Hi Frugalistas! European river cruises are definitely all the rage at the moment. The only question is which itinerary to choose? I think a river cruise from Paris to Normandy is a wonderful way to experience a luxury river cruise and must be one of the best river cruises available in Europe. But a Normandy river cruise isn’t just about the cruise. Here are five special places you will surely want to visit on a French river cruise to Normandy.
Monet’s Garden at Giverny
On many Normandy river cruises, Vernon will be your first stop. While there are other interesting things to visit, most people arrive in Vernon with just one plan in mind – Monet’s garden at Giverny. Because the garden is only open from the end of March to the end of October it is worth planning your cruise for a time when the garden is open. I always thought that Monet’s garden would not be worth visiting in autumn, but I proved myself very wrong when I visited in October. The garden was delightful, and more importantly, the house and gardens were not at all crowded.
If you have the opportunity it is also worth exploring the village of Giverny. It is charming in its own right with its pretty architecture and gorgeous gardens.
I was surprised to discover that Honfleur is offered as a tour in some Normandy river cruise itineraries. But really it should come as no surprise because it is one of the prettiest towns in France. Like Giverny, Honfleur is also a home for painters who love its charming harbour. While meals on river cruise ships are always one of the true highlights of your trip, food lovers will find plenty of Normandy food treats to tempt in Honfleur. Whether your preference is for the renowned savory crèpe, the galette, local mussels, or a delicious (usually hard) cider, make sure you save your appetite for a delicious meal in Honfleur.
Adding a tour to Honfleur is a wonderful shore excursion to add to your river cruise itinerary.
Rouen is an easy day trip from Paris, but it is a charming excursion to consider during your river cruise in Normandy. The Medieval old town makes a real contrast to both Honfleur and Paris. What to enjoy in Rouen? The gorgeously restored Gothic Cathedral, that Monet painted over 30 times during his life. Popular Place du Vieux-Marché where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake for heresy. And the always popular Great Clock. Lovers of architecture will surely want to check out rue Saint-Romain and rue Eau-de-Robec with its pretty medieval streetscape. Lovers of French literature will love to visit Rouen for its association with the famous French author, Gustave Flaubert, who was born in the town. His birthplace is now a museum commemorating his life.
While not as well known as the other places I have mentioned in this post, if your Normandy cruise offers a tour to Auvers-sur-Oise, it should be on your list. Vincent Van Gogh lived in Auvers-sur Oise, and painted its church. His brother Theo buried him there. But there is far more to see in this pretty town, just 27km from central Paris.
The gardens of the Chateau d’Auvers make a wonderful way to work off some of that lovely river cruise cuisine you will have been enjoying. You can also visit the original Van Gogh church, Notre Dame de l’Assomption (when you return to Paris make sure you check out the original in the Musée d’Orsay.) The Van Gogh references continue as you visit his final resting place, along side his brother Theo who died just a year later. The sunflowers on their graves make a poignant reminder of his work.
Most France river cruises to Normandy begin and end in Paris. The best Seine River cruises to Normandy will include tour options in Paris, normally at the end of your tour. Depending on your interests, you might like to consider a Paris walking tour, a tour of all the city highlights, or a day trip to Versailles. Regardless of how many times you have visited Paris, it is always worth adding some extra days to explore more of this wonderful city.
When you return to Paris from Normandy you may like to visit the Musée d’Orsay. Not only is it a wonderful museum in its own right, but if you have visited Giverny, Rouen and Auvers-sur-Oise you will have the opportunity to see the art of Monet and Van Gogh that have helped make these cities famous. If you visit the Museum before your cruise, you will see art come to life!
You don’t need to travel long distances in Europe to enjoy a special European river cruise experience. A Paris Normandy river cruise is a fun way to explore this culturally and gastronomically rich part of France.
All photos author’s own.