CERN-Pyrenees Science Tour Returns! June 2-14, 2020

Join us for the Origins tour of CERN and the cave art, culture and landscapes of the Pyrenees, with a view of the entire chain of the Pyrenees from the observatory high atop Pic du Midi! This June 4-16, 2019, enjoy historic and cultural sites, the nature and landscape, the food and wine, and experience CERN firsthand, known for the Large Hadron Collider—the world’s most powerful particle accelerator. Download brochure here! CERN_Pyrenees_Brochure



  • CERN and the Large Hadron Collider

  • Walking tour, fondue and winetasting in Geneva

  • See the original prehistoric cave paintings inside the actual Niaux, Pech Merle & Gargas caves and the beautiful new Chauvet cave facsimile!

  • The medieval citadel of Carcassonne

  • Cirque de Gavarnie, Lac de Gaube, Tourmalet and Pic du Midi

  • Stargazing at Pic du Midi

  • Optional nature hikes and excursions

  • Dining experiences from rustic to Michelin-starred, plus cooking workshop with world-famous chefs!

  • Winetasting in France and Switzerland!

Download brochure here! CERN_Pyrenees_Brochure

To register and make your deposit, contact Felicia Westbrooks at 216.368.2090 or email

For other questions, contact Patricia Princehouse at



Note:  While much of the trip is fairly structured, you will also have the opportunity to spend time exploring on your own in various places. 

Tues June 2 Depart USA to arrive Weds morning in Geneva (GVA)
Weds June 3 Arrive GVA airport prior to 11am, please. We’ll meet you at the airport,  load your luggage onto our private coach and depart for Geneva’s Old Town where we’ll have lunch and a walking tour of the city. Then we will check into the Hotel Tiffany and have a little time to relax. That evening we will enjoy tapas and wine tasting! Overnight in Geneva, Hotel Tiffany

Thurs June 4


We will spend the day touring CERN -including meeting with scientists and going 300 feet down underground to see the Large Hadron Collider’s experiments that have made so many contributions to science, most famously for the discovery of the Higgs boson. Dinner will be a feast of traditional fondue delights. Overnight in Geneva, Hotel Tiffany.
Fri June 5 After a relaxed morning in Gevneva, we set off for the Ardeche region. On the way our coach will take us to the fabled wine region of Chateauneuf du Pape for wine tasting, then check into our hotel with its superb view of the famous Pont d’Arch natural arch.  Dinner & overnight in Vallon du Pont d’Arc.
Sat June 6

In the morning we tour the incredible facsimile cave Chauvet 2. Chauvet cave, discovered in 1994, is arguably the most important painted cave yet known, dating to the Aurignacian period some 32,000 years ago. The original cave was sealed immediately after it was discovered to avoid damage and access is strictly limited to a handful of scientists. This painstaking facsimile of the cave took decades to create. It is amazing! For a preview, check out Werner Herzog’s film “Cave of Forgotten Dreams.”

After lunch at the Pont du Gard Roman aqueduct, we travel to the iconic castle town of Carcassonne where we will stay at the historic Hotel de la Cite, a gem located inside the citadel, and enjoy a dinner of the regional specialty dish cassoulet.

