Tag Archives: France

Towel Art

We understand that towel art is a “thing” now at hotels. Nevertheless, we really enjoyed coming back to the room each day to find out what shape our towels might be in. We especially liked when they used our items (hat, iPad, apple) to complement the towel art. This is making a difference and creating customer satisfaction at very little cost!ImageImageImageImageImage

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Day 6: Les Andelys

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A calm day today. Too calm for Ellen, but we had no choice in the matter.

We finally left Rouen this morning. Breakfast on the ship, disembarkation briefing at 10, lunch at noon, all on the ship.

We got to Les Andelys just before 1, and took off on our own. The town had not much, a nice church in the center, a few shops and restaurants, and a Richard The Lionhearted castle on the top of the hill. It was a steep walk up, but worth the climb for the views of the town and the Seine.

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We stopped at a bakery in town and Ellen picked up a few things.

We set sail again around 3. Viking was offering a gallery tour today, so we took it and got to see the kitchen. Interesting how small it is to feed 150 people.

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In the evening, held prisoner on a moving ship, we dined aboard for the captain’s dinner. It was 4 courses, all the staff paraded around the dining room, it was quite the production. We dined with a couple from Colorado, retired educators. They made good dinner companions, and the 2.75 hour meal went by reasonably fast.

The end of the trip, unfortunately is in sight. Tomorrow we visit Versailles and return to Paris. One more dinner in town, and we fly back on Sunday.

I wrote 3 special blog posts the last couple of days, on the ship, the technology behind the blog and Passover. Check them out in your leisure.

Au revoir!


Passover in France

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So how do you keep Pasover when on a river cruise in France? It took some advance planning.

This is a common issue, as we travel during Ellen’s spring break, which always coincides with Passover. So I do a virtual Seder in my head, knowing why this night is different than all other nights.

First, I had 2 days of our trip before Passover started. Not that you can gorge on baguettes enough for a week in 2 days, but it was nice to start on bread.

With just a carryon-sized suitcase, I still decided to bring things with me, so we wouldn’t have to traipse around looking for matzah. So I brought a pound of matzah, boxes of raisins, 3 chocolate bars, 4 granola-type bars, gummy bears, the candy gel fruit slices and a box of tea bags, all kosher for Passover. So yes, I’ll have room in my suitcase going home.

I usually keep Passover fairly strictly, but that isn’t quite possible when eating out. So I’m avoiding bread, but not worrying so much that there may be corn products in sauces, yogurt or the like. I actually doubt the French adulterate food like we do.

So I bring some things to nosh on when we are out, bring my box of matzah to breakfast and lunch, and avoid anything bread-ish as best I can.

It’s why we haven’t made it to Italy, because that would just be cruel to not eat pizza and pasta there. But otherwise, it works.


Day 5: Normandy Beaches

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Of all the sights and experiences for this trip, I was most looking forward to today.

It was an early rising day, up at 6, breakfast on the ship, and the busses departed at 8. We had a 2 hour ride to the beaches of Normandy. It began to twin as we approached the coast, and then turn into a wet snow. It wasn’t very pleasant out, and I really hoped it would clear up by the time we got to the cemetery.

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Our first stop was the Musee de Debarquement. We learned of the complete port built in England and floated to France, allowing for supplies to be provided to the troops coming on shore. Fascinating.

The whole tour had lunch at Brasserie Left 6 Juin down the street from the museum. Decent meal given the out of the way location.

I really liked the Batterie De Longues Sur Mer. I messed up my camera settings there so this came out, otherwise look at their website. The German guns in concrete, impenetrable bunkers were soberi

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Next was the Normandy American Cemetery and Museum. As many pictures as you’ve seen of the rows of crosses, it is still a stunning sight. Our tour guide made a little speech when we got there, we had a moment of silence and then sang the National Anthem. So moving.

I was taken by the Jewish stars that appeared here and there. I left a stone on a couple of them.

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Our last stop was down on the Omaha Beach. The memorial for the 60th anniversary of D-Day was an interesting metal sculpture, so different from the usual marble.

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Then it was time for the 2 hour trip to return to Rouen. We had of course booked dinner in town, at what may be the oldest restaurant in France, where Julia Child developed her love of French cooking. If you have been in business since 1345, you must be doing something right. The restaurant was La Couonne. We had the prix fix meal for only €35. I had an appetizer of tuna in lemon sauce, Ellen had duck pâté. We both had duck in a berry sauce with cabbage and asparagus. When i commented go Ellen that she was having a lot of duck, she responded: “That’s one tasty little quacker!” Ellen loved the cheese course that followed. And Ellen had a chocolate dessert, I had ice cream with fresh fruit.

The dining room we ate in was wood timbered, dark and red with wooden ceiling beams. The waiters were formal and an older woman who was host for the night walked among the tables, talking with everyone. She spoke English with us, asking where we were from and how we enjoyed the meal. It was an experience of a meal, French fancy as opposed to French simple at the bistro yesterday. But we definitely like Rouen and could have found more restaurants to dine at.

Tomorrow is mostly sailing, with a visit to one small town along the way. To our horrors, we learned we will have to eat all 3 meals on the ship tomorrow! It should be fine as we start our return to Parris.


The Ship

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Here is a view of the Viking Spirit, our floating hotel for 7 days. It holds about 140 passengers, has a dining room on one end, a lounge on the other, and cabins in the middle. There is a sun deck up top, not that it is getting much use on this trip.

