Overcoming preconceived notions during a River Cruise through France
By Chuck Zellner, 12-time traveler, Katonah, New York
I have traveled at least 12 times with Grand Circle and have taken most of your European River Cruises. I wasn’t extremely excited about going to France on The Seine: Paris to Normandy River Cruise, but I wanted to see the beaches of Normandy. Despite the poor weather we experienced, this turned out to be one of the best River Cruises I’ve been on.
Having lost my wife in 2003, I travel as a single now. But I have no problem traveling alone with Grand Circle because most of the other travelers in my groups are within my age range and they’re experienced travelers who have similar interests to my own. And there are usually no “cliques” where people tend to eat together or tune out others. If you have any kind of problem, your fellow travelers become your own support system. As a single male, I have never felt alone on one of my trips.
Chuck poses in front of Paris’s iconic Eiffel Tower.
The food on our ship, the M/S Bizet, was excellent. The pacing of the trip, and included and optional tours, kept my interest at a peak even though I’m not really interested in art or history. During our first day on the ship, our Captain cruised through Paris during the daylight hours and then we sailed through “The City of Lights” again at night. It was a great way to see the city from the river.
For me, the highlight of my trip was my visit to the Normandy beaches. We walked along the beach where our young American soldiers landed on D-Day. I am retired from the military (I served in Korea), and my father was in France during World War I, so this was especially meaningful for me. We visited the American Cemetery, where more than 9,000 of our young people are buried—and seeing all of the crosses facing the United States was an experience I will never forget. They had a ceremony for us where the National Anthem and “Taps” were played. Each of us was given a rose to place on a grave of our choosing. None of us had a dry eye!
Chuck’s visit to the American Cemetery was an especially meaningful highlight of his trip.
I travel with Grand Circle because of the excellence of the Program Directors—which can make or break a trip. On this River Cruise, our Program Directors (each group of 40 is assigned to their own Program Director), were wonderful. Aubrey, Marie, and Laurent worked as a close-knit team. In addition to handling the logistics of the trip, they entertained and educated us on the culture, politics, and history of France. They took a personal interest in each one of us. And they continued to go that extra mile throughout our River Cruise. We were traveling during Easter—and the ship was decorated in celebration of the holiday—so they arranged for all of us to have an Easter bonnet contest. It was so much fun—and there were a lot of laughs!
The host of Chuck’s Home-Hosted Meal honored his guests by draping an American flag upon his shoulders.
Prior to my trip to France, I had negative perceptions of the French. There’s a preconceived notion in the U.S. that the French are arrogant and do not appreciate what was done for them in both World War I and II by the U.S. However, America would probably not exist today if it were not for France's help defeating the British during the Revolutionary War. The people of France are very proud and have great allegiance to their country. During my trip, as I got to know our three Program Directors, interacted with the local family during our Home-Hosted experience, and chatted with the bus drivers and museum staff, my eyes were opened to the idea that the French truly do appreciate Americans. This was a real discovery experience for me.
Explore the “City of Lights” and the historic Normandy beaches on our The Seine: Paris to Normandy River Cruise.