The Seine, Paris & Normandy River Cruise
|The Seine, Paris & Normandy River Cruise
From romantic Paris, we slip our moorings and commence our wonderfully scenic cruise along the beautiful and majesticSeineinto the heart of one of France’s most historic and picturesque regions, Normandy. With time to enjoy the historic little town of Les Andelys en route, we continue our journey along the Seines sweeping meanders, before exploring the delights of Rouen, one of Europes finest medieval cities with its stunning cathedral and tangle of atmospheric winding streets.
Passing the legendary Jumiege Abbey, we moor in the pretty village of Caudebec with time after dinner for an evening stroll in this most typical of French villages. Then to Bayeux, spared significant war damage, it retains its wealth of splendid buildings as well as the legendary and stunning tapestry for which it is so famed. We also see some of the many thought-provoking monuments and places along the Normandy coast and reflect on the remarkable story of the D-Day landings on our visit to Gold Beach and theremnants of Mulberry Harbour. Our cruise would not be complete without avisit to charming Honfleur – its near perfect waterfront of tall pastel-coloured 18thcentury houses, traditional shops and maze of streets providing the inspirationfor the Impressionist painter Claude Monet to paint here many times.
Countless sleepy villagessilentlydrift by as we arrive in delightful Vernon, from where we take the shortdrive to Giverny visiting Claude Monets home and one of the worlds mostfamous and most painted gardens. Enjoy the quintessentially half-timberedstreets of Vernon before we continue ontoour final destination, one of the worlds most iconic and romantic cities,Paris. From theArc de Triomphe tothe Sacre-Coeur to theEiffel Tour, the Louvre to the Pompidou Centre, the smart shopping of theGaleries Lafayette to bohemian Montmatre, the list is endless and the varietyarguably unmatchable;this breathtaking citynever fails to inspire no matter how many times you get the chance to visit.
ARRIVAL IN PARIS
Take the Eurostar from London St Pancras International to Paris or fly to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport. On arrival, transfer by coach to your cruise ship moored on the River Seine in the heart of the city. The friendly crew will welcome you on board, helping you settle into your spacious and exquisitely furnished accommodation youll immediately feel at home. This evening you enjoy your first sumptuous dinner, served in the ships restaurant.
During the night our ship slips her mooring and, as you enjoy breakfast, the landscape passes by serenely and you quickly get used to this luxurious sightseeing experience. Rounding a sweeping bend so typical of the Seine, we reach the town of Mantes-la-Jolie with its imposing church so large and architecturally impressive it could be a cathedral while straight ahead is a medieval stone bridge. The central section of the bridge was destroyed during the Second World War and never repaired its the first of many poignant reminders that this region of France has been a battleground for centuries.
Beyond Mantes we encounter another typical feature of the Seine as it flows seaward picturesque chalk cliffs, almost resembling a giants teeth. Beautiful villages like La Roche Guyon slide by, surrounded bybocagecountryside of lush pastures and high hedgerows, countless cider orchards, half-timbered barns and ancient wooden farmhouses. Were truly in the heart of one of Frances historic and stunningly attractive dukedoms Normandy.
While youre enjoying your first delicious lunch, the captain has skilfully berthed at Les Andelys, a small town dominated by one of the most spectacular sights along the entire valley Chteau Gaillard. This remarkable castle guards the apex of the river bend and was built by Richard the Lionheart in the 12th century to defend Rouen from the French. Besieged many times during the turbulent history of northern France, Chteau Gaillard is now one of the most dramatic ruins in the region.
A much-appreciated feature of our river cruises is that theyre thoughtfully planned and paced, allowing time to explore the many places of interest we visit. So this afternoon you are free to roam the town of Les Andelys at your leisure, investigating the Gallo-Roman remains, churches and museums of two former fishing villages that grew together, or alternatively join the short drive up to Chteau Gaillard. From this spectacular vantage point probably the finest of the entire cruise you enjoy stupendous views across the countryside.
During your second excellent dinner we slip our mooring unobtrusively, and what could be better than heading to the lounge for a digestif and a chance to discuss your impressions of the Seine with your like-minded companions? The evening cruise is delightful as we glide past more bucolic scenery, some of the finest France can offer. Should you wish why not visit the wheelhouse, the Captain is always delighted to explain to those interested how the highly sophisticated navigation and safety systems operate.
We awake in Rouen, Normandys capital, one of Europes finest medieval cities and scene of many momentous events over the centuries. Pride of place on our guided tour of the city belongs to its stunning Gothic cathedral, which was immortalised by the great Impressionist Claude Monet in a series of 28 paintings showing the facade at varying times of day and in different weather conditions. Briefly becoming the worlds tallest building when the soaring spire was added in the 19th century, the cathedral is also notable for the recumbent statue reputedly containing the heart of Richard the Lionheart.
Rouens beautifully tangled alleyways are a revelation, lined with antique shops, tasteful boutiques and, of course, countless restaurants serving exceptional local cuisine emphasising the countrys outstanding gastronomic heritage. The Place du Vieux-March is one of the citys most poignant spots; a large cross marks the point where the Maid of Orlans Joan of Arc was burned at the stake for her beliefs.
During another superb lunch we cast off to navigate through yet more twists and turns, chalk cliffs and a landscape of forest-covered hills that are designated as areas of outstanding natural beauty and sanctuaries for diverse wildlife, including deer and wild boar. Another highlight of the valley soon greets us the ethereal ruins of Jumiges Abbey. Founded in the 7th century, it was consecrated in the presence of William the Conqueror and was an important political and religious centre until it was sacked in the 16th century. In the late afternoon we moor in the pretty town of Caudebec-en-Caux, so after dinner why not take a stroll to explore this lovely spot, with its typical market square, richly decorated church and the Maison des Templiers, one of the oldest houses in Normandy.
