As much as we loved Paris, the true destination of this trip was a week floating up then down the Seine. In some language, Seine comes from the word snake, which is what the river resembles with all it’s curves.
All the craft on this river are quite narrow. The reason for this is that there are five locks between Paris and Normandy. It and all the other river craft are also very low because of all the bridges you pass under.
We made numerous ports-of-call. It was a full week. However before I get into the details, let me say something about the service and I certainly cannot forget the food. We left our bags at the hotel the morning we were to board and did not see them again until we were in our stateroom. The entire staff seemed to know our names, and in a day or two, what our dink preferences were.
Our first dinner was fantastic and it set our expectations high for the rest of the meals, each of which were better than the last.
The ship was delayed a day because the lock workers were on strike. I was pleased! Not just some “power to the people” thing, but another few meals! I asked the bartender why the lock workers were on strike. He quite convincingly informed me that it was because of the nice weather we were having. “Would you want to work on a day like this?” he asked.
All but one of our tour guides were really good. Unfortunately the one who was not so good was at the landing beaches at Normandy. It seemed to me that her entire education about D-Day came from the movies. I kept saying,”yea, I saw the movie too”. But that was a small complaint in the scope of things.
Impressions on an Impressionist
One stop was in the town of Giverny where we went to Monet’s house and gardens.
These are just a couple of the hundreds of photos I took. This was early spring, so I think that all the flowers were transplanted in the gardens from green houses, but it worked. This is where Monet painted the majority of his impressionism works. His estate was very large and all of it in bloom, except for the water lilies. Next time I will go back in late spring. His house was big, comfortable, and colorful with a very large kitchen.
The entire house was full of his paintings. At least replicas. His range was huge, not just pretty flowers. I left with the knowledge that I had visited the home of a genius.
Each night before they let you loose to munch another excellent supper, the cruise director gave us a talk about what the next day’s options were. There was always more than one to choose from. Avalon bills itself as a sight seers cruise. There is no casino or disco or other distractions on board, they are there to take you to see wonderful sights along the route. And they always have great ground transportation and knowledgeable guides, well except for Normandy.
So her little speech about the next day said we would be in Caudebe-en-Caux. Forget it, I cannot pronounce it either. She mentioned two different tours for the next day. One was to see a village of thatched roof cottages,, which sounded sort of neat, until she described the other tour, called the Abbey Road tour. She said that we would visit a monastery where the monks made micro chips. This I had to see. Thatched roofs be damned.
On this tour we would see one of the oldest Monasteries in Europe, which although a ruin now, is in amazingly great shape and definitely gave an excellent idea of how the monks lived back in the time.
From here we went to a monastery that although also very old, was very active. The monks there lived under a code of silence, but they had one old guy who did tours. Obviously he was allowed to speak and answer questions. Of course your irreverent travel blogger had a few. When I got around to mentioning that our cruise director said that this monastery made microchips (which I had seen no evidence of, let alone monks in lab coats) he sort of chuckled and said that they used to assemble CD Roms. But they stopped because the methodology kept changing, and they were just not into change. So now, they are staring a brewery. No changes, and they get to sample their product.
This is a very nice little coastal town that used to be a center for privateers, which are basically pirates with a license to steal. Today it is a wonderful tourist destination with restaurants and stores, again all with a license to steal.
This night, before dinner, we were treated to an absolutely excellent D-Day lecture by this man. You can find out more about him at www. nigel-stewart.com. Suffice to say he has established himself as an expert on the day of days. He has helped erect two memorials in Normandy. He also helped establish the interpretive guide team for the American cemetery above ‘Omaha Beach’. I thought I knew a lot about D-day, after all I have seen all the movies, but Mr. Stewart taught me so much I was completely willing to postpone dinner until he was done.
Caudebec and D-Day
There were three choices for tours this day. The U.S. landing beaches, the Canadian landing beaches, or a foody tour. You can guess which we chose.
This my wife taking a photo of a grave of a soldier from her home state, New Jersey.
The Versailles Visit
The Versailles palace is reminder to all of us that revolution is sometimes needed. People were starving in the streets of Paris, and a select few lived in an opulence that, at least to me, is sickening.
It is a beautiful place to see. I just cannot believe that the royals and their buddies were allowed to live like this while poverty flourished. The French revolution took care of that and the guillotine gave final verdict.
We made our way back to Paris, slowly. That was just fine. I did not really want this trip to end. I had already put on too much weight and drank too much wine, but I would do it all over again. I hope to travel with Avalon Waterways another time, maybe another river. Check out their web site here and you will see they have options all over.
There is no way you enjoyed this post as much as we enjoyed the trip, but heh, I tried. Please share it with your FB friends, and make a comment, in French.