Helen Apps, Senior Travel Consultant at our Westbourne travel agents, got the chance to sail along the Seine on board the beautiful Avalon Tapestry II. On a round-trip from Paris, she visited the Normandy Beaches and Monet’s house and gardens, among other things. Here is how she found life on the river.
Destination: River Seine
Operator/Host: Avalon Waterways
(Hotel names/Ship name): Avalon Tapestry II Deluxe Stateroom
Airline: Air France
Duration: 7 nights
My flight was short, only lasting one hour and ten mins. We took off in a Dreamliner, on which the seats were more comfortable than usual and the in-flight entertainment was very good.
My first thoughts of the accommodation were "wow". It is modern with a lovely warm feel. Our stateroom was quite compact but with plenty of wardrobe and cupboard space and the bathroom was spacious with a fantastic shower. The beds faced the sliding doors, which is amazing as I could watch all the scenery go by, making the whole trip feel very relaxing. At night, the crew would come in, turn the beds down and put the television on showing a warm log fire with gentle music playing.
The trip included excursions every day. The Cruise Director gave a speech on the activities, so we knew which ones to choose. I was given a form every night to let them know what I was interested in for the next day.
I chose the following:
On every excursion, we were given a headset which enabled us to hear the Tour Guide without interruptions. I found this really useful and it helps people with hearing problems. The coach always met us near the ship, which was great for anyone with walking difficulties.
Monet Gardens – I’ve never seen so many beautiful flowers. The lake, with the lily pads from Monet's most famous paintings, was stunning. I visited the house in which he lived with his family and everything has been left as it was then. Many of his paintings were also on show. Due to the paintings being very expensive, I opted for a postcard with the famous lily pads on instead.
UK-Canadian Beach Landings - I have always wanted to go to the Normandy Beaches, as my grandfather, who I never met, died there. The first stop we visited was the famous Pegasus Bridge and the history I heard was amazing. Next stop was the war graves where we were all given a rose to put on a grave. I have never seen so many graves in all my life, all kept so tidily with lovely, colourful flowers around them. We went to Sword Beach first, where the British landed. You can still see evidence of the pontoons in the ocean; it was very interesting and emotional.
We were given a nice lunch of chicken and chips in La Marine Hotel and then it was on to Judo Beach, where the French-Canadians landed. The beach here is very long and narrow and there are no shops or houses in sight. There is, however, a lovely museum with lots of detail regarding the war. It shows how they used bicycles to get into town once off the beach, but first, they were under heavy fire from the Germans. This is where many lost their lives. In the museum, there is also a live video of the soldiers getting off the boats – it’s very moving and upsetting.
I would recommend this to travellers with a great interest in the past. If you enjoy history, culture, sightseeing, scenery and relaxing with a glass of wine and sunbathing on the top deck, this river cruise provides all of above.
The food on the ship was amazing. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were all included, with the latter consisting of a five-course meal. Drinks were also included with lunch and dinner. The only time I paid for drinks was in the bar and not the restaurant.
Breakfast included everything from cereals to English breakfast and cakes. Lunch was often in the form of a barbecue on top deck with burgers sausages salads etc. Late afternoon, pancakes were available with any topping you like.
Dinner included lots of choice from a menu which changed every night. I only had two courses as I found it was too much to eat. On the last night, they threw a farewell dinner and, blow me, it was six-courses. All of the staff came out in a line and we were all clapping; it was a great atmosphere.
Must see? Claude Monet's House and Gardens
Must do? Normandy Beaches
Must try? River Cruise
If you would like to plan your own river cruise along the Seine, the team here can talk you through the different itineraries available. Call into one of our East Anglian travel agents or any of our travel shops on the south coast for more information.