|Avalon Waterways' Tapestry II "Suite Ship" river cruise vessel. Photo: © Avalon Waterways. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
In celebration of Plan a Cruise Month and the #CruiseSmile #Sweepstakes, we embark on the second week of themed cruises and this week, it's all about cultural exploration—the heart and soul of my European travels. The spotlight shines on river cruising, my personal favorite way to see the sights of Europe. Among the featured cruises this week is Avalon Waterways' "Paris to Normandy" river cruise. Won't you come along?
Our voyage begins and ends in Paris, and as we ply the waters of the River Seine to Normandy and back, we'll explore the cultures along the way and pay our respects to those who lost their lives on the on the beaches of Normandy. Our intrepid river-going vessel is of the Avalon's Suite Ship class—Tapestry II, with stops in Vernon for a visit to Giverny or Chateau de Bizy; Les Andelys to explore the Chateau Gaillard built by Richard the Lionheart in 1196; Caudebec for two days to ensure we have time for the Thatched Cottages tour or the venerable Normandy Abbeys on day one, followed by a somber visit to the beaches of Normandy or a savory indulgence in the flavors of Normandy; Rouen is where Monet captured the Notre Dame cathedral in an exquisite series of paintings, and visit the Church of Joan of Arc; Conflans will offer a choice of Auvers-sur-Oise, the charming village where Van Gogh lived and died; or Napolean and Josephine's magnificent Château de Malmaison. It's definitely a week chock full of cultural exploration and immersion!
"America is my country and Paris is my hometown." Gertrude Stein
Bienvenue à la City of Light—Paris! From soaring heights atop the iconic Eiffel Tower and the flying buttresses of Notre Dame to scenic views along the Seine and a walk through Montmartre, Paris captivates us with its visual romance. By day or by night, Paris truly is the City of Light; whether it's bathed in brilliant sunshine or imbued with an overcast light, Paris seduces us with its beauty—moments of poetic expression onto the magnificent canvas of historic landmarks, Parisian cafés and cobblestone lanes. The evening hour casts a misty glow from the ambient light along the avenues, lighting our way to the dazzling array of dancing lights at the Eiffel Tower.
Vernon to Les Andelys: Giverny or Chateau de Bizy.
|One in a series of 18 paintings that Claude Monet completed of the Japanese Bridge in Giverny. Photo: Wikimedia.org.|
For nearly 43 years, Monet called Giverny home and completed some of his most famous works under the unique light of the Seine Valley. The Avalon Waterways tour guides visitors on an inspirational walk through his charming house, exquisite gardens including the lily pond and the Japanese bridge, and inside, to admire the collection of Japanese prints that inspired many of his works as well.
|The inspiration for Chateau de Bizy came from the Royal Palace of Versailles just outside Paris. Photo: Theoliane. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
Chateau de Bizy is also called Normandy's Versailles because of the inspiration provided by its aka namesake palace just outside Paris. Renowned for its stables, the chateau dates back to 1675 when France's last king ordered its construction. But it wasn't only the king; the Albufera family, descendants of Emporer Napoleon's brothers, was also responsible for building this magnificent royal chateau. Some of them still live there today.
During lunch, the ship sails to Les Andelys where tour guides will be waiting to escort guests on a guided walk through the town including the Parish Church of Le Petit Andely. Looming high above the village is the imposing Gothic fortress—Chateau Gaillard, built in just one year by King Richard the Lionheart in 1196. Today, it remains a masterpiece of medieval military architecture!
Caudebec offers a choice of a tour along Route des Chaumières (Thatched Cottages) to see the enchanted cottages with blue doors and shutters; or it's off to the magnificent Normandy Abbeys on a tour through a region whose microclimate, ideally conducive to the production of apples, pears, plums and cheeries, attracted more than 100 abbeys in its day! The afternoon is leisure time or guests can opt for an excursion to the picturesque coastal town of Honfleur.
|After spending the morning on the Thatched Cottages tour or the Normandy Abbey's, opt for the excursion to a picturesque village of Honfleur along the coast.|
On the second day in Caudebec, it's off to the beaches of Normandy: Omaha Beach, Juno Beach, Pegasus Museum et al. Or we could opt for more savory indulgencies on a tour through the region and while it's renowned for its dairy, apples and grain, it's the Camembert cheese and Calvados apple brandy that draws visitors and locals alike. We'll get to sample some of the brandy at a local distillery.
|The beaches of Normandy offer a somber visit in memory of all those who lost their lives on D-Day.|
Located on a hill overlooking Omaha Beach, The Normandy American Cemetery is the resting spot for more 9,387 members of the military, of which 2,000 were Americans, who gave the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. Here you can retrace the steps of the Allied forces as they landed on the northern coast of France on that fateful day back in June 6, 1944 also known as D-Day.
|One of Monet's favorite subjects, the Rouen Cathedral. Photo: WikiMedia.org.|
Art, history and architecture take center stage in this culturally-rich city of Rouen. Dominating the skyline along the Seine is the striking Notre Dame de Rouen, the Gothic cathedral immortalized in Monet's 28-piece collection of paintings that include multiple perspectives of the cathedral seen at different times of the day as well as at different seasons of the year.
