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Trip Report History, Art, and a Magnificent City, The Seine: Paris to Normandy

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We took the Grand Circle Travel (GCT) trip, The Seine: Paris to Normandy, taking the pre-trip extension Paris, France and the post-trip extension Brittany & Mont St. Michel, France, leaving on March 25, 2012 and returning April 12, 2012. The entire trip was 19 days. We traveled in the Paris to Normandy direction. We thoroughly enjoyed this trip. We had wondered if the pace would be too sedate, traveling on 220 miles by river over the duration of the trip, but we found the pace to be about right.
This is only a summary. I have written a very detailed blog using Google Blogger. It is http://jackthetravelingman-seine.blogspot.com. There are many pictures, videos, links and maps.
The time in the pre-trip in Paris was largely free time, and, in hindsight, we probably would do it independently and for at least a week, staying in a modest hotel more convenient to the attractions, as opposed to the very nice, and expensive one more remote from the heart of the city.
Once on the ship there was a good mix of included activities, optional activities and free time. Travelers of all but the most extreme activity levels would be satisfied. Our trip started with 3 nights in a large Paris convention hotel, and then there were 10 nights on the ship cruising from Paris to Honfleur in Normandy, then finishing with 3 nights in a small hotel in St, Malo, and finally 1 night in an airport hotel back in Paris.
As I said, for us the pre-trip in Paris was largely free time, but with a program director to provide assistance. The cruise started with 3 nights in Paris. The first day was largely free time. The second day was a very good but brief tour of Paris by bus, followed by an excellent, optional guided tour of the Louvre. That night there was an excellent dinner cruise of the Seine up through Paris and then back after dark through the illuminated “City of Light”. This was on our cruise ship, the MS Bizet. It was the only cruise ship that we saw doing this.
In the morning, there was a guided optional tour of Versailles by bus, returning to the ship before sailing to Conflans to overnight there. In the morning, we took a relatively short by ride to Auvers-Sur-Oise for a locally guided Van Gogh tour. Some parts of this could be moderately strenuous, but those that don’t want to walk up to the cemetery can stay behind at the church and be picked up by the guide on the way back. After we returned to the ship we sailed for Vernon, pausing along the way to see Rommel’s headquarter as of D-Day. We did not go ashore, but just paused in the river.
The next morning we started with a tour of Monet’s home and gardens in Giverney, a short bus ride from Vernon. This was guided be our program directors, as it is relatively compact and self-explanatory. In the afternoon, we could wander around Vernon.
The next morning, we sailed for Rouen stopping along the way at the quaint small town of Les Andelys, where Richard the Lion Hearted had a fortress. We arrived in Rouen after dark. The next day, we had a guided tour of Rouen including the cathedral with an excellent local guide. After lunch, there was a shuttle bus into downtown, although it was not a long walk.
In the morning we sailed for Honfleur, stopping in Caudebec, another lovely town with a walking tour and a school visit in the morning. In the afternoon, we took an optional bus tour to Fecamp, and its museum quality B&B Distillery and Etretat where Monet painted. We arrived at Honfleur after dark. We docked right in the center of this beautiful harbor town. This was the base for the Normandy beaches, and just a wonderful town to walk around in.
This was the end of the main tour, but we continued to a small hotel in St, Malo for 3 nights to visit St, Malo, Mont Saint-Michel, Dinan and other small towns. The highlights here were St. Malo itself and Mont Saint-Michel. After our time there, we returned to our airport hotel in Paris, stopping at the Cathedral of Chartres for a locally guided tour of this magnificent cathedral. The next day, we were taken to the airport and assisted with the check-in procedure
As I said earlier, this is only a summary please read my blog at http://jackthetravelingman-seine.blogspot.com.
Whether you are interested in the Grand Circle trip, or in any other cruise line, IMHO, this blog is worth reading, as it has many links and pictures particular to these destinations, not just to this cruise.

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