Sunday Afternoon in Les Andelys

by Don McCann

On our recent Avalon Waterways cruise on the Seine River, we had two ‘ports of call’ for our second day.  After a fantastic morning exploring the gardens and home of Monet in Giverny, we stopped in Les Andelys.  Perhaps my favorite part of this stop was just as we were gliding into position along the dock, there were locals strolling along the waterfront, enjoying their Sunday Afternoon and only passively interested in our arrival.

We had the choice of a walking tour through town, or ‘up the hill’ to Chateau Gaillard which was built by King Richard the Lionheart as a fortress in 1196.  We opted for the town tour, which I thoroughly enjoyed; nothing special, just a walk in the heart of another charming, quaint, little French jewel along the river.  However, I wish there had been enough time to also hike up to see the ruins up close.  My camera was able to zoom in pretty well though; it looks impressive.

After our tour, we walked around on own, first along the riverfront, then up the hill a ways, overlooking town.  With only about 150 passengers onboard a river cruise, once you disperse and explore on your own, you feel like you’ve blended into the local culture as a respectful visitor (rather than arriving with thousands at a port on an ocean cruise and being seen as invaders!)

Just a really enjoyable Sunday afternoon in Les Andelys!

Les Andelys arrival

arrival in Les Andelys

Les Andelys Chateau Gaillard from town

Chateau Gaillard as seen from town

Les Andelys Chateau Gaillard

Chateau Gaillard with a zoom lens!

Les Andelys church

Les Andelys church & town square

Les Andelys from hill

Les Andelys as seen from the hill

Les Andelys Tapestry II

Avalon Tapestry II docked in Les Andelys

Les Andelys timber architecture

Les Andelys examples of timber architecture

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Monet, Monet

by Don McCann

In a previous post, I mentioned about my recent Avalon Waterways cruise on the Seine River to the Normandy Region of France.  On our itinerary, the first port of call was the quaint town of Vernon, the gateway to Monet’s home at Giverny.  I think most of us probably envision lily pads on a tranquil pond when we hear the name “Giverny” and that’s JUST what we were lucky enough to see that first morning!

Vernon, France on a quiet Sunday morning

Vernon on a quiet Sunday morning

Our tour departure time allowed us enough time to disembark and wonder the little town of Vernon before we boarded the motorcoach for the short drive to Giverny.  Being a Sunday morning, Vernon was noticeably quiet and made for a delightful early walk as we quickly explored what charming & historic sights the village had to offer.  As is true with so many European locations, the church was the dominant landmark and it was a very short distance from our ship.

As we arrived in Giverny, the anticipation grew with each phase of the tour.  First, a walk from the parking lot to the outer area of the village, then into the gardens themselves, next into Monet’s home, and finally a short walk to the far end of town to the cemetery for Monet’s grave.  In the gardens, on the path, over the famed arched bridge, it all seems as though the paintings of Monet have come to life and you are directly ‘in the thick of it’!  It is an area of impressive beauty and its preservation seems to have been successful to maintain an authentic “Monet experience”.  I could say more, but the photos say it best, take a look…

Giverny, France lily pads

Giverny lily pads

Giverny, France foot bridge

Giverny, France foot bridge

Giverny, France area map

Giverny area map

Giverny, France gardens

Giverny, France gardens

Monet home in Giverny, France

Monet home in Giverny

Monet's bedroom at Giverny , France

Monet’s bedroom at Giverny

Monet's grave in Giverny, France

Monet’s grave in Giverny

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Technology – It’s a Thing!

by Don McCann

Last week we received a preview video of Holland America Line’s new Koningsdam, which will be introduced next Spring. The ship is, as you might expect, quite impressive and I’m sure it will be a wonderful addition to the Holland America fleet. However, equally as impressive to me is the technology of the video itself! We see many of this type of ‘preview’ videos these days, but I continue to be amazed at the ability of the digital ‘renderings’ to come to life in such a way that it’s difficult to remember that this is not ‘real’ just yet!

