Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Wet

Yesterday was a wet and dreary day.  We were very grateful that our day at the beaches was lovely and dry and since there is nothing you can do about the weather, you just go with the flow.
We were cruising from Rouen back to LePecq outside of Paris with a short stop in the little town of Les Andelys.  It rained all day so we were not able to enjoy the sun deck as we cruised.

When the ship docked a few of us got off, rain pants, jackets and umbrellas and went to see the tiny town.  A few brave souls followed the guides up the hill to the ruins of the Chateau Gaillard, a fortress built by Richard the Lionheart back in the 12 century.  On a clear day you have wonderful views of the river from the top of the hill.  Unfortunately for us the views were obscured by low clouds and rain.

Afternoon tea was served on board the ship with lovely French coffee which warmed our chilled bones.  The Captain's farewell dinner was last night and today is our last full day.  Some of us are going back into Paris, others have left for Versailles, some are doing an afternoon excursion to Napoleon's Chateau de Malmaison and some are doing Paris by night this evening.  All of us will be packing at some point today because our luggage needs to be outside our room at 4:30am and we leave the ship at 5:30 to begin our journey home.  All being well Halifax folks will be home at 4:35 tomorrow afternoon.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Emotion



Day 13 - Normandy Beaches
Sunday, June 19th, 2016

Emotion
Today was a day filled with emotion as we embarked on our full day tour of the Normandy Beaches.  Viking offers two options, the US tour and the Commonwealth Tour.  Our first stop was in Bayeux where we saw a magnificent tapestry that chronicled the events leading to the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The tapestry is 70 meters long and 50 cm wide.  We each had an audio guide that explained what was happening in each of the scenes.

We continued to the beaches and stopped for lunch in Arromanches a seaside village on Gold Beach where you can also see the remains of the ingenious Mulberry Harbour, towed across the English Channel to facilitate the offloading of cargo for the D Day invasion.  We continued to Juno Beach and the amazing Juno beach Centre.  We watched a short video which left us all in tears as the reality of what happened on the beaches was made that much more real.  At the end of the video it showed a lovely family walking the beach and talking about the events of that day in June 1944.  As they are walking, superimposed on the screen are images of soldiers marching along and then the words on the screen say, “When you walk the beach, they walk with you.”  There was not a dry eye as we headed out to walk the beach ourselves. We were so fortunate to have a lovely sunny and warm day to walk on what many referred to as “holy ground.”

Our next stop was the Canadian Cemetery, Beny-sur-Mer, where 2048 soldiers are buried.  It is a peaceful and beautiful spot filled with flowers.  We were each given a rose to place on a grave of our choice.  Many of us looked for Nova Scotian soldiers and quietly pondered the sacrifice which had been made by so many who were so young.

Next we visited the Pegasus Museum and learned more about the importance of Pegasus Bridge which was taken by the British in order to prevent a German counterattack.  I also learned about a dog named “Bing” who was a paratrooper and was given the animal version of the Victoria Cross.
Our last event of the day was a drive by the British Cemetery at Ranville, the first village liberated by the British.

It was a very full day, full of emotion, full of pride, full of memories.  Of course it was also Father’s day and one couldn’t help thinking about all the fathers, sons, and brothers who never made it home or who came home very different from when they left.

Back on board the ship it was time for another lovely meal and then a few of us went up to the Cathedral where at 11:00 they do an amazing light show, projecting a series of images on the front of this gothic building, accompanied by music.  The first show was quite modern while the second show included many of Claude Monet’s images as he did a series of paintings of the cathedral.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Laughter



Day 12 - Rouen
Saturday, June 18th, 2016
Laughter

There is probably no better word that laughter that can be used to describe our group and the fun that we have when we travel.  Laughter is almost always heard from someone no matter what the situation.  Rain or shine and we have had lots of rain lately, we still laugh.  As a matter of fact someone said they could always tell where the Canadian’s were because they could hear us laughing.  I’m not laughing at the moment because I had this blog update done when my computer crashed and I lost it and am doing it again – but that’s life.

This morning we all enjoyed not getting up early as we indulged in a leisurely morning of cruising along the Seine.  The ship arrived in Rouen early and a few of us who were doing an optional tour in the afternoon walked around the town on our own. The medieval city of Rouen is the historic capital of Normandy. We walked through the old town centre where we saw the spectacular Gothic Notre Dame Cathedral often painted by Claude Monet, and the famous Gros Horloge, a 16th-century astronomical clock. We felt transported back through time as we walked among the half-timbered buildings. Finally, we visited the 14th-century courthouse where Joan of Arc was sentenced to death and the nearby Market Square where she was martyred and we went inside the new church which is quite spectacular with an innovative design and beautiful windows.  After seeing so many old Gothic churches it was nice to see a beautiful modern building.

This afternoon 6 of us did an optional excursion to a Normandy farm that grows apples and make a delicious cider and an apple liquor.  To keep the grass in the orchards under control they have a heard of sheep and two hard working border collies who herd them.  The demonstration of sheep herding was wonderful.  The two dogs effectively herded about 200 sheep following the commands of their master.  We learned all about the process of making cider and we tasted the products as well.
We arrived back in time for dinner.  I tried the halibut tonight but it was not like any halibut I have ever tasted – better stick with the steak.  

Tomorrow may not be a day for laughter as we head for the beaches of Normandy.  I suspect it will be a day filled with deep emotion.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Sensual



Day 11 - Giverny & Vernon
Friday, June 17th, 2016
Sensual

I think the best word to describe today is sensual – it has been a feast for the senses.
This morning we arrived in Vernon and took a short ride into the town of Giverny, where Claude Monet lived from 1883 until his death in 1926. We visited the beautiful gardens and charming stone farmhouse where he lived and worked, and saw the water garden with its Japanese bridge, water lilies, wisteria and azaleas that inspired many of his masterpieces. There is no way for our pictures to do it justice. Not only did we drink in the beauty with our eyes but everywhere you caught the different scents of the flowers wafting on air and you could hear the birds chirping in the trees.  It was amazing, even with the hundreds of people who were tourists just like us. 




Our senses were somewhat assaulted at the end of tour as we were ready to walk back to the bus, when the heavens opened and we were drenched with a rather cold shower, even as the sun was still shining in others parts of the sky.

Lunch today was a taste of Normandy and we indulged in French cheeses and meats, breads and pastries.  It was a gastronomical delight.

After lunch some of went for a stroll through this delightful provincial town of Vernon. We saw the Maison du Temps Jadis (House of Past Times), Vernon’s oldest house, and the 11th-century Church of Notre Dame with it’s beautiful stained glass windows.  Walking down the street I was mesmerized by the artful displays in all the shops; meats, cheeses, pastries, chocolates, all a fest for the eye.
Tonight we are invited to the Viking Explorer cocktail party for all those who have cruised with Viking before.  I’m sure it will be a lovely evening.

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It has been more than 4 months since I took the time to write a blog. I'm not sure why I haven't taken the time to reflect in this...