Your Parisian rhapsody... flows through the heart of the city of l’amour, meanders through painted landscapes and flowers with romance in seaside villages and exquisite gardens along the Seine...
Impressions of France... rendered on canvas on a private, early morning visit to Musée du Louvre, quickly captured by street artists in Montmartre, gilded into a golden palace at Versailles, indulged during a château dinner, distilled into apple brandy and cider, carved into a clifftop castle, and floating in a Water Garden... linger long after you return home. Follow the Seine to coastal Normandy on a 10-day journey that’s sure to impress. Discover the art of Paris for two nights before a 7-night cruise to Rouen, Honfleur and Giverny, immortalized by Impressionist artists. Visit D-Day beaches, sample Calvados where it is made, dine at a private château and more before returning to Paris via riverboat.
Arrive Paris and embark ms Sapphire
Tour begins: 4:00 PM. A transfer is included upon your arrival from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport or the Gare de Lyon, Charles de Gaulle or Gare du Nord train stations to your riverboat on the Seine. Settle into your cabin and make yourself at home, then join us for cocktails, canapés, dinner and entertainment at tonight's welcome reception aboard your ship. Join us this evening for a Tauck Exclusive – an after-hours guided visit to Musée du Louvre. A showcase of Impressionist paintings. the museum is housed in a former royal palace, astounds with an incomparable collection of some of the world's greatest art masterpieces – old masters, sculptures, antiquities – and the Mona Lisa.
Choice of sightseeing in Paris
Your first full day in Paris promises to delight with a choice of sightseeing options. Join us for an orientation tour of city landmarks with a stop at Les Invalides to see Napoleon’s Tomb. Alternatively, take a guided walking tour of the historic Marais district; or explore the islands of Paris on a comprehensive walking tour that includes Île de la Cité (where Notre-Dame is located) and Île Saint-Louis. Return to your riverboat for lunch, then the remainder of the day is at your leisure to explore Paris as you please. Your Tauck Director can offer suggestions for sightseeing, people watching, art viewing, garden strolling and, of course, wining and dining.
Palace life in Château de Versailles
Château de Versailles is unequaled in its display of regal splendor and privilege. Louis XIV (the Sun King) built this “country home” to escape the confines of the Louvre and Paris in 1682, and made it large enough to house all of his courtiers and servants – it was eventually expanded to include 2,300 rooms; he also built the town of Versailles while he was at it. Prepare to be dazzled when your guide takes you inside the palatial estate to see opulently decorated rooms in the King’s Apartments, including the superb Hall of Mirrors where the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, ending the First World War. If you wish, enjoy some free time or take a tour of the chateau’s gardens. The gardens are a monumental counterpart to the palace in design and décor, a showcase of magnificent bronze statues, patterned flower beds, lakes, fountains and architectural gems, from a marble colonnade to two smaller palaces. Meet your riverboat and sail for Rouen, which is home to Joan of Arc memorial sites.
Historic monuments in Rouen
Enjoy informative insights about the history and sights you’ll see today as we spend the morning cruising to Rouen. Victor Hugo called Rouen “the city of a hundred spires,” and while the ravages of war destroyed many of the steepled buildings he was referring to, those that still stand today are rich with historical associations. A guided city tour this morning shows you the Gothic Cathédrale Notre-Dame, immortalized in close to 30 paintings by Impressionist artist Claude Monet, and the Place du Vieux Marche, site of Joan of Arc’s untimely death when she was burnt at the stake. Normandy is lush with fertile landscapes that make its agricultural endeavors flourish and prosper. World-renowned Camembert cheese is produced here along with meat, poultry and fruit products – local specialties that offer an authentic taste of the region. Enjoy the Chef's signature dinner in the Compass Rose as your riverboat continues to Le Havre tonight.
