France has the best river options to navigate
Just for the record, I think …
– the French are not rude, but they tend to be more honest, more direct than us. They don’t care about the kind of chatter about how to do it, nor do they smile or act as openly with strangers as we Southerners. It’s a cultural thing and that’s probably why some travelers think the French seem distant or haughty. The simple truth is, they’re just more reserved than we are.
– the French are not lazy, but they appreciate their free time. For example, if given an hour for lunch, they will usually take the whole hour (and a few extra minutes) to enjoy the company and the meal, which, by the way, almost always includes wine and dessert. It would be rare to find them sitting in front of a computer, reading emails and eating a McDonald’s burger like we do! Their attitude of “joie de vivre” is also found in their leisure time. Not only does the average French worker benefit from 30 days of paid vacation each year, but he takes advantage of it and wants more! On the flip side, statistics show that most Americans only use 53% of their earned vacation days, and even when they are on vacation, some still do some type of work. It is certainly a major cultural difference.
– the French are not sissies; they stopped fighting during WWII to save lives and the devastation of their country by the Germans. History attests to this fact. Such myths are an insult to a country that has always been America’s longest ally.
– the French are a proud people, but, if you have already visited their beautiful country, you probably understand why. They pride themselves on their language (so why not learn a few sweet words from it when you go?), History, food, fashion, art and all the enchilada for just being French. They totally “understand” why others want to visit. Their smugness is actually cemented: France is the most visited destination in the world and, as a travel agent at Monroe Travel Service, I think one of the easiest ways to appreciate this amazing country is to aboard a small luxury river boat.
In uncrowded, relaxing comfort with ever-changing beauty unfolding before you, a river cruise offers a unique perspective of France. Specially designed boats, built to accommodate up to 200 passengers, navigate smoothly on the river and its many locks. Well-planned, free shore excursions at each port inspire travelers to explore and enjoy the French experience while waiting at the water’s edge.
Yet this is where the problem lies. France is one of those countries where âwater, water everywhereâ can be a real challenge. That’s why you need a trusted travel agent, like me, of course, to navigate your choice of river – Seine, RhÃ´ne, Moselle, Garonne or Loire – delivering the France you want to enjoy most to you. !
For Rob and I, a Seine cruise was the perfect choice for us. Inspired by the history of WWII and the D-Day landing beaches, a Normandy cruise in northern France allowed us to learn more about the history and the sites. Yet the craziest thing that has ever been the way we never even considered the art treasures, gardens, castles and architectural wonders that every bend in the river would reveal on our way to Normandy.
For example, on a shore excursion just outside of Paris where our cruise started, we were totally blown away by visiting a magnificent chateau where paintings by Raphael, Botticelli and other French artists were on display. – as if they weren’t worth a fortune. At the stone stables of Chateau de la Roche Guyon, we drank wines from local vineyards before heading to the great hall where a local quartet performed the music of Vivaldi, Mozart and Grieg. Surrounded by such luxury, this royal treatment was just as intoxicating for us as it was for generations past!
One of the most famous places on the Seine is the home and gardens of impressionist painter Claude Monet in Giverny. Its Japanese-themed garden, with its little stream that flows into the Seine and the lake filled with all these water lilies, was as perfect as the day the master painted it!
From Giverny, we left the sheer cliffs and towering riverside trees behind us and arrived in the charming medieval town of Rouen. The cathedral with its stunning Gothic towers has often been included in Monet’s paintings and still remains the city’s flagship attraction. Yet there is much to enjoy in this city, where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake, the Impressionist movement began and over 45% of the city was destroyed by bombs during WWII. Its cobbled streets are made for strolling and discovering the beautiful architecture of all these Norman cottages painted white juxtaposed across the grandeur of all the riverside castles.
After 4 days of cruising, we arrive in Honfleur, the city where the Seine flows into the Channel. This 3rd longest river in France had done its job: it had delivered us to the heart of Normandy. Our time here was spent taking day trips from the ship, visiting museums, D-Day landing beaches, listening to lectures, and visiting memorials to the brave men and women involved in the day’s invasion. J. For history buffs like us, Normandy was the icing on the cake and as we returned to Paris we chatted with the captain of the boat on our last night of the cruise.
Our enthusiasm for the trip was probably evident. We told him how the fine service, excellent wines and meals made our trip so entertaining, but it was the Seine that had been the highlight of our trip. We felt like it gave us a real French experience. Like excited kids in a candy store, we babbled about whatever surprised us the most.
Then, even as he nodded in agreement, the captain just leaned over and with that lovely French accent whispered softly, “Yes, my La deeee, the Seine, she’s the most special, but you don’t have to. not to forget the RhÃ´ne … the “cachen jewel” of France The RhÃ´ne romances the heart.
So, in a country with the most romantic capital in the world and where the French kiss was born, why would I ever doubt the wisdom of a riverboat captain who uses “romance” as a verb? Next week we’ll talk about this “hidden gem” of French river cruising, and then you can decide if the RhÃ´ne “romances” your heart.
Dianne Newcomer is a travel agent at Monroe Travel Service. Vacation planning is what we do, so give us a call first if you’re ready to leave town. Our service is free but our advice is priceless, so email INFO@MONROETRAVEL.com or call 318 323 3465 and let us show you the way.