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Destinations

Châteaux de la Loire: 5 Exceptional Castles Worth a Visit

The Loire Valley is often called the Cradle of the French or the Garden of France. This comes from the many vineyards and orchards in the area. Located 200km South from Paris, it’s also well known for the incredibly high number of castles! Here are five  exceptional castles worth a visit

Trip review: D-Day 75th Anniversary

After every trip I organise and host I ask myself the question what could have been done better. For our recent D-Day trip to Normandy I certainly have some small points for improvement for a next edition. But overall I can look back to a successful and deeply impressive trip. We got so much more than I had hoped for, despite that traffic on the small hedged-border Normandy coastal sometimes threw a spanner in the works. With a long Pentecostal weekend ahead, we departed on Friday evening towards our first destination in Upper Normandy, Le Havre with its harbour. The city was not part of the D-Day offence, but it was part of the larger Operation Overlord. Being at the end of the Seine river, it was an essential stronghold for the Germans and a key objective for the Allies. The primary reas...

D-Day 75th Anniversary: Our 3 favorite movie and TV biopics

75 years ago today, tens of thousands of soldiers of the Allied Forces landed on the beaches of Normandy.  D-Day was a turning point in the Second World War. It was a pivotal moment to defeat the Nazi regime 11 months and 1 day later. The significance of this military operation has been epitomized in countless movie and TV productions. Here are 3 notable examples The Longest Day (1962) IMDB One could say this movie was the first ever large-scale, massive movie production tackling this subject. The Longest Day boasted an all-star ensemble cast from multiple countries, and its production meticulously looked at every detail with the help of military consultants. The film follows the Normandy landings from the perspective of both Allied and Axis forces. It’s shot in a documentary drama s...

Meet the Castle: Château de Chenonceau

Did you know that Château de Chenonceau was a gift from King Henry II of France to his mistress Diane de Poitiers? She didn’t get to keep it, though. Chateau de Chenonceau is the third castle of the Loire Valley we visit during our weekend trip. One of the most remarkable aspects of this chateau’s history is its almost uninterrupted succession down the line of fascinating women. Here’s a brief overview of the chateau’s history and why we love it so much.

Meet the Castle: Château de Cheverny

Did you know that Château de Cheverny was the inspiration for the fictional Marlinspike Hall  (Château de Moulinsart in French) in the Adventures of Tintin books? Chateau de Cheverny is the second castle of the Loire Valley we visit during our weekend trip. Here are a few reasons why we love this castle. Practically untouched Accounts vary about the chateau’s construction which dates anywhere between the 15th and 16th century. The original owner of the estate, Henry Le Mareschau, sold the estate to Jean Hurault, whose grandson, Jacques Hurault became the first Marquis de Vibraye. Cheverny thus became the official seat of the Marquis de Vibraye. The property has remained in the same family for over six centuries; this is probably why the chateau has practically maintained its classica...

Opal Coast: Winding roads and windy skies

Traveling with Expat Club is always an adventure, and our trip to the Opal Coast was no exception. We left the grey skies and pelting rain of Brussels behind as we drove west to the northern coast of France. Skies cleared, but brisk winds accompanied us on our full-day foray to France. Dunkirk Our first stop was the port city of Dunkirk, a city steeped in history. Towering over the city is Tour du Leughenaer, or “the liar’s tower.” Erected in 1450 and converted to a lighthouse around 1793, it’s the city’s oldest building. Legend says false lighthouse signals lured ships into areas where they were grounded and then looted. We had time to walk through the maritime city, visiting the active market, having a coffee and fresh croissant, or viewing spectacular churches like the Gothic-style Sain...

The Cathedrals of Europe

Yesterday’s fire at the Notre Dame in Paris was not only a shock to the Parisians and French people, but also to the rest of the world. Cathedrals, unlike any other building except for castles, have stood the test of time. But where castles have remained closed but for the happy few, at least until recently, Cathedrals have welcomed billions of visitors over many centuries, including countless tourists (13 million per year for this church alone). The destruction of a great part of this Paris landmark saddens us all. Most of the people in the Expat Club community have visited this incredible structure, possibly even multiple times. During the many Expat Club trips to Paris, our groups always stopped at the Eastern end of the Île de la Cité. Just to look and be amazed by the iconic towers an...

5 Interesting Facts about Champagne

Any occasion can instantly become a party when a bottle of delicious champagne wine opens!  This sparkling wine bears the name of the region where it’s grown: Champagne, located in Northern France. Its geography and climate made it the perfect place to cultivate the grapes from which the wine is produced. Growers and wine producers have perfected its production method for centuries, making the final product achieve the level of prestige everyone come to associate with the word Champagne! Our Champagne day trip is one of our popular destinations here at Expat Club. Here are five interesting facts about this region that will make you want to hop on the next tour! 1. Champagne wine exists thanks to Italians Wine-making was introduced in the Champagne region by Romans. These invaders mad...

4 Interesting facts about Mont Saint-Michel

This UNESCO World Heritage location has captured the imagination for centuries, thanks to its architecture and place on an islet with one of the highest tides in Europe. Mont Saint-Michel is one of the most famous landmarks in France, visited by over 3 million visitors each year. The impressive views of Mont Saint-Michel have inspired popular culture, from books and classical music to Hollywood movies and video games. Here are 4 interesting facts about Mont Saint-Michel. 1. A celestial vision The building plans for Mont Saint-Michel were put in motion in the year 708 with a dream. Legend says the Archangel Michael came to Bishop Aubert of Avranches on three separate occasions, instructing him to build a church on the rocky island. Actual completion of the monastery would only happen severa...

Hautvillers: Picture-perfect in Champagne

The village of Hautvillers is one of the most beautiful and picturesque towns we visit during our Champagne Day Trip and one with great significance: it’s the place where the French Benedictine monk Dom Pérignon is said to have invented champagne wine. Well, that’s not exactly what happened. So why do we like Hautvillers so much? Here are some of the places we love and why you should, too!

Winter Weekend Ski

Our planned ski trip from Friday evening 12 to Sunday 14 January may take place after all! Read on At the moment of writing, the temperatures are dropping fast in Eastern France and more fresh snow is expected (18-25 cm by Friday!). The trend is also positive, meaning the forecasts are continuously adapted to even lower temperatures (nicely below 0) + increasingly better snow predictions. This means the chances for a ski trip from Friday evening (17h30 departure) to Sunday evening are going up dramatically! PRE-REGISTER NOW IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO JOIN, ALSO IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO JOIN THE WEEK AFTER (19-21 JANUARY). This is for free, and without obligations, but we’ll inform you the first (it will fill up quickly). Nice ski area with 40+ km of blue, red and black slopes Modern ski lifts ...

Christmas Markets Trips

The days get shorter. The temperatures drop. Christmas season is just around the corner. Since 2013 Expat Club has been organising dozens of special Christmas trips to a variety of destinations. Such trips are perfect for every expat, including families, single travellers, couples and small groups of friends and colleagues. We always travel by comfortable 4* luxury coach with extra leg space. At the destination itself we organise guided tours, group lunches, visits to museums or the beautiful cathedrals, and of course we socialise at the Christmas markets with some nice food and delicious hot wine (or something else). Also for the 2017 holiday season we have put many wonderful destinations on our event calendar, including: the classics Cologne and Düsseldorf with multiple superb large Chri...