Trip to France and Philadelphia

Mike and Judy Henderson
September 30 - October 25, 2014


10/9/2014 (Thursday) Docked at Caudebec-en-Caux, the western-most point of the cruise. Today, we had a tour of Honfleur, a small seaport town near the mouth of the Seine.  One of its claims to fame is that the explorer Samuel Champlain sailed from this port.  This panoramic view of the harbor has inspired many Impressionist painters.

We walked through the town, enjoying many older buildings.  One was the Church of Saint Catherine, which is an all- wooden church, built by ships' carpenters as a place of worship for sailors.  Here's a view of the interior.

By now, we were pretty well "churched out" so I didn't take very many pictures.

I didn't take many pictures in Honfleur but here's one that I want to share.  In many of the towns we were in, including Paris, when they were working on a building (renovating), they covered the scaffolding, or even the building, with a cover that was painted to look like the original building.  Here's a picture of a building being renovated in Honfleur, with the covering.  While that looks like a building, if you look closely, you can see that it's canvas.

 When we got back to the boat, we boarded and had lunch.  After lunch, we looked out the window and found that the river had risen quite a bit, to the point were people could not get on or off the boat.  Here's a view of the river bank and the gangway from the boat.  You can see that it would be impossible to get on or off without wading through significant water.

It felt good to be on the boat side of the flood! But in about a half hour, the water had receded.  You can see the trash piled against the bottom of the gangway.  The tour manager had never seen this happen in her 8 years with the company.  The lower Seine has large tidal surges, and that combined with winds and a full moon brought us a little excitement.

[Note:  The tidal bore is known as the "Mascaret" in this area of France.  After development at the mouth of the Seine in the 1960's, the intensity of the tidal bore was significantly reduced.  But as you can see here, it can still occur, even if not as intense as in the distant past.]

And a few hours later, the water had receded several feet.  This picture was taken from our cabin so the view is slightly different.

After the water receded enough for us to get off the boat, we went walking in Caudebec-en-Caux.

We found this sign indicating that Camille Saint-Saens had possibly lived in the area.  He was a noted French composer. 

The town of Honfleur was the birthplace of Eric Satie.

Then it was back to the ship and eventually dinner.  Tony and Kitty had purchased some chocolates and shared them at dinner.  Ray is holding the box of chocolates in the picture.


10/10/2014 (Friday) We set sail from Caudebec-en-Caux last night and arrived at Mantes La Jolie, from where we departed for Versailles.  The boat then sailed to Conflans Ste Honorine and we met it there after touring the Palace.

Here's a view of the back of Versailles.

And a view down to the fountain of Poseidon.


Here's Judy at Versailles.

We went through the palace.  It was a fast tour because there were many, many people visiting this day.  I took pictures but it's hard to capture the essence of Versailles with a few snapshots.

After the tour of the palace, we walked down to the fountain of Poseidon.  Here I am at the fountain.

  I had visited Versailles in the late 70's or early 80's, and this fountain was my most outstanding memory.  Here's a view from the front.                                                                                                                                                         

And here's a view from the side.

After the Versailles tour, we returned to the boat which was now at Conflans Ste Honorine.  After lunch we took a bus tour to Auvers, which is a small town were a number of painters worked, especially Vincent Van Gogh.  He lived here the last 90 days of his life, and painted about 80 pictures during that time

The town has placed placards in places where Van Gogh painted a particular picture, so that you can see the scenery exactly as Van Gogh saw it - except for the years that have passed.

For example, here's one of the placards with the picture that Van Gogh painted, and the actual building.


The building has changed since 1890 (about when Van Gogh painted it) but it is still recognizable as the subject in the picture.  The day he created his painting the building and square had been decorated for Bastille Day celebrations.

Here's another example - his painting "The Church at Auvers". 

And the church seen from about the spot that Van Gogh painted it.

The town is full of references to Van Gogh.  Here's a sign on the inn where he lived and where he died from a gunshot wound.

We also visited Van Gogh's grave site in the Auvers cemetery.