Take a look at this short 3minute video and see if you agree that this visual technology is quite a ‘thing’! ……

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Which Do You Find More Exciting?

by Don McCann

Last month my wife and I were lucky enough to take a 7-night river cruise from Paris to the Normandy region with Avalon Waterways on the Seine River. Then we stayed in Paris for a week afterwards in an apartment where we’d stayed twice before.

Before the trip, I was quite excited and then I started to wonder which was more exciting: going to some place new, which had been of interest for many years, or returning to my favorite city? It was probably 50-50, but it got me to thinking about our clients and their perspectives on travel. So when it comes to your next trip, which is more exciting for you: A new destination, or returning to a favorite place from a past trip?

I’m going to blog about some of the individual ports on our cruise in upcoming posts, but reply to this one and let us know – which scenario is more exciting for you?…..

Seine vs Paris


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It Was Only a Matter of Time….

by Don McCann

With all of the growing popularity of European river cruises, it’s not too surprising that one of the major ‘ocean’ cruise lines has decided to launch their own river cruise division. Recently, Crystal Cruises announced that they will begin river cruises within Europe in 2017. At the time, they released virtually no details, but earlier this week they announced some date information and even showed us a couple of renderings!

Crystal Cruises European River CruiseCrystal Cruises will begin European river cruises in March, 2017 and reservations will open in December of this year, in 2015. That far in advance, you might ask? Yes! With the demand for river cruises and the limited number of cabins onboard, they sell much further in advance than many ocean cruises.

The river vessels from Crystal will each feature standard ‘suites’ at 250 square feet,Crystal Cruises river cruise suite as well as two 500 square feet penthouse suites. Accommodations will have walk-in closets, king-size beds and the bathrooms will have double vanities. As with their ocean ships, the river ships will include their signature Palm Court, which will have a glass roof & dance floor and there will be a fitness center and spa. The ships will carry only 140 guests.

The other lines in the luxury arena of European river cruises (Uniworld, Tauck, and Scenic) will surely be interested to see how Crystal will create their own style of luxury river cruises and we’ll all be interested to see at what price point, as well. Stay tuned for more info!

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Who Wants to go to Cuba?!

by Don McCann

Having grown up in Florida in the 60’s, Cuba always held a fascination for me (and many others) during that time.  It was a place of some mystery and sort of the forbidden fruit of travel destinations.  This all intensified as the years of our strained relations between countries continued, decade after decade.  Attitudes softened for some and travel restrictions opened the slightest little crack in recent years with “people to people” exchange programs.  Basically this means that tour companies could take Americans to Cuba, legally, if we were on a structured, sort of ‘cultural’ type itinerary (lazing on the beaches and playing in the casinos NOT).  These packages have been sort of a trip-of-a-lifetime for those who have been, but most U.S. travelers are unaware this is possible.

Enter the new era of much publicity for Cuba with the U.S. establishing diplomatic relations and related speculation about when travel will really OPEN UP.  So now, Cuba is suddenly of interest to many travelers, but options are still very limited.  The good news is that there are excellent tour companies who can show us the ‘classic Cuba’ with the vintage cars and the colonial charm of today, which many fear will quickly vanish once our unrestricted travel is allowed.  The bad news is that such ‘open’ travel is still a few years away.

If you have an interest in seeing Cuba, before it all changes, here’s an example of a top-of-the-line package from Tauck:

Tauck Tours Cuba

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The Surprising Wonders of the Douro River

by Don McCann

When most of us think of a Europe river cruise, we think “Danube”, or “Rhine”, or maybe “Seine”.  If you have never visited Portugal, you are in for a treat; or, see a dramatic new side of this beautiful country on the Douro River.  Some of the most spectacular river cruise scenery can be found in Portugal along the DOURO River!   The river takes you on a winding easterly course between steeply terraced vineyards, stopping at ports of call largely unchanged for centuries with charming town squares, colorful castles, baroque mansions and historic monasteries.  At the Spanish border you can indulge in a scenic ride into Spain to visit the medieval city of Salamanca before your leisurely voyage back to Porto.

Sound interesting? Watch the video below.

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