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WINGS Birding Tours – Information

France: Birding à la Française

Birds, Wine and Cheese in Southern France

Tour Information

Note: The information presented here is an abbreviated version of our formal General Information for Tours to France. Its purpose is solely to give readers a sense of what might be involved if they took this tour. Although we do our best to make sure what follows here is completely accurate, it should not be used as a replacement for the formal document which will be sent to all tour registrants, and whose contents supersedes any information contained here.

ENTERING FRANCE: US, UK, and Canadian citizens need a passport valid for at least six months after the date the tour ends. At the time of writing, no visa is required for US citizens spending 90 days or less in France. Citizens of other countries may need a visa and should check with the nearest French embassy. If it is required by the embassy or visa-granting entity, WINGS can provide a letter for you to use regarding your participation in the tour.

It is always a good idea to take photocopies of your passport and air ticket with you when traveling abroad. They can prove invaluable in helping you get replacements if your original documents are lost or stolen. You should pack the photocopies separately from the originals.

CLIMATE: May is a pleasant month in Southern France, generally sunny and often warm. Temperatures typically range from morning lows in the 50s F (40s in the Alps where we might hit the freezing point at higher elevations) to highs in the 60s or even 70s F. Afternoons in the lowlands can be hot, with temperatures that can reach the 80s. You will be most comfortable if you dress in layers that can be taken off as the day goes on. Although May is usually dry and sunny, rain is possible at any time, and you need to be prepared with a rain jacket or umbrella. Wind can be expected on most days, and in some years, the mistral can be ferocious for several days at a stretch, making temperatures seem cooler than they are. Wind jacket and cap are then necessary to wear.

COUNTRY INFORMATION: You can review the U.S. Department of State Country Specific Travel Information at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel.html and the CIA World Factbook background notes on France at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/fr.html.

PACE OF TOUR AND DAILY ROUTINE: This is a relaxed tour. We will be based in comfortable hotels. Our daily starts will be sometimes relatively late after breakfast (on most mornings around 7:00 or 7:30) but we will also have a few pre-dawn birding outings with early breakfast or possibly breakfast in the field. In order to enjoy various local cheese and wine specialties, we will take some lunches and dinners as a picnic or in small typical restaurants. On most afternoons, we will try to have a break, providing opportunities for shopping, casual sightseeing, or relaxation in the hotel.

Our birding walks are mostly moderately easy and short on good paths or trails but in the Alps and in Corsica we may have a few mountain hikes on moderately steep slopes. In the Alps, we plan to visit a Black Grouse lek that requires a 4 mile round trip hike with 150m elevation change. In Corsica, we do a walk with a maximum of 3 miles with 100m elevation change. All other walks will be less than 1 or 1.5 miles with slight or no elevation change. All these hikes are optional and one can always decide to stay back at the hotel or in the vehicle. In Camargue, we bird mostly from the roadsides or tracks; we may visit a few reserves where blinds are reached on slightly narrow trails with short but steep staircases. We may also walk about a mile on a wide, flat path between the marshes as well as short walks across the stones of La Crau.

ACCOMMODATION: Our hotels will be situated in nice rural surroundings or in small typical French villages. Rooms are all modern and clean, with private bathroom facilities in each. In some of the villages we are staying, hotels are relatively simple, but are the best options in the area and close to great birding spots. In most of these hotels there is no elevator/lift, so you need to be able to carry up your luggage one or two floors. Free Wi-Fi is available at most of our accommodations (not available at our hotel in Valle d’Asco in 2019). We will take great care in selecting local restaurants with typical meals. Most hotel staff speak English.

FOOD: We will try to bring you the best of typical local cuisine but please note that this is not a high-profile gastronomical tour: our goal is to make you discover some of the very typical local food, to enjoy a picnic with local cheese, charcuterie and wine, to take you to some little restaurants that you would not find on your own!

Breakfasts will be the usual French fare of pastries and coffee (decaf is readily available). Our restaurant lunches are full meals, an opportunity to relax between the activities of the morning and the afternoon but many of them will in fact be picnic, in which case, they will include local breads, cheeses, hams, and fruits bought at picturesque local markets or by organic local shops or producers. NOTE: This is a difficult trip for vegetarians/vegans, so if this is your diet you will likely find your food options limited or unappealing.

Southern France eats relatively late in the evening, and though we will make every effort to be seated as early as possible, some dinners may go until 10:00 pm. We will try to combine those with occasional searches of owls and nightjars. The best way to sample the great variety of French food is to order the menu, the fixed meal selected by the chef to feature the day’s freshest and best ingredients; it is also possible to order à la carte, of course, but the menu invariably provides the best dining experience. The price of this tour includes one glass of wine or beer at dinner.

WINGS tours are all-inclusive, and no refunds can be issued for any tour meals participants choose to skip. While our restaurants and ground agents make every effort to insure the comfort of all participants, we cannot guarantee that all food allergies can be accommodated at every destination. Many restaurants offer set menus and are unable to accommodate all special requests within a group. Thus, participants with significant food allergies or special dietary needs should bring appropriate foods with them for those times when their needs cannot, regretfully, be accommodated. Our tours are carefully scheduled to insure the best possible birding experience. Meal times can generally not be adjusted; any participant who needs to eat earlier or later than the times scheduled for the group should bring supplemental food with them. Please contact the WINGS office if you have any questions.

HEALTH: Health recommendations can be found on the Centers for Disease Control’s Travel Health website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list. There are no major health hazards in France. Tap water is safe and widely drunk in hotels and restaurants. A change of continents can nevertheless result in intestinal disruption, and you should bring a mild medication to combat diarrhea. Gatorade or other electrolyte-replacement drinks in powder form are also worth bringing, as they replace the vital salts and minerals lost during a bout of diarrhea. As it may be inconvenient to obtain some medications, especially prescription medications, please bring all you may need in their original, labeled containers.

DRESS: Informal dress is acceptable everywhere.

TRANSPORTATION: Transportation will be by minivan, driven by the leader; if group size warrants, there will be a second vehicle with a second driver. Participants will switch seats each day, and each participant must be able to ride in every seat in the vehicle. Note that in continental Europe the emphasis is less on “van” than on “mini,” and the very back seat may be less comfortable.

Updated: 18 June 2019