By Nancy Kivlen, Director of Leisure, Carefree Vacations
My sixteen-year-old niece and I arrived in Paris on July 14th, Bastille Day. We were greeted by a cheerful French man holding a Tauck Tours sign at Charles de Gaulle airport. He whisked us away to our Pullman Eiffel Tower Hotel where the view of La Tour Eiffel was magnifique. He told us about the terrible traffic, road blocks and police (Gendarme) security everywhere for the BIG events.
We quickly showered and changed and headed to the Champs Elysees to watch a fantastic parade that included air fighter jets and every part of France’s military. This evening we met our Tauck Cruise Directors and guides on the top floor of the hotel that had a view of the Eiffel Tower that was unmatched. As we got to know each other, we sipped champagned and dined under the magic of the Tower. At 11pm a firework display lite up the Paris sky – it was the best fireworks show any of us had ever seen.
The next morning, we toured Paris with our expert guides. I’ve been to the city of lights over 10 times but still saw and learned new things I didn’t know. Like did you know the Place de la Concord is where Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were beheaded by guillotine? We were whisked past the two-hour waiting line at the Eiffel Tower thanks to Tauck Tours and headed to the top of the Tower, then we dined at the restaurant with our group – all included thanks to Tauck.
With plenty of free time in the afternoon we explored Notre Dame, Sacre Cour and Montmartre. The next day Tauck Tours took us on a scavenger hunt through the Louvre museum. The scavenger hunt was for the kids under 18, but the adults joined in as well. The local guide that took us through the Louvre was one of the best I’ve ever had and of course we saw all the main masterpieces.
Late in the afternoon we boarded the exquisite MS Sapphire, a Swiss River Cruise ship which would take us up and down the Seine River over the next five days.
The ship is lovely, holds only 98 people, the cabins are large and beautifully decorated. We had a floor to ceiling French window that opened to enjoy the scenery of the French countryside as we floated along this amazing River.
Leaving Paris was quite a treat, sailing past the Eiffel Tower and replica of the Statue of Liberty. We had to duck down under Paris’ many bridges until we were out of town.
The MS Sapphire has a beautiful lounge area, a wonderful restaurant: dine anytime and Arthurs a smaller restaurant in the back of the ship that is open all the time. The theme of this cruise was Tauck’s Bridges Trip. The “Bridges” is spanning generations within a family. We had the very young, from about eight years old to grandparents in their eighties. The Tauck Bridges Program is designed to offer the whole family an experience creating memories you will never forget. It sure did for my niece and me.
The food on the ship was amazing, keeping with the French theme, we had everything from Veal and Venison to escargot and of course the wine was amazing – only the best – such as Chateau de neuf du pape. EVERYTHING IS INCLUDED. This means you don’t have to worry about gratuities, transfers, tours, bicycles, your food or alcohol. EVERYTHING IS INCLUDED. And, it’s First Class.
Our first stop the next morning was the Claude Monet’s Giverny. We arrived before the other ships and had the gardens and his house all to ourselves. Around every turn a breathtaking photo awaited us. Later in the afternoon we stopped in the small village of Les Andelys with its 11th Century Castle.
The next day was an emotional day as we went to Normandy and the D-Day beaches. Again, our Tauck local guide was outstanding. So well informed and filled with so many heroic stories of that historic day in 1944. After visiting Pointe du Hoc where the American Rangers stormed the cliffs, we went to Omaha beach, then to the American cemetery where there are 10,000 Americans buried. Afterwards we went to visit an inter-active museum to see the tanks, guns, ammunition, jeeps, clothing the soldiers wore during that time. Today was a long, exhausting, and powerful day.
The following day offered a leisurely morning before arriving in the medieval town of Rouen, where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. After a wonderful historical tour, we had the whole afternoon and evening to ourselves to enjoy this lovely small city.
Our final day brought us to Versailles home of the three King Louis’ and the last one who was married to Marie Antoinette. It was a lavish spectacle as we enjoyed skipping the long lines, once again, thanks to Tauck Tours.
All in all I have to say our experience with Tauck Tours/River Cruise was exceptional. Everything about it from beginning to end was first class, first rate and could not have been better planned or organized.
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