Learn what this Grand Circle traveler loves most about river cruising
Alice Turner, 2-time traveler, Charlotte, North Carolina
I met my friend Norene Payne—a 2-time traveler from Charlotte, North Carolina —eight years ago at our gym. I was interested in finding a walking partner, so my trainer introduced me to Norene.
We began chatting and I realized Norene lived just around the corner from me. We had many things in common: We are both widows, active, have adopted children, and enjoy traveling. So, we began walking together and discussing future travel plans. Norene said, “Alice, as long as you do the planning, I’ll go.” Since then, we’ve visited Italy, Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, and many other wonderful destinations.
I’d always wanted to take a River Cruise through France—and had told Norene years ago that I wanted to do the trip. I’ve been to Paris before, but have never explored the middle of France and was interested to do so. I’d heard about Grand Circle and knew the company had a great reputation, so I told Norene about Grand Circle’s Cruising Burgundy & Provence to the Cote d’Azur River Cruise and suggested that it might be time to finally take the trip. Since she knew it’s always been on my “bucket list,” she said, “Alice, if you plan the trip, I’ll go.”
And so began our wonderful journey along France’s Rhone River.
Alice (left) and Norene proudly display their local paper inside the Hall of Mirrors of the Palace of Versailles.
What I love most about river cruising is how easy it is: You don’t need to worry about constantly unpacking and repacking. I absolutely loved our ship. The cabins were large and clean—and our crew was fabulous.
Norene celebrated her birthday during our trip, so the crew made sure to acknowledge the special day. The kitchen staff came running through the dining room carrying a delicious cake donned with sparklers. She felt so special at that moment.
The ship’s captain and kitchen staff celebrated Norene’s birthday with this sparkling cake. (Photo courtesy of Gordon Sickel, a 13-time traveler from Eatontown, New Jersey.)
The other travelers in our group were so wonderful—and, by the time our journey was over, I felt like we’d made 40 new friends. I know it must be said all the time, but I really think that Dominique Monteil, our Program Director, was the best guide I’ve ever had. We happened to be traveling during the Icelandic volcano situation, and it was an extremely stressful time. Dominique, along with the rest of the Grand Circle team, went above and beyond to ensure everyone had a place to stay and got home safe and sound.
Traveling slowly up the river was an experience like no other. Each town we visited was so unique from the other—and Dominique, along with the other guides that came aboard, described the history of each location in such detail. I absolutely loved the Burgundy wine country. We visited a local farm, where the owner took us on a tour of his vineyards—including a stop in a cave, where he described the history of his wine production.
Alice (in black and white) and Norene (in red) enjoyed spending time with a local family in their home in Tournon, France. (Photo courtesy of Gordon Sickel, a 13-time traveler from Eatontown, New Jersey.)
And how can you not fall in love with Paris? I’d traveled to this amazing city before, but each visit is so wonderful. We hear so much about the stereotypes of Parisians, but I’ve learned that they’re such a helpful and friendly group of people. During our visit to Paris, Norene, myself, and six other group members went to Restaurant Le Ciel de Paris—located in the top of Montparnasse Tower, it’s famous for being one of the highest restaurants in Paris—for Norene’s birthday celebration dinner. We were able to take in the amazing views of the city—including a fantastic look at the Eiffel Tower.
But the true highlight of the trip for me was our visit to the Rhone American Cemetery. Six members of our group were World War II veterans, so they were asked to place wreaths in honor of those that lost their lives during the battle. I’ve been to Normandy, but there was something even more moving about this visit. The local cemetery guide gave such a comprehensive speech about the history of the battle and those that gave their lives for their country. I’ll never forget it.
Alice’s visit to the Rhone American Cemetery was especially moving. (Photo courtesy of Gordon Sickel, a 13-time traveler from Eatontown, New Jersey.)
Norene and I loved our journey on this French River Cruise. Although we’re both very different people, we’re also very compatible. We just enjoy one another’s company. And because we have a lot in common, we’re able to bring our similar experiences to our travels and we just understand each other more.
I can’t wait for our next River Cruise together.
Explore France’s unique towns and friendly people on our Cruising Burgundy & Provence to the Cote d’Azur River Cruise.