey-Church of Saint-Foy, view magnificent reliquaries, and explore sites along the Chemin de St. Jacques, a portion of the famous pilgrimage route that leads to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. (B,L,D)

    Tues., June 24 – Cordes-sur-Ciel/Cahuzac-sur-Vère: You will journey today to Cordes-sur-Ciel, a fortified town known for its outdoor market and beautiful gothic architecture. Then you will enjoy a long lunch in Cahuzac-sur-Vère at Château de Salettes with delicious wine and stunning views of the Tarn countryside. (B,L,D)

    Wed., June 25 – Albi/Ambialet: Today affords a more relaxing pace with a visit to nearby Albi, where you will explore the medieval Cathedral of Sainte Cécile, built between 1282 and 1480 and recognized as the largest brick building in the world. Next stop will be the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum, birthplace of the famous Post-Impressionist artist. Lunch is on your own, and the afternoon is at your leisure. Options for recreation include shopping in Albi, relaxing at Le Prieuré, exploring Ambialet, or canoeing on the Tarn River. (B,D)

    Thur., June 26 – Toulouse: You begin today with an early departure to Toulouse to visit the Basilica of St. Sernin, renowned for the quality and quantity of its Romanesque sculptures. Next you will see the Couvent des Jacobins, the well-preserved 14th-century monastic complex where St. Thomas Aquinas is buried. The afternoon, including lunch, is at your leisure for further exploration in this interesting city. Upon your return to Ambialet, enjoy a group dinner at Hotel du Pont (B,D)

    Fri., June 27 – Senouillac/Lisle Sur Tarn: Your sightseeing today will take you to Château de Mauriac, a 13th-century castle that is rich in history, heritage and art. After your tour, enjoy a picnic lunch in the area. In the afternoon, you will take a vineyard tour at Chateau Lastours, a family-owned vineyard and winery located in an 18th-century castle. In the evening, enjoy one last dinner at Le Prieuré as you prepare to end your adventures and bid adieu to your traveling companions. (B,L,D)

    Sat., June 28 – Departures: Today, you will depart by shuttle to the airport or train station in Toulouse, as you head home or to your next destination.

    NOTE: Most of the excursions require plenty of walking. If there are days you’re not up for the walk you are free to enjoy the quiet of the monastery.

    What’s Included

    This land only tour includes:

    • Seven nights at either at Saint Francis University’s French site, Le Prieuré, or the Hotel Du Pont, both located in Ambialet, Midi-Pyrénées Region, France. Le Prieuré is newly refurbished and features some rooms with en suite baths and others with adjacent private showers and toilets. All have modern plumbing; ample electrical service; wireless internet access; and views from every window. Laundry facilities are available. The Hotel Du Pont offers a restaurant, wireless internet access, outdoor pool, a garden and views of SFU’s Le Prieuré.
    • Six full days of activities and sightseeing, not including the arrival and departure days.
    • Transportation from and to Toulouse rail station and airport (Blagnac). Pick up will be at 11 a.m. and again at 3 p.m. on June 21.
    • All meals (including wine) except for 2 “on-your-own” lunches. All meals are at Le Prieuré except lunches or as noted in the itinerary.
    • All ground transportation for sightseeing/activity excursions.
    • Local expert guides for selected excursions.
    • Supplemental international insurance. Explanation of benefits will be forwarded to you.
    • All taxes and gratuities, except for meals “on your own.”
    Housing

    A Message about the Trip Accommodations from Tim Perkins, Executive Director of International Studies

    Bonjour! Welcome to SW France! I am glad you are considering joining us for a tour of the region, based in Saint Francis's beautiful site—Le Prieuré d'Ambialet, a renovated 14th-century monastery. I can guarantee great food and drink, unsurpassed tranquility and memorable scenery. In the five years that we have operated the site, I can't think of anyone who left in a bad mood! The Prieuré is like a favorite easy chair— you'll just sink in and relax. We are not, however, a hotel, and thus I wish to explain your sleeping options. In restoring the ground and first floors of the monastery, we had to conform to some of the existing room configurations. As a result, some rooms have full baths; others share baths. All rooms have their own sinks. The two central, communal baths are modern facilities with two toilets and two showers each, plus additional sinks - and there are doors on all to ensure privacy. Depending on your room, it is between 13 and 26 paces to the bathrooms—likely not much further than your bedroom-to-bath distance at home. And, after all, it's vacation, not a permanent situation. We also have a limit of 27 beds in the monastery. Thus, to enable more of you to join us on this alumni and friends trip, we have reserved a block of ten rooms in the Hotel/Restaurant du Pont, within walking distance of the monastery. All rooms in the hotel are doubles, with baths. The hotel is modest, but perfectly pleasant, and it has a pool and bar, not to mention an excellent restaurant where we will have one of our group dinners. Those staying at the hotel will eat and enjoy leisure time with us at the monastery, and thus will not miss out on any of the social or other activities.

    With the above descriptions in mind, here are the options:

    In the Prieuré, we have:

    • 6 doubles with baths
    • 5 doubles with shared baths
    • 5 singles with shared baths

    At the hotel:

    • 10 doubles with baths

    We can also make available a two-bedroom apartment in the village, which would be ideal for two couples who like to travel together.

    This all adds up to room for roughly 50 people. Since the village of Ambialet has a population of 41, we'll be hard to miss!

    Room Allocation

    In order to be fair, we will allocate rooms on a first-come, first-served basis. That said, if those who are younger (and not prone to frequent night visits to you-know-where) would volunteer for the shared baths, it will make life easier for those who will make fuller use of the in-room baths. On your registration form (page 4 of the brochure), please list in order of preference your room choices (1 for top choice) on the form below.

    Registration

    To register for the trip, please print the travel brochure and return your registration form from page 4 by faxing at 814-472-3044, by scanning and emailing to abaumann@francis.edu, or by mailing to Office of Alumni Relations, PO Box 600, Loretto, PA 15940.

    Please note: all registrations will be time-stamped based on when we receive them, and rooms will be assigned based on the date and time registrations were received. Thus, if you have a strong housing preference, it is recommended that you return your application and deposit as soon as possible.

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