Trip to France and Philadelphia

Mike and Judy Henderson
September 30 - October 25, 2014


10/5/2014 (Sunday) Sunday dawned with an abrupt weather change - the highs are in the 60's.  You'll notice we're wearing much heavier clothes now.  We boarded the boat this morning, the River Baroness.  This is a view of the ship (taken at our first stop).

It's a nice ship, but older.  Our cabin is 128 square feet - fairly tight.


And here's Judy at the entrance.

Getting aboard ship was a whirlwind of activities and I didn't take good pictures - sorry.

We arrived about 11:30am and the ship didn't leave until 6:30pm so we took a one hour cruise on the Seine.  There are special boats, called bateaux mouches, which are used to make these cruises.  The bridges of Paris are so low that the boats have to be specially designed to fit under them.  We cruised upstream to the Eiffel Tower and around the Ile-de-St-Louis, then turned around to begin our cruise toward Normandy. 

Here's the back of Notre Dame from the Seine.

By then, we could get into our cabin - a VERY small cabin, only 128 square feet.  I understand that the cabins on the River Catherine (the boat we'll be on next week) are almost 200 sq ft, so that cabin will probably seem like a palace.

We had the usual safety drill and a talk by the cruise manager and the tour director, Emmanuelle.  Immediately after a short reception on the upper deck, the ship departed.  We cruised upriver to the Eiffel Tower, and then turned around and departed Paris.

One very interesting thing about the ship is that the upper structure can be lowered to get under the Paris bridges.  Here's what the pilot house looks like "normally" (this is a view from the side).

The pilot house drops down, and there's a hatch in the top that is opened to allow the pilot to see.  This picture shows the pilot's head sticking up through the hatch.

The next two pictures illustrate how low the bridges are. You can see that there's not much clearance between the boat and the bridge.

Then it was off to dinner with friends we met on board.


10/6/2014 (Monday) Vernon, France.  It's 39 degrees (F) here this morning.  We slept with the balcony door ajar last night and the room was quite cool.  Very good sleeping weather, but we woke up about 5am anyway.

We docked at Vernon (pronounced Verre-no) early in the morning.  When the sun started to rise, this was the view from our cabin window (panoramic view)  It was foggy on the river.

Our first tour was to Giverny, where Monet worked for most of his adult life.  We were bussed there, although it was not far.

Monet had a large property there, and developed an extensive garden, including a Japanese garden.  Here's a few pictures of Giverny.

And  one of Judy and me at Giverny.

We returned to the ship for lunch.  After lunch there was a hike to Chateau Gaillard, a castle ruins above Vernon - a castle which had been built by Richard the Lionhearted.  Unfortunately, the weather turned to rain which made the trek a bit messy.

The hike was quite a altitude gain. Here's Judy arriving at the castle ruins.

Glad to make it.

You can see how much altitude gain there was by this picture looking down on the ship. It's docked next to another river boat.

After we got out of our wet clothes, it was time for one of the "formal" nights at dinner.  Here's the group having dinner.  We had such a good time, the staff finally threw us out.  We might have stayed there all evening.

This last picture is just an extra.  I liked this picture of Judy and wanted to share it.


10/7/2014 (Tuesday)   We're docked at Rouen this morning and tied up against another ship (on our starboard side)  so when I look out our window, all I can see is the other ship.  It's raining but it should clear by mid-day.

We're scheduled to go to the Normandy beaches today.  I'm going to take the Arromanches tour (town at the British landing on Sword beach) and Judy is going to Bayeux to view the tapestry.

For me, Arromanches was somewhat of a disappointment - It's just a tourist trap type place.  They do have a museum that  mainly focuses on the Mulberry (artificial) harbor that was built there right after the invasion.

Ray, Jura, Tony, Kitty and I had lunch at one of the cafes close to the museum, and it was a good thing we did.  Shortly after we sat down, the sky opened up and it rained HARD.  But it was very short and by the time we finished the sky was clear.

Next, we went to the battery of Longues, which is a complex of four German coastal guns which could fire on Sword and Omaha beaches.  The guns were destroyed by a combination of allied naval gunfire and aircraft bombs.  They've restored a couple of the guns and bunkers as memorials.

And a closer view of the gun in one of the casements.

Then we went to Omaha Beach.  There's not much of war left there.  The beach is just a beach.

There's a memorial to the divisions that landed on Omaha beach, the 1st Division, 2nd Division, and the 29th Division, but the memorial must have been paid for by the 1st Division because they're the most prominent on the memorial.

The French people with us (tour guides) expressed over and over their thanks to the Americans, British and Canadians for their efforts to drive the Germans out of France.  But, of course, we Americans need to thank the French, who came to our aid during the American revolution.  Without the help of France, the US might not exist today.

Our next stop was the American Cemetary. 

This is the main monument building.


And the statue in the middle of the monument.

Me, in front of the statue.

A view from the monument looking toward the cemetery.

And a closer view of the graves.

A short memorial service was held, presented by the Uniworld Cruise Line, to honor the dead.

Rick Kelley, Major, US Army (retired), an ex-Captain, US Marines, and a lady whose name I don't know presented a floral arrangement at the statue in the center of the memorial.  Both Rick and the marine captain are Vietnam veterans (as am I).

First, they played the National Anthem on the carillon bells (it was hard to make out the anthem since it was being played on bells).  Here's the honor group during the playing of the anthem.


Then, preparing to lift the floral arrangement for presentation.

Stepping back after placing the arrangement (I missed the shot of the actual placement).

Rendering honors after the placement.

Then it was back to the boat for cocktails and dinner. 

I had bought a bottle of Calvados in Arromanches and we shared it after dinner.  Here's Jura holding the bottle for me to take a picture.  Calvados is apple brandy and is a specialty of this region.  It's probably 40+% alcohol.


10/8/2014 (Wednesday)  The boat stayed in Rouen overnight so the next day we had time to explore Rouen.  We took a walking tour which focused on the Rouen Cathedral and the area around it.  It was raining when we started the walking tour.  Here's Judy at the front of the pack walking out of a passage under the road, from the dock to the town.  Our local guide is next, on the left.


Here's a view of the Rouen Cathedral.  It's difficult to capture the actual look of a cathedral with pictures.  


This picture gives a view of some of the flying buttresses.  As the cathedral builders went higher and higher, they had a problem.  The walls not only have to support the weight of the upper structure, but they also have to support the lateral thrust caused by the roof and the wind loading.  Winds in this area can be quite strong, with 100km/hr not unusual.  The flying buttresses were essentially "props" against the sides of the cathedral which took the lateral thrust to ground.

After the cathedral visit, we went to some sites relating to Joan of Arc (Jeanne d'Arc to the French).  Joan heard voices from an early age which told her that she would save France.  Late in the Hundred Years War, she went to Charles VII and convinced him to give her troops to relieve Orleans, which she did in nine days.

However, she was eventually captured by the English and burned at the stake in Rouen.

Today, she'd probably get psychiatric care. 

 After the tour, Ray, Jura and Judy and I went to lunch at a nice little cafe near cathedral square called Le P'tit Paul.  Here's the group, less me who was taking the picture.

Then, it was back to the ship for dinner that evening.

And here's some close-ups of the group.  First, Judy and me.

Then, Jura.



And Tony.

We departed Rouen about 10pm and arrived at Caudebec-en-Caux early in the morning.


Our trip continues here