Tour begins: 6:30 PM, Trianon Palace Versailles, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel. A transfer is included from Charles de Gaulle International Airport as well as Gare de Lyon, Charles de Gaulle and Gare de Lyon stations to Trianon Palace Versailles; check-in begins anytime after 4:00 PM. Early arrivals will be offered suggestions for independent sightseeing or lunch. Your luxury hotel is a palace itself in Belle Époque style - join us this evening for a welcome reception and dinner.
Early-opening visit to Versailles
Today begins with a Tauck Exclusive - an early-opening visit to Château de Versailles. Explore the stunning palace of the Sun King, Louis XIV without crowds - view its sumptuous salons, halls, and mirrors, and legendary gardens including the Hall of Mirrors, the private Opera House and the Chapel. Then enjoy lunch at Ore, the acclaimed Alain Ducasse restaurant set within the Château de Versailles. After lunch, if you wish, join your Tauck Director for a stroll through the Château's magnificent gardens. The evening is free to spend as you please; Versailles is renowned for its fine restaurants.
Château Vaux le Vicomte & embark
Travel into the hauntingly beautiful countryside for a visit to Château Vaux le Vicomte, the largest privately owned castle in France. Built by Nicolas Fouquet in the 17th century, the château was the inspiration for the Palace of Versailles, and a pioneer of French formal gardens; a private guided tour reveals stories of intrigue intertwined with some of history's most colorful figures, art masterpieces, and architectural triumphs. After lunch at the Château, continue to Paris and board the riverboat on the Seine this afternoon; join the Captain this evening for a welcome reception.
C'est Paris... a choice of museum visit and Paris by night
Take a guided orientation tour of Paris this morning, then have your choice of three museum visits (subject to opening times and days): Musée de l'Orangerie, in Jardin des Tuileries, designed by Monet specifically to display his giant water lily canvases; Musée Rodin, dedicated to the works of the French sculptor; or Musée d'Orsay, Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works housed in a former railway terminal. Spend time on your own, then join us tonight for dinner aboard ship followed by entertainment.
In Paris - a military museum and a visit to the Marais District
Visit the palatial War Museum, Musée de l'Armé, with its astonishing collection of military weapons from different time periods; aptly, Napoleon's tomb is here, at the Church of the Invalides. Or you can choose a tour of the exclusive Marais District, with its fashionable shops and classic sidewalk cafés. Tonight your ship leaves Paris for Conflans-Sainte-Honorine.
Auvers-sur-Oise and Vincent van Gogh
Dock in Conflans, then drive to the town of Auvers-sur-Oise, where Vincent van Gogh spent his last days. The town has hardly changed since, so you'll be able to recognize scenes from his paintings, including the view of the town hall, seen from the upper window of his room at the inn. You can also visit van Gogh's room, No. 5 at the Auberge Ravoux, which has never been rented since he died in 1890. While you're in town, you'll also visit to the Absinthe Museum - a Tauck Exclusive - dedicated to the legendary green drink (banned for many years), which was said to be the muse (and downfall) of so many turn-of-the century poets, painters, and writers; a tasting is included. Return to the ship for lunch and free time before sailing to Vernon, a charming town of winding lanes, half-timbered houses and medieval châteaux; enjoy a stroll after dinner.
Explore Giverny, where it's all about Claude Monet, and a special evening at a castle
Leave your riverboat for a visit to Giverny and Claude Monet's house and exquisite gardens. The gardens were personally designed by the artist as subjects for his paintings, where he could rearrange the composition at will, and they've been maintained as he originally intended - the Japanese bridge, the pond of water lilies, and exotic flora - so that you'll feel like you've entered a Monet landscape. Return to the ship for lunch, then the afternoon is free to explore Vernon as you please - it's a fabulous place for walks. Smaller towns and villages are home to a wealth of cultural treasures, and offer you the chance to immerse in daily life. Half-timbered houses, and wrought-iron shop signs line cobblestone streets that retain their Middle Ages character... the neo-classical architecture charming! This evening, you'll visit Château Bizy, "the Versailles of Normandy" that was once home to Louis XV, for a Tauck Exclusive reception and dinner with music in a setting of Baroque splendor.
