WW1 and WW2 battlefields

Re-live WW1 war of the trenches or DDay in Normandy in honour of our fallen heroes to whom we owe so much.

The many years of military service of our guide, Brigadier General Rickett, have provided him with a depth of knowledge that few others can match. He is able to clearly explain the high level strategic angles while also providing stories of individual soldiers on the front lines.

In addition, having lived in France for several years, Brigadier Rickett can take CC travelers to places that few other visitors will ever see.

Countess Connections can adapt these Battlefield tours to fit in with your time schedule as well as visits to places which have a special meaning to you. During these tours, you will be:

- Visiting major battlefield and memorial sites from the Somme to Flanders fields, where “the poppies blow”, the Chemin des Dames, Verdun and on the steps of “Black Jack Pershing” in Belleau Woods for WW1 until the final meeting at the Wagon des Rethondes near Compiègne.

For WW2, Countess Connections can extend your tour from just the DDay beaches and the Battle of Normandy sites to begin in the 1940s with the crossing the Meuse at Sedan, the ill famous Maginot line, and the Ardennes all the way South to the operations of the 2nd SS Panzer Division in Central and Southern France and even into Italy to Monte Cassino and Anzio, or into Germany to Remagen.

- Understanding not only the military strategy but also the historic roots leading up to the devastating conflicts that shook the world, as well as the aftermaths of both wars, from Europe of the 1920s to the Liberation.

- Meeting some survivors and their descendants over tea and drinks to hear their fascinating stories first hand.

- Sightseeing not only of some of the most tragic sites but also of beautiful towns, from UNESCO Heritage Flemish cities to picturesque Bayeux, where William the Conqueror’s invasion of England is depicted on the famous XIth century tapestry, as well as more tragically hit places.

- Honouring the steps of your fathers, grandfathers and uncles, remembering them and so many others by a formal wreath laying ceremony.

- Enjoying some outstanding French cuisine along the way. And why not, Champagne, since, as Churchill said:”Remember, gentlemen, it’s not just France we are fighting for, it’s Champagne!”

- Residing in historic chateaux, now elegant hotels, and which were tied in with the WW1 and WW2 events.

Why not extend such a Battlefields tour with a stay along the Rheine, in Paris, in romantic Brugges or along the sunny shores of Italy…

Contact us for samples of current tours available or ask us to design a specific itinerary just for you…

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Noble and secret gardens

Customized visits to gardens of major French chateaux and award winning private gardens, including personal invitations to meet the owners of these impressive parklands, stately homes and romantic gardens. Over a cup of tea, drinks or lunch, they will share their gardening history, tastes and interests with you.

Countess Connections designs these garden tours according to the seasons, regions and various plants or places which you particularly wish to discover. During your tailor-made itinerary, you will be:

- Meeting the owners and head gardeners of famous chateau gardens, designed by the likes of Le Nôtre or Edouard André, as well known horticulturists of today and creators of some award winning smaller gardens throughout France.

- Understanding the history of gardens in France, from the formal Jardins à la Française, to their decline under the ideas of Rousseau and the romantic landscape paintings of Claude Lorrain and Nicolas Poussin. Followed by the influence of European visions of Oriental gardens, new plants brought back from explorers such as La Pérouse, and finally the English landscape gardens, which in the early 19th century, gradually replaced the symetrical French formal garden.

- Exploring a great variety of gardens, from medieval herbal gardens to feed cloisters to Renaissance mazes, to the geometric structures of the Grand Siècle with their Grandes Eaux Fountain displays, to topiary gardens, landscape gardens, arboretums, romantic shade gardens and finally present day trendy creations.

- Admiring the generous, colorful and fragrant displays of flowers and vegetables at some of the best Farmers’ markets.

- Enjoying the best of French cuisine, and why not also include a picnic lunch in a romantic shade garden, with produce gleaned from a farmers’ market and a private lunch at a château with the owners’ selection directly from her “potager”.

- Residing in privately owned chateaux and estates, elegant small boutique and five star hotels.

WHY not combine such a garden tour with the Chelsea flower show in May, when everything is in bloom, or with a visit to Southern Spain and the Alhambra of Grenada…

Contact us for samples of current tours available or ask us to design your dream itinerary…

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Experiencing French History

Follow Joan of Arc, Marie-Antoinette, Napoleon, Leonardo da Vinci, Robert Stevenson or Lafayette… or retrace the steps of your own favorite historic, artistic or literary character during a bespoke trip designed by Countess Connections just for you.

Alternatively travel through France, or time permitting, Europe, chronologically along the “Roads from the Past”, beginning with the Greek settlements, then the Roman Ruins to the early and late medieval fortresses and Abbeys, to the splendors of the Renaissance, the grandeur of the XVIIth and XVIII centuries up to the Belle Epoque in Paris.

