Feb 5

Written by: chris
2/5/2018  RssIcon

French River Cruising on the Seine: Paris and Normandy              

I’m delighted to be hosting – with my wife Dara - a wonderful group of Canadians who are travelling with Discount Coach Tours and Avalon Waterways on a special group that was created for Travel Show listeners to sail down the great River Seine in France. Our journey aboard Avalon’s vessel Tapestry II will take us from Paris, down the Seine to Normandy as far as the Atlantic tides, and back upriver to Paris again.

After an overnight transatlantic flight, it is a magical moment to board the ship and collapse on my super comfy bed and look up to see an 11 foot wide, floor-to-ceiling view of Paris. Even better: the windows slide open a full seven feet. There is no more civilized way of seeing Europe than watching it slide by your open-air balcony of your Avalon stateroom, glass in hand...

Avalon's Tapestry II is a magnificent vessel. Brand new in 2015, it is 361 feet in length, four decks, 128 maximum passengers with 37 crew. The ship features two full decks of Panorama Suites with Wall-to-Wall Panoramic Windows that transform the living space into an Open-Air Balcony. Onboard amenities include a Fitness Centre and a spacious Sky Deck with shade system, whirlpool, deck games. It is the perfect place to view a 360-degree panorama of the Seine Valley.

Cuisine is an important part of any cruise...and particularly so on a Seine Cruise when you pass through one of the great gastronomic regions of France. Avalon take Haute Cuisine so seriously that they have literally written the book on it! The Chef is one of the most important people aboard Tapestry II. The standard of cuisine that Chef and his team conjures up each day is remarkable, and he takes great care to reflect the local specialties in the day's menus.



It is great to meet so many listeners who heard about the trip on the Travel Show. Many are trying river cruising for the first time and they are discovering how relaxing it is on this beautiful river with the French countryside drifting by… We have cast off from Paris in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower and we are heading down river towards the delights of Normandy.

Avalon includes most shore excursions in the package. Today we are exploring the beautiful gardens at Giverny created by the impressionist painter Claude Monet. This is the famous lily pond with its Japanese bridge.

The gardens are a work of art in their own right, though they are most famous for Monet’s many paintings inspired by the natural kaleidoscope of colour.

Monet’s home at Giverny is fascinating to tour. It sits amidst the magnificent gardens that bloom from March to October. Here in September, the gardens are a riot of colours and it is easy to see why Monet found this an inspirational place to paint. I am looking forward to seeing his paintings in the Musee de I’ Orangerie when we return to Paris in a few days’ time. 

Travelling along the Seine with our Discount Coach Tours group of lively Canadians aboard the Avalon Tapestry II, we visited Gaillard Castle today. It was built by Richard the Lionheart in the 12th century and commands stunning view over the Seine River Valley and the town of Les Andelys far below. From here, Richard protected his domains in Normandy from the French king, but after his death in 1199, his feckless brother King John lost the castle and his lands in Normandy. 


The wonderful thing about River Cruising is that you dock in the centre of historical communities that were built along the river banks. This delightful town of Petit Andely is moments from our Avalon ship.

We arrived at the quaint riverside town of Caudebec-en-Caux on the tidal reaches of the Seine River. It was a hop skip and a jump down the gang plank and a steep climb to a 2000-year-old fort overlooking the charming town, the river, and our Avalon Tapestry II.

With many of our party from Discount Coach Tours we took the Abbey Route today. This is the imposing ruin of St Jumieges Abbey. Dating from 1067, and now an imposing and atmospheric ruin, the Abbey was inaugurated by William the Conqueror.

One of the highlights of this trip was a visit to the famous Bayeux Tapestry. This amazing embroidery has survived nearly 1000 years and still vividly portrays the story of William the Conqueror’s conquest of England. 

The cuisine of Normandy is world famous. Its creamy sauces, apples and cheese are rich and delicious. This Avalon excursion visited a Calvados distillery. Out fellow Canadian travellers enthusiastically took to tasting the Calvados and cider produced here.

Our Avalon river cruise on the Seine has now reached Rouen. One of the joys of river cruising is walking down the gangplank directly into the heart of Europe’s medieval cities. A few minutes from our ship, our Discount Coach Tours group arrived at Rouen’s greatest treasure – the Cathedral of Our Lady which was begun in the 11th century.

The history of Rouen is inextricably linked to Joan of Arc. It was here that she was tried and burned at the stake in 1431. This beautiful modern church was built on the very site of her martyrdom. The Historical Jeanne d’Arc experience in Rouen vividly recreates the events of her short life.

A highlight of our stop in Rouen was 360 Panorama XXL. This is a fully immersive, incredibly detailed recreation of Rouen in 1431 AD. Housed in a huge silo and viewed from multiple levels, it transports visitors back to everyday life in Medieval Rouen.

We are very much enjoying our hosted cruise with Avalon on the Seine in France. Today we cruised further upstream to the cute little town of Conflans in the company of our Canadian group of Travel Show listeners. It's a busy little place with a medieval church and fortress and neat, tree-lined streets.

just a few kilometres from Conflans is the palace of Malmaison which Josephine purchased and decorated for Emperor Napoleon. Our group of Travel Show listeners was guided around this beautiful imperial home by Ivan, another of the expert guides that Avalon use for each tour.

This is the opulent bedroom of Josephine herself at the palace of Malmaison. It was here that she died in mysterious circumstances with the estranged Napoleon at her side.

Our Avalon river cruise on the Seine has finally brought us back to Paris. The Avalon Tapestry II was able to take us right into the heart of Paris and we had a fabulous view of the Eiffel Tower from the ship. Our group with Discount Coach Tours enjoyed a walking tour and visited the famous Notre Dame cathedral.

Avalon also plan in free time and I took the opportunity to visit the Musée de l'Orangerie to see Monet’s well known painting of Water Lilies. This closed the circle nicely from our earlier tour of Monet’s garden, which inspired his work.


All good things have to come to an end! Our Avalon Waterways river cruise on the Seine in France has been a memorable trip. I have so many memories and have enjoyed so many included shore excursions as we explored Normandy and Paris. In particular it has been good to meet so many Travel Show listeners who were part of the group organized by Discount Coach Tours. Here is a picture of all my new-found friends aboard the Avalon Tapestry II.

Two websites you may wish to explore if you are interested in this journey:

www.AvalonWaterways.ca for European river cruises and others further afield.

www.discountcoachtours.ca for booking your river cruise or tour.


Copyright ©2018 Chris Robinson

Tags: Europe

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