Day 2 – On CroisiEurope’s Botticelli: A Full Day In Paris
After our evening cruise through the heart of Paris last night, we woke up to another beautiful day in this gorgeous city. On tap, a day “dedicated to the discovery of Paris,” with an optional guided tour, and also optional, late-evening entertainment at Nouvelle Eve, billed as traditional French Cabaret and situated just a block away from the famed Moulin Rouge in Montmarte.
Tours are not included in Botticelli’s fares. The morning guided tour went for €30 per person, the Cabaret, with a bottle of champagne for each couple to share, went for €105 per person. Many of CroisiEurope’s competitors would likely include the guided tour but not the Cabaret.
Later this week, an 11-hour excursion to the Normandy Landing Beaches will go for €93 per person, with lunch included. A guided walking tour of Rouen costs €18 per person. Many river cruise companies would include the guided walking tour but not all would include the extended tour to the landing beaches. The extra expense of tours is something you’ll want to factor into the equation when comparing CroisiEurope with its competitors.
In yesterday’s post, I promised to tell you about Thomas Wolfe’s visits to Paris. The writer from my hometown (Asheville, North Carolina) visited Paris six times between 1924 and 1936. Wolfe’s Of Time and The River portrays the sights and sounds of the city from the perspective of Eugene Gant, the novel’s lead character through which Wolfe personified himself.
Gant, or Wolfe, observed of the Parisians: “They were a quaint lot, a droll lot, an incomparable lot — they were charming, amazing, irresponsible — they were French.”
As the fictional Gant “slowly became intoxicated by the City, he noted that … everything that has been said or written about Paris is true … it is evil; it is beautiful; and it is fascinating; it is bewildering. For the first time in several years I am faced with an utter suspension of my faculties.”
Like Wolfe, I had visited Paris multiple times, so I chose to spend the morning exploring on my own. Monica, my traveling companion, chose to do the morning guided tour. She writes:
Should I do another sightseeing tour of Paris? I had been to the City of Light before, hopping on and off the tourist busses, wandering the streets, lining up for the museums. Still, I decided to go, knowing that you can never learn too much about one of the world’s most beautiful, talked-about cities.
The tour description promised to show us the mythical places of the city. Would the tour deliver?
Our knowledgeable and witty guide Noma started off by taking us to the most beautiful venue for shooting the Eiffel Tour. The view was stunning, not only of the tower but also of the surroundings. Green areas and historical buildings framed this exceptional construction built in 1889 in connection with World’s Fair. The tower was to be taken down following the exhibition, but fortunately for Paris, and for the millions of tourists who visit each year, the Parisian landmark remained intact. Imagine what Paris would be without this revered symbol of love and romance?
We continued our historical journey to Champs Elysées and l’Arc de Triumph, driving along the impressive avenue framed by cafés, restaurants, movie theaters and luxury shops like Louis Vitton.
Our tour continued on to the number one street for fashion, Avenue Montaigne. I counted no less than 15 of the world’s leading brands as we drove along: Dior, Armani, Gucci, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Chanel, H&M, oops, my mistake (I’m Swedish).
Arriving at Place de la Concorde and the Luxembourg Gardens, we made a short stop for photos. We found plenty to shoot: the square, beautiful with its fountains and Renaissance statues; the gardens, quiet, green and inviting.
We continued our tour to the beautiful Opera, the Madeleine Church, the Hospital d’Invalid and the Military Church. All are buildings from the grand era of Napoleon III. Noma took us by the Louvre, and reminded us of the smiling Mona Lisa inside. We passed Musée de l’Orangerie, the permanent home for eight Water Lilies murals by Claude Monet.
Before returning to our vessel at Quai le Grenelle, we passed the University Sorbonne, the quarters of St Germain and the student’s Quartier Latin. The latin language was taught here, hence the name.
Noma told us that if we wanted to experience a few of the remaining “intellectual” quarters of Paris that we should not miss the well known cafés “Les Deux Magots” or “Café Flor.”
By the end of the tour I had confirmed my initial conviction: You can’t take too many sightseeing tours of Paris. In three hours, I learned more about the history than I had known when I woke up this morning; I learned about the architecture, the Emperors and the wars — and above all, I learned to love Paris — even more than before. — Monica Frisk
After dinner, two Mercedes vans picked up 10 of us who had signed up for the optional evening Cabaret in Montmarte. At a cost of €105 each, the evening Cabaret was a good value, considering that the cost if we were to simply show up at Nouvelle Eve would be €95, without the private driver between Botticelli and Montmarte, and with no preferential seating. When we arrived at Nouvelle Eve, we were escorted past a long line of people so that we not only were the first to enter but also were seated right in front of the stage. The cost included a bottle of chilled champagne (real champagne) served in tulip-shaped glasses.