These customized tours are exciting time tunnel experiences, almost like living through a movie. They can each be adapted to meet your own personal interests and time requirements. Countess de Vanssay will personally accompany small groups (8 to 16 participants), or arrange for a guide specialized in the biography of your chosen character, to open the doors for you to:

- Visit villages, castles, palaces or humble abodes that shaped the life and legend of your chosen character.

- Experience the world at the particular period during which your character revolved: the political and social tensions, the hopes and fears, the scientific developments, the literary and artistic productions, the military and climatic threats etc…

- Discover the legacy your chosen character left on today’s world of politics, architecture, decoration, painting, and much more.

- Meet families of the Aristocracy whose ancestors lived at the time of your character, and are able to share stories of these periods from their personal archives.

- Enjoy not only fine French cuisine but historic recipes similar to those served during the early Renaissance, the XVIIIth or turn of the century.

- Reside in still privately owned chateaux or elegant, historic hotels in the places where your character left his/her mark.

Why not extend such a trip beyond France to other sites in Europe familiar to your favorite character …
Contact Countess Connections for samples of current tours available or ask us to design a specific itinerary just for you…

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Luxury hotels and rentals

The exclusive selection of luxury hotels and rentals, from châteaux, apartments, manor houses, beach resorts to chalets offered by Countess Connections will ensure that your accommodation throughout your European holiday truly matches your expectations and taste.

With over 35 years travelling throughout Europe, as well as having lived in Switzerland, England and France, Countess de Vanssay is able to offer discerning clients and small groups her extensive knowledge of special places to stay, from famous grand historic palaces to chic boutique hotels often unlisted in guide books, and advise which hotel best suits her clients’ specific vacation plans.
Or why not experience Europe like a native? By renting the perfect city flat or country residence for your vacation, Countess Connections will ensure you enjoy the quintessential fusion of a luxury hotel and a private residence.

Whether you opt for a luxury hotel accommodation or an elegant home rental, you will benefit from:

- The long-standing relationships of Countess Connections with the owners of extraordinary residences offering extraordinary experiences! Countess de Vanssay believes in putting the human touch back into luxury.

- A tailor made selection : Countess Connections can offer VIP clients access to private homes which have not only been elegantly decorated, but are also authentic, warm and welcoming. By carefully hand-selecting each residence to match your taste, we ensure that you will feel so “at home away from home” that you may never want to leave…

- A “wow factor” when entering your hotel room, apartment, chateau or country residence, as you discover the interiors designed by famous decorators and adorned with valuable antiques and art.

- A unique lifestyle experience corresponding to Countess Connections exacting standards of understated luxury, elegance, privacy and prime location, without any compromise on modern comfort.

- A personal welcome by the owners themselves or someone from Countess Connections, offering you their knowledge and expertise of the area which puts any guidebook to shame.
- On-site Service: Countess Connections will remain available via phone and email throughout your stay in Europe.

Why not extend your stay in Europe and ask Countess Connections for craft a bespoke itinerary to places of particular interest to you?

Contact Countess Connections and share your holiday accommodation dreams with us…

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Luxury car rental

Self drive a luxury car or a convertible arranged by Countess Connections to be delivered to any destination in Europe for your enjoyment. Spend an unforgettable holiday discovering the picturesque country roads of Europe behind the steering wheel of your dream car! Or rent a boat to cruise the canals, or a yacht to go port hopping along the Mediterranean…

Headquartered near Le Mans, home of the mythical 24 Hours race, Countess de Vanssay has automotive connections enabling her to respond to each client’s individual wishes, drawing from a large fleet of cars owned by a series of reputable suppliers throughout France and Europe.

Add a new dimension to your next European holiday and:

- Combine the pleasure of driving with the comfort of the most luxurious brands and models on the market such as prestigious sport cars, convertibles, Suv 4X4, and international brands, like Ferrari, Audi, Bentley, BMW, Lamborghini, Mercedes, Maserati and Porsche.

- Travel back in time at the steering wheel of a 1940s Citroen Traction Avant, a classic convertible MG Roadster, Alfa Romeo Spider,Triumph TR6, Jaguar E or Austin Healey or why not, a Citroën 2CV.

- Be Steve McQueen for a day, as part of the legend of Le Mans, race on the mythical Le Mans Race Track. During the course of a unique day, with various Porsches, you will combine performance, joint activities and intense thrills, punctuated by learning about driving techniques and the pleasure of applying them, supervised by professional English speaking pilot/instructors. An unforgettable day awaits you!

- Be your own sea captain! Countess de Vanssay’s “aquatic” connections can charter a luxury boat for you to cruise on the Seine in Paris, all the way down to Normandy, in Burgundy or on the Saône, or, more maritime, rent a yacht to sail along the coastline of the Mediterranean or Brittany.