Sun June 7 We will visit the wonderful Prehistory Park created in Tarascon near Niaux cave. After a great learning experience at the museum and park with experts making stone tools and fire and a chance to try our hand at cave painting, we will have a quick lunch at Le Bouquetin and proceed to Niaux for a hike back to see the actual paintings illuminated in the darkness of the real cave. Nothing beats the authentic experience! We return to Carcassonne for a fun afternoon at leisure, then dinner at the Michelin-starred restaurant La Barbecane and overnight at Hotel de la Cite.
Mon June 8 Morning and lunch at leisure in the citadel of Carcassonne. This amazing pedestrian space offers more than just a tour of the castle (which we recommend) with terrific food, wonderful shops, horse-carriage tours around the fortress. Just too many things to choose from! In the afternoon our coach takes us to the banks of the magnificent river Lot with its spectacular limestone cliffs with chateaux and fortresses built right into the sides of cliffs!
Tues, June 9 We visit the excellent Amedee Lemozi museum, followed by a tour of the actual Pech Merle cave, one of the finest painted caves in the world. This cave -discovered by 3 teenagers in 1922- is nearly as old as Chauvet and offers a wider variety of different styles of prehistoric art, including relief carvings, clay engravings, brushwork, “spit painting” and handprints. We will stand just a few feet away from the famous, enigmatic spotted horses. Following the cave visit, our coach will take up up a large promontory to St-Cirq-Lapopie. Perched on top of a cliff, it has been declared the most beautiful village in all of France -and justly so! Here, we will have time at leisure for lunch, shopping, browsing the art galleries, and strolling this beautiful medieval village, which is largely closed to vehicles. We will have a visit to the wine museum, complete with tasting. A group of us may choose to walk along the historic towpath that descends through the valley along the river Lot. Option: Those who desire it may take the hour-long river cruise up the Lot river for a small supplement of 12.50 euros. Please sure to let us know ahead of time so we can secure tickets. Others may choose to relax at the hotel or further explore the town.
Weds June 10 Leaving early we will trek to the village of Aventignan in the Neste river valley, and the Gargas cave, known for its stunning handprint art dating back 27,000 years. We will stop for lunch at the fortified citadel of St-Bertrand-de-Comminges, with its roman ruins and gothic cathedral before our tour of the cave. We then travel to the town of Madiran, famous for its unique local winemaking featuring the tannat variety of grape. That evening we arrive at the beautiful village of St Savin in the High Pyrenees, where we will stay at the boutique hotel of master chefs Jean-Pierre St Martin and his son Alexis. Fabulous dinner and overnight at Hotel Le Viscos.
Thurs June 11 This morning we will visit the high mountain village of Gavarnie at the foot of the Cirque de Gavarnie,  a geological marvel. Some of us will relax at one of the village’s many cafes. Others may choose to hike all or part of the way to the cirque. A horse ride to the cirque is available on the study and surefooted local breed, the Merens horse for a supplement of 60 euros. About 2 hours roundtrip. Returning to our hotel in the late afternoon, we will be treated to a gourmet cooking lesson with Alexis! Another fabulous dinner from the St Martins and overnight at Hotel Le Viscos.
Fri June 12 We venture up into the mountains to visit the creamery of a local cheesemaker. Then we will pass through the spa town of Cauterets and into the National Park where we will ascend the mountain via ski lift followed by a short hike through glacial moraine to see the spectacular turquoise waters of the Lac de Gaube. We then pass through the Col de Tourmalet, a mountain pass famous as the highest challenge offered to riders on the Pyrenees legs of the Tour de France every year. We then ascend to 10,000 feet up the Pic du Midi de Bigorre where the observatory offers a breathtaking view across the entire chain of the Pyrenees. Dinner and overnight at the observatory with stargazing.

Sat June 13












Sun June 14

In the morning we visit Cite de l’Espace, where we will discover the marvels of space. We’ll see robotics, moon rocks and meteorites, real spacecraft, an astronaut suit that traveled over 7 million kilometers worn on the space shuttle Atlantis, a live feed from the International’s Space Station showing where it is at that moment, a superb planetarium, and more. The afternoon will be at leisure in the town of Toulouse. We recommend strolling the narrow alleys and ancient cobblestone streets around Place Capitole and visiting the romanesque St Sernin Basilica, whose construction began in Roman times and which has been beautifully conserved to the present day. Jacobins is another interesting visit. This church, whose construction began in 1230, influenced development of the southern gothic style of architecture and houses the relics of Thomas Aquinas.Or stroll along the Canal du Midi, the famous waterway that begins in central Toulouse. With construction starting in 1666, the Canal was the brainchild of engineer Pierre-Paul Riquet to create a navigable waterway uniting the Mediterranean sea with the Atlantic ocean via the Garonne river and a dug canal 150 miles long!  A masterpiece of both hydraulic and structural engineering, construction was supported by a salt tax and the labor of more than 12,000 men and women.  Dinner and overnight at our luxurious airport hotel mere steps from the terminal.

On Sunday we return home via individual flights.


Dress is casual with perhaps one or two nicer outfits for dinner if you like.  Beige, khaki, grey and other neutral colors show less dust and stay better-looking in the caves and mountains. Laundry service is available, so don’t overpack. The temperatures can be cooler in the early morning and after sunset but can be quite warm at midday, so the best approach is to dress in layers. Pack lightweight clothing of breathable fabrics. For example, one can make do handily with a couple t-shirts, a camp shirt or polo, 1 lightweight long sleeved shirt, 2 pairs lightweight cargo pants with zip-off legs that convert to shorts, one set of pajamas or sweats, and a safari jacket or windbreaker. Good sunglasses and sun block (UVA/UVB) are essential. You may also want to bring a ball cap, sun hat or cape hat, a compact lightweight pair of binoculars, and of course a camera!
The weather can be unpredictable in the high mountains, so if you feel cold easily, it’s not a bad idea to bring lightweight long underwear such as silk or thermaskins turtleneck & leggings. Make sure your safari jacket or windbreaker is large enough to zip up over the warm clothes.


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TravelSmith cape hat 79311_main

TravelSmith Moab womens ventilated hiking shoes 11485_main

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Lands End Long Underwear and turtleneck

Safari vests and other multi-pocket clothing make it much easier to juggle cameras, electronic devices, binoculars, sun screen and all the other items you might want to have handy -as well as for navigating airports! CWRU alum Scott Jordan founded a company that specializes in such apparel. See especially the lightweight convertible cargo pants and super-lightweight “Tropiformer” jacket that converts to a vest: A broad selection of less specialized gear is available at many retailers, such as Orvis, REI, TravelSmith and Amazon..