We enjoyed the 90-minute Cabaret, which was a combination of song and dance, comic interludes and last but not least, a rousing performance of the original Cancan. We saw more flesh that we had anticipated, but this was France, mais oui?
We returned to a quiet Botticelli after midnight. Shortly before 2 a.m., I heard the gentle rumble of the engines as they came to life. We were departing the City of Light, “threaded forever,” Wolfe wrote, “by the eternity of its silver, silent river.”
Tomorrow, Botticelli continues cruising until 1 p.m. along that silver, silent river to dock in Vernon. From there, we will visit the home and gardens of one of the world’s greatest impressionists, Claude Monet, who brought international fame to a small village called Giverny. From bustling Paris to bucolic Giverny, our adventure on Botticelli is showing us the best of what can be found along the Seine and beyond its banks.
CroisiEurope, Botticelli, Paris-Honfleur & Return
|Friday, June 20, 2014||Paris, France||Boarding between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. in Paris. Time to settle comfortably in your cabins before meeting the crew during a welcome cocktail reception. Dinner on board before departing on a cruise by night to tour the sights of the French capital.|
|Saturday, June 21, 2014||Paris, France||Breakfast on board. The day will be dedicated to the discovery of Paris. Morning optional guided tour of Paris, which will begin with famous landmarks as the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame cathedral, the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysées. Lunch on the ship followed by a free afternoon to stroll round Paris. Dinner and a free evening or go on to a cabaret (optional).|
|Sunday, June 22. 2014||Vernon, France||Buffet breakfast on board before cruising to reach Vernon around 12.30 p.m. Lunch on board. In the afternoon, take the opportunity to visit the Claude Monet Foundation in Giverny, a charming pink house with green shutters which has been patiently restored and reveals the painter’s daily life. As you wander round the house, visit Monet’s huge workshop, bathed in the light that he cherished so much, the blue living room, the yellow dining room and the famous garden full of flowers and finally the Japanese style water garden. Return to the ship for dinner before cruising off towards Caudebec-en-Caux.|
|Monday, June 23. 2014||Caudebec-en-Caux, France||Buffet breakfast on board while cruising along through magnificent scenery and steep cliffs at the foot of which nestle charming little villages. Lunch on board before arriving in Caudebec-en-Caux around 1 p.m. In the afternoon, leave on a guided tour (optional) to discover the abbeys trail beginning with the abbey of Saint-Wandrille, then on to Jumièges, and the ruins of one of the most beautiful abbeys in France, not forgetting the church of St Pierre, one of the finest examples of 10th century Norman architecture. Return to the ship for around 6 p.m. for dinner before sailing on towards Honfleur (subject to the tides).|
|Tuesday, June 24, 2014||Honfleur, France||After breakfast depart on an excursion (optional) to the “Côte Fleurie” (flowered coast) and the towns of Trouville and Deauville including a stop on the way to visit a Calvados distillery and tasting. Return to the ship for lunch. The afternoon will be spent on a guided visit of Honfleur (optional). Lying at the foot of the Côte de Grace, the town will enchant you with its old port, the church of St Catherine entirely made out of wood, its picturesque streets and outer harbour dotted with little fishing boats. Or full day guided tour (lunch included) to the beaches of the Normandy landings (only as a pre-booked tour and a minimum of 30 participants). Departure by coach to reach Pointe du Hoc passing the towns of Omaha Beach, Coleville sur Mer and its American cemetery. We stop in Arromanches after lunch to watch the film “The Price of Liberty.” Return to the ship for dinner and a free evening.|
|Wednesday, June 25, 2014||Rouen, France||Early morning start and breakfast while cruising along a superb valley whose light variations inspired not only the impressionist painters but also many poets, before passing under the splendid Normandy Bridge. Lunch on board before arriving in Rouen around 2 p.m. Depart on a guided tour of the town (optional) to discover the cathedral, its historic quarters and the “Place du Vieux Marché” where Joan of Arc was burnt alive at the stake. Return to the ship for dinner and an entertaining evening.|
|Thursday, June 26, 2014||Les Andelys, France||After breakfast, cruise off toward les Andelys, through the lock in Amfreville, arriving around midday. Lunch on board. The afternoon will be spent visiting the Martainville castle (optional). Discover this rich house, the holiday home that belonged to a wealthy banker of the XVth century. Today it has become the museum of Norman arts and traditions. In the castle you will find a unique collection of objects made and used in Normandy between the XVth and the XIXth century. Return on board. Gala dinner and evening while cruising.|
|Friday, June 27, 1014||Paris, France||Breakfast on board before arriving in Paris around 8 a.m. before disembarking. End of our journey.|