Heading back to Paris

Day 25-27, Aug 14-16, 2022

After 2 nights in Rouen, the base for our Normandy Excursion, we set sail early in the morning for our next stop at Les Andelys before returning to Paris.  The cruise was now heading upstream on the Seine River, which at 482 miles is the second-longest river in France. It flows northwest from the Burgundy Region through Paris, where it divides the city into the Right Bank and Left Bank (according to the direction the river flows). Going upstream meant we would again pass through six weirs and locks that were built between Paris and the English Channel.

The Captain chats with the operators of the lock

The weather was finally cooling off a bit after several days well into the 90’s, and it was a pleasure to sit out on the veranda in 80-degree temps under cloudy skies to work on notes from our excursions.

Les Andelys, France

Arriving at the port around 1:00pm, it was nice to get off the ship for a hiking tour up to Chateau Gaillard castle. Les Andelys is best known for the imposing castle overlooking the city, and we couldn’t wait for a good huff and puff on the way up:

From the ship we could see the ruins of Chateau Gaillard, our destination

It was a moderate hike up to the ruins, and once there we were treated with sweeping views of the Seine as it wound its way through the countryside. The stronghold was built in the 12th century by Richard the Lionheart of England, who was also Duke of Normandy. The structure is considered the most dramatic sight anywhere along the Seine between the coast and Paris. It guarded the Seine River Valley and was a key structure in a vast system that defended Normandy during the Wars of Religion.

Les Andelys village and the Seine River
Our beautiful Viking Seine Ship, Radgrid, can accommodate 168 guests and 46 crewmembers

Back to Paris

We arrived back in Paris the following morning with a full day of multiple (3) excursions, and a good way to end the first of our two cruises in France on a high note. Our morning excursion was at Château de Malmaison, a very elegant manor house once home to Josephine and Napoléon Bonaparte.   It was a welcome relief to visit after the horrific crowds at the Palace of Versailles. We had plenty of time to look around and admire the understated elegance and detailed decorations with only a few other folks:

We roamed the grounds and admired the gardens and flowers. I was thrilled to see three black swans!

Our second excursion was a last-minute inclusion in the tour of the Louvre Museum plus dinner.  We had tried to book this excursion months ago, but it had already been sold out so they put us on the waiting list.  As we were enjoying lunch on the ship, the Guest Services manager came up to our table to advise us that there was a last-minute cancellation and we were in!  We were very excited, but the problem was that it was to leave in 30 minutes!  We jumped up from our table – skipping dessert 😦 – and ran to our stateroom to get ready.  I had booked another tour of the Louvre Museum from another tour operator for us to take on our own, but I happily cancelled it immediately. We preferred to go with the Viking guided tour, plus dinner was included.

Peering through the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, you can see the Luxor Obelisk and Arc de Triomphe

The Louvre Museum is a massive complex that owns over 380,000 works of art, with only about 35,000 on display at any given time.  Our tour guide had worked there for many years and gave us an over-the-top tour of the highlights. She said six hours at the museum is only the tip of the iceberg of France’s magnificent repository of art and treasures. Even she had not seen them all during the time she worked there. Seeing the crowd when we arrived made us thankful that we went with the Viking excursion because navigating among the crowds by ourselves would have been daunting.

Of course I can’t show you all of what we saw and learned about each piece highlighted during the tour. Besides, I couldn’t get decent pictures without people in them. If so desired click here for detailed info about the museum. The Louvre Museum is so large and oh so famous but oh so crowded that our guide assigned us into groups of four to keep an eye on each other and avoid getting separated.

Naturally there was one piece we absolutely had to see during our visit. Upon learning my name, our tour guide teased me that I may not be able to see the portrait I was named after because of the crowd. But… I persevered in the long line just to get a glimpse of the small (just like me) Mona Lisa! At last I can proudly say that I have seen her.

After the tour we went to a local restaurant for traditional Parisian cuisine and savored a three-course dinner before returning to the ship.  We were so happy that we scored the guided museum tour, as we would have been overwhelmed visiting the museum on our own.  How about a structure that’s 782,910 square feet in size!

Finally, we had about an hour to rest before going on our 3rd and final tour of the day, dubbed Paris at Night.  It was a bus tour around the City of Light to get another perspective of it that included several of the city’s famous monuments:

We thought this was just a so-so night tour, but it was relaxing and the city is pretty at night.

It turns out that the day we went on these excursions was a national holiday – Assumption Day – in France.  That means there were a lot of crowds everywhere, and we were really amazed by the number of people out late at night to see the Eiffel Tower lit up, and filling the cafés on seemingly every street.  We were very happy to leave the driving to the pros!

People dancing to live music on the steps at the National Academy of Music

Day 27 – 8/16/22

Today was “move day” – a train ride from Paris through the countryside of east central France to Lyon, where we would board our second river ship, the Viking Heimdal.   Up early and a little drowsy after our late night tour, we were still very excited to board one of the world’s fastest trains to Lyon. Stay tuned!

Up next: Lyon to Avignon


9 comments

  1. I am enjoying th8s commentary. We went to Paris on our own a few years ago, and I found the Louvre to be overwhelming and crowded. The highlight was the Mona Lisa, just as it was for you! There must be a story behind your mother’s naming you this.

  2. The scenery and your photos continue to be wonderful. We were underwhelmed by the MonaLiza (no….not you!) it was so small and difficult to actually see, quite a surprise. Oh the crowds everywhere!

  3. Wow, I never realized the Louvre is so enormous! I’m so glad you were able to spend some time with the “other” Mona Lisa. 🙂 I get overwhelmed in a regular art museum, so I would be wandering and lost in the Louvre for days if I didn’t have a tour guide, haha! I like the idea of a river cruise in France. Sitting on the veranda surrounded by beautiful scenery sounds delightful.

  4. I think my favorite of this leg was the Bonaparte home because it was uncrowded, had lovely grounds, and swans to complete it! The Louvre seems too overwhelming with its size and being packed full of so many of the famous art. You and your namesake both have that mischievous smile!

  5. So glad you got see your namesake in person! Very exciting! That is one over the top museum. Glad you made the Viking tour to see the museum. The black swans are beautiful. That’s an awesome photo through the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. What a fun hike to the castle. Great views from above.

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