I’m not sure when the desire to visit Normandy Beach began – but once the idea hatched in my head, the passion to realize this adventure grew into an obsession! Perhaps, as a veteran and a lover of history, it’s just natural that I’d want to not only visit this historic site, but also to take a group of veterans with me!
Paris – the starting and ending point of this adventure – always sizzles while Normandy beckons with its stunning coastline, incredible food and artistic beauty. Monet’s Gardens, Rouen’s Cathedral of Notre Dame and the charming harbor town of Honfleur, will inspire you the same way as they inspired the great Impressionists.
For inspiration of a different kind, travel the “Routes des Abbayes,” visiting some of the most magnificent monasteries, and to the unforgettable beaches of Normandy where Allied forces landed during WWII’s D-Day invasion. Relive the grandeur of royalty at Château Malmaison, the former home of Napoleon and Josephine Bonaparte, and at Chateau de Bizy, once referred to as “the Versailles of Normandy.” Blend a passion for the good life with culture, art, architecture and timeless landscapes, and you have Northern France.
On Day One, you’ll board your luxurious cruise ship in Paris, the wonderous “City of Lights.”
On Day Two, uncover the history of Chateau Gaillard, the former stronghold of Richard the Lionheart, situated on the chalk cliffs high above the Seine, on a morning tour. Or, if you prefer a more active adventure, you can hike there from the banks of the Seine, admiring the scenic waves on the way. You could also explore the area by bike, with a guided bike tour through the charming town of Les Andelys. After your adventures, set sail along the meandering Seine, enjoying the beautiful views of the Seine valley’s dramatic white cliffs and centuries-old half-timbered houses.
In La Havre on your third day, you’ll have several different choices of excursions, during both the morning and afternoon, depending on your interest. You can choose between a full-day excursion to the seaside town of Honfleur, known for its’ picturesque harbor, and for being the inspirational site for many Impressionist artists; or you can enjoy a half-day excursion that includes a market visit and free time. You can split your time between Honfleur and the Pays d’Auge region of Normandy, where apple cider, Calvados and pommeau outrank French wine. This excursion includes a scenic coastal drive through Beaumont-au-Auge and Pont l’Eveque with a Calvados (apple or pear brandy) tasting. During the afternoon, you can join a city tour of the UNESCO-designated La Havre. Or you could visit Etretat, where nature has carved fabulous shapes out of the white cliffs – again an inspirational site for Impressionist painters. There’s also a bike tour of La Havre.
Experience the Normandy region with one of three tours on Day Four. For those wishing to go to the American sector of the historic Normandy Beaches, you will visit the cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, Omaha Beach, the artillery battery at Longues-sur-Mer and the village of Arromanches, where the remains of the floating harbor used during the WWII landings can be seen. If you prefer, you can tour the Gold and Juno beaches in the British and Canadian sectors, where you will visit Ranville Cemetery, Pegasus Bridge, the Canadian cemetery at Beny-sur-Mer, the WWII museum in Courseulle and finally Arromanches. If you wish to experience a different kind of inspiration, the Romanesque Normandy Abbey Route will take you to the magnificent historic abbeys of the region. Or journey back in time with the interactive exhibits and vessels at the Seine Museum.
In Rouen on day five, you can Spend the morning enjoying medieval Rouen with a choice of three excursions. Join a walking tour past the imposing Notre Dame Cathedral, painted numerous times by Monet, and see the square where Joan of Arc was martyred, as well as the Medieval Quarter and Great Clock. For those who wish to be more active, you can join a biking or hiking tour around the city. Later in the day, you can explore the Jewish area of Rouen; or go on the “Tastes of Normandy” tour, where you’ll be treated to the delicious flavors of the region, including chocolate, cheese and cider.
On day six, in Vernon, you will have a choice of three excursions, depending on your interests. Visit Claude Monet's home and gardens in Giverny. Art lovers will immediately recognize images immortalized in Monet's most beloved paintings-such as water lilies, Japanese bridges and graceful willow trees. Wander around his famous gardens and home where he lived for more than four decades. Alternatively, visit the regal 18th-century Château de Bizy, inspired by the opulence of Versailles and enjoy an escorted tour of the palace and gardens. If you prefer a more active adventure, go on a guided bike tour, taking in the beautiful French countryside.
Travel to Auberge Ravoux in the heart of Auvers-sur-Oise on day seven, the last home of artist Vincent van Gogh. His spirit still lingers in his former attic rooms at the Ravoux Inn. The mere 70 days Van Gogh spent in Auvers-sur-Oise were astonishingly prolific as he painted more than 70 works here before his death. Or enjoy the youthful energy of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, with its museums, bookstores, churches and galleries. If you prefer something more active, strap on your helmet and pedal around the city of Conflans. Later in the day, relax on the Sun Deck or on your balcony as the ship takes a scenic cruise on its way to Paris.
On your final day, you will bid farewell to Paris as you prepare to return home – with an emotional appreciation of an event that shaped our history, and a new love of the wonders of the “City of Lights.”
If you would like more information about the Paris to Normandy river cruise, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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