Sneakers are sufficient, but you might want to consider a good pair of lightweight, breathable hiking shoes such as Merrell® Moab Ventilator Hiking Shoes. Sandals or other open shoes are not recommended outside hotels.
Please try to keep your bags below 50 lbs total per person.
Breakfasts and dinners are included. Lunch is on your own. Most special dietary needs and preferences are not a problem. Please let us know in advance and we should be able to accommodate. Snacks and alcohol are at your own expense, as is room service, etc.
TIME ZONE: Eastern +6 hours.

Pimsleur FrenchLANGUAGE

The lingua franca of France is, of course, French! Most hotel staff will speak English, but also many ordinary French people speak some English. You will also hear a little Spanish and various local patois like Provencale, Ariegeois, Bigourdane or Aragonnais at times. You may enjoy your experience more if you develop some familiarity with French ahead of time. We recommend the Pimsleur language program very highly: 


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France is on the Euro. The local currency you may need during your stay should be obtained at authorised facilities such as banks and foreign exchange bureaus. US Dollars can be exchanged at the airport on arrival or through ATMs, but many American banks are starting to charge a “foreign transaction fee” -for no particular reason other than that they can! If you belong to AAA, you can usually order foreign currency through them with no surcharge -but do so well in advance of departure for France since it may take a week for it to arrive at your local office. MasterCard and VISA are accepted at most places but increasingly the credit card systems use chips, rather than magnetic strips, so you will find some places where you may need to get money from an ATM if your credit card doesn’t have a chip. AmEx and Discover are less widely accepted, though that has started to change.


Tipping is not necessary. Traditionally, restaurant and bar prices include the tip as “service compris,” so you need not tip. However, some travelers enjoy offering a small gratuity to the wait staff, and it is of course appreciated. So, you may feel free to recognize outstanding service by individuals at whatever level you like. Tipping is a personal matter, but if you would like suggestions, you might consider: Server – 2 euros, Porter – 1 euro per bag; Cleaning staff – 1 euro per day; Drivers, guides – 3 euros per day – this is often paid on the last day of the trip but you may, of course, offer a gratuity at any time but again, do not feel any obligation whatsoever to tip.

(It goes without saying of course that the tour leaders -Glenn, Patricia, etc do not accept tips.)


Be sure to check for visa requirements pertaining to your citizenship. All travellers must be in possession of a passport with at least six months of validity left beyond the intended departure date to go home from Europe and must have at least 2 blank pages in the passport when first arriving in France. Quick turn-around of new US passports and passport renewals can be had through organizations such as VisaRite  Rush service is available in as little as one day!


Southern France has a temperate climate. In June we can expect to experience warm days and cool evenings. It will probably rain at least one day. It is typically in the 70s during the day, falling into the 50s and 60s at night. While not as intense as the height of summer, the sun still gets quite hot and unprotected skin can sunburn.

In general, you can drink or brush your teeth with tap water with impunity. Public pumps in villages, however, are often only for livestock or washing. Make sure a pump is marked “eau potable” before drinking (avoid eau non-potable).

No vaccinations are required for entry if you are arriving from North America. However, the CDC recommends you be up to date on all routine vaccines. See:

WCFor those with special medical needs or conditions, such as diabetes, refrigeration is available 24/7 for insulin or other medication. Whatever your needs may be, please let us know what you need in advance and we will very likely be able to accommodate.

Restrooms in France might be marked “toilettes” or may simply say “W.C.” (pronounced vay-say), a remnant of the WWII Briticism “water closet” -still in use many, many years later!
Note: The price of the tour includes all hotel/lodging, ground transportation, expert guides (all of which will be English-speaking and/or with anglophone translation), all private receptions & behind-the-scenes experiences as well as admission to parks, museums and other attractions, and virtually all meals except lunch. Optional activities with supplemental pricing are marked above with the price of the supplement. Please let us know asap if you would like to include the optional experiences so we can be sure to get your tickets ahead of time to guarantee availability. It goes without saying that incidental personal purchases such as souvenirs, snacks, etc, are at each traveler’s own expense. The price of the tour does not include airfare, tips, alcohol or sodas with meals (alcohol is included only at winetastings) or travel/trip insurance (which we highly recommend).

Also note: Some aspects of the final itinerary are subject to change day by day while on the trip according to weather conditions, especially cloud cover, and to respond to last minute opportunities that can crop up spontaneously. We plan to visit Gavarnie with its spectacular cirque and waterfall, beautiful Lac de Gaube and breathtaking Pic du Midi but depending on weather, these can be completely socked in by clouds on a given day, so we’ll need to play it by ear a bit and may e.g. reorder the visits. The great thing about the Pyrenees is that there are many micro-zones. So if one mountain is immersed in clouds, another equally wonderful place will be clear. It’s all part of life in the Pyrenees! We have informants monitoring conditions on the ground and each day we will take you to the places where you’ll have the best experiences!

Tour size is limited, so please reserve asap.