Have you ever dreamed about touring the “City of Lights” up the Seine to the Normandy Beaches? Well we just returned from a wonderful trip on Avalon Waterways’ Creativity. Arriving on a sunny day in Paris with the temperature around 32 degrees we opted for an optional excursion to the Eiffel Tower. With our prepaid tickets we were able to bypass the hugh line for the ride to the 2nd floor of the Tower. With the day clear and sunny the views were simply magnificent. You could go higher but really it wasn’t necessary as the view from here were just as spectacular.
From here it was directly off to the ship where our Captain, who spoke very little English, greeted us warmly and the steward took our carry on directly to the cabin. We had time to get acquainted with the ship rest up and have a wonderful dinner which included wine. Included on the agenda for the next day was a tour of Paris. Two optional excursions were available for the afternoon either to the Louvre or Versailles with an optional dinner & show at the Moulin Rouge that night, or you could take the Metro and go off on your own.
The tour around Paris gave us a great overview of Paris with all its remarkable sights, although I do have to say traffic in Paris is a real problem. We came back to the ship, had lunch and took advantage of the exercise room, albeit tiny, served its purpose.
The next day as we docked in Conflans where there were two included tours to choose from, one a visit to Auvers sur- Oise where Van Gogh spent his last three months or St. Germain en Laye/Chateau Malmaison, the house where Bonaparte governed France, which is the one we opted for… what an excellent tour. The Creativity sailed for Vernon at 7P that night with a very creative crew as the entertainment. Piano music in the lounge and late night snacks were available each and every night.
Again, two included tours one of Giverny, with a visit to Claude Monet’s house, studio, gardens and the famous “Water Lily Pond” or an excursion to The Chateau de Bizy, often referred to as the “Small Versailles” we opted for the first one. There was an optional walking tour of Vernon after lunch and at 3:15PM local pastries, small sandwiches and coffee were served in the lounge as we watched our departure from Vernon. During this particular time we had to go through one of the locks on the Seine. You could watch the lock open and close from a front row seat in the lounge.
We docked in Rowen within walking distance of the center of the town and took a nice walk into town, what a wonderful day, with their Saturday market all its fruits, vegetables, fish, meats and beautiful flowers. Visited Joan d’Arc Church which was built on the site of where her death on the stake took place.After lunch there was an included tour to Honfleur, a beautiful old and picturesque port, characterized by houses with slate-covered frontages, small cafes serving wine, cheeses, and chocolates. With an overnight in Rouen the next day you could chose from two included tours; Normandy Beaches or a Taste of Normandy. Since we had on a previous trip visited the Normandy Beaches we opted for the Taste of Normandy. I do need to say if you have not been to the Beaches of Normandy then I would highly recommend it. What a wonderful experience for historians and people who had relatives or themselves landed there. It is particularly poignant for them. The Taste of Normandy had us visit the Bayeau Museum with its wonderfully embroidered tapestry of the Normandy invasion. The most important products of the area are dairy, apples, and grain. Camembert cheese is a specialty as is Calvados, a strong apple brandy. Of course we had a chance to sample all of it.
The last day of our voyage we sailed to Les Andelys. One of the most dramatic sights along the Seine is the imposing Chateau Gaillard built by King Richard the Lionheart in 1196. We had the opportunity to explore the town on our own before setting sail back to Paris. We were treated to a Normandy Cheese Tasting with wine, it was great!!! Last evening was the Captain’s Farewell Dinner. As we waited in the airport we reminisced about how wonderful the trip was. River cruising makes seeing parts of Europe really an upfront experience. I highly recommend it.