Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

We recently completed a three-week trip in France (Oct 17 – Nov 6) planned by Philip Haslett and his team. We dubbed it the Wine and War tour as we visited Bordeaux, the Loire, Burgundy and Champagne regions enjoying the wine produced at each one for the first few weeks and then continuing on to Dieppe and Lille, where we concentrated on visiting World War I sites, especially those which had Canadian military involvement.

It was an excellent experience from start to finish, with the only downside being the inclement (to say the least) weather, something over which Philip’s team had no control. Other than that, the hotels chosen for us and the transportation between areas, whether by train or by private transfers, were very good. The hotels were just what we wanted, smaller ones with character (Le 25bis by Leclerc Briant in Epernay was exceptional, with one of the largest hotel rooms I have ever experienced anywhere, let alone in Europe). The private guides we had were all very knowledgeable and generous with their time, especially the guide we had while we were in Lille. Christoffe was perhaps the best guide we have ever experienced. His knowledge of and passion for the history of World War I were exceptional and we hope to return again to learn more about the war from him.

One really unique experience we had was a six-day cruise on a barge with five other guests on the Nivernais Canal in Burgundy. As we had no idea with whom we would be sailing on such a small vessel, I was somewhat concerned about compatibility. However, my fears were unfounded as we enjoyed the company of all our shipmates and hope to keep in contact with them. While the accommodations were quite small, we found a space for everything and the food, wine and cheese were excellent and plentiful. Although the weather, as I mentioned earlier, was not the best, when the sun was out and we were outside on the deck slowly sailing along the canal, it was really enjoyable. We also could not have had a better crew. All four of them, captain, chef, host, and guide were always available to assist us with anything we needed.

I also wish to thank the two members of Philip’s team, Iléana and Sofia, who were primarily responsible for organizing the trip for us. There were quite a few parts to this trip which had to be planned from hotels, trains, transfers, tours, a car rental and more, and they both did an excellent job arranging them all. They responded to all my questions and requests promptly and Iléana kept in touch with us throughout the trip, even arranging a very late check-out at our hotel in Dieppe in advance of the arrival of Tempete Cairin, in case there were issues as a result of the storm. Fortunately Dieppe was spared the worst of it and we were fine.

While in Dieppe we visited the museum commemorating the failed August 19, 1942 raid (the day we were there was a holiday in France but thanks to Philip’s team, they opened the memorial especially for us so we were the only visitors), which is in a beautiful, very old theatre and over the stage were hung many pictures in later life of the survivors of the raid (mainly Canadian I believe). The top row however featured several pictures which were larger than the others. My husband looked at them and thought that one of the larger photographs resembled a neighbour from his childhood (who liked to teach him swear words in French). We were able to check the names and determined that it was indeed him. We knew ahead of time that he had fought at Dieppe and survived, but that is all we knew as, like many survivors of war, he never spoke about it. It’s amazing that of all the Canadians involved in the raid (close to 5,000 and who formed the largest contingent of troops), his picture was there and featured so prominently. I’ve never seen my husband so moved and the two lovely ladies who gave us the tour were so pleased that he knew one of the survivors. An experience we will never forget.
Last, but not least, I must thank Wendy for our WOW Moment. We were picked up at our hotel and driven to the Hotel Crillon in Paris where we had the pleasure of experiencing afternoon tea. The food, service and atmosphere (not to mention the people-watching) were excellent and we very much appreciated it. I love older hotels and the Crillon was beautiful and has quite a history.

In summary, we were very happy dealing with Philip and his team. Having the advice and recommendations of a company which knows the area where you wish to travel so well, is invaluable.

We just completed a trip to the South of France and Paris (10/15-10/24/23) and used Philip as our Trip Planner. We started thinking about this trip in 2019 for an October 2021 visit, but I don’t need to go into why that didn’t happen. We first met with Philip by Zoom during Wendy’s virtual office hours in February 2021. Philip outlined a most amazing trip through the entire South of France, but unfortunately we would need 3 weeks to see everything he suggested. We worked with him to fit in the places that we were most interested in seeing within the time frame we had and he recommended we wait until at least Fall of 2022 to schedule. We decided to wait until this year so we could travel completely without masks. This was our 7th (!) WOW List trip. Each time we get better at balancing jet lag and seeing as much as possible with enough down time to explore on our own. I think with this trip we finally found the perfect combination.

During the planning stages of the trip, Philip’s team was terrific in listening to the types of activities we enjoyed, accommodations we preferred, and paring down the touring to more manageable time periods so we weren’t exhausted at the end of every day. WOW List travel planners are so excited to share their country with visitors that they can’t help but include as many activities as possible. We spent 4 days in Provence and were based in historic St. Remy de Provence, a charming and easily walkable little village. We stayed at the Hotel de Tourrel, a beautifully renovated 17th-century palace, and our favorite hotel of the trip. Our first day of touring took us to Arles for a little history and then to the Camargue region to visit a working manade. We weren’t aware that “bull fighting” (which is more like tag football with a bull and no one gets hurt) was popular in France, but the form that is practiced there has a huge following in the South. It was fascinating to learn the history of the sport and see the farm where the French cowboys raise the bulls. Our driver/guide, Cedric, was the best we’ve ever experienced—he was extremely knowledgeable about all things (not only France), very personable, and went way out of his way to anticipate our needs.

