Tour begins: 7:00 PM, The Savoy. A transfer is included from London's Heathrow Airport to The Savoy, one of the world's most prestigious hotels, situated on the banks of the Thames in the heart of the city; check-in begins after 4:00. Settle in at The Savoy, 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." Join us for a Tauck Exclusive at our special welcome reception and dinner this evening - a presentation by acclaimed author and television presenter Celia Sandys, granddaughter of Sir Winston Churchill.
A day in London... well spent
Morning sightseeing gives you a good introduction to the major landmarks, after which you're free to explore on your own. What to do? Your hotel's wonderful central location puts you in easy reach of most of famed sites such as the Tower of London, the British Museum, Westminster Abbey, and Trafalgar Square... but if you'd like to see it all in one go, consider a ride on the London Eye, the giant ferris wheel (or as they say in London, "cantilevered observation wheel") which will take you aloft for an aerial view where you can see everything as far as Windsor Castle if the weather is right. Dine on your own this evening in a city where virtually every world cuisine is well represented!
Under the Channel to France by high-speed train and embark ms Swiss Sapphire
Depart London this morning for passage to France, by way of high-speed train under the English Channel. Within a couple of hours you'll arrive at the Paris Nord station, and from there a transfer takes you to the Seine, where your riverboat awaits. Settle in, then join us for dinner aboard ship.
C'est Paris... a choice of museum visit or walking tour of Montmartre
You have sightseeing this morning for your first morning in Paris. First - it's your choice of museum visits (subject to opening times and days): Musée du Louvre, the historic landmark and world's largest museum that's home to some of the world's great masterpieces; Musée National de l'Orangerie, housing Claude Monet's Water Lilies and other Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works; or Musée d'Orsay, a former 19th-century Beaux-Arts railway station that today features a superb collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works. Alternatively, a local guide leads a walking tour of Montmartre, the historic district that is home to Basllica of the Sacré-Couer and was the 19th- and early 20th-century Belle Époque haven for many of the world's famed artists. The afternoon is free to spend as you please in Paris (or you can join us for a cultural presentation onboard the riverboat, which stays docked in Paris all evening).
In Paris - a military museum and a visit to the Marais District
Visit the palatial War Museum, Musée de l'Armée, 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 wealth of medieval and Renaissance architecture, fashionable shops and classic sidewalk cafés. Return to the ship for a chocolate tasting; this evening your riverboat sails to Conflans-Sainte-Honorine.
Auvers-sur-Oise, Vincent van Gogh - and absinthe
Embark on a guided walking tour of Rouen, where Joan of Arc was tried and burned at the stake in 1431 (and her ashes consigned to the Seine). Once the prosperous medieval capital of Normandy, Rouen still bristles with spires and entices with Gothic churches, half-timbered houses, and picturesque cobblestone lanes made for strolling. Here you'll see the Notre Dame cathedral that inspired painters and writers, the Astronomical Clock, the Chateau Rouen, the Saint Joan Tower, and the Musée des Beaux Arts, featuring painters who once populated the local cafes. After returning to the riverboat for lunch, visit Jumièges Abbey, once one of the great Benedictine abbeys of France. First built in 654, this wealthy limestone abbey grew to house 700 monks and 1,500 lay brothers in its first 50 years. Destruction came in waves when it was attacked by Viking raiders between 841 and 940, rebuilt in the 11th century, then razed again in a succession of French wars. Today it reigns unrivaled in a parklike setting that evokes memories of its former grandeur, giving measure to what Victor Hugo called "the most beautiful ruin in France." Join us this evening in Rouen for a Tauck Exclusive - dinner with music at a local chateau.
Explore Giverny, where it's all about Claude Monet, and a special evening at a castle
Your riverboat arrives at Les Andelys, named for 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. A marvel of engineering, the fortress was constructed in only a year, using thousands of workers; it was thought to be impervious, but the king attacked anyway, and Richard's "one year daughter" 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, as you explore the grounds on a guided visit. Next, ramble in the classic French village below, with its medieval lanes, colorful half-timbered houses and gardens; visit a ciderhouse and local family farm to learn how the many variations of apple cider (Normandy's "wine") - as well as Calvados (apple brandy) - are made, blended, distilled and aged in oaken casks... and of course enjoy a tasting of both.
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, churches, and even in chocolate-almond confections called "Joan of Arc's tears." On a walking tour you'll see the Notre Dame Cathedral that inspired artists and writers, the Astronomical Clock, the 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 Le Havre.
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; take an orientation tour of the town, once a magnet for artists like Boudin and Monet. 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 artists 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, enjoy free time to explore the town's streets, shops and harbor on your own, before returning to the riverboat.
World II history and 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.
Arrive in Les Andelys and discover the secrets of cider and Calvados
Your riverboat arrives at Les Andelys, named for 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 Lionheart, Duke of Normandy, to defend against an invasion from the King of France. A marvel of engineering, the fortress was constructed in only a year, using thousands of workers; it was thought to be impervious, but 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, as you explore the grounds on a guided visit. Next, ramble in the classic French village below, with its medieval lanes, colorful half-timbered houses and gardens. Travel a short distance from town to 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. Return to the riverboat and cruise to Paris; tonight, join the Captain for a farewell reception followed by dinner.
A day at a private château
Travel into the 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, followed by a rustic country luncheon served in one of the historic buildings on the grounds. Enjoy free time to peruse the gardens and estate on your own before returning to Versailles. The evening is free to spend as you please; Versailles is renowned for its fine restaurants.
Early-opening visit to Château de 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. Return to the hotel in Versailles and join us this evening for the pièce de résistance, a farewell reception and dinner.
Tour ends: Paris. Fly home anytime. Transfer is included from Trianon Palace Versailles, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel to Charles de Gaulle Airport, Gare de Lyon station, Charles de Gaulle station and Gare du Nord. You should allow 3 hours for flight check-in at the airport.