France 300: Louisiana Genealogical Tour

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Southerners are so devoted to genealogy that we see a family tree under every bush.

– Florence King

Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours has teamed up with genealogists Randy Decuir and Cathy Sturgell to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the first major sailing of French immigrants from France to the colony of La Louisiana in this special France 300: Louisiana Genealogical Tour.

We will retrace the passage from the port cities of Le Havre, Port-Louis, and La Rochelle in France to the “New World” and discover how and why these ancestors became the founding Creole French families in Avoyelles and Pointe Coupée Parishes of Louisiana. We have put together a cohesive route using the church records of the villages, towns and ports of embarkation to trace the histories of these families.

Interspersed throughout the trip are some of France’s cultural highlights. We visit Monet’s home and gardens to soak up the scenery which his paintbrushes made world-famous. We explore the charming harbor towns of Honfleur, Vannes, and La Rochelle. We spend a day touring the major battlefields and famed cemetery of the D-Day Beaches. Included is a full day in the beautiful old-world town of Chinon, exploring its majestic fortress and enjoying a winery visit and tasting. Last but not least, after a short history/genealogy walk through neighborhoods and sites near Notre Dame Cathedral, you have the rest of the day to enjoy Paris in all of its splendor.

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Highlights

  • Claude Monet’s Gardens: Soak up the scenery which his paintbrushes made world-famous
  • Honfleur, Vannes, and La Rochelle: Explore these charming harbor towns
  • Arromanches 360 Cinema: Watch archive footage that tells the whole story of the 100 days of the Battle of Normandy
  • D-Day Beaches: Tour the major battlefields and famed cemetery as well as the Airborne Museum and Utah Beach Museum
  • La Pointe de Port-Louis: Museum of the Company of the Indies
  • Chinon:  Explore this beautiful old-world town and its majestic fortress then enjoy a winery tour and tasting of the popular red wine varietal, Cabernet Franc
  • Paris: Take a short history/genealogy walk through neighborhoods and sites near Notre Dame Cathedral and spend the rest of the day on your own enjoying Paris

Day-By-Day Itinerary

DAY 1 Flight

Take overnight flight to Paris – Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG)

DAY 2 Rouen

Arriving no later than 1045am at Charles de Gaulle airport, you will get your luggage, clear customs, and head to the taxi area outside the airport. Take a taxi to the Airport Hilton Hotel and meet the group in the lobby. We'll leave promptly at noon via motor coach to visit the home of French Impressionist Painter Claude Monet in Giverny, where will have a leisurely lunch and visit his famed gardens, studio, and home. 

After a short stop in the village of origin of the Tassin family, La Chapelle-Réanville, we'll arrive at Rouen and check into our hotel for the next two nights. We'll end our first evening in France with a welcome dinner.

DAY 3 Rouen

The group will start the day with a walking tour in Rouen. Rouen contains multiple exquisite churches and cathedrals from the late middle ages as well as over 2000 half-timbered houses, some of which pre-date the burning at the stake of Jeanne d'Arc there in 1431. It is also the ancestral home of multiple Louisiana families such as the Normand, Desselles, Brouillette, Dauzat, Couvillion, and Armand families.  

After our morning historical walk, we’ll head to the quaint village of Maintenay, home of ancestors Pierre Mayeux and Marie Sellier/Cellier. While there, we'll view the serene setting of the ancient 12th watermill on the banks of the Rivière Authie.

In the afternoon, we will drive to the Normandy seaside resort town of Dieppe where William the Conqueror sailed with his army to the Sussex coast in 1066 before the Battle of Hastings. While there, we'll visit Eglise St-Jacques, Dieppe's oldest and biggest church, as well as Eglise Saint-Rémy which was built in the 15th and 16th century. Dieppe was the home of ancestors of the Berza, Couvillion, Moreau, and Roy families as well as the home of Iberville and Bienville LeMoyne who established multiple settlements along the Gulf Coast including New Orleans, Biloxi, and Mobile in the early 18th century. 

We’ll head back to our hotel in Rouen, and you’ll be free to enjoy the city at your leisure and enjoy a meal at a restaurant of your choosing.

