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Day by Day Itinerary

Join us aboard this in-depth voyage from cosmopolitan Paris to the beaches of Normandy, and delve deeply into a region rich in history and culture. You’ll start by exploring Paris, the “City of Light,” witnessing monuments, cathedrals, and elegant avenues made famous in film and photographs. Next, you’ll embark on a Seine River Cruise through the heartland of France aboard our 120-passenger M/S Bizet, which was ranked #7 in Condé Nast Traveler’s “Top 40 River Cruise Ships in the World” 2013 Readers’ Poll: With its Sun Deck and all outside cabins, you’ll enjoy uninterrupted views of orchards and fertile pastures lining the banks of the Seine. You’ll disembark to visit Conflans, or “Van Gogh Country,” meet with a local family in Vernon during a Home-Hosted Visit, take a walking tour of Rouen (made famous by Joan of Arc), and more. Then you’ll arrive in Honfleur, where moving remembrances await you as journey to the beaches of Normandy, visit the World War II Peace Memorial Museum, and pause at the somber field that is the American Military Cemetery.

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    Depart today on your flight to Paris, France. Please refer to your individual air itinerary for exact departure and arrival times.

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    Discover new friendships aboard MS Bizet

    Arrive this morning or afternoon in Paris. You are met at the airport and transferred to your river ship. If you began your discoveries early with our optional pre-trip extension to Paris, France, or Loire Valley, France, you will join your main group today.

    Unpack, settle in, and explore your ship, or just rest up in your cabin. A light lunch will be available for those who arrive early. You have the balance of the day to do as you wish after your overseas flight.

    Celebrate your arrival in France with a Welcome Drink and a Welcome Briefing with your fellow travelers and Program Director. Then join your new companions for a Welcome Dinner tonight in the dining room.

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    • Meals included:
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    After breakfast this morning, enjoy a half-day panoramic tour introducing you to the city's classic highlights. You'll see the Eiffel Tower from different perspectives as you travel along the famed Champs Elysees. View the Arc de Triomphe (commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 and completed in 1836) which stands at the end of the Champs Elysees at a large central roundabout where twelve elegant, tree-lined avenues converge. Back onboard, enjoy a lunch buffet.

    Explore on your own this afternoon.

    Or, join an optional excursion to one of Paris' most famous and lively districts, Montmartre. Visit the famed Basilica of Sacre Coeur, with its dramatic perch on the top of the Montmartre hill. Delight in the views of Paris below, and spend some time exploring the charming streets of this romantic neighborhood. Watch the street artists at work or browse the local shops for some souvenirs to bring home.

    After your port talk this evening, enjoy dinner aboard your ship.

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    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:
    View the Palace of Versailles

    Enjoy the morning at leisure to continue exploring Paris.

    Or, embark on a half-day optional excursion to the Palace of Versailles—the former home of 3,000 princes, ministers, and servants. Your guided tour will take you through the palace's Grand Chambers, the renowned Hall of Mirrors (where the Treaty of Versailles, ending World War I, was signed in 1919), and the Royal Chapel. You'll view the luminous decor in marble, chased bronze, and gold leaf, as well as Rococo-style woodwork and Italian-style painted ceilings. You'll also have time to visit the expansive French gardens at your leisure. PRE-SOLD ONLY: Due to limited space, this optional tour must be reserved at least 30 days prior to departure and cannot be booked on-site.

    The afternoon will be yours to make your own discoveries in Paris. Then, early this evening, you'll board your river ship and begin your Seine River Cruise, which will carry you some 230 miles from Paris to Honfleur, on the Normandy coast. As you sail toward Conflans, you'll enjoy dinner, and you'll have the opportunity to learn key French words and phrases during a language lesson.

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    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:
    Explore the street in Auvers sur Oise where Vincent Van Gogh lived

    This morning, disembark for an excursion through Van Gogh Country. The Seine, the Epte, and the Oise—three French rivers referred to as the "Rivers of Light"—neighbor each other in this area, and it was here that the Impressionist artists flocked to paint landscapes and scenes that have become so recognizable around the world.