After that, we returned to the boat.  Dinner that evening was "dressy", although Tony and I removed our coats because it was warm.


10/11/2014 (Saturday) We docked in Paris last night.  We had a relaxing morning in the cabin and I worked on this blog.

After lunch we took the Metro to the Catacombs of Paris.  The hour-long line gave us the chance to talk with a young couple from New Zealand (who are now living in London).  Here's a picture of Judy and the two of them.

The entrance to the Catacombs.

A long circular staircase winds about 20 meters down, which would be over 60 feet. You land in a tunnel and have a long walk to the actual catacombs.  The total length of the passages you have to traverse is about 1.5 km, with the exit far from where you entered.  Here I am in the tunnel.

Some of the passageways had "street signs".  Here's one.  I'll point out that souris means mouse - Mount Mouse Avenue.

Then we reached the catacombs.  Here's the sign over the entrance.  "Halt! This is the empire of the dead."

Judy is at the entry to the catacombs.                                                                                                                       

And me. 

A sign as you enter the main catacombs.

Some of the bone piles.  They say there are bones of six million people here.  The stacks of bones go on and on.

And me, next to a bone pile.

Getting out requires negotiating a long spiral staircase, back up the 20 meters to the surface.  We eventually found our way out of the land of the dead, back onto the Paris Metro, and to the ship.  When we saw our friends, we told them we had come back from the dead.

Ray and Jura went to the Moulin Rouge this evening so it was just Kitty, Tony, Judy and me.

Next, suitcases out at 6am for transport to Lyon where we meet the "Super Ship Catherine" for our sail down the Rhone. 


10/12/2014 (Sunday) In transit to Lyon. Our luggage had been picked up at 6am for transport to Lyon by truck, while we rode the high-speed TGV train. 

Since I was up early, I got a shot of sunrise over Paris.

And the Baroness as they took luggage off.  The picture makes it look brighter than it was.

Then, we bussed to the Gare de Lyon.  Here's Judy in front of the station.

We took a TGV (Train a Grande Vitesse - or "high speed train") to Lyon.  Settling into our coach. 

And here, we arrived at the station in Lyon.

The funny thing is that we left from the Gare de Lyon and we arrived at the Gare de Lyon!

We were bused to the ship - the Catherine.  This is a "stock" photo.  I didn't get a good shot of the ship yet.  The Catherine is brand new - it was launched in 2014.

 Piles of luggage waiting until the rooms are ready - about 3pm.

And sure enough, we got into our room about 3pm.  Our new room is larger than the cabin we had on the Baroness, and the space is used differently.  We now have more room to get around the bed.  Our cabin is 192 square feet compared to 128 square feet on the Baroness.  The top part of the window you see in the next picture goes up and down (powered) so we can open it and have fresh air.  I think it's called a "horizon window".  It's a nice feature and we enjoyed it.

There's a small amount of counter space at the foot of the bed.  This area has a lot of power outlets, but if you tried to use it as a desk, the chair would block movement around the bed.  So that's not a good design. 

The bathroom is much larger and laid out well.  There's a heated rack for the towels, and the marble floor is heated - nice!  A view of the shower:

And the sink area:

A really nice thing about the room is that there are drawers everywhere.  In the closet, under the bathroom sink, under the counter at the foot of the bed, and in each bedside table . Here's the closet space on one side of the bed.

And open to show the storage.

On the other side of the bed is a small alcove with two chairs and a table.  This is where I set up my computer - but they don't have any outlets in this area!  I had to run an extension cord to power the computer.  And the table is very small, not leaving much room to set up.  It seems they just didn't think about someone needing a work space in this room. It's the one poor aspect of the design.

I hadn't made any comments about the design of the stateroom on the Baroness but it was very well designed, given the small space they had to work with. I was especially impressed with the design of the bath - they did well with a very small space.  But overall, the stateroom on the Baroness was just too small.

Dinner was similar to the Baroness.  We met another couple from California and shared dinner with them.




Our trip continues here.