Travel | River cruise on the Seine: Paris and Normandy

By Debi Lander
mail@floridanewsline.com

Most Seine cruises start in Paris, then head into Normandy towards the English Channel. Guests go on excursions to explore Normandy’s highlights: Rouen Cathedral, the 950-year-old Bayeux Tapestry, and World War II D-Day landing sites. Honfleur is the last stop before turning around, and the highlight on the way back becomes Claude Monet’s House and Gardens.

When I saw the Riviera River Cruises itinerary, I knew this trip was for me – an art, history, wine and cheese lover. I flew to Paris and boarded their ship, the “Jane Austen”, which carries a maximum of 140 passengers. I prefer fewer people and small river cruises to mega liners. The cruise started with dinner in the evening. After a late sunset, the captain brought the boat closer to the small replica of the Statue of Liberty and the glittering Eiffel Tower in the distance. It’s magical to see the illuminated icon sparkle like fireworks.

The next morning we reached the village of Les Andelys, seeing Château Galliard on the hillside. The buildings are ruins of Richard Coeur de Lion’s castle built between 1196 and 1198. Riviera took its guests on an excursion to the site in the afternoon; then, we descended into the charming town of half-timbered houses.

The cruise moved to the medieval city of Rouen in time to see the evening sound and light show projected onto the facade of the cathedral. The explosion of vibrant color and technological mastery mesmerized the audience, who watched in stunned silence. Unbelievable! The next morning, the guests took a guided walking tour of the city, learning about the long history of the cathedral and Joan of Arc. Jeanne was burned at the stake in Rouen after her trial. A modern church stands on the site, architecturally unappealing to me, but once next to it, illuminated by a magnificent wall of stained glass.

My cruise docked at Caudebec and guests were bused to Bayeux the following day. The small town contains another great cathedral, but its calling card is the priceless Bayeux Tapestry. Having sewed in my youth, I enjoyed the intricate details and symmetry of this exquisite 230-foot-long masterpiece. It tells the story of William the Conqueror and the Battle of Hasting.

Then come the landing sites, from Pointe du Hoc. Here, American soldiers scaled the steep cliffs while encountering enemy fire. The courage of these young soldiers overwhelms you when you see the bombarded landscape and the base of German artillery guns. We went to Omaha Beach, another landing site. The sandy expanse surprised me; it was full of bathers and sunbathers. A magnificent memorial recalls the critical events along this beautiful beach in 1944.

The final stop was the 172-acre American Cemetery, with 9,387 graves of American war dead. The cemetery pays homage to those who died in the battles of Normandy. It’s an emotionally difficult place to visit, but one that keeps alive the memory of those who lost their lives in their brave fight for global freedom. We owe them a lot.

Honfleur, a medieval town with narrow cobbled streets and a central rectangular harbor in the middle of the old village, provided the next day’s visit. It was market day, so too crowded for my taste.

Monet’s house and garden named Giverny became a delight as we approached Paris. Her colorful home features a yellow dining room and a blue and white tiled kitchen. Of course, the waterlily ponds he painted remain his favourites.

The cruise returned to Paris, a city that never disappoints. Long live France.

Visit www.bylandersea.com to read more stories and travel tips from local travel writer Debi Lander.

Photo courtesy Debi Lander
The Jane Austen.

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