Francis Brennan, owner of the famous Park Hotel Kenmare, is well-known as the presenter of RTÉ One’s At Your Service. In this brand new series for RTÉ Lifestyle he embarks on his biggest challenge to date - becoming a tour guide for
16 paying tourists who are taking the trip of a lifetime, travelling from Barcelona to Rome.
With his 5 star hotel experience there’s a lot of pressure on Francis Brennan to get it right. But he’s never been a tour guide and even armed with local knowledge and a rather impressive tour banner, he’s way outside his comfort zone – there are 16 demanding tourists to keep in check, soaring temperatures, an Italian coach driver, fistfuls of facts and figures and a jam-packed 24/7 schedule that leaves no room for error.
Will Francis keep the group happy and together? Is he destined to excel as a tour guide, or should he stick to the day job? He may cut a dash in his Panama hat but is he tailor-made for travel? Is this a mission too far?
Follow the adventure in this 6-part brand new series featuring Barcelona, Carcassonne, Cannes, the Italian Lakes, Tuscany and Rome.
Episode 1 - Barcelona In tonight’s programme the tour kicks off and Francis and his Grand Tourists fly from Dublin to pick up their coach in Barcelona. It’s Francis’s first time as a tour guide and the pressure is on to give his tourists – who have paid hard cash - the holiday of a lifetime. The tour begins with a visit the iconic sights of the city; including the masterpieces of local boy and architectural genius Antoni Gaudi – the giant basilica, Sagrada Familia, the weird and wonderful architecture of Guell Park and Casa Mila with its amazing rooftop statues. Whilst they’re in Barcelona the Grand Tourists also fit in a visit to Barcelona’s most famous street, Las Ramblas, which runs through the heart of the city, the world-renowned food market, La Boqueria, and Tibidabo, the amusement fair which sits high above the city.
Episode 2 - Carcassonne In this programme the tour travels from Barcelona in Spain to the medieval walled city of Carcassonne in France. En-route the tour stops off in Figueres in northern Spain, birthplace of surrealist artist Salvador Dali, where there’s a musum dedicated to his art. In Carcassonne Francis has one of his most challenging tasks as he takes the group on a walking tour of the city’s historic ramparts. Lunch is a picnic by the scenic Canal Du Midi, but Francis challenges the group to shop at the local market, giving them a small budget and tight deadline to find their picnic provisions. The language proves challenging for some – including Francis! In this programme they also visit the Abbeye de Frontfroide, a former Cistercian monastery, best known for its rose garden. There’s a wine tasting at a local vineyard where the group try the region’s Languedoc wines and the programme ends with a dinner where the group tries the local duck, sausage and bean speciality, cassoulet - with mixed reactions!
Episode 3 - Cannes In this episode of Francis Brennan’s Grand Tour, Francis moves the tour from Carcassonne to Cannes on the French Riviera. They travel via the elegant French town of Aix-En-Provence, where to the delight of the Grand Tourists there’s a tour of a sweet factory. They also step back in time when Francis arranges a visit to the studio of locally-born artist, the impressionist Cézanne. Whilst in the Provencal region the tour visits the town of Grasse, the centre of the world’s perfume industry, where they learn the secrets of the scents. There’s also a chance for them to roll up their sleeves and try their hand at making tapenade, an olive based food paste, during a visit to an authentic Provencal herb garden. Next it’s on to the glitz and glamour of Cannes where Francis leads a walking tour of the world-famous boulevard, La Croisette. This is usually where the film stars strut their stuff and is home to the world’s most expensive hotel suites, most expensive yachts and most expensive beach clubs. How will Francis’s Irish tourists survive?
Episode 4 - The Italian Lakes There’s a long journey ahead of the Grand Tourists as they say au revoir to Cannes and France as they head on to Italy. Their destination in this programme is the small scenic town of Stresa on Lake Maggiore in the Italian Lakes. En route, the coach stops off at one of the glitziest states in the world, Monaco, famous for its Grand Prix circuit, the Monte Carlo Casino and Royal Palace, home of the glamorous Grimaldi dynasty. Once they reach the Italian lakes the tourists have a break from the coach for another form of transport, a boat. They take a ride around the properly scenic Lake Maggiore, where, scenery aside, one of the highlights is a stop off at Villa Taranto, famous for it’s fabulously manicured gardens. They manage to lose their boat captain at one point but, of course, Francis saves the day!
Episode 5 - Tuscany The tour moves from the Italian Lakes to Donnini a small village in Tuscany. En-route, the tour calls into Maranello (Modena) to visit the Ferrari Museum where they admire the collection of supercars for the super rich. In Donnini there’s hotel hysteria as some of the group fear their rooms are haunted! Also, in this programme the tour travels to the picture-perfect Tuscan villages of Pienza and Montepulciano, visit a vineyard and are invited to dinner at the home and studio of Irish artist Holly Melia who lives deep in the Tuscan countryside.
Episode 6 - Rome Last in series. The tour moves on from Tuscany to its final destination, Rome. Francis has a serious challenge in front of him as he takes his Grand Tourists on a tour including the magnificent sights of Ancient Rome, including the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Capitol Hill. Other highlights on Francis’s tour of Rome include the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon and the Spanish Steps. At the final dinner there’s a chance to find out what the tourists really thought of Francis – and what he really thought of them!