    You'll have a guided walking tour of Auvers-sur-Oise, the village where Vincent van Gogh came to live after his release from the asylum in nearby Saint-Remy. Vincent and his brother, Theo, agreed it would be best for him to remain close to his physician, Dr. Gachet, who also served as the subject of several of his portraits during this time. Van Gogh remained here for three months, until his suicide in 1890, and during this time he created some of his most brilliant pieces. Remarkably, he produced almost 80 paintings in this short time, including the turbulent Wheat Field With Crows—one of his last works. During this tour, you will see the house where he lived and visit his grave. This picturesque village also welcomed Corot, Pissarro, and Cezanne, among others.

    Later, as you cruise towards Vernon, you can join a Discovery Series cooking demonstration onboard, as our chef prepares a classic French treat.

    Before dinner onboard tonight, you'll have the chance to learn about artists of the Impressionist period during an Exclusive Discovery Series presentation.

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    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    After breakfast, disembark for an excursion into the countryside to see the lovely landscapes that inspired Claude Monet. He first witnessed the village of Giverny while looking out a train window in 1883, and the unique light of the Seine Valley  kept him in residence for 43 years. He stayed here until his death in 1926, and you’ll find his grave in the family vault at the town’s Romanesque church.

    Explore the artist’s home and gardens, left by his son Michel to the Academie des Beaux-Arts in 1966 and now a museum dedicated to the great painter. The house is furnished as it was when the leader of the Impressionist School lived here, including his precious collection of Japanese engravings.

    The gardens have been replanted, and as you stroll through them, you’ll see with your own eyes the landscapes that have graced countless Monet paintings. You'll spot the familiar Japanese bridge and water garden shaded by weeping willows, its pond still full of the water lilies that so permeated his work. "I want to paint like the birds sing,” Monet said. Perhaps you’ll agree that the idyllic setting in Giverny would lend itself to his dream. Please note: This tour is available on April through October departures only. On March and November departures, we offer a walking tour of Vernon instead.

    While in Vernon, make new friends as you visit the home of a local family.

    Dinner is onboard ship this evening.

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    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:
    Explore France aboard the MS Bizet

    This morning, enjoy some time to explore the sleepy village of Les Andelys on your own. You'll enjoy views of Chateau Gaillard, an imposing fortress from the era of Richard the Lionhearted. Then you might decide to join a gourmet tasting of classic French delicacies onboard the ship.

    After lunch, enjoy an Exclusive Discovery Series event as you put brush to canvas during an onboard watercolor painting class. Perhaps the scenery along the Seine will be your inspiration.

    Savor dinner onboard as you cruise toward Rouen, where you'll arrive this evening.

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    View Rouen's Gros Horloge clock

    After breakfast, disembark for a walking tour of Rouen. The capital of Normandy, Rouen is an important French commercial city with a distinguished history dating to pre-Roman times. But it is more infamous as the city where Joan of Arc was imprisoned, tried for heresy, and burned at the stake in 1431. Here you'll see the 14th-century abbey where she was sentenced to death, and visit the Market Square where her execution took place. You'll have free time to explore after your tour, and you might visit the Joan of Arc Museum, containing a fascinating history of the French heroine of the Hundred Years' War.

    After lunch onboard, return to the city for time at leisure. Perhaps you'll visit Rouen's wonderful Gothic Notre Dame Cathedral, whose facade has graced more than 30 Monet paintings. The great painter rented rooms across from the cathedral in 1892, and he painted several canvases simultaneously, capturing nuances of light and weather that played across its Gothic facade.

    Or, join an optional tour to Normandy’s Abbey St. Wandrille in the quaint village of the same name. The Romanesque abbey, named after the monk who founded it in AD 649, began as a missionary and spiritual center and has stayed true to that cause over its 13 centuries of history. Learn about the bishops and saints who spent time at the famous abbey, as well as the fascinating background of its founder.

    Savor dinner onboard this evