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France with Optional Northern Italy

Day 1 – USA…FRANCE
Depart from USA.  Dinner and overnight aloft

Day 2 – PARIS…LOURDES
Arrive at the PARIS airport and connect to your flight for LOURDES where you will be met by your Renaissance Group tour operator who will help transfer you to your hotel.  After resting, there will be a Mass (to be scheduled).  Your escort will take you on an orientation walking tour of Lourdes.  A Welcome Dinner will be served at your hotel.  Overnight in your hotel.

Day 3 – LOURDES
After a buffet breakfast at the hotel, you will be escorted to the Grotto where Mass will be celebrated at the Chapel of St. Joan of Arc.  Lunch will be on your own.  Later you will meet up at your hotel to be taken on a half-day walking tour of Lourdes, guided by your tour escort.  In the evening you will partake in the famed Candlelight Procession along the grounds of the Grotto.   Dinner and overnight at your hotel.

Day 4 - LOURDES…LYON via AVIGNON
After breakfast in your hotel, you will depart for LYON via AVIGNON.  Avignon is a city well known for its Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes), where several popes and antipopes lived from the early 14th to early 15th centuries.  In 1309 the city was chosen by Pope Clement V as his official residence, and from 9 March 1309 until 13 January 1377 it continued as the seat of the Papacy, instead of at the Vatican, in Rome causing a schism in the Catholic Church.  The period from 1309 to 1377 — the Avignon Papacy — was also known as the Babylonian Captivity of Exile, in reference to the Israelites' enslavement in biblical times.  The walls that were built by the popes in the years immediately after the acquisition of Avignon as papal territory are well preserved. This immense Gothic building, with walls 18-feet thick, was built from 1335 to1364 on a natural spur of rock, rendering it all but impregnable to attack. After being captured, following the French Revolution, it was used as a barracks and prison for many years.  Today it is a museum.  You will stop for lunch en route and depart for Lyon, historically known as “the silk capital of the world.”  The city is also recognized as the culinary capital of France.  This reputation also comes from the fact that two of France's best known wine-growing regions are located near Lyon: the Beaujolais to the North, and the Côtes du Rhône to the South.  Beaujolais wines are very popular in Lyon and remain the most common table wine served with local dishes.  Mass to be scheduled.  Overnight in your hotel.

Day 5 -  LYON…ARS…PARAY-LE-MONIAL
After a buffet breakfast at the hotel, you will be picked up for a full-day excursion of ARS, city of St. John Vianney, its parish priest.  Regarded as a model of parochial clergy, Pius XII canonized him in 1925.  Pope Benedict XVI has dedicated this to be the Year of the Priest in honor of the 150th anniversary of this saint.  Mass to be celebrated in the basilica where the saint’s body rests in a glass coffin. You will depart for PARAY-LE-MONIAL, the town which was known simply as Paray until 973 when monks gave it its surname of Le Monial to commemorate the founding of their celebrated Benedictine priory.  The most venerated spot within it is the Chapel of the Visitation, where most of the apparitions to Blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque took place.  Next, you will see the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, in charge of secular chaplains, and which was formerly the church of these monks.  Dinner and overnight in Lyon.

Day 6 -  LYON…CLUNY…NEVERS…PARIS
After a buffet breakfast in your hotel, you will depart for CLUNY.  This town grew up around the Benedictine Cluny Abbey and was founded by Duke William I of Aquitaine in A.D. 910.  The height of Cluniac influence was from the second half of the 10th century through the early 12th.  The abbey was sacked by the members of the Protestant Reformed Church of France (or French Calvinists) in 1562 when many of its valuable manuscripts were destroyed or removed.   You guide will help transfer you to your private coach for the ride to NEVERS for Mass and a visit to the convent of St. Gilda.  It was here, in 1866, that Bernadette Soubirous joined the congregation of the "Sisters of Nevers."  You will view the incorrupt body of the saint which has lain in a glass coffin since 1925.  Overnight in PARIS.

Day 7 - PARIS
After a buffet breakfast at the hotel, your guide will take you on a half-day sightseeing tour of some of the famous shrines which are located throughout the capital city, among them the Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, and La Madeleine.  The Cathedral of Notre-Dame dates back to the 13th century and is one of the masterpieces of Gothic art in all of Western Europe.  Its stain glass windows and huge interior are really stunning artistic experiences of mystical dimension.  Located on the Cite Island and surrounded by the Seine River, Notre-Dame is a flagship in the Parisian landscape and provides a magnificent view of the city from the top of its towers.  The Basilica of the Sacré-Coeur (Sacred Heart) was built at the end of the 19th century at the top of the Montmartre Hill in Paris.  Its famous white pastry-like architecture dominates the city.  It is a holy place of devotion to the Holy Virgin, attracting many pilgrims from around the world.  The Church of La Madeleine was constructed to serve as a Greek temple.  1814, Louis XVIII confirmed that the Madeleine should be a church, but in 1837 it was nearly selected to be the first railway station of Paris.  Finally in 1842 it was consecrated as a church which it remains to this day.   Mass will be celebrated at the Church of the Miraculous Medal at Rue du Bac after a short visit of the Church of St. Vincent de Paul.  The rest of the day is at leisure.  You might want to visit the Louvre Museum, the Eiffel Tower, walk through the Bois de Boulogne and the Champs   Elysees.  Tonight’s dinner will be aboard the bateaux mouches (boat cruise along the Seine).  Overnight in your hotel in PARIS.

Day 8 - PARIS optional trip to LISIEUX
After a buffet breakfast at the hotel, you have the entire day at leisure or you can participate on a full-day excursion to the city of LISIEUX, the second most important pilgrimage town in France (after Lourdes) and devoted to St. Therese of the Child Jesus.  Here you will admire the town’s architectural edifices and witness a rich past of more than 2000 years of history.  Other stops will include the Cathedral of St. Peter where you will attend Mass and where St. Therese, herself,  regularly attended Holy Mass.  Lunch will be served, after which you will return to PARIS to overnight in your hotel.  

Day 9 – PARIS…WASHINGTON, DC…or Optional extension to TURIN
Transfer to the airport for your return flight to the USA where you will arrive on the same day.  Or, for those who have signed for the extension to TURIN: you will board your flight for Italy.  
Turin is a major city as well as a business and cultural center in northern Italy; it is well known as the home of the Shroud of Turin.  The Shroud is a linen cloth bearing the image of a man presumed to be Jesus Christ who appears to have been physically traumatized in a manner consistent with a crucifixion.  It is kept in the royal chapel of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Turin, Italy. It is believed, by many, to be the cloth placed on the body of Jesus at the time of His burial.  You will stop for Mass and a visit at the Church of Mary Help of Christians, the mother house of an order founded by Don Bosco who, before his death, established 250 houses of the Salesian Society in all parts of the world, taking care of 130,000 children.  You will also visit the tomb of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati who is buried in a cathedral of Turin.  Young people today who are looking for a role model will find someone to identify with in this vibrant young outdoorsman who combined a deep love for Christ, a desire to serve the needy, and a mission to imbue society and politics with Christian ideals.  Dinner at the Cinzano winery.   Overnight in your hotel in Turin.

Day 10 – TURIN…STRESA…(optional tour to the BORROMEAN ISLANDS)
After a buffet breakfast in your hotel, you will depart for STRESA with a stop at GATTINARA for a wine-tasting and lunch.  In the evening, there will be an optional boat ride to ISOLA BELLA.  (Mass to be scheduled).  Overnight in your hotel in Stresa.

Day 11 – STRESA…MILAN…STRESA
After breakfast in your hotel, there will be a half-day sightseeing of MILAN, one of the major commercial and financial centers in the World. The city is famous for fashion firms and shops (along via Montenapoleone) and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in the Piazza Duomo, reputed to be the world's oldest shopping mall.  You will visit Santa Maria delle Grazie, housing one of the world's most celebrated works: Leonardo da Vinci's "Last Supper.”  Following is a visit of the Milan Cathedral.  This Gothic cathedral took five centuries to complete and is the fourth-largest church in the world.  Mass will be in the Duomo which had been dedicated by St. Charles Borromeo, a son of the count of Arona and Margarita de Medici, sister of Pope Pius IV.  He worked during the period of the Counter-Reformation and was responsible for significant reforms in the Catholic Church, including the founding of seminaries for the education of priests.  A Farewell Dinner will served in STRESA.  

Day 12 – STRESA…USA
Transfer to the airport for your return flight to the USA where you will arrive on the same day.

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