Thomas Dowson at the Memorial to Jean-Pierre Cros-Mayrevieille, Carcassonne. For ten years from 2005 I ran a Bed and Breakfast in Upper Normandy. Although I had often given public lectures and taken people to rock art sites (in South Africa), it was quite by chance I got into guiding my guests to attractions near my B&B.

An elderly English couple decided that one thing that they had to do was to visit the Somme Battlefields – where a relative fell during World War I. There was accommodation closer to the Somme, but I had been recommended to them. They booked well in advance, telling me that they really wanted to visit one World War I cemetery in particular, which I located for them and worked out the route they should take. What they did not tell me was they were not comfortable driving in France.

By the time they arrived chez moi, they had had quite enough driving on what was for them the ‘wrong’ side of the road. Getting themselves home was already weighing on their mind – visiting the Somme Battlefields was out of the question. Well, I was not having that – I decided to take them myself. After that, providing my guests with guided tours of the wonderful nearby attractions was a service I offered my guests. But, it soon became apparent, people wanted me to do tours of the cave art of France – after all that is my area of archaeological expertise. I developed my favourite, and most popular tour, Artistic Splendours of France – but time on tour clashed with time at the B&B.

As my Archaeology Travel website was developing, I decided 2014 would be my last year in Normandy and I would develop my tours business. As I have worked and travelled extensively in regions other than France, I have worked with other tourism organisations to develop private, bespoke tours as well as small group archaeological tours. The focus of my tours, unlike any others on offer is the focus on prehistoric and ancient artistic traditions.

The photograph here was taken by one of my clients during a visit to Carcassonne, the highlight of which I think is this delightful memorial to Jean-Pierre Cros-Mayrevieille, a mayor of the much loved fortified Medieval city widely credited with saving the city from destruction by government decree – Read More Here.

The following are a few of the comments I have received from my clients, from my earliest days to my most recent tours.

Bespoke 9 Day Cave Art Tour 2018

Oh Thomas, the last 10 days has been a time of pure pleasure for me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your faultless planning, sensitive execution and gentle humour for the duration of our trip. The Cave Art and sheer beauty of the France you showed us will remain with me. I’m running out of superlatives to express my delight. So, you are an angel for putting together such a memorable trip. I’m cognisant of the amount of time and energy involved and am hugely appreciative.

Bespoke 14 Day Family Cave Art Tour 2017

First we want to thank you very much for coming on this trip with us and helping us make it great! We appreciate very much your flexibility throughout the entire time – from trying to upgrade the rental car to switching up the itinerary based on the kids’ interests or the weather- it all worked out excellent! We also understand how tiresome it is to drive the whole distance in the heat of Provence and you are a a very careful driver and we always felt safe. Your knowledge and expertise along the way added a significant value to the sightseeing especially keeping the kids attention. Finally your great sense of humor added to our feeling that you were part of our family on this journey. Thank you again for making this happen!

Artistic Splendours of France: Bespoke 14 Day Tour 2015

My Mom was very impressed with your skills and expertise and Mark and I really enjoyed traveling with you. We’d love for our paths to meet yours some time again in the future.

I was talking about you today telling a friend what a great trip I had to France. Just wanted you to know again that it was truly memorable and I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Great memories and also for me exposure to history I knew little about. Thanks again sharing your knowledge and putting together a wonderful itinerary.

Bespoke 9 Day Cave Art Tour 2015

We have been regaling our friends with stories and pictures of our French rock art sojourn. We are going up to the Sierras for some high country rock art-ing this weekend, and will be seeing a rock art pal who is interested in Namibia – as am I – and we will be interested to see if you have given further thought to an itinerary yet for that trip? Thanks again for being such an attentive host during our time in France – we really packed in a lot of wonders in a short time. Your driving is impeccable, and I appreciated the scenic routes you (and the nav system) chose for us.

Bespoke 4 Day Cave Art Tour 2014

Thanks so much for the great tour of the ice age caves–I was amazed at how very different they all are, and yet there are fascinating similarities.

Bespoke 4 Day Cave Art Tour 2014

Just wanted to thank you for the wonderful time I had on your tour. It was nice having my personal Archaeologist to explain things, especially the French Guides. I enjoyed your company, especially during meals. Most tour guides ditch you at mealtimes, and I hate eating alone. Just got my French photos printed today, makes me nostalgic already.

Artistic Splendours – 2013

Thank you for all you have done to make our visit to France a glorious and memorable adventure for us all.

These 14 days have been transformative, I have renewed understanding of the progression of humans on this earth. Thank you, Thomas.

This will be one of those trips that will be thought about for years after – it has truly been great.

Giverny weekend break 2013

Once again or stay with you has been filled with laughter and good food and friendship. A trip to Giverny, whatever the weather is so wonderful, and Thomas you make is extra special.

Upper Normandy Day-trips – 2013

Thank you Thomas we have had a wonderful second stay. Giverny was amazing and again your knowledge meant we could explore Eu and the fortified castle at Rambures.

Giverny weekend break – 2012

Thomas, your hospitality, knowledge and humour was inspirational and our trip to Giverny & Rouen something I will treasure all my life.

WW1 and WW2 – 2012

We thought our request to see the Normandy D-Day beaches and the Somme Battlefields in three days was ambitious, but Thomas you made it seem effortless. We could not have done it without you. Thank you for a fascinating three days.

Somme Battlefields – 2012

It never occurred to me that I could find my great uncle’s grave on the Somme. Thank you for your encouragement, help and guidance. These are three days my son and I will never forget.

These are just a few comments I have received from my clients. I can provide prospective clients with more detailed feedback I have received, and a few guests have agreed to answer questions directly via email.