Where in the world: A riverside tour of France with Avalon Waterways

by Sarah Welch

In October 2010, my sister and I flew to Paris where we spent two nights at the Holiday Inn Paris Notre Dame on the Left Bank.

We spent two day seeing the sights of Paris, a first for my sister. We saw all the famous landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, the Arch de Triumph, Notre Dame Cathedral and several museums filled with painting and sculpture of the masters.

We were saddened to see the fire that destroyed much of the Notre Dame Cathedral earlier that year. What a terrible loss to Paris.

Here’s hoping it can be restored to its former splendor. It holds many historical treasures and burial places of historical figures. The famous Rose Window was not destroyed!

Montmartre and the Sacre Couer sit on a hill overlooking the city. It was beautiful from that viewpoint. There were musicians entertaining and vendors selling goods.

We each bought a ‘newsboy’ cap at this point.

We boarded Avalon Waterways river ship ‘Creativity’ on the Seine River and spent an additional night there before sailing.

We had opportunities for shore excursions to the Louvre Museum or the Palace of Versailles.

We chose the Louvre as my sister really wanted to see the Mona Lisa painting. She was thrilled to see all the magnificent paintings and sculptures.

Departing Paris on the Seine River, we first docked at Conflans where we had an excursion to Auvers sur Oise where Vincent Van Gogh spent the last three months of his life.

We visited the house where he lived, the field and church which he painted and the cemetery where he is buried next to his brother, Theodore. Vincent had a very tragic life and his art was not recognized until after his death.

Our next stop was in Vernon where we took an excursion to Claude Monet’s home in Giverny. We toured the home and gardens and the famous ‘Water Lily Pond’ that he painted.

Unlike Van Gogh, Monet achieved notoriety and wealth during his lifetime.

Further on, we visited Rouen with its magnificent cathedral.

Rouen is the historic capital of Normandy and the site where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. Honfleur was another city visited from this port.

It is known for its beautiful painted slate buildings.

The next day, we boarded a bus for a tour of the Normandy beaches including Juno, Gold, Omaha and Pointe du Hoc. There are still remains of landing blocks from June 6, 1944, in the water. There are still huge holes in the ground where bombs fell at Pointe du Hoc. There are also remains of German bunkers. The most impressive visit was to the American Cemetery where 9,380 brave American soldiers are buried. Row after row of white crosses. It is very sobering to know the sacrifice that was made to free Europe from the Nazis.

After this very busy day, we boarded our ship for the return to Paris. One stop on the return was at a charming village of Les Andelys.

We were so tired from the previous day’s walking that we just took a leisurely stroll through the village. It was Sunday and we were told there were no stores open for shopping, but we looked down the street and saw a lovely display on the sidewalk.

It was a wonderful store with wonderful items like purses, scarves, pins, felted wool hats.

I can’t resist those hats, but where do I have an opportunity to wear them in Texas?

Maybe this winter it will get cold enough!

This was a thoroughly enjoyable river cruise with Avalon Waterways. The food and service was excellent. The rooms are spacious for river ships with sliding glass doors that open to seven feet with a French balcony to keep you from falling into the river. River cruising is a wonderful experience for the active traveler.

There is lots of walking in ports, but otherwise, just pure leisure on the ship.