SPANNING THE GLOBE
"The last time I saw Paris my heart was......." / "Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa, men have named you, you're so....."
Hearing those songs again a few months ago started me thinking how and when I could plan a visit back to Paris after many
years of missing this beautiful city.
Well, I did it. My husband and I had been talking about taking another River Boat cruise but did not want to repeat any areas we had already visited. With his interest in this year being the 71st anniversary of D DAY and his wish to see Normandy, the US Cemetery and the interesting museum located only a few steps away, along with Omaha Beach, it did not take much for me to be inventive and come up with a 7 day River boat cruise down the Seine river in France that began and ended in none other than - you guessed it - PARIS. My suggestion was embraced immediately; what could be better than staying in Paris before the cruise for 3 nights and then embarking on this leisurely cruise enjoying all the quaint towns and villages along the Seine and having a full day excursion to Normandy to accomplish all he wished to. Our day excursion started early by bus and before heading to the Cote Fleurie and to Lower Normandy, we made a detour to the "Alabaster Coast", where white cliffs contrast magnificently with the blue cold waters of the English channel. As well driving opposite the modern port of Le Havre, across the estuary, lies the charming little fishing port of Honfleur. The Point de Normandie bridge which was only inaugurated in 1995, cut our driving time between Le Havre and Hornfleur to only 15 minutes. (the entire ride from the boat is about 1 1/2 hour It was a most fascinating day: as you approach the many miles of graves with white Crosses or Stars of David and as you stand on the beaches of Normandy, France envisioning the landing of more than 160,000 allied troops on this heavily fortified French coastline to fight Nazi Germany, you can only stop in your tracks as you feel the pain and sorrow that comes over you. We stood in silence looking at the hilly terrain they had to climb up with all the "gear" on their backs and fighting for their lives every inch of the way. No matter what movies you see, books you read, pictures you see and stories you hear, there is no feeling and emotion that can be more chilling than actually standing on this hallowed ground. The D-Day landings of World War II are still alive in Normandy's memory as are the beaches stretching for miles with their code names, Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword.
This Normandy Excursion day was flanked on each side by visits to the most charming and enchanting villages where many Impressionist painters visited and lived surrounded by the beauty that inspired them. One being Giverny and the home and gardens of Claude Monet and another Auvers-sur-Oise, a town famous for the impressionist painters who lived there in the 19th century such as Cezanne and Pissarro. The "Artists' Walk" tour we did included the former home of Vincent van Gogh where he died in an upstairs room meticulously preserved. Another excursion choice this day was a Visit to Chateau Malmaison, the home that Josephine purchased for her and her husband Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and which she set about transforming into a most beautiful estate with gardens, not only of roses, but rare and exotic plants.
I think I digressed from the main purpose (for me at least) of this trip - PARIS. This is truly THE CITY OF LIGHTS. The numerous monuments and museums illuminate the city each night only making them more magnificent. Standing on the Pont Royal bridge and gazing down the Seine to the glass-paneled Grand Palais with the pink and blue glow of the river has you immediately sensing that THE CITY OF LIGHT is of a very special kind. So very much to see in both Banks (Left and Right) and with each neighborhood arrondesment offing it's very own flavor. From the magnificent and beautiful structures; The Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, Notre Dame on Ile de la Cite (whose construction began in 1163 with the main part of the cathedral taking 167 years to complete, and its transition from Romanesque to Gothic naming it as the most perfect example of medieval architecture, Pompidou Centre, The Champs Elysees, The Latin Quarter, the Museums (oh! the Museums - all so beautiful with rooms filled with all the impressionist paintings of artists we are so familiar with and many, many more). I could go on and on since there is so much I am leaving out due to space; Food, Cheese and Wine, Croissants that melt in your mouth, exciting side day trips, medieval cities, etc. etc. I, and my office, will be offering a River Boat Cruise next year - time and exactly what area - to be advised. You may contact me with any questions you may have, regarding the above Normandy/Paris cruise on the River Seine or the future trip being planned. As always, respectfully submitted by Irene Cramer (Baywinds resident - Egret Cove).
SPANNING THE GLOBE
The above is all something I can provide - I have just returned from a 7 day whirlwind trip thru Spain that I had the privilege to attend with a Tour Operator my office confirms through. Every transfer, be it a Bullet Train between cities or a bus, every tour we took, every hotel we visited was arranged with perfect timing. The English speaking tour guides we had (which I can now request by name) were the best and meeting hotel managers and staff when we arrived at their hotel for room and public space inspection greeted us warmly. We were taken care of from the beginning to the end (exactly as my clients would be). We started in Madrid and traveled south to Malaga with visits in between to Toledo, Seville, Cordoba, Granada and the Costa del Sol (Torremolinos, Marbella). Good thing it was south bound so we only had 2-3 days of chilly weather with it gradually warming to mid 70's (this end of Nov. travel time is a bit off season).
My explanation of day to day activities, my sharing my pictures, my lending you the book on each area visited will never replace your actually going, doing, seeing , touching and experiencing an escorted or semi-escorted tour for yourself. And, I do believe that those that start a cruise in Barcelona and end in Rome (or visa versa) or even another 7 - 10 or 14 day voyage itinerary, making a 5-8 hour stop in each city are doing themselves, and the area, an injustice. And, those that take a guide book in their hands and walk around looking for and trying to find what the "good book" is telling them about, are just wasting precious time. If they would only add a few more dollars to what that costs and have a personal guide for a couple of hours or half a day explaining an area and then enjoying a day or 2 or even 3, depending on what city it is, to roam and explore on your own is the only way to travel. I have done it all ways throughout the many years I have been in the travel business and explored the world (well, a lot of it with some few destinations still on my bucket list). Fast forward from those years of travel and I now believe in totally escorted tours (and they need not be and should not be 1 or 2 nights in a city and move on) or at least a semi-escorted tour with local tour guides confirmed before leaving home in each city visited to escort you, provide information while walking around the major sights and places of interests, provide entrance into museums, palaces, etc. ,and constantly pointing out the little details (and there are many) which we as tourists will never know about. Isn't your time and expense worth it!
Sometimes we only visit an area once in our lives - make it a learning experience, make it important and memorable and worthy of your time and the money spent. Don't just rush through, stay a night or 2, try to see it all, never visiting the exciting cities throughout Europe in depth, only to come home and say "I went to Rome, Venice, Barcelona, Paris etc.". You merely stopped there and unfortunately did not have the opportunity to see it all, to meet the people, to sample local food and talk with the local.
Here's to your next time away from home and all the fond memories and experiences you will encounter. HAVE FUN!