Wind through fishing ports and medieval towns, tasting Normandy cuisine, visiting the D-Day invasion beaches of Normandy, finding the deep essence of calvados, pausing in ancient abbeys and the picturesque haunts of Impressionist painters, dining at a chateau in Rouen, exploring cobblestone lanes, walking in Monet’s garden at Giverny, visiting Van Gogh’s muse in Aubers-sur-Oise, a visit to a private castle, and incomparable Paris... well, riverboating seems like the only way to go! Private tasting tours, from wine to cheese to chocolate... a presentation by Sir Winston Churchill's granddaughter, Celia Sandys... stop in London, and you’ll have a tale of two cities you’ll want to tell over and over again...
Tour begins: 6:00 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 hotels 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 – at the hotel's renowned Simpson's in the Strand.
Private visit to the Churchill War Rooms
Morning sightseeing gives you a good introduction to the major landmarks (such as Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square and more) followed by a visit to one of London's most iconic sites, St. Paul's Cathedral. The afternoon is free to spend as you explore your as you please before a truly special experience – an after-hours visit to the Churchill War Rooms – the underground "nerve center" where Winston Churchill strategized World War II campaigns and the Allied route to victory.
Under the Channel to France & embark cruise
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 a welcome reception and Captain's toast followed by dinner aboard ship.
C'est Paris... an overview & a choice of museums
Begin your day in the city that Ernest Hemingway aptly called a “moveable feast” with a private, guided visit to the Musée du Louvre, the historic landmark and world's largest art museum that's home to some of the greatest masterpieces on Earth followed by an orientation tour revealing Paris icons like the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs Élysées, Place de la Concorde, the Grand Palais, the Opera Garnier and the Eiffel Tower. The rest of the afternoon is free to spend as you please in Paris or aboard the riverboat. A chocolate demonstration and tasting precedes cocktails and dinner this evening. Please note: Departures of June 6, August 16 and September 12 will feature a private, after-hours guided visit to Musée du Louvre night 4; on these departures, the choice of morning museum visit will not be offered. Ask at booking for details.
Château de Versailles or Montmartre
You have a choice today of an excursion outside Paris to Versailles, or a visit to Montmartre. Explore the Château de Versailles, the stunning palace of the Sun King, Louis XIV on a guided visit, viewing its sumptuous salons, halls, and apartments, including the Hall of Mirrors, the private Opera House and the Chapel; if you wish, join your Tauck Director for a stroll through the Château's magnificent gardens. Alternatively, a local guide leads you on a walking tour of Montmartre, Paris’ historic hilltop district – a 19th- and early 20th-century Belle Époque haven for many of the world's famed artists, home to the Basilica of the Sacré-Coeur and a still-thriving arts scene today.
Auvers-sur-Oise & Vincent van Gogh
With your riverboat docked in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, 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 his room, No. 5 at the Auberge Ravoux, which has never been rented since he died in 1890. This afternoon, sail for Vernon, enjoying a Tauck Director lecture in the lounge en route; arrive in Vernon after dinner.
Monet's Giverny & an evening at a château
Leave your riverboat for a visit to Giverny and Impressionist painter Claude Monet’s house and exquisite gardens. Personally designed by the artist as subjects for his paintings, Monet's gardens have been restored and maintained as he originally intended – complete with the Japanese bridge, the pond of water lilies, and exotic flora – so that you’ll feel like you’ve entered a Monet landscape. While in Giverny, you can also explore the Impressionist Museum at your leisure. After lunch aboard ship, spend the afternoon exploring 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. If you choose, set off on a bicycle trip from Vernon to Giverny before returning to your riverboat for an art lecture discussing the work of impressionist artists! 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, cruise 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 to enjoy the chef's Signature Dinner tonight, followed by onboard entertainment, as you sail for Le Havre.
Étretat & Honfleur or Caen & Bayeux
You have a choice of sightseeing today on France's Normandy coast – between excursions to Étretat and Honfleur, or Caen and Bayeux. On the first choice, head to Étretat on the 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, a magnet for artists in the 19th century, and visit the beach and the cliffs. Continue on to Honfleur, an old picturesque trading port where 17th-century houses line the harbor and cobblestone backstreets beckon – a favorite haunt of painters past (like Boudin, Courbet, Monet and Jongkind of the école de Honfleur, which gave rise to the Impressionist movement) and present – to explore as you please and have lunch. Or, in the port city of Caen – renowned for historic buildings from the reign of William the Conqueror, and for the heavy fighting that took place there after the WWII D-Day invasion – visit the Mémorial de Caen, with its Peace Museum and memorial gardens. Then it’s on to medieval Bayeux on the Aure River, where you’ll view the famous Tapisserie de Bayeux (Bayeux Tapestry), an 11th-century tapestry depicting the 1066 Norman invasion, and stop for lunch. Back aboard the riverboat, enjoy a lecture on D-Day by a local expert.
WWII history on the beaches of Normandy
Leave the ship in Le Havre for a tour of the beaches where World War II's pivotal 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. Reboard your riverboat in Caudebec-en-Caux to continue your cruise; enjoy evening cocktails before dining onboard as you wish.
Les Andelys, cider & 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 twin French villages below, with their 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.
Tour ends: Paris, France. Fly home anytime. Transfers are included directly from the riverboat 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.