DAY 4 Bayeux

In the morning, we'll drive to the coastal city of Le Havre. Officially founded in 1517 by King François I, this important port city was destroyed by Allied air raids in WWII. Fortunately, the Cathédrale Notre-Dame du Havre was one of the few buildings to have survived the devastation. This church was the center of faith for Guillaume Lemoine and the Bordelon family in the late 17th/early 18th century. In addition to visiting the Cathedral, we'll also visit the port from which some of the ships to Louisiana sailed 300 years ago.

From La Havre, we make the short trek to Honfleur, a beautiful 11th century port town, spared from much of the destruction of WWII and tied to the Roy family. You’ll have two hours to eat at one of its many restaurants and explore the shops and sights, before we depart for the heart of the Normandy coastline that became the epicenter of the Allied invasion of Europe in WWII. 

Our final stop of day will be the Arromanches 360 Cinema, where you’ll watch an incredibly moving short film about D-Day. It will help provide an overview of the locations and actions, before the following day at the major sights. We will enjoy a perfect view over the remains of the artificial invasion harbor (Mulberry) from 1944 that still rests offshore.

A short drive later, we’ll arrive at our hotel for the next two nights in Bayeux. After being captured by Rollo the Viking in 880, it became a Norman stronghold and is the home of the renowned 11th century Bayeux Tapestry. We'll end the evening with a group dinner.

DAY 5 Bayeux

Today will be centered entirely around Operation Overlord: “D-Day.” We’ll head out for St. Mère-Église, one of the first towns captured as American paratroopers landed late at night on June 5, 1944. Their objective was to cut off German supplies, confuse troops, and take out gun batteries defending the American invasion beaches of Utah and Omaha, before the troops landed the following morning. We’ll visit the moving and informative Airborne Museum and visit the square and local church, where a mannequin of a US paratrooper and his chute still hangs today from the church steeple.

We’ll make the short drive over to Utah Beach. Here you’ll have three hours to visit the excellent museum, walk along the beach, view the many division memorials, and eat lunch at a café whose walls are filled with the signatures and photos of countless US veterans of the battle.

Our next stop will be the famed Pointe-du-Hoc, where US Army Rangers scaled the cliffs to seize this important location. Filled with massive shell and bomb craters, you’ll have time to walk along this complex of battle scarred and blown up bunkers and gun batteries,with a stunning view of the English Channel.

Our final stops of the day will be at the memorial on Omaha Beach, scene of the bloodiest fighting on D-Day – made famous in “Saving Private Ryan.” We’ll then head over to the Normandy American Cemetery, which sits atop the bluffs that cost so many American lives to take. You’ll have time to walk the rows of crosses in one of the most well-preserved and maintained military cemeteries in the world and reflect upon this great sacrifice in the cause of freedom. 

We will be back in Bayeux late in the afternoon, where you’ll have time to enjoy the city and dine and explore at your leisure.

DAY 6 Vannes

After a short visit to the Lacour hometown of Saint-Jean-des-Champs, we'll journey out to Brittany and the western coastal town of Port-Louis. There the group will visit the Musée de la Compagnie des Indes which is located in the 16th century Port-Louis Citadel, across the river from the port city of Lorient. We will enjoy a special reception there for this historic occasion and have a specially guided tour. The museum for this business enterprise showcases the economic motivations for colonizing French territories in the Americas, as Port-Louis was another embarkation port for many ancestors.  The towns of Port-Louis, Lorient, and nearby Plœmeur are ancestral homes of the current Dupré, Bordelon, Scallan, Riché, Dupuis, Châtelain, Ozenne/Dauzat, L'Abbe, Decoux, Bara, Décuir, Fontenot, and Guillory families, among others.

After the museum visit, we'll travel south to the walled city of Vannes where we will spend the night after enjoying a group dinner.

DAY 7 La Rochelle

Founded over 2000 years ago, Vannes is a remarkable walled city and famous trading port. We'll spend several hours sightseeing the well-preserved medieval streets before heading south, making a short stop in the town of origin of the Lavallais family, Lavau-sur-Loire. 

From there will drive to another ancient town, Nantes, where we'll eat lunch and browse the narrow streets of half-timbered houses and quaint shops in the old town.

