Drifting down the Seine on a riverboat cruise

Bonjour mon amies!

I’m back in the USA after a fabulous vacation in France.  I have so many pictures to share, I don’t think I can post them all here, so here’s my plan. Along with this blog post, I’m including different photos in my img_2176monthly newsletter to be released next week.  If you want to see all the photos, please sign up at http://www.DonnaMacMeans.com.  You’ll get a free short story for your efforts and you can always unsubscribe after you see all the photos.  Don’t worry, I won’t even know as a third party administrates my newsletter 🙂  .  This is the best way I could share all the wonderful experiences with friends.

We embarked on an adventure with Roads Scholars, a tour company committed to providing education along with the usual tour stuff.  Our tour was “Following the footsteps of the Impressionists” which began in Paris.  I knew we were off to an auspicious start by the stuffed peacock in the window of our small hotel. We started our first day with a trip to the D’Orsay museum which houses a lot of the Impressionist’s paintings.  The beautiful building wasorsay-clock originally designed to be a railroad station built for the 1900 World Fair in Paris. This would be the time of the Belle Epoque or Golden Age.  Check out the trim on this station clock.  We had lunch at the museum, then off for Rodin’s house, studio and gardens.  Loved the gardens but wasn’t as impressed with the sculptures.  Bad Donna!  I know.  I was impressed with the process of bronzing a statue though.  Learned a new thing.

The sound of Paris has to be that of a motorcycle.  They were everywhere!  The roads are extremely narrow and cycles and scooters roared by at death-defying speeds.  Crazy.  Also noted a number of army squads patroling the streets with weapons at the ready.  I realize this is necessary these days – but scary.  Had dinner at a resteraunt across from Notre Dame, then had a bus tour of Paris at night.

Our second day started with a bus trip to Auvers (pronounced O-vair).  This small country village has claimed Van Gogh as one of its own.auversflower-mkt Van Gogh committed suicide here while painting the cornfields outside the village. As dismal as that sounds, we got to see a lovely French village very different from bustling Paris.  I could write here! We arrived in time for a local market which included some lovely flowers.  We auverscemetaryvisited the cemetery where Van Gogh was buried next to his younger brother. Theo died just six months after Vincent. Did you know that Vincent only sold one painting in his lifetime and that was to a relative?  He only painted for ten years before he took his own life. I photographed the cemetary for Jeanne 🙂 .  Very different from the cemetaries around here.  Look at all the flowers!  We had lunch – including a lovely white wine…all sunkingmeals, except breakfast, include wine!) at a local restaurant then headed back to Paris to visit the Louvre. It was hot, packed and full of tourists taking selfies in front of famous paintings.  Was pleased to see some of my favorites and the Sun King Room.  This is a shot of the ceiling. Such extravagance!!

montmartreWe left for Montmartre the following day and I fell in love with the crazy, bohemian lifestyle.  Montmartre is the name for the high hill on the right bank of the Seine.  It’s easily recognized by the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the left.  The area is known for its nightclubs and artistic presence.  Monet, Renoir, Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec and many other artists maintained studios here.  Below is a picture of one of the remaining windhills on Montmartre.  There used to be many, hence the inspiration for the windmill on the famous Moulin Rouge.  After lunch in a resteraunt whereimg_2301 Van Gogh painted.  We left for L’Orangerie museum in the afternoon.  L’Orangerie has two oval rooms lit by natural sunlight, specifically designed for Monet’s waterlilies.  Truly awe-inspiring.  I could have sat there surrounded by the paintings for hours, but had to return to the hotel to pack.  Tomorrow, we board the riverboat in Normandy.

etractatWe left Paris on a bus and rode to Etretat in Normandy.  This is a lovely seaside town.  Monet visited here and painted the cliffs.  So cool to see the reality and the painting.  After lunch in a local restaurant that we were assured was often visited by the impressionist artists, we headed for Honfleur and the Seine where our riverboat was moored.

To be honest, when we arrived in Honfleur, I was not impressed.  The ship was moored behind a big building that blocked the view of the town. We were busy in the evening with learninghonfleur the ways of the ship and having our four course dinner.  I anxiously awaited sailing down the Seine.  But the next morning, we were got to explore Honfleur – OMG – it was stunning!!  As soon as we rounded the building we saw breathtaking views!  We visited the local museum which had a few impressionists and then we shopped 🙂 and checked out the double-decker carousel.  Honfleur is a tidal town, thus the boat would have to pass through six locks on our journey to adjust for the different heights of the water.

abbeyWe stopped in Duclair which had more to do with the timing of our arrival at the locks than anything with the Impressionist painters, but we visited a working monastery.  No pictures were allowed inside, but the grounds were.  The monks raise money selling CDs of their chants, and with their homebrewed beer.

