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Paris, Normandy & Historic Treasures of the Seine River Cruise - MS Jane Austen

11days from
£2,564*per person

Overview

11 Days - River Cruises

Meander along the Seine through the captivating landscape that has inspired artists and writers. Explore iconic Paris and experience the beauty of Monet’s garden, discover elegant châteaux and honour the memory of World War II heroes on Normandy’s historic beaches.

Itinerary

  • Arrive at your five-star cruise ship moored on the banks of the Seine. There’s the warmest of welcomes from your crew as you step on board this luxury floating hotel, and they’ll be on hand to help you familiarise yourself with the ship and settle in. This evening enjoy your first superb dinner served in the elegant surroundings of the ship’s restaurant.
  • After breakfast on board, we disembark for a sightseeing tour of this iconic capital and ‘city of lights’. The list of must-sees here goes on and on - the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Champs Élysées, Sacré-Couer, Notre Dame to name but a few, and we’ll learn more about this amazing city through the eyes of our local expert. The grand Place de la Concorde, the largest square in the city, shows off 18th-century French architecture at its best, and just over the Seine on the Left Bank you’ll find the Musee d’Orsay, home of the world’s finest Impressionist art collection. Then there’s the stylish Pompidou Centre, famous not only for its exhibits but also for street entertainment, while the exquisite Tuileries Gardens are perfect for a stroll. Back on board lunch is served, after which we’ve an afternoon’s cruising in store. As we slip our mooring and glide away from this historic city, sit back and soak up the views. A comfortable sun lounger awaits on deck to watch the world go by, or chat over a cup of tea in the lounge whilst the river vistas silently drift past the panoramic windows. During tonight’s dinner, we arrive in Conflans and moor overnight.
  • This morning we drive through the sleepy bocage countryside, a green landscape of lush pastures and high hedgerows to the captivating village of Auvers-sur-Oise, which has welcomed and inspired a host of famous artists through the centuries. Cezanne, Pissarro and most notably Vincent Van Gogh, who famously shot himself and was buried here in 1890, all drew inspiration from this picturesque spot with Van Gogh describing the little town as ‘seriously beautiful’. During a guided tour with a local expert, visit the elegant Château d'Auvers, an historic Louis XIII-style building, with all the style and ambience associated with 19th-century Impressionism where you can immerse yourself in the history of this world-renowned period. After a tour of its splendid interior, stroll the blissful gardens, admiring the perfumed blooms, manicured hedges and cooling fountains. We return to the ship for lunch and set sail towards our next stop, so relax and enjoy the facilities on board. Seek out a sun lounger up on deck to while away the afternoon with some holiday reading as we sail through the enchanting Normandy landscape, awash with fragrant cider orchards, half-timbered barns and characterful wooden farmhouses. Reconvene in the bar for an aperitif before the chef presents tonight’s excellent menu.
  • Awake in Rouen, Normandy’s capital, one of Europe’s finest medieval cities and scene of many momentous events over the centuries. After breakfast we disembark to uncover the treasures of this fascinating city through the insightful eyes of our local guide. The jewel in Rouen’s crown is its stunning Gothic cathedral, which was immortalised by another of the great Impressionists, Claude Monet in a series of twenty-eight paintings depicting its impressive façade at varying times of day and in different seasons. Briefly becoming the world’s tallest building when its soaring spire was added during the 19th century, the cathedral is also notable for the tomb containing the heart of Richard the Lionheart. You’ll find Rouen’s network of tangled alleys a treat to explore, lined with antique shops, smart boutiques and of course, a host of exceptional restaurants from which drifts the delicious aromas of this region’s gastronomic heritage. The Place du Vieux-Marché is one of the city’s most poignant spots; a large cross indicates where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake for her beliefs. After lunch, we continue our cruise along the Seine’s magnificent course, passing chalk cliffs and a landscape of forest-covered hills that are designated areas of outstanding natural beauty and sanctuaries for diverse wildlife, including deer and wild boar. Another highlight of the valley soon greets us – the ethereal ruins of Jumiéges Abbey – which we rediscover later in the cruise. After dinner, retire to the laid-back ambience of the bar for a digestif as we sail overnight to Le Havre.
  • Awake in Le Havre, and after breakfast disembark for a full day visit to the D-Day Normandy Beaches. We visit the British Cemetery in Ranville followed by the Pegasus Bridge Memorial, made famous in the film The Longest Day. Ranville was the first French village to be liberated after the British 6th Airborne Division captured the bridge, preventing a German counter-attack during the weeks that followed the Normandy Invasion. We stop to pay our respects at the Canadian War Cemetery at Beny-sur-Mer then continue to Courseulles for lunch at leisure. Later we visit the Juno Beach Centre, situated immediately behind the beach codenamed Juno, the section of the Allied beachhead on which 14,000 Canadian troops landed on D-Day; the museum pays homage to the 45,000 Canadians killed during the war. The day concludes with a scenic drive along the Landing Beaches to Arromanches-les-Bains. This has the best viewing point to Gold Beach, one of the five main landing sites on D-Day, when Allied forces surged into Normandy to begin the liberation of occupied Europe. Casting your eyes across the sand to the water’s edge, it’s sobering to consider that on 6 June 1944 around 25,000 British troops came ashore on this one beach, with 400 killed by the defenders. After a truly poignant and memorable day, we return to the ship for another excellent dinner. We’ll remain moored in Le Havre overnight.
  • This morning, you can choose to visit the charming town of Honfleur or discover the natural coastal beauty surrounding Étretat which has inspired many painters and writers. Honfleur is often regarded as the most picturesque spot on the northern French coast, and it’s a short drive to this captivating town. Its old harbour, sheltering both fishing boats and luxurious pleasure craft, is beautifully preserved and surrounded by a waterfront of pastel-coloured 16th to 18th-century houses, many converted into seafood restaurants which waft delicious aromas onto the quayside. Watch talented artists capturing the views along the waterfront, while the intricate maze of streets nestling behind invites exploration. Honfleur’s most famous son is Eugene Boudin, one of the forerunners of Impressionism and a friend of Claude Monet, who depicted Honfleur’s harbour in many of his works. Alternatively, join our visit to the pretty seaside town of Étretat to discover the region’s legendary coastal views. Enjoy sweeping views of dramatic white cliffs, eroded away over the centuries to create unusual rock formations – again the subject of many an Impressionist’s canvas. Most famous is the aiguille, a sharp pinnacle protruding from the depths and the striking Aval Arch, famously immortalised by Monet and Boudin. Explore Étretat’s lattice of little streets, with quaint tucked away shops and restaurants and an unusual wooden covered market or take a walk up to the town’s Asian-inspired gardens, which afford stunning views of the cliffs and town. Perhaps visit the half-timbered 19th-century villa Le Clos Lupin, the former home of the French children’s writer, Maurice Leblanc, now an interesting museum celebrating his life and work. We return to the ship for lunch and this afternoon there’s another opportunity to relax on board. Soak up the views as we sail through a lush landscape of verdant pastures and thickly forested slopes. During tonight’s superb dinner we arrive and moor in charming Caudebec-en-Caux.