BAYEUX & ARROMANCHES
After breakfast youll be ready for a full-day tour exploring two of the most important aspects of European history the Bayeux Tapestry and the D-Day landings. (Please note lunch is not provided today.) Bayeux itself is a delightful town with a historic core that escaped the ravages of war, so you can marvel at its many splendid buildings including the grand Gothic cathedral. But, of course, Bayeux is most famous as the home of the tapestry telling the story of the Norman invasion of Britain in 1066 in glorious detail. Among its 75 scenes are the coronation of Harold following the death of Edward the Confessor and his subsequent demise at the Battle of Hastings, which led to William of Normandy invading England and becoming king. The 230-foot-long tapestry is made up of nine panels of extremely delicate embroidery gazing at its wonderful depictions of the battle and the periods architecture, weapons and everyday life, youll appreciate why the Bayeux Tapestry is arguably the finest relic of the Middle Ages.
This afternoon we drive to nearby Gold Beach, one of the designated landing sites on D-Day, when Allied forces, the majority being American, British and Canadian troops, surged into Normandy to begin the liberation of occupied Europe. The target 50-mile stretch of the coast was divided into five sectors: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. Casting your eyes across the sand to the waters edge, its sobering to consider that on 6 June 1944 around 25,000 British troops came ashore on this one beach with 400 killed by the defenders. It has been estimated that by the days end approximately 156,000 Allied troops had successfully stormed Normandys beaches but suffered over 10,000 casualties – although more recent research suggests the figure may be significantly higher; it is now thought that there were over 4,000 Allied fatalities, the majority of which were sustained by American forces at Omaha, the largest of the beaches. At the western end of the shoreline is the village of Arromanches, where there is a museum dedicated to the longest day and you can still see remnants of the two Mulberry harbours constructed for the landing craft. After a day recalling such momentous events and the stories surrounding them, thoughts turn again to the culinary delights awaiting you in the refined comfort of the ships restaurant.
Honfleur is often regarded as the most picturesque spot on the northern French coast, and after breakfast we make the short journey to this delightful town. Its old harbour, sheltering both fishing boats and luxurious pleasure craft, is beautifully preserved and surrounded by a perfect waterfront of pastel-coloured 16th- to 18th-century houses, many converted to seafood restaurants. Watch the talented artists capturing the captivating views along the waterfront, while the intricate maze of streets behind is also well worth discovering. The eaves of the tall half-timbered buildings almost touch, and on the streets below is an abundance of traditional shops selling antiques, books and fine foods. Honfleurs most famous son is Eugene Boudin, one of the forerunners of Impressionism and a friend of Claude Monet, who also painted the harbour many times.
After returning to the ship for lunch, we slip our mooring and begin our passage back upstream, retracing the rivers winding course, its huge variety of wildlife, enchanting scenery and forests, all reflected in differing colours in the sparkling waters. Villages slip by, birds glide on thermals rising from the surrounding cliffs and, as this ever-changing kaleidoscope slips by, its an ideal opportunity to join new friends for a chat. Squeeze in a spot of reading on the Sun Deck or simply recline, letting the gentle breezes lull you into a relaxing doze. By this stage of your cruise youll be totally unwound and modern life will seem very distant.
GIVERNY & VERNON
One of the great delights of river cruising is the magical sensation of waking up in a different place from where you were the night before. This morning the ship has moored in delightful Vernon, and we take the short drive to Giverny to visit Monets garden and house. The artist himself called his garden his most beautiful masterpiece, and its certainly one of the worlds most photographed and painted, ideally viewed in the delicate morning light. In the Japanese-inspired water garden, shaded by great weeping willows and surrounded by bamboo, rhododendrons and azaleas, is the lily pond where he painted his extraordinaryLes Nymphas (Water Lilies)series. Theres ample time to wander here, absorbing the tranquil atmosphere while marvelling at the light bouncing off foliage of every hue and the magical reflections dancing off the water.
After another leisurely lunch on board, you can explore Vernons quaint buildings before embarking on our cruise to Paris. As the sun sets on the shimmering Seine and the Norman countryside recedes into dusk, its a perfect time to reflect on your few days cruising among the creamy chalk cliffs and charming villages of this splendid river.
We have arrived in Paris and this morning we take a sightseeing tour of this amazing capital, one of the worlds most iconic cities. The Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Champs lyses, Sacr-Coeur youll see all these and much more. The grand Place de la Concorde, the largest square in the city, shows off 18th-century French architecture at its best, and just over the Seine on the Left Bank youll find the Muse dOrsay, home of the worlds finest Impressionist art collection. Then theres the eccentrically modern and yet stylish Pompidou Centre, famous not only for its exhibits but also for street entertainment. Notre-Dame Cathedral and the delicate spire of the sublime Saint-Chapelle dominate the Ile de la Cit, while the exquisite Tuileries Gardens are perfect for a stroll.
After lunch on board you could visit fine shops such as the Galeries Lafayette or those in the smart arcaded Rue de Rivoli, or perhaps wander around the caf-lined streets of bohemian Montmartre. Paris is everything you imagine it to be romantic, inspiring, vibrant even outrageous but best of all Paris is unique, and a fitting finale to a wonderful cruise. This evening is the Captains Dinner, hosted of course by the Captain himself. Featuring specialities of the regions through which we have travelled, its a truly memorable experience.
Transfer to the airport for your return flight or the station for the Eurostar service home.