19 July, 2015
Bon jour, Bienvenue a Paris! Can you believe it? Now I am in Paris! What can I say but WOW, WOW, WOW! If first impressions are really lasting impressions then Uniworld river Baroness really ticks all the boxes. I have been on board exactly two and a half hours and already I have enjoyed scrumptious lunch with a delicious glass of French Wine. I have been accompanied to my stateroom and been shown all the features of the gadgets in my room,
found the Nougat and Vahlrone Chocolates, unpacked for the week, organized my washing, had a shower using L’Occitane products and am sitting in the Monet lounge enjoying high tea and waiting for our safety meeting to begin at 5.30.
I have had a little look around and found the very well equipped Gym and Beauty salon. I have more to explore. All the while watching the ships sailing past on the Seine. I can’t wait to start sailing.
At 6.30 we will enjoy a “Sail away party” on the sundeck and stop at the Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty for a photo shoot. Dinner is at 7.30 – 9.30 in the Van Gogh Restaurant. I will be taking lots of photos to show you and I promise to keep you posted.
20 July, 2015
River cruising is so smooth that you feel as if you are gliding instead of cruising. Have you ever had a melody in your head that just doesn’t seem to want to go away? Well, this morning I woke up with the beautiful melody “along the River Seine” from the 1953 movie Moulon Rouge playing in my head. I Thought how beautiful and how appropriate as we are gliding up the river Seine
We have a wide variety of delicious food at every meal. We are spoilt for choice. This morning I enjoyed a delicious breakfast of fresh, juicy Peaches and Apricots that are in season here in France. Also, home made Yogurt and a slice of toast with home made preserve. I could have chosen to have a cooked breakfast but I was too excited as I knew what was in store for us today. After breakfast we took a coach to the dear little village of Giverny where we visited Monet’s beautiful garden and walked throughout his home.
I have been told so much about this beautiful garden by our dear friends Lynnie and John that I couldn’t wait to visit it for myself! I was not disappointed – it is truly stunning. We strolled Round for two hours. We watched as a gardener in a row boat cleaned the Water Lilly pond.
When I asked him if I could take his photo he stood up and posed leaning on the Oar – a true artist at work. Monet would be proud of him.
Inside the house every room was as I imagined it would be. Monet’s studio is a true Artist’s Paradise.
His paintings were hung all over the walls. Out of every window the vista was inspiring.
I suffered “Copper pan envy” when I saw Monet’s collection of Copper Pans in his kitchen.
Not only was Monet a brilliant Artist he was also a gourmet cook of considerable repute.The ambience of both his house and his garden was serene. We returned to the ship for lunch and again were spoiled for choice. There was delicious local seafood to choose from, soups, hot roast meat and vegetables, cold salads and cheeses and a dessert bar to die for! And of course the appropriate French wines to match.
This afternoon we sailed to Les Andelys a devine little village featuring half timbered houses
a historical monument which dates back to the 11th Century. The scenery was stunning. Back on board we enjoyed a delicious high tea of dainty cakes, pastries, crepes, sandwiches and even a chocolate fountain to dip our fruits in. Today’s cocktail was “the River Cosmo” a delicate shade of apricot with secret ingredients and possibly lethal (just joking) We set sail again and conquered our 6th and final lock for this forward journey of the Seine. Before arriving at Rouen at 10.30pm we enjoyed a Welcome gala dinner where the women looked glamorous and the men looked splendid in the evening attire.
I have photographed the menu for you to peruse. Enjoy!
21 July, 2015
Of the 79 passengers onboard, there are mainly Americans with just 8 Australians and 4 English people. Everyone is really friendly and polite. I have been made very welcome on everyone’s table and enjoyed some interesting and enjoyable conversation. We have one young lady aged 15 (nearly sixteen) but the rest are aged between 45 and 85. I was paid a high complement today. An American Lady told me that I remind her of Nicole Kidman – same looks and accent. I only wish I had Nicole’s figure and Bank balance – she can keep Keith though! I am happy with my Barry! This morning after another delicious breakfast of fresh fruit and Eggs Benedict we walked off our meal with a two hour guided tour of Rouen.
The highlights included Le Cathedrale de Notre-Dame which is gothic in style and dates back to the 11th century.
It famously houses the tomb of Richard the Lionheart, which contains the heart, or half heart as I will now explain. According to our knowledgeable and highly entertaining tour guide Barbara Scaetta, in the 1950’s a Archaeologist opened the tomb, removed the heart, sliced it in half and returned one half to the tomb. The other half is protected and kept in the Museum. barbara researched this and was able to see the half in the museum whilst she was studying for her national Tour Guides certificate.
Following our visit to the Cathedral we continued walking down the bustling Rue du Gros-Horloge to take photos and learn about the Gros Horlage astronomical clock.
We continued on and visited the very spot where St Joan of Ark was burnt at the stake.
