Paris to Normandy on Uniworld’s River Baroness

Cruising the Seine River from Paris to Normandy in the fall is a wonderful, relaxing way to enjoy history, art and architecture and food and wine.

Aboard Uniworld’s River Baroness the cozy, boutique ship atmosphere allows you to  settle back and let the wonderful staff pamper you with fantastic food, historical lectures,  included shore excursions at every stop and entertainment in the lounge. Emmanuella our cruise director did an outstanding job with daily shore briefings ( gotta make sure everyone knows where to be and when) and just being there to meet the needs and answer questions of the 134 passengers aboard (and to get those sometimes balky VOX boxes to work).  Claudio our chef did a truly amazing job each night with the dinner menu- what selections with entrees like  Filet Mignon, rack of lamb, salmon, perch with lobster sauce,prime rib and desserts- baked Alaska,crepe,chocolate carmel with Grand Marnier. A daily breakfast and lunch buffet was also first class- I don’t know when he had time to sleep!

Our first stop outside Paris was Les Andelys, a quaint village that is at the base of a fortress built in 1197 by Richard the Lion Heart. A trek up the slope to this fortress, showed us why this spot with its commanding views of the river was so important. Richard got around the continent, ’cause I remember touring a fortress in Durnstein, Austria where he had been imprisoned for a while.

After this guided tour we had free time to walk along the river or head 2 blocks to downtown. We chose to borrow a couple of the bicycles on board and cruise the streets of Les Andelys, I even have a photo of “biker girl”.

Next stop Rouen (only Rex knows how to say it!) where we were transported by motorcoach, through some pretty dense coastal fog, to the beaches of Normandy. Our tour guide on board gave us an overview of what we would see and how this area came to be the invasion site. Operation Overlord was just such an incredible undertaking and to see what the allies were up against from the German defenses still visible to the nasty weather on June 6, 1944 was amazing. We walked on Omaha Beach, viewed the artificial harbor still mostly visible that had to be created to get supplies on shore at Arromanches and visited Bayeux the first town liberated. Last stop was American Cemetery at Colleville the final resting place of over 10,000 servicemen that died in this campaign with the average age being only 22. It truly was an emotional day for everyone.

Next day we are still at Rouen where we get a guided walking tour which includes the local Notre Dame cathedral of the 11th century and its famous spires. And the church also contains the tomb of Richard the Lion Heart- now if I run across his birthplace someday, the journey will be complete.

We arrive in Caudebec, the farthest point the ship will sail on the Siene, and a tour by motorcoach to Honfleur, an artist colony on the coast.

River cruise itineraries have to be flexible sometimes and tomorrow would be no exception. At our daily briefing we were informed that the French transportation workers were on strike ( not the French!) and we were stuck on the wrong side of the locks. So— back to Rouen (along with dozens and dozens of ships) and we will wait til the locks open the next day. Arrangements were made so that were taken by motorcoach the next morning to our tour of Versailles Palace. Then if all goes as planned the ship would meet us in Vernon on our return. It worked and Versailles was stunning as always, even with a little rain.

We then toured Giverny , home of Claude Monet with a very informative local guide. Just walking through the gardens, seeing the water lillies in the pond, the bridge across and the flowers blooming all around and even a nonartist can get inspired!

Early a.m. dock in Paris again and a midmorning city tour is included. Several optional tours available for purchase for afternoon or evening, but we just chose to walk the streets of Paris- and walk and walk and walk. Great fun stumbling across local outdoor markets, pastry shops, pushy vendors and students protesting something on the left bank. Even thought of looking for Jim Morrison’s, you know The Doors, gravesite, but ran out of daylight.

A wonderful farewell dinner is served that evening and the whole crew showed up. We felt like we’d known them for a lot longer than 7 days!

I’m glad there are a lot of major European rivers, because this was our third river cruise and we’ve  thoroughly enjoyed them all and would hate to run out of rivers to explore!

John and Joan