This morning, sail to Rouen, which Victor Hugo called "the city of a hundred bell towers". Once the prosperous medieval capital of Normandy, Rouen still bristles with spires and entices with Gothic churches, impeccably restored half-timbered houses, and picturesque cobblestone lanes. Joan of Arc was tried and burned at the stake here in 1431, and her presence is immortalized everywhere - in monuments within the town, in churches, and even in chocolate-almond confections called "Joan of Arc's tears." A walking tour of Rouen reveals the heart of the town including the Notre Dame Cathedral that inspired artists and writers, the Astronomical Clock, Château Rouen, and the Saint Joan Tower. Enjoy free time to explore the city's historic center on your own before returning to the riverboat for dinner; tonight you sail for the Normandy Coast.
Explore Étretat and Honfleur
This morning, visit Étretat on Normandy's Alabaster Coast, where sheer white cliffs plunge to the blue sea, and the elements have carved astonishing giant arches from the cliffside rock; an orientation tour of the town, once a magnet for artists like Boudin and Monet, is fascinating. Continue on to Honfleur, an old picturesque trading port where 17th-century houses line the harbor and cobblestone backstreets beckon... a favorite haunt of Impressionist painters. (In fact, the painters drawn to the town, like Boudin, Courbet, Monet and Jongkind, were the center of the école de Honfleur, which gave rise to the Impressionist movement.) Following lunch and free time on your own, return to the riverboat. This afternoon, a lecture on the D-Day invasion offers insights into the historic locations you'll visit tomorrow.
A poignant visit to the beaches of Normandy
Leave the ship in Le Havre for a tour of the beaches where the D-Day landings occurred on June 6, 1944. See Omaha Beach and Pointe-du-Hoc, where American troops scaled sheer cliffs with ropes and fire ladders to reach enemy artillery batteries, and visit the American Cemetery and Memorial at Colleville-sur-Mer, on a bluff overlooking the beach; the tranquil setting and its history will not fail to move you. Lunch at the Omaha Beach Club; visit the museum at Arromanches, where the remains of an artificial harbor used in the invasion still lie offshore, or spend free time on your own. Then depart for the town of Caudebec-en Caux, where your riverboat awaits you.
Les Andelys & the secrets of cider and calvados
Arrive in Les Andelys, two fishing villages at a scenic bend in the river where the imposing ruins of Château Gaillard rise on a cliff. The castle was built in 1198 by Richard the Lionhearted, Duke of Normandy, to defend against an invasion from the King of France; it fell after a siege in 1204. The ruins in their picturesque setting overlooking the Seine are still there to inspire - as they have generations of painters like Nicolas Poussin. Visit a ciderhouse (another Tauck Exclusive) to learn how the many variations of Norman apple cider - and calvados, an apple brandy renowned in this region - are made... and of course enjoy a tasting of both. Ramble in the classic French village, known for its medieval lanes, before returning to the riverboat to cruies to Paris. Tonight, join the Captain for a farewell reception and dinner.
Under the Channel to London by TGV
Depart the ship in Paris this morning and board a TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse / "high-speed train") that will whisk you to England by way of the tunnel under the Channel. Arrive this afternoon in London, where you'll stay two nights at The Savoy hotel on the Thames, a luxury landmark since 1889; as the hotel boasts, "you'll follow in the footsteps of Sir Winston Churchill, Frank Sinatra, Claude Monet and Katharine Hepburn at this iconic hotel reinvented for the 21st century where an unashamedly old fashioned glamour sparkles with a new lustre." You'll get a good introduction to some of the major sights, after which you'll have free time to explore on your own.
A day in London, as you please
A morning guided visit to the British Galleries at the Victoria & Albert Museum is followed by free time to discover what interests you most. Your hotel's central location puts you in easy reach of all the landmarks of this legendary city, including the Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, the British Museum, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, and Trafalgar Square... and if you want to see it all in one go, you might consider a ride on the London Eye, the giant ferris wheel (or as they call it in London, "cantilevered observation wheel") where spectacular 360-degree views afford you an opportunity to see everything as far as Windsor Castle if the weather is right. Join us for a Tauck Exclusive at our special farewell reception and dinner this evening - a presentation by acclaimed author and television presenter Celia Sandys, granddaughter of Sir Winston Churchill.
Tour ends: London. Fly home anytime. Transfer is included from The Savoy hotel to Heathrow Airport. Allow at least 3 hours for flight check-in.