Viking River Cruise – “Paris and the Heart of Normandy”

At the time of writing most of this, I was sitting on a river cruise boat, sailing from Rouen to Les Andelys, France headed back to Paris.  We started at a port just outside of Paris at the beginning of the week and had several stops along the way – from Claude Monet’s home in Giverny to the Landing Beaches in Normandy.

I came along on a trip my mom and my aunt, Sherry, arranged for my grandmother, who we call “Gran” 🙂  Gran has always wanted to go on a Viking River Cruise (“Viking” being the brand name), so we thought there was no better time than now to go on one!  The weather was FABULOUS, outside of the norm for the region – sunny, about 24/70 degrees.

The boat is really small, less than 200 guests.  It has one restaurant, one lounge and a sun deck.  I only have an ocean cruise boat to compare it to (when we cruised the Adriatic Sea in 2016), which was also small for it’s kind, but this is a very different experience.  River cruises are advertised for – so I don’t feel bad saying it – the retiree population.  The boat life and the excursions definitely move at a slow pace, which turns out to be pretty leisurely.  Not to say that I have been bored, there have been very full days, but I am definitely looking forward to the more active hike of Chateau Gaillard.

Anyway!  On to the fun parts!

Day One:  Le Pecq, France; Palace of St. Germain

The first day I arrived, Mom, Sherry and Gran had been here a day ahead of me and stayed one night in Paris before we checked onto the boat.  Once I arrived in Paris we took a taxi out to the port that was in Le Pecq, France, a suburb of Paris.  The village of Le Pecq is right next to the village of St. Germain.  We took a walk through St. Germain which was a lovely little village with an old castle, church and sweet chateaus in which families lived.

Then we came back to the boat for dinner.  The chef on board does a really nice job.  Each night he has a recommended menu that changes daily, as well as a menu the stays the same.  I figured I might as well have his recommendations each night.  Gives me the opportunity to try something new, WHICH I DID!  The first night I had escargot…I was nervous, but it was actually extremely delicious.  Mom took our picture to prove we ate it 🙂  Haha…such tourists.

Day Two:  Highlights of Paris

We stayed overnight in Le Pecq and had an excursion into Paris to see the “highlights”.  We drove around on a bus with a guide and they pointed out everything from Place de la Concorde (where Marie Antoinette lost her head) to the Eiffel Tower.

We stopped at Notre Dame and walked around then stopped and had lunch at a cafe before meeting back up with the group.  It was such a beautiful day.  The cherry blossom trees had bloomed, tulips had been planted – just really picturesque.

We later stopped at the Eiffel Tower and got some tourist selfies before heading back to the boat!

Day Three:   Giverny and Vernon, France; Claude Monet’s Home and Gardens

This day was incredibly lovely!  We first went to the village of Giverny to see the Monet Foundation.  This includes his personal home and 2 acres of gardens which he moved to in 1883 along with his wife and their combined 8 children.  He died here in 1926 at the age of 86 and is buried in the village cemetery.

Being in his home and gardens really gave you perspective of his paintings.  At some points, you were actually walking into the paintings, as he often painted his own garden.  We took this picture while walking through the water gardens:  does it look familiar?

Then we stopped and had some coffee at a cafe in the village and there were precious little chickens walking around everywhere!  Look how cute these 2 ladies are that came up to my chair to say “hello”!

And you know me, the birder…we saw some cute little European Goldfinches!

We had lunch provided at a historic inn called “Hotel Baudy”.  Angelina and Lucien Baudy opened Hotel Baudy in June 1887.  The Hotel became the hub for many American expatriates, most of which became or were painters.  Over 350 painters from eighteen countries painted in Giverny, since it’s inception, including Monet, Cézanne, and Renoir.  It is now a restaurant only and while we were there for lunch we were served slow roasted chicken, potatoes au gratin and vegetables, along with an apple tart for dessert!  It was divine!

After Giverny, we went to the neighboring village of Vernon.  It is a charming, medieval town with a Romanesque and Gothic styled church, built, and rebuilt, between the 11th and 17th centuries.  The houses throughout the city center are all half-timber styled houses from the 15th-16th century.