What we enjoy most about river boats is that their size allows them to dock right in the middle of the towns we visit, so no time is wasted getting to see the cities along the river.

We are truly treating it as a hotel, since we most like to travel independently. We are skipping the walking tours in most cities in favor of doing our own, using guidebooks or tours from the TI office. And if all goes to plan, we will only have eaten dinner on the ship the first night, as we are taking advantage of the schedule of being docked each night and, well, being in France where the food is amazing.


Day 4: Rouen

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Pictures are going to be smaller today, our satellite Internet on the ship is not cooperating.

Today was an easier day, as we sailed in the morning. A lecture at 10am delivered the story of Joan of Arc, essential for visiting Rouen.

We were the first off the ship again, right at 1pm when we arrived in town. Up the hill to the TI office, which was right across the street from the Cathedrale Notre-Dame. Monet stayed in the building right across the street and painted the church over 30 times. Ellen had Rick Steves’ walking tour on her kindle, so that guided us around the town. The church had been heavily damaged in World War II, you can still see the patchwork in the ceiling where the spire crashed though after the bombings.

The streets had the half timber buildings we had seen in Vernon, but more of them, whole blocks long.

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The Church of Joan of Arc is quite modern, built in 1997 on the site of her burning. The shape of the roof is meant to evoke the flames.

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Walking the streets of Rouen was wonderful, it is large enough to have 2 department stores and lots of shops. There were a large number of chocolate shops, each with tons of nicely decorated, handmade Easter candy. We stopped to get out of the cold and had afternoon tea/coffee before seeing the grand clock, Gros Horologe.

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We walked back to the ship for a brief visit and to hear the plans for tomorrow’s visit to Normandy. Then we were back out to town. Ellen found a great bistro, Gill Cote Bistro, the informal cousin to a more fancy and expensive restaurant. We arrived for dinner at 7:30pm and were the only ones in the place. Everyone else who came later was French, we took that as a good sign. We had wine, veal for Ellen and chicken for David, and shared a huge dessert, thick dark chocolate with hazel nuts on the button, light chocolate mousse on the top. Yum!

We walked back to the ship, uploaded our pictures to our iPads, and are turning in early with an early 2 hour bus ride to the beaches tomorrow.

I’ll end with a picture of the Palais de Justice, whose outer walls still bear the marks of the Normandy invasion.

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Day 1: We Take Paris

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This vacation has gotten off to a great start. Our flight on Air France left and arrived on time. Even though we were in Economy, we were relatively comfortable, enjoying adjoining aisle seats. I watched the ESPN “30 for 30” on Jimmy Valavano, entitled “Survive and Advance” on my iPad NC State’s championship year was my senior year at Duke, so I remember it well. Film brought tears to my eyes, tracing the paths of that season and Jimmy V’s cancer fight.

We arrived in Paris around 8:30am local time on Sunday. Passport control was easy. We waited awhile for out luggage, at which time we found that my phone was working with Verizon Global Data, but Ellen’s wasn’t. That wouldn’t work out well. So a quick Skype call to tech support got that straightened out by the time our luggage came out. Viking took care of our transfer, so we hopped on their bus to our ship.

The ship is docked just a 10 minute walk south oft the Eiffel Tower. Our room was ready when we arrived. We ate a light lunch in the lounge, and then spirited off the ship to get going. An advantage of all our travel is we can hit the ground running. We don’t have the “stranger in a strange place” feeling anymore, so we just pinch ourselves that we are in Paris and try to take advantage of it.

First stop was Musee D’orsey, which we got to via a 3 stop ride on the Metro. It is housed in a train station built in 1900 for the World’s Fair and houses the best impressionist collection anywhere.

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One of the brilliant things Ellen did to plan this trip was to buy a 2 day Paris museum pass and have it delivered at home before we left. That way we completely skipped an hour long line and went straight in. Time is your most precious commodity when traveling, so getting to do more and not waste time in line is terrific.

We enjoyed the Monets, Renoirs, Van Goghs etc. We then walked along the Seine and had a snack at a pastry shop on the left bank. I need to get my baguettes in before Passover starts.

Next we walked to Sainte Chapelle. The stained glass in the church is just breathtaking.

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Last destination of the day is Ellen’s favorite place on earth, Notre Dame Cathedral. She says she feels a spirituality there unlike anywhere else. Palm Sunday services were going on, so it took about 20 minutes to get in, but it was worth the wait. It appeared to be the Cardinal giving the sermon.

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We each got tokens from Notre Dame, for 2€, commemorating the church’s 850th year this year. Pretty amazing, right?

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We took the Metro back to the ship, arriving back around 6pm. We had originally intended to go out to a restaurant for dinner, but not having napped at all, we were too tired to have enjoyed that. So we ate on the ship, enjoying a great steak in beer dish that was quite tasty. We were joined by a couple currently living in Mexico, but perhaps moving soon to Ashville, NC. We had an interesting conversation.

We are now ready to collapse. We have a full day in Paris tomorrow and have lots to accomplish. We hear there may be sun tomorrow, so maybe the pictures won’t all be so gloomy.

One technical note for those who get email notification of new blog entires: the ship features free WiFi, which is wonderful. The speeds however are not. So I have to upload in pieces, especially the pictures. So wait an hour after you get the email, and then come looking.

Good night!