Caen & Bayeux or Étretat and seaside Honfleur
From Le Havre on the English Channel coast, choose your sightseeing activity for the day; one option is a visit to Caen and the Caen Memorial, followed by a short drive to Bayeux and a visit to the Bayeux Museum; your other is a guided visit to Étretat – a village steeped in history and cultural treasures where agriculture and dairy products are mainstays and farms dot the countryside. Explore the beach resort town on a guided tour; sheer cliffs cut in a perfect arch protrude into the sea and then make your way to Honfleur for an orientation tour and lunch. The first Impressionist artists, including Claude Monet and Charles-François Daubigny, developed their painting style in Honfleur, one of the most charming fishing ports in Normandy. See a parade of Renaissance architecture and half-timbered houses along its cobbled streets as you discover for yourself why this colorful town was so beloved by artists. Back aboard ship, an interesting lecture about D-Day, one of the most somber dates in history, shares insights on the immortalized sites you will see tomorrow.
Guided visit to the Normandy beaches
For more than 70 years, the D-Day beaches along the Côte de Nacre have stood as poignant reminders of the historic Allied operation of June 6, 1944, when a massive armada of troops, with more than 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft, converged on the heavily fortified coastline to fight Nazi Germany. The wartime code names for the beaches along this 50-mile stretch still exist – Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, Sword – paying proud tribute to the heroism of the thousands of soldiers who lost their lives here. Our expert local guide shares insights during stops at Omaha Beach, bordered at each end by large rocky cliffs, and the American Cemetery, located on a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach, eternal resting place for some 9,300 American World War II soldiers. Return to the riverboat to continue your cruise; enjoy evening cocktails before dining onboard as you wish.
Jumièges Abbey & an evening at Château du Taillis
After a morning walking tour of Caudebec and lunch aboard the riverboat, drive along country roads past churches and châteaux in various states of repair to 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.” Tonight, you’ll have the opportunity to experience "the good life" in Normandy when you enjoy a gala evening including a private reception, dinner and music at the picturesque Château du Taillis.
Château Gaillard and tastes of Calvados and cider
Château Gaillard is the crowning centerpiece of Les Andelys. Built in 1197 by the King of England, Richard the Lionheart, during a power play with the reigning King of France Phillip II, Château Gaillard was lauded as the strongest castle of its time. What remains today evokes images of how this medieval castle looked and operated at its height of power, with the riverside views affording you the same vantage point coveted by its royal inhabitants. Pommes, apples in English, play an important part in the history of Normandy, with apple orchards taking root in Roman times. While the first cider was said to have been distilled in 1553, before that the Norman apple was used in poultices, ointments and cosmetics (hence the term “pommade”). With over two thousand varieties of apples, Normandy is naturally proud of its cider and of its Calvados – apple brandy, for which this region is also famous. Visit a local farm for a taste of both en route back to your riverboat. Cruise to Vernon for a late afternoon arrival.
Impressionist painter Claude Monet’s home & gardens at Giverny
Giverny invites discovery today on a Tauck Exclusive early-opening visit that shows you painter Claude Monet's home as he lived it and painted it. His pink stucco house gives the impression that his family of 10 still lives there; its rooms showcase his private furnishings and his collection of Japanese prints adorn walls throughout. Outside, you’ll find easels displaying works-in progress in his garden studios, including replicas of the immense water lily paintings that hang in Paris at the Musée l’Orangerie, and the gardens that inspired them. You will have time to walk pathways bordered with nasturtiums, hollyhocks, hybrid lilies or snapdragons, depending on the season’s blooms, and go through the tunnel that leads to the Water Garden and the oft-painted Japanese Bridge. Later this morning, you'll have the opportunity to visit the Impressionist Museum followed by lunch aboard the ship. After an afternoon at leisure, join us tonight for a farewell reception and dinner.
Tour ends: Paris. Fly home anytime; a transfer from your riverboat to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, Gare de Lyon Station, Charles de Gaulle Station and Gare du Nord. Allow a minimum of 3 hours for flight check-in. For additional hotel nights in Paris, ask at booking.