Day Four:  Rouen Farm & Countryside

We spent most of the morning cruising along the river headed to our port in the town of Rouen.  In the afternoon we went to a working farm where they have an apple orchard, sheep, and cows.  The farm dates back to the 1600’s, and the buildings were renovated in the 1800’s.  We were able to taste some of the products they make on the orchard, such as apple cider, pommeau du Normandie (18% alcohol, kind of like a brandy) and Calvados.  Calvados is 42% alcohol!!  I couldn’t do it, but Gran and Mom had some and I think they felt the effects immediately!

The cutest thing ever happened this day:  the owner, Denise, showed us how her 2 sheepdogs herd the sheep!  Oh my gosh, it was so cute and funny!  The dogs were so friendly and when the eldest one got done with her herd she came over to the fence where we were all standing.  Denise said “she is expecting applause from the audience”! Haha! Precious.  We obliged.  🙂  And there were little lambs who were 1-2 weeks old, as well as a lamb that was born just minutes before we arrived!  Click here to look at my Facebook page for the video of the sheep herding.

Day Five:  The Landing Beaches of Normandy

This was such a spectacular, history filled day.  I had to write an entire blog just for this one, so click on the link above to read about that.

Day Six:  Chateau Gaillard Hike in Les Andelys

Chateau Gaillard was built at the end of the 12th century by Richard the Lionheart (King Richard I of England).  It was built in order to block King Philip Augustus of France from getting to Rouen via the Seine River.  King Philip waited until King Richard’s death in 1199 and in 1203 besieged the castle.  In 1204, King Philip launched an assault which eventually put Les Andelys back under the French Kingdom.  During the 100 years war in the 15th century, Chateau Gaillard faced several assaults, leaving it in ruin and in 1862 it was listed as a Historical Monument.

We hiked the ruins and even Gran climbed up on a super tall window and took a photo!  It was a beautiful, and kind of hot day.  After the hike we walked around the little village of Les Andelys and went in some shops.

Day Seven:  The Palace of Versailles

 

What an incredible place.  We were lucky enough to get to go in a side entrance for groups, so we were able to miss the extremely long queue for tickets.  We got there right when it opened, 9 am, on a Saturday and the queue was intense.  I would recommend doing your research beforehand and go on a day and time where the crowds are lower, but note…the crowds will never be low.

Versailles started as a hunting lodge (massive and opulent even then), as The Louvre was the main palace in Paris.  When Louis the XIV became King, he commissioned construction on Versailles to make it bigger, grander and more opulent to be used as the main palace.  I’m sure you have all seen pictures of it or been there yourself, but it is gold, gold and more gold.  We took stupid photos in the Hall of Mirrors, haha!  Mom went down to the farthest end and I stayed at the other end and we took a kind of “Where’s Waldo” picture.  Can you see us?  (*hint:we circled ourselves in the photos and we are waving)

Where’s Karen?

 

Where’s Robin?

Then all 4 of us took a picture of ourselves taking a picture of ourselves in the mirrors.  Haha!

We were also there on the only day of the week they turn on the fountains in the gardens, the massive gardens.  They played some music and all at once all of the fountains came on.

This last evening, Mom and I went into Paris for the evening and did some souvenir shopping and had dinner.  All of you are going to throw your phones or computers when I tell you where, in Paris, we ate…Chipotle.  I know, I know!!  We were in Paris, we should have eaten at some beautiful, picturesque, sidewalk cafe!  I hadn’t eaten Chipotle in, like, 3 years, at least, and it was calling my name!  It had a little sidewalk terrace, if that makes you feel better. 🙂

And that wrapped up our cruise!  We tackled a lot of sights on this cruise, and I am really glad to have gone to the Landing Beaches of Normandy, especially.  Again, I wrote that in a separate blog, so click here to read about that.

I should have another blog coming up soon about Jamie’s and my trip to Disneyland Paris (last park on the globe, and with my mom!), then the city of Paris then to Amsterdam.  I am currently finishing this river cruise blog on the train from Paris to Amsterdam, so look for the other one soon after.

À bientôt!

 

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