On our way to Lyon, our guide, Sebastien, picked us up at the train station and took us to Beaujolais. The scenery was absolutely breathtaking as it had been raining and the sun was peaking out behind the mist over the vineyards. Sebastien asked if we wanted to stop for lunch or pick up cheese and charcuterie and head straight for the winery we were scheduled to visit. Our preference was the latter, but when we asked if that would be OK with the winery, Sebastien grinned and said—”I’m the owner and I have the keys.” We spent an absolutely delightful afternoon tasting amazing Beaujolais wines and learning about owning a small family winery in that part of France. From there we visited Lyon where walking through the old city felt like being on a movie set—it was so French it didn’t look real!

Our final 3 days were spent in Paris, where highlights were guided tours of the Musee d’Orsay with an Art History graduate of the Sorbonne, a French history lesson on Île de la Cité, and the Monet Water Lilies at l’Orangerie. We had a wonderful time soaking up French art, culture, and history and our guides were an integral part of that.

We should also mention that all of our transfers were flawless. The Axus travel app was essential in keeping us organized and on time. We also received regular emails and Axus notifications when any new information regarding driver/guide names and contact information needed to be provided. Philip’s team was always available to answer any questions we had along the way by text, email, or through the app messaging platform. Finally we must mention hiring a VIP greeter to guide you through the airport in Paris. We sat in traffic waiting to get to the departure curb for 40 minutes creating massive amounts of anxiety, but our driver said not to worry the greeter would meet us at the car and we’d have plenty of time. We were ushered through check-in, immigration, and security ahead of even the flight crews and escorted onto the airport train and to our gate in under 30″. Can’t recommend enough!

Julie Schulman

Gordes, Hilltop Village in Provence. Photo: Traveler Leah Schulman

We recently returned from a 9-night trip to Paris and the South of France with our family of 4. This was the second trip we took through a Wendy Perrin recommended travel agent and it was, again, a wonderful adventure! The team in Philip’s office helped us book an active and engaging itinerary for 2 adults and 2 teenagers.

We spent 5 nights in Paris and Sarah, our local representative, connected us with an outstanding private tour guide for 3 separate excursions, including a scavenger hunt at the Louvre, a driving tour of all the city highlights and a day trip to Versailles. She also shared walking directions to explore Paris on our own, excellent dinner recommendations and tickets to a fun Seine river cruise. We took some time to find the right hotel at a very busy and expensive time (during the French Open) and it was perfect – accessible location in a walkable area, outstanding service and delicious breakfasts.

Particularly important was navigating an unexpected strike while visiting the city and expertly re-arranging our plans so that we didn’t miss anything that we wanted to see. Sarah was on-hand throughout our time in Paris to help with any needs that arose.

After our time in Paris, we took a high-speed train to Avignon, where we picked up a rental car. With recommendations from Philip and Julie, we spent 2 nights in Aix-en-Provence and 2 nights in Cap D’Antibes. Our drive included exploring several small villages of interest including Gordes, Mougins, Rousillon and St. Paul de Vence. We enjoyed a half-day tour in Aix-en-Provence and a full-day tour of Nice, Eze and Monaco. Our private guides provided engaging information to our teens and shared out-of-the way spots known to locals.

France was definitely busy during our travel, but with the guidance of the team and the knowledge and access of our tour guides, we had very little waiting time at any of our stops. It was an active and engaging vacation and a lot of ground covered during the 9 days.

We returned from our wonderful 2-week trip to the Cote d’ Azur. Our trip was planned by Philip and Laurie. We had a brief conversation with Philip about the order of the itinerary and he handed us over to Laurie to do the planning. Their choice of hotels was absolutely perfect! We loved every hotel and location. Cap d’Antibe beach hotel, Villa Saint Ange, Chateau de Messardiere, and one last night in Nice at the Negresco.

We asked to self-drive in a rental car.  Our trip went well, but the driving around Nice, Cap d’Antibe, and Monaco was a bit difficult. Driving in Provence was easier.

Our wow-type moment was when we were driven to the private beach of Chateau de Messardiere by Rolls Royce. They have several Rolls at the Chateau to drive guests into Saint Tropez, to the beach or nearby destinations. It was so much fun to arrive in style! That hotel was extremely elegant, and our favorite of the trip. We arrived to a bottle of Champagne, fruit, pastries, and to a room upgrade!

Our private boat trip arranged by Laurie was rained out and that was disappointing, but their office refunded our money.

In respect to Philip and Laurie, it was almost like pulling teeth to get answers or responses from Laurie until the last minute. I have a trail of emails that she apologized for her late responses. I actually had to call her on the phone to get her attention. She was more helpful when we arrived in France rather than before we departed.

We felt that we were an afterthought and I do not think I will plan our next trip with their office.



As a result of this traveler review and the difficulties of driving a rental car in France this year, Philip has stopped offering self-drive itineraries.  Last winter, I repeatedly warned readers about the enormous volume of tourists headed to France in this first post-pandemic spring:  I warned in January in Where and When to Travel in This Unprecedently Busy Year and on March 1 in our newsletter on Where To Go This Spring.  It was no surprise that the overwhelming influx of travelers stretched Philip and his team very thin.  Fortunately, the frenzy has begun to subside.

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