  • You might choose to spend the morning exploring Caudebec-en-Caux, and its astounding cathedral, a 15th-century gothic masterpiece. Admire its intricate external decoration and beautifully carved stonework, then step inside to marvel at the superb medieval stained glass, statues and impressive 16th-century organ. Look out for the unusual Maison de Templiers, one of the oldest houses in Normandy thought to date from the 12th century with arched windows and attractive gothic façade, the 14th-century former town prison and two historic towers, remnants of Caudebec’s defenses. Or simply enjoy a peaceful stroll along the riverbank, admiring the houses and pretty gardens soaking up this tranquil scene. Alternatively join our visit firstly to the majestic Abbey Jumièges, one of the loveliest ruins in France and a fine example of Norman Romanesque architecture. With a history dating back to 654, the original buildings were ransacked by the Viking invasions, but the abbey was rebuilt and by the mid-13th century had gained enormous influence in religious practice and learning. It prospered until the 17th century, but its final demise came with the French Revolution when it was forced to close along with all other religious institutions, sold in 1791 and became a stone quarry. Fortunately, by the 19th century, it became an icon of the Romantic Movement which prevented further destruction of the site. Today, you cannot fail to be impressed by the scale of these beautiful ruins set in acres of peaceful grounds. We continue to the working Abbey Saint-Wandrille, founded in the 7th century and one of the first Benedictine abbeys in Normandy. It’s a delight to wander this serene place admiring the stonework and statues, and if you’re lucky, hear the monks chanting in prayer. We return to the ship for lunch and an afternoon of scenic sailing; cool off in the splash pool, enjoy a relaxing spa treatment or settle down with a good book in a comfortable lounger. We sail overnight to Vernon.
  • After breakfast we take a short drive to Giverny to visit Monet’s house and garden. The artist himself called his garden his ‘most beautiful masterpiece’ and it’s certainly one of the world’s most photographed and painted, ideally viewed in the delicate morning light. In the Japanese-inspired water garden, shaded by great weeping willows and surrounded by bamboo, rhododendrons and azaleas, is the lily pond where he painted his extraordinary Water Lilies series. There’s time to wander here, absorbing the tranquil atmosphere while marvelling at the light bouncing off the foliage of every hue and the magical reflections shimmering on the water. We rejoin the ship for a leisurely lunch during which we sail to La Roche Guyon. This afternoon we visit the remarkable 18th-century Chateau de la Roche Guyon which towers over a loop of the Seine. Built up against the cliff that once concealed it from the world, it was originally an invisible cave dwelling at the time of the Norman invasions, that evolved through the ages with a mixture of architectural styles to become the elegant chateau we’ll see today. A castle dating from medieval times crowns the site, against a backdrop of thickly forested slopes. Wander the extensive gardens, with regimented paths and fruit trees sweeping down to the river and enjoy the superb views over the water. We return to the ship where dinner awaits during which we slip our moorings and sail on to Mantes-La-Jolie, arriving later that night.
  • This morning we make the short journey to the lavish Château de Malmaison, former residence of Napoleon I and his first wife Joséphine de Beauharnais. The name is thought to have derived from the existence of a hideout once located here, used by the Norman invaders as a base for their raids in the surrounding area. The grand palace you see today dates from the 18th-century however, and as you wander through the sumptuous interiors of the château, decorated in Empire style, you’ll be transported back in time to a fascinating and glamorous era of French history. The château was bought by Josephine Bonaparte in 1799 and became the seat of the French government together with the Tuileries from 1800-1802, and frequently played host to meetings of the ministers of the consulate. After the couple divorced in 1809, Josephine made the house her permanent home until her death here in 1814. See their private apartments – Napoleon’s secret staircase and Josephine’s opulent red and gilt bedroom, the highly decorated library and drawing rooms with exquisite furnishings and priceless artworks. Stroll through the splendid gardens, filled with plants and statues which were personally chosen by Joséphine, pausing to admire a beautifully restored pavilion and enjoy the delicate fragrance from the superb rose garden. After lunch back on board, settle in for an afternoon’s cruising as we drift away from this picturesque spot. We pass by Mantes-la-Jolie’s old medieval stone bridge; the central section was destroyed during World War II and never repaired – another poignant reminder that this area of France has been a battleground for centuries. This evening it’s time for another highlight in the elegant restaurant with the Captain’s Dinner, during which the chef presents a magnificent menu with local specialities. Later we moor in Issy, on the outskirts of the French capital.
  • This morning, enjoy free time in Paris, or join an optional visit to the magnificent Palace of Versailles and the outstanding Versailles Gardens. Everything used in the construction of the palace was created in France and for over a century it was considered the ideal against which all European palaces were measured; as you explore the Royal Apartments with their antiques, tapestries and priceless artworks, and the Royal Opera and Chapel with its exceptional decoration, you’ll soon see why. The famous Hall of Mirrors with its 357 mirrors is truly a sight to behold, so too the immaculate gardens with their topiary hedges, sculptures and refreshing fountains. During lunch on board, our ship leaves Issy to moor closer to the capital, so enjoy the familiar sight of this iconic skyline with the Eiffel Tower again coming into view. This afternoon there’s free time in Paris to explore as you wish. Take in a museum, such as Europe’s oldest science museum, dating from 1794 with its vast collection of inventions and industrial design or soak up artistic treasures in the Louvre or Musee d’Orsay with its world-renowned collections of artwork, furniture, sculpture and photography. Browse the legendary stores such as Galeries Lafayette, the smart boutiques in the arcaded Rue de Rivoli, or bohemian Montmartre’s quirky galleries and independent shops. After another memorable day, return to the ship for tonight’s final dinner in the company of newfound friends.
  • After breakfast, depart the ship for your onward journey or return home.