We entered the L’Eglise Jeanne d’ Arc in the centre of Place du Vieux Marche. This is a large modern structure that dominates the square. It is famed for it’s collection of stained glass.
i am very much looking forward to hearing our Art expert give a signature lecture: “The River Seine in the Impressionist’s paintings” at 4pm today. After dinner this evening I plan to walk to the Cathedral to see the amazing light show that they putting on there.
22 July, 2015
Good Morning everyone. We sailed overnight and I have just woken up at 5.30am to bring you the latest blog. Finally we have internet connection. Hooray! This time yesterday I was rising also because we had to leave early with a long day ahead of us. The Itinerary included driving to the D-Day Landing beaches of Sword, Juno, Gold, Utah and a visit to Omaha beach. And later in the day a visit to the American Cemetery with a remembrance ceremony Along the way, coach 3 (my coach) went to Bayeux to see the magnificent Tapestry. We commenced our trip at 8am and didn’t arrive back at the ship until 7.30pm. Our wonderful Coach driver Gaspa guided us skilfully through narrow lane ways as the main highway was still blocked by the farmers who were striking for better conditions and payment from the big Supermarkets and fighting for Government support. The day before the Farmers had turned their Cows out on to the Freeways so at least we only had to divert around Tractor blockades!
Our visit to the Bayeux Tapestry was fleeting but we were intrigued by the skills of the Artisans who created this beautiful 70 metre long Tapestry depicting the battle of William the Conquerer that took place on 14 October 1066. And how they managed to tell the story in pictures because over 1000 years ago so few people could read or write.
The day was intermittently sunny and cloudy but still very warm. Our American and Canadian passengers, some who had booked this Uniworld cruise especially to visit the D-Day landing beaches were looking forward to this event with great expectation. Those who knew people involved wanted to see the areas where their loved ones had fought and died and been laid to rest so that they could pay homage, gain a sense of understanding and finally come to accept. Operation Overlord was the code- name for the Allied invasion of Northwest Europe when Allies crossed the river Seine on June 6 to August 19, 1944. The first ever prefab harbour was created by the British in Arramanches. It was Churchill’s brainchild and was named Port Winston. 17 old ships crossed the English Channel and were sunk by their crew and formed the first shelter. 115 Football pitch sized cement blocks were towed across the Channel and sunk, creating a four-mile long breakwater 1.5 miles off shore, creating a port the size of Dover. Then 6 floating steel “Pier heads” with extendable legs were set up and linked to shore by four-mile long floating roads made of concrete pontoons. Within six days, 54,000 vehicles, 326,000 troops and 110,00 tons of goods had been delivered. Over sixty years later, the Normandy invasion still remains the largest seaborne invasion in history.
We visited the Normandy landing beaches and
marvelled at the remains of the prefab harbour. In the afternoon we visited the American cemetery.
It was a deeply moving experience for many of my fellow passengers. Uniworld provided the most beautiful Wreath of pure white Lilies with a beautiful White Satin Ribbon.
In respect to my fellow travellers I will not be posting photos of the beautiful and moving ceremony because there are sons, daughters and family members who were deeply emotional during the service and I will respect their right to privacy.
23 July, 2015
What a day it has been. Starting at 5.30am and now it is 10.15pm and still light enough for me to see my Ipad to write my blog for you. I am sitting on the top deck of the Uniworld River Baroness with a gentle breeze blowing as we glide gently down the Seine and I tell you about my day. The waiter has just bought me a steaming hot Cappuccino and a blanket that he wrapped around my shoulders to keep me warm. I am so thrilled that I chose Uniworld as they are an excellent River cruise Company. No request is too small or too large and everything is done with a smile. Just lovely. As I have mentioned before, there is a farmer’s strike going on throughout France. And today we saw some of the worst of it. In France the people take great pride in the appearance of their lovely homes and gardens. Even little cottages display colourful window boxes of flowers. The roundabouts have beautiful displays of summer flowers and every public building has flowers on show. Today as we commenced our journey to Honfleur we were held up by the strike and I was shocked to see the distruction performed by the desperate farmers. A truck laden with Manure shot pass us and I was very pleased that he didn’t drop his load on the road in front of our coach.
All the main freeways are being blocked with only minimal traffic being allowed through.
At the first blockade we waited about half an hour to be allowed to pass and when we finally did we saw the disgusting sight of meat carcases thrown to the side of the road. Later, piles of rotting meat was being cleared away by Government employees. Hay was strewn over roads as were empty cartons and car tyres. Some areas were a complete mess. Our dedicated Tour Guide Domenique rang through to the Uniworld office and soon a decision was made to drive us through the little narrow one way streets of Nomandy, not the main Freeways. Not since the Normandy invasion had the local residents seen three bus loads of tourists being whisked through their neighbourhood! It was a bit like a comedy you would see on T.V. One lady stepped out of her Caravan in a pink dressinggown on her way to the bathroom in a camp park when she looked up to see our coach wizzing past, another in short shorts watering her garden looked a bit horrified to see a bus load of middle age people staring at her, a man in a singlet and pjs enjoying his first coffee for the day looked very surprised to see us peering into the open door of his cottage as our coach passed his house.