On to Rouen.  Loved this town.  It was a marvelous mixture of oldrouenlights world and new.  Of course, part of that was because the allies bombed the heck out of the bridges and homes along the Seine to cut German supply lines.  New modern buildings were built once the war was over.  In Rouen, we saw the cathedral Monet made famous with his paintings.  This is also the city where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake.  We saw the spot, now memoralized by a garden.  In the evening we watched the most amazing laser light show played out on the face of the cathedral.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  Very flowing, utilizing the unique structure of the cathedral.  Rouen and Honfleur were my favorite towns on this trip.

givflowersAfter spending the night on ship in Rouen, we visited a really nice museum, then sailed for eight hours to Vernon.  There’s a lovely old church there that we visited, but notwaterlily much else.  The following day we took a bus to Giverney to see Monet’s house and gardens.  OMG.  I’m hoping my husband was inspired by the beautiful gardens.  It doesn’t matter what time of year one visits, something is blooming.

Finally, we returned to Paris on Sunday which was a Heritage day.  This meant that all public museums and buildings had free admission.  We toured Notre Dame while a mass was in process.  Lovely to hear notredamejpgthe fabulous organ and voices singing while admiring the artwork in the church.  In the afternoon, we went to the Marmottan and viewed their fabulous Monets.  That evening, the last evening in Paris, we drifted  down the Seine in the riverboat admiring the lights of Paris.  Truly lovely.

Have you ever been to France?  Which part?  Have you ever gone on a trip with a tour?  What did you think?  Must admit, I’d do this tour again in a heartbeat.  If you could go anywhere, where would you go? I have a little Eiffel Tower keychain thingie to give to someone statute-of-libertyleaving a comment.  I think I have a couple of bookmarks from one of the museums, but I can’t find them.  LOL.  Watch future blogs and see if they turn up 🙂  Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter, if you haven’t already, to see more photos from the trip.  I plan to release that next week.

Okay now, let’s chat.









  • Amy Conley says:

    Donna, that trip sounds like heaven.

  • I’ve never been to France, but I have taken tours. Not all are as they seem, though. Booked a tour to see dolphins in Hawaii. Imagine our surprise when we’re the only Americans among these Chinese tourists!Got treated special, though. Tour guide told us everything first, then repeated it in Chinese! 🙂

    Glad you had a good time and made it back safely, too!

    • Hi Stacy!

      LOL on the Chinese tour in Hawaii :). We had been forewarned that the tour guide makes all the difference. The same person said Roads Scholars tends to hire good guides which was very true in our case. I had also heard that Roads Scholars used to be known as Elder Hostels. We thought we might be the youngest on the tour. I don’t think that was true – but it was close. 🙂

  • Jane says:

    I’m so jealous, Donna. Would love to visit France someday. Did you bring back any macaroons? I would hope on a Mediterranean cruise now if I could.

    • Hi Jane!

      We didn’t bring back any macaroons because we ate them all. I always thought macaroons included coconut but I see that is not the case. Truly surprised by all the flavors. I did bring back some Normandy caramels which we were told were especially good and some chocolates in touristy tins from Maxims. Thought to share those with my daughter and daughter in law.

      A Mediterranean cruise sounds fantastic! Maybe one day we’ll get to take one as well.

  • Shannon says:

    I am going to Paris for four days in October. I’ve been on line lots trying to figure out what I really want to see and do. I know one day is Versailles. I’m taking notes of where you went and what you saw in Paris. I know my hotel is in Montmartre.

    My experience with London (and the UK) is that I generally can see two-three things per day. More than that, I’m overwhelmed. And I’m not good at moving on. I don’t read every sign, but I read many of them. And on those audio tours when they have Room 2 with additional information on x on 21 and y and 22 and z on 23, I find myself click-clicking.

    Enjoy being back on the job.

    • Hi Shannon!

      A trip to Paris in October would be fabulous! I definitely missed seeing Versailles. I believe it would be worth a day trip, though we didn’t have any days to spare. The other thing I missed was touring the inside of the Opera – home of the famous Phantom :). The exterior looked magnificent but it’s another thing that we just couldn’t find the time to do. Remember when you go that many places close on Sunday and some on Monday so check your destinations and hours open. The L’Orangerie would be a quick visit. Once you’ve seen the rooms of Monets, you can skip the rest. Loved seeing the Musee D’Orsay – but there’s a lot to see and we only did the Impressionist paintings. Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower (pronounced F-fell in France. I guess I-fell is something of an insult) are must sees, but be warned that those places are also where the pick-pockets hang out.