What's Included

Holiday Highlights

  • Happy by day two or we'll bring you home with a full refund
  • Comprehensive sightseeing tour of Pairs, one of the world's most beautiful cities 
  • Historic walk through Rouen, one of France's most perfectly preserved medieval cities. 
  • Poignant excursion to Aromanches and the WWII D-Day Beaches
  • Visit to Caudebec-en-Caux and Claude Monet's house to see the 'Water Lillies' pond and 'Japanese Footbridge'
  • Guided tours including Auvers-sur-Oise, Honfleur or the white cliffs of Étretat, Abbey Jumièges & Abbey St Wandrille and the Château de Malmaison 
  • Optional visit to the Palace of Versailles, the grand residence of Louis XIV displaying magnificent works of art and landscaped gardens. 

Our Price Includes

  • Prices are per person, based on two people sharing a twin cabin with a limited number of sole occupancy cabins available on all decks, at the relevant supplement. The price includes:
  • 10 nights on board in your choice of luxury cabin or suite
  • All meals on board (except one lunch), including the Captain’s Dinner and farewell drinks
  • Return scheduled flights from a selection of regional airports or Eurostar seat from London St Pancras International with regional rail connections available*
  • Five-star service from an English-speaking crew and knowledgeable local guides
  • The Services of a Riviera Travel Cruise Director and Concierge  
  • Complimentary on-board tea and coffee 
  • Complimentary on-board Wi-Fi (connection speeds may vary 
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Other Information

Holiday code

R541

Holiday provided by Riviera Travel

BOOK WITH CONFIDENCE: change your booking for free, Covid-19 cancellation protection included as standard and 100% protection with ABTA & ATOL. This holiday is sold and operated by Riviera Travel (ABTA V4744, ATOL 3430). These ABTA and ATOL bonds mean that, when you book a Riviera Travel holiday, you can be 100% sure that your money is safe.

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