Romantic River Cruises – Summer on the Seine
Joan of Arc, Victor Hugo, Richard Lionheart and Monet; the banks of the Seine have provided home and harbour for many historical greats and epic river cruises. In terms of a romantic getaway, it doesn’t get much better than this. Cliff side castle ruins and rustic French landscape decorate the banks of the Seine on this seven day cruise beginning in Paris.
The enchanting town of Les Andelys is the first stop, a castle-crowned settlement steeped in legend. The middle age castle looms from the river bank, home to the final chapters in the life of the great military leader Richard the Lionheart. Impressively said to have been built in a year, the views from the castle walls sweep right out over the curves of the Seine and the sprawling valleys beyond.
The luxury boat provides a perfect way to travel, as Normandy’s beauty lies in the landscape between the towns as well as the settlements themselves. The journey to Caidebec en Caux was just as beautiful as the historic market town which awaited us at the end of it. Caidebec is a sensory feast of culture and colour. The market there has been running for 600 years, with the stained glass windows and spires of the Gothic church of Notre-Dame acting as an impressive backdrop. From here we visited St. Wandrille and St. Martin de Boscherville, both quaint villages on the banks of the Seine. Franceís most stunning stretch of coast was also explored at Le Havre and Etretat, waves crashing against the alabaster cliffs and natural arches.
Honfleur is a beautiful working port, scenes of which can be found in art galleries across the world, some by local artist Eugene Boudin who was one of Monet’s teachers. The seafood suppers here are one of the town’s main attractions. Picturesque narrow streets and a lively quayside are backed by a host of unique shops and eateries.
Rouen is Normandy’s capital, a magical maze of cobbled streets, tall timbered houses and gothic churches. The walking tour followed in the footsteps of Joan of Arc past the immense Gothic Cathedral and to the square where she was burnt at the stake. This is also the city where the heart of Richard I was laid to rest. The steeples rising from the river scenery include France’s tallest. Look out for the ornate one handed clock which is hidden between black and white timbered buildings.
Next was a visit to Giverny, the location of Monetís house and famous lily pond. The gardens have been maintained and planted as they were in Monet’s day, with weeping willow and lily pads looking beautiful in the distinctive local light.
The trip ended gloriously in Paris. A coach excursion took in all the famous sights including the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs ElysÈes, the city’s grand boulevard. I spent the rest of the afternoon in a cafe eating pastries and sipping coffee, watching the fashionable folk of Paris passing by and feeling truly continental.