      I could spend a full day exploring Montmartre. I don’t know if you are into art, but there’s a small art museum by the Basilica that is interesting. Plus Renoir painted there – you can still still the famous swing.

      You’ll have an amazing time no matter what you see 🙂 !

    • Shannon – Forgot to say… The French always say Bonjour when they meet someone – stranger or friend. They think Americans are rude because we ask questions, or purchase souvenirs, without first greeting the person with “Bonjour!” Just saying 🙂

  • Sounds like a heavenly trip! I visited Paris for a week back in the late 80’s. One of my bridesmaids was from Fourtainebleau and she and her roommates had a cute little flat in Paris. I always thought I would get to go back so I didn’t spend nearly as much time visiting museums, cathedrals, and palaces as I wished. I did, however, visit a great many night clubs, male strip clubs, and restaurants. Hey, I was in my early 30’s, give me a break! The clubs were fun and the food was amazing!

    I would love to return and spend more time in all of the museums and cathedrals. I sang in Amsterdam a number of times, but I was also fortunate enough to spend two weeks there on vacation and it was an amazing two weeks. And I spent one entire day in the Van Gogh Museum. It was an anniversary year for him so all of his paintings were called home to this museum. Standing in front of the actual paintings was one of the most moving experiences of my life.

    • Louisa –

      LOL – Like the sound of those male strip clubs 🙂 Were those in Montmartre? Sounds like a trip back to France is warranted.

      Vincent Van Gogh was truly an amazing painter, the way he poured so much emotion onto the canvas. He was self-taught and ridiculed for his efforts. So sad how genious is mistaken for crazy. We saw a couple Van Goghs but not a lot. We saw more about where he lived. Monet, however, was everywhere. I hadn’t realized he’d painted so many waterlilies paintings!!!!!!

  • helensibbritt says:

    Hi Donna

    Thank you so much for the photos and tour loved and have loved seeing them on Facebook as well. I have not been to France and sadly probably won’t but one of my daughters went there on a school excursion when she was 14 and loved it and the Eiffel Tower would be a place I would love to visit. I look forward to more photos in the newsletter 🙂

    Have Fun

    • There’s so much to see there, Helen. But as I told my husband, there’s much we haven’t seen in the USA as well. I really loved that the tour included the river cruise. That made it magical. It’s good to put together this blog and the newsletter because it all keeps it fresh in my mind. 🙂

  • Pissenlit says:

    That sounds like an absolutely fabulous holiday! Did you try the Duclair monks’ beer?

    I’ve never been to France but after getting my BFA, it’s third on my List of Places to Visit. I’ve taken a tour trip or two before but I have a tendency to wander so I don’t know if I’m very suited to them. Also on my List of Places to Visit, ahead of France, is the UK. I suppose that should technically break down into more than one place but oh well, it’s easier to list this way 😀

    • Hi Pissenlit!

      It was fabulous. No, I didn’t try the monk’s beer. One, because I don’t drink beer and two, they requested we not use charge cards to pay for purchases – they wanted Euros. We didn’t bring a lot of Euros on the trip because everything was paid for in advance. So we passed on the beer – but I took a picture 🙂 I’ll see if I can upload it here.

      This tour worked for us in that the leader always gave us time to wander and gave us a meeting place and time to move on to the next thing. She used “whispers,” little devices that you wore around your neck and connected to your ear. She could talk normally, and we could hear her from some distance away – so we could look at other things while she talked about something we didn’t care about.

      I’d love to go back to the UK. When I went to England back in the late 1980s, I thought I’d make my mark as a painter, not as a writer. I observed with a painter’s eye, not with a writer’s wish to research. I’d like to go back for all that I missed back then. One day…

      • Pissenlit says:

        Oh! That sounds like my kinda tour! Not being able to hear if you end up at the back of the tour mob because you’ve been wandering doesn’t sound like it would be a problem! 🙂

      • Yeah – That’s the idea. It’s a technology that many of the tour companies use. It’s nice that the tour leader doesn’t have to shout in the “quiet spaces.”

        My pic of a beer label isn’t working. 🙁 Sorry – not the must technical bandita. I’ll have to stick it in the newsletter. 🙂

  • Jeanne Adams says:

    Donna, that is totally amazing!!! Love it!! What a great trip!