The houses are built very close to the road so we saw some interesting sights. We also saw the most beautiful Archecture, gardens, monuments and rural farms with Flax, Sugar beet, Corn and Sunflowers growing and everyday people going about their business.
It is not hard to see where the Impressionists got their inspiration from. Honfleur is an Artist’s colony and there are galleries and workshops on every corner. Honfleur is a Harbour commune located on the Southern bank of the Seine. It is a picturesque and best preserved port of Normandy with a population of 8,200. It is also a located close to the exit of the Port of Normandy.
The port is chacterized by it’s houses with slate-covered frontages.
The Vieux Basin (old Port) has been the subject of many artists, including Gustave Courbet, Claude Monet and Johan Jongkinf, forming the Ecole de Honfleur which contributed to the appearance of the Impressionist movement.
At lunch time we drove to a wonderful little distillery and enjoyed a lunch of fresh local produce accompanied by some Calvados (apple Brandy)
We later drove to view the Cliffs of Etretat, the subject of many of Monet’s paintings.
24 July, 2015
This morning was very relaxed. I got up early to finish the blog that was not posted yesterday because of the lack of internet connection. I commenced the blog at 8am as the River Baroness arrived at Mantes La Jolie and finished just before we departed again at 8.30am. I have come to realize that once the Engines are cut I can get better reception.
Whilst many of the passengers disembarked for a tour to the Palace of Versailles, I had decided that I would not visit again as I have now been to Versailles twice.
So I relaxed on board and solicialised. Today I met a lovely couple from America, Sherrie and Nick. I sat in the beautiful Monet Lounge chatting with them and taking photos as the river swept by.
At 12.30pm the River Baroness arrived at Conflans.
After a delicious lunch of roast Turkey with all the trimmings and delicious dessert, this afternoon I joined a walking tour of Auvers-Sur-Oise and walked in the footsteps of Vincent Van Gogh. I walked through the town where Vincent had spent his last days painting, saw the Wheat field where he had shot himself and visited his grave at the cemetery.
Our Art expert Corvine accompanied us telling us stories about his sad life and pointing out the places where he had painted his beautiful paintings. Beside each of the subjects of his painting was a copy of his art so that you could compare the subject to his interpretation.
We are due to set sail again any minute now for our final stop in St.Denis (Paris).
25 July, 2015
One of the most rewarding moments in Genealogy is when you manage to “put flesh on the bones” of the person that you are researching. Today as we walked around the Streets of Paris and visited the Musae D’Orsay, we managed to do just that.
If over the last week we have “walked in the shoes” of the Impressionists then today we watched how they put brushes laden with paint on their canvases!
We began the day doing “Paris as the Parisians do” with a speedy Metro ride to the Hotel de Ville, a walk to the Notre Dame for a visit inside. Admiration of the beautiful Rose Windows with their glorious coloured glass, historical statues and stunning architecture. We then did a spot of shopping at the Saturday Markets.
There was so much to see, I could have stayed there for hours. Our Tour guide Corvin bought us a variety of savoury and sweet pastries and Gateau and to finish our trip to the Markets, we had a picnic in the park as a surprise.
We watched Crepe Chefs trawling batter across the heated Crepe maker with their toppings of Citron Et Sucre, Confitures and Nuttella set up and ready to spread on the delicious smelling Crepe once cooked. Then quickly folding and wrapping them ready to be eaten while still hot by the hungry customer as they strolled through the streets of Paris.
We caught the coach in front of the Sorbonne University to go back to the River Baroness for lunch, which as usual was delicious.
Along the way we drove past the Louvre, the Plas de la Concorde,the Paris Opera and many more iconic Paris institutions.
After lunch our coach dropped us off at the Musae D’Orsay where we spent the afternoon being instructed by Corvine on the Impressionist artists works of art and taking photos of their masterpieces and hoping that we can remember their technique for when we get back to our Easels.
26 July, 2015
My last day in Paris. Boo hoo! I will miss Paris and France. We have been very lucky with the weather, it has been fine most days. I have also been spoilt rotten on board Uniworld River Baroness. The staff, the food, the Itinerary and the ship are all wonderful.
I am sitting in the beautiful Monet Lounge writing to you with a big Itinerary ahead today.
We vacated our rooms at 8.30am and our luggage will already be at the Airport waiting for us when we arrive. Our Porter will meet us there and help us by carrying our luggage and also to help us to check in.
Today I am flying with Air France from Paris to Dublin.
At present I am waiting for my Airport transfer and hoping to dodge the mounting traffic that will be building for the arrival of the first “Tour de France” rider.
We arrived at Charles De Gaul Airport. It is huge! We maneuvered our way through the throngs of travelling public. I was very grateful for the help of my kind Uniworld Porter as I don’t think I could have managed on my own. Both bags were checked through as we were on a small Air France Avro aircraft with no room for carry on baggage. Luckily there was no charge for the second bag.