In Rouen, we remember another solemn time in our history when Joan of Arc was tried, convicted and burned at the stake in 1431 in the marketplace of Place du Vieux-Marché. In 1979, the Church of Joan of Arc opened in her honor. After a visit to the church, meander the medieval lanes lined with half-timbered houses and don't miss the Gros Horloge, a mechanical masterpiece of clockwork design that dates back to the 14th century.
|Gros Horloge or Big Clock dates back to the 14th century. Photo: Jean-noël Lafargue. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
On day six of the cruise, Conflans offers more choices, this time between a tour of Auvers-sur-Oise or Napoleon and Josephine's Chateau de Malmaison. What to do?
Along the banks of the Oise River, Auvers-sur-Oise is the enchanting village where Vincent van Gogh lived and died 70 days after his arrival. Not only van Gogh but a number of artists lived in the village including Paul Cézanne, Charles-Francois Daubigny, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot—among others. Auvers-Sur-Oise captivated van Gogh so much so that the artist created more than 70 paintings in his short time there. We'll visit the Auberge Ravoux (Ravoux Inn) where he lived in room number 5.
Other Auvers-sur-Oise highlights include Daubigny's house, a short walk from Auberge Ravoux; Notre Dame d'Auvers; and the Museum of Absinthe for a journey back in time to the Belle Epoque where visitors to this two-story stone cottage will learn about the history and production of the "green fairy" liqueur, one of van Gogh's favorite indulgences.
Chateau de Malmaison
|The southwestern facade of the Chateau de Malmaison aka the Manor house. Photo: WikiMedia.org.|
Purchased with the Tuileries Palace by Josephine Bonapart in 1799, Chateau de Malmaison is a magnificent country estate that not only served as the Emperor and Josephine's residence but also the French government's headquarters for a two-year period at the beginning of the 19th century. As we all know the Tuileries Palace burned in 1871 and was demolished that same year. The area on which it stood has since remained open to the adjacent Tuileries Gardens.
Return to Paris
|One of Paris' most picturesque neighborhoods can be explored via rue Norvins. Photo: © Brian Jannsen Photography. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
Our Avalon Waterways Paris to Normandy comes full circle as we make our triumphant return to the City of Light for one more full day of cultural immersion in the French capital. This will be your last chance to catch up on all the sites you missed at the beginning of the cruise, or perhaps this is the opportune time to travel slowly and soak up that sweet Parisian culture. Meander through the cobbled streets of Montmartre and grab a table and revel in the quintessential Parisian-café scene! If you ask me, I opt for the latter for more opportunities to connect with the vibe of the city and even meet the locals.
|Visual romance of Paris is truly captivating! Photo: © Brian Jannsen Photography. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
This video tour over Normandy includes many of the places described above. Enjoy!
Introducing the Tapestry II
|Avalon Waterways' Tapestry II "Suite-Class" river cruise ship. This photo is the property of Avalon Waterways. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
Avalon Waterways revolutionized the river cruise industry by designing their ships and itineraries around their guests—Inspired Design. Proud to claim title to having the largest standard staterooms and suites on Europe's waterways, the Avalon Suite Ship Tapestry II was launched in 2015 and features two decks of Panorama Suites, each with floor-to-ceiling windows that transform your stateroom into an Open-Air Balcony for total destination immersion! And it doesn't stop there! Amenities include fitness center, flat screen TVs, Sky Deck with shade system, whirlpool, free Wi-Fi, and much more!
Once you arrive at your destination, an educated and informative guide can make all the difference in the world when it comes to a culturally-rich experience. Rest assured that Avalon employs best Certified Local Guides in the business!
|Cultural discoveries await on board Avalon Waterways. Photo: © Avalon Waterways. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
|Welcome aboard Avalon Waterways' Tapestry II Suite Ship. Photo: © Avalon Waterways. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
|Panorama Suite interior on board Avalon Waterways. Photo: © Avalon Waterways. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
|Observation Lounge on board the Tapestry II. Photo: © Avalon Waterways. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
Now, see it for yourself!
Twitter chat offers more chances to win!
For even more cultural immersion, follow along on Twitter this Tuesday to learn more about the variety of “Cultural Exploration” cruises. Tweet along for a chance to win some fabulous prizes from our cultural-exploration cruise-line partners.
- @AmaWaterways @AvalonWaterways @CroisiEurope
- @cunardline @OceaniaCruises @PrincessCruises
- @tauck @UniworldCruises @WindstarCruises
|Discover cultural exploration on board Avalon Waterways. Photo: © Avalon Waterways. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
Prizes during THIS 2-hour event only include:
- American Express Gift Cards
- MSC Cruise Bathrobe and Candle
- Gift Bag of prizes from Cunard Cruise Line
- $50 American Express Gift Card from CroisiEurope
- Anthem of the Seas Gift Bags from Royal Caribbean
- Carnival Cruise Lines Prize Pack
Times and Info:
- When: Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2016
- Time: 12 – 2 PM ET
- Hashtag: #CruiseSmile
- Follow: @cruisesmile
Cultural Exploration week continues through October 16 so give us your best #CruiseSmile, load it to CruiseSmile.org and then share it with the world on Twitter or Instagram or both. Be sure to include hashtags #CruiseSmile #Sweepstakes with every tweet and Instagram post.