We’ll continue on our journey south, stopping at Fontenay-le-Comte, the hometown of the Joffrion family. Our final stop for the day will be La Rochelle, where we'll stay in the port city from which many ancestors sailed. We'll learn about its fascinating history, its involvement in multiple wars throughout its existence, as well as its connections to many Louisiana families including Lacour, Roy dit Châtellerault, Bordelon, Desautels, Goudeau, Gauthier/Hennet, Balan dit Lacombe, Soileau, Armand, Juneau and others. We'll spend the night in La Rochelle.

DAY 8 Chinon

After visiting historical churches and other sites in La Rochelle, we'll make a brief stop in Sainte-Soulle which is linked to both the Jouineau/Juneau and Desautels families. From there, we'll travel to Niort where we'll eat lunch at a giant French food market and briefly visit the current Eglise Saint-André. Although not the original church, it is the parish from which the Morin dit Chenevert family worshiped and, therefore, has ties to the Bordelon, Brulté, and Voinche families.

After lunch, we'll begin our journey toward the breathtaking Loire Valley. First, we'll visit Poitiers, another town with over two-thousand years of history. We'll visit the Romanesque church of Saint-Porchaire which is associated with the Louisiana surnames of Soileau, Fontenot, Dupré, Bordelon, and others.

On our way to our final destination for the day, we’ll drive through the four villages associated with the Acadians: La Chaussée, Aulnay, Martaizé, and Loudun. A large number of the Acadians who populated Nova Scotia in the 17th century originated from these towns and the surrounding areas.

We'll end the day in Chinon, a lovely French town with a famous fortress dominating the view over the river and surrounding lands. The group will spend the next two nights in the Chinon area where we'll celebrate this beautiful area with a group dinner.

DAY 9 Chinon

This will be a leisurely day which will begin with a visit to the Château de Chinon. Founded in the 10th century, the castle was controlled by various counts and kings, including Henry II of England – who died there. Jeanne d'Arc stayed at the castle in 1429 and claimed to hear heavenly voices which told her that Charles II would grant her an army to relieve the siege of Orléans. You’ll have time to walk the town and enjoy lunch, before we head over to enjoy a winery visit and tasting, as Chinon is a major producer of the popular red wine varietal, Cabernet Franc.

DAY 10 Paris

This busy day will have us traveling north of Le Mans into the quaint villages of Courcival, Nauvay, Saint-Cosme-en-Virais, and Igé - towns of origin of members of the Grémillion, Rabalais, Décuir, and Normand families. We'll visit some of the churches in which our ancestors were baptized, married, and buried. 

From there, we'll begin our final trek to the 'City of Lights' – Paris!  We are hoping to arrive by mid-afternoon, get everyone checked into their hotel rooms, and provide you with a short orientation walk to familiarize everyone with the location. After that, you will be free to walk the streets, along the Seine, and drink up the sights, sounds, and smells of this most-visited city on the planet. You’ll have a wide array of restaurants and sidewalk cafés to choose your evening meal.

DAY 11 Paris

We will start the morning with a fairly short walking tour, involving sites associated with our ancestors: Roland, Bordelon, Saucier, Benoist, Fourché/LaCasse, and others. You’ll learn some fascinating history about the reasons some of our ancestors left France! Paris was home to many other surnames from which we descend, such as Roy dit Châtellerault, Bouchard, Sédillot, De Belleau, Du Pitié/Casse, Dupré dit La Suisse, Hébert/DuVivier, Jean Baptiste LeMoyne, Lenoir/LeBoeuf, Salé/Lupia, Maroy/LeGrand, and many others.

You’ll have the rest of the morning and the entire afternoon to explore the many sights of Paris – from the Louvre to Les Invalides to the Eiffel Tower and Arche du Triomphe.

We'll end the tour with one final gathering: a farewell banquet, including complimentary wine service, where we can reflect upon our trip and the many locations that make up our collective family histories.

DAY 12 Flight Home

You’ll be provided with a one-time bus trip to the Paris Airport (CDG). 

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Tour Dates

  • April 15 - 26, 2020
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TRIP COST: $3,990

Price is per person based on double occupancy. For a single room add $750.

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