Why not extend your drive into Germany, where there are no speed limits on the motorways, and spend a weekend tackling the Nurburgring circuit…

Contact Countess Connections to organize your favorite motoring treats to enhance your European adventure…

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Multi-generational tours

Countess Connections customizes multi-generational tours in Europe which are expertly choreographed to guaranty family memories to last a lifetime. Thanks to itineraries comprising a tailor-made assortment of experiences for all ages to share in, Countess Connections will help you bring the entire family together for an enriching vacation full of real togetherness. And relieve you of all administrative and organizational hassle!

Each itinerary features a generous mix of culture, entertainment, activity and relaxation for everyone to enjoy and can be customized along the following suggestions:

- River cruises along the Rhine, past majestic strongholds, or up the Seine stopping to climb the fortress of Chateau Gaillard onto historic Rouen or along the Burgundy canal.

- Ancient Roman civilization: Beginning in Rome, drive down to Pompei, (a town literally frozen in time), take a boat to Capri and hike up to Tiberius’ villa, then relax along the Mediterranean, in the former Palace of the Princes of Naples, in beautifully appointed self catering suites.

- Guided history and genealogy tours : give your children and grandchildren a sense of their European roots, as you travel on the steps of your family’s origins woven in with the history of the country and regions they came from.

- Fun, scenic itineraries : From the mountains of Heidi Land in Switzerland, to the hills of the Sound of Music in Austria, down to Northern Italy, mixing romantic Venice with the open air opera in Verona and Gardaland amusement park for the younger…

Or travel on the steps of Brave heart through Scotland : romantic castles, the Monster of Loch Ness, golfing at St Andrews, then spending time in England in the Cotswolds, Cheddar Caves, Stratford on Avon, Windsor Castle…

Or visit the places Sissi and Ludwig II graced, from fairy tale Neuschwanstein to Schoenbrunn palace in Austria, the Mozart festival in Salzburg and the Steiff bear museum

Or follow the Kings of France from castle to castle up the Loire River, including Sleeping Beauty’s castle of Ussé, Chenonceau, the castle of 6 queens, cycle through the park of Chambord, and then spend a day at Futuroscope, our French “Epcot centre” …

- The accommodations are handpicked with families in mind, and include chateau life, medieval fortresses, or mountain chalets, where your family will often have the exclusiveness of being the only guests, just like a private home. But also original boutique hotels: a safari lodge in the middle of a zoo, a troglodyte cave hotel, a school house, a train, and also relaxing resorts with swimming pools and beaches to run wild.

Why not add some hands on experiential activities that connect everyone from making your own Pretzel, Pizza, chocolate, stain glass window, ceramic tile, or construct a XVIth century manor house near the Loire…

Contact Countess Connections and we will design a creative, bespoke itinerary according to the interests and background of all the family.

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Wine tours

Bespoke wine tours through Burgundy, Bordeaux, Loire, Champagne, Languedoc and Provence or any of France’s 14 main wine growing regions of your choice, tasting over 50 grapes varieties! After all, France has been a wine producing country since the 6th century BC…

Each of these itineraries is totally customized and led either by Count de Vanssay in person, an avid wine collector, stopping at some of his well kept secret addresses of top producers, or with our highly knowledgeable guide, who himself comes from a longstanding vintner family.
Each Countess Connections tour is tailor made to suit clients personal specifications, and combines:

- Meeting with local wine growers, who have been in the trade for several generations and will open their doors and their bottles just for you. Likewise find yourself plunged into the chic yet laid-back ambiance of some magnificent Châteaux.

- Understanding the concept of Terroir central to higher end French wines, which links the style of the wines to the specific locations where the grapes are grown and the wine is made. The essence of the regions’ vineyards and the notion of “climates” will soon no longer hold any secrets for you.

- Visiting prestigious and authentic wineries and even, if desired, flying over them in a hot air balloon!

- Tasting honest appellation villages, Premier Crus and some of the finest grands crus. Or make a wish and taste all 33 of Burgundy’s Grands Crus : Countess Connections can make it possible!

- Plunging into the history of the region, visiting its cultural and historic sites, from Roman ruins, to medieval abbeys, gothic cathedrals, grand chateaux, and quaint villages.

- Enjoying a three star dinner at the table of some of the greatest chefs or discovering small gourmet Auberges.

- Residing in privately owned chateaux and estates, elegant small boutique and five star hotels.

- Returning home with your favorite bottles, as shipping can be arranged to up to 20 countries.

Why not combine such a wine tour with aother activity like a barge cruise on the Burgundy canal, or a luxury Lorelei cruise on the Rheine, a shopping spree in Paris, a spin to the French Riviera…

Contact me, I will be happy to customize your wine tour.

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VIP Chauffeur and shuttle

VIP Chauffeur, airport or city transfers, knowledgeable chauffeur guides, luxury minibus services, for small to medium size groups, or even helicopter shuttles, all can be arranged and booked via Countess Connections according to you or your groups’ specific needs.

Working with a network of reliable, well-spoken, registered professionals, Countess Connections responds to each clients’ individual requirements, with tailor-made solutions ranging from:

- A personal welcome with an exclusive meet & greet service dedicated to elite travelers, ensuring seamless arrival and departure experiences, taking care of you and your baggage from your plane to your vehicle thus avoiding the many pitfalls and lengthy waiting times common to airports.

- Affordable rates, with some of Countess Connections suppliers located in the countryside, we can supply fully fledged chauffeur transportation services at reasonable prices, using VW Caravelle SUVs and Citroen C6 Sedans, the latter being, after all, the car used by many French government officials!

- A wide selection, ranging from standard Citroen C6 or Peugeot 807 sedans to Mercedes C, E or even S class, a Viano, a BMW Hybrid, an Audi 8 or even a Maybach 62!

- The “wow” factor, when you see a vintage 1953 Bentley, a modern Flying Spurs, a Rolls Royce. Phantom or a famous Traction Avant drive up to your hotel or Château for a day’s excursion…

- Group transportation, in total comfort. For small and medium size groups, from 10 to 18 guests, embarking on one of our customized tours through France, we contract beautifully appointed Mercedes Sprinters or Irisbus Dailys, with air conditioning, luxury leather seats, wifi and Bluetooth, a video screen and a mini-bar.

- When time is of the essence, Countess Connections will set you up with a private helicopter pick up to transfer you directly from the airport, or your Chateau hotel, to your destination in minutes.

- Discover hidden France with one of our expert chauffeur guides, who thanks to their perfect knowledge of our country will show you sites and hidden treasures no one else could. Why trust your GPS or try to revive Grammar school geography and map reading lessons or fight with parking hassle? Whether it be the wine regions of Burgundy, Bordeaux, Champagne or the Rhone, the French Valley of the Kings of the Loire, the battlefield scenes of WW1 and WW2, the Riviera, the Alpine ski resorts, Brittany, or why not, Brussels and Geneva, Countess Connections chauffeur guides will ensure the most enriching and pleasurable experiences.

Why not ask about extending your drive into Germany, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland or Spain…

Contact Countess Connections to organize the optimal transportation for your customized itinerary.

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Private chateaux invitations

Private chateaux invitations enable privileged access to famous French chateaux.

Discerning individuals and small, exclusive groups will receive a tailored personal invitation to lunch, dine or for tea with the aristocratic owners of some of France’s most historic and luxurious castles, in rooms which are never open to the general public. As private guests, you will be transported into a world which most only get a glimpse of through film and television.

Countess Connections VIP guests will benefit from Count & Countess de Vanssay’s long-standing relationships with the owners of over 10 of France’s finest historic chateaux. Therefore these unique invitations can range anywhere from a one day helicopter or luxury chauffeured motorcar transfer to one single Castle, to multiday bespoke itinerary, combining various chateaux, according to the owners diaries.

Countess Connections guests enjoy a pre-tour briefing over drinks, to hear about the highlights of the chateau or chateaux they will be seeing as well as to ask any questions they might have in terms of preparing for the next days’ visit, during which they will:

- Marvel at the beautiful, diverse and untouched French countryside, from vineyards to bucolic rolling hills, wild rivers, and hunting forests, interspersed with picturesque villages appearing to rise out of a movie set.

- Enjoy not only the grand estates, but the rare opportunity to meet and spend time with the often colorful owners thereof. Countess Connections believe it is in fact the people “behind the scene”, rather than the houses on their own, that offer the greatest insight into the real world of the French aristocracy and landed gentry.

- Learn from the stories recounted by their hosts, whose families have resided in their chateaux for hundreds of years: what life in France was like over the past centuries, through peace and in wartime, the rise and fall of various political systems, fashions and trends, and how they envisage the present and the future of their lifestyle and of France in general.

- Discover the true “art de vivre” à la française.

- Admire parts of the house and art collections not normally accessible to the public.

- Dine in private chateaux where traditional French cuisine is still served on fine linens, porcelain and crystal with all the family silver.

- Sleep in still privately owned elegant chateaux and the only real palace in Paris, the Bristol.

Why not extend such a trip beyond France to meet the owners of a grand historic house in Britain, or other countries in Europe …

Contact Countess Connections to enquire which visits can be arranged for you…

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Who is the Countess?

Born in America, educated in Italy and Switzerland, Countess Marnie de Vanssay, together with her husband, Guy, the 20th Count de Vanssay, provide individuals and small groups with bespoke travel experiences, during which discerning travellers enjoy the unique aspects of French and European culture – from its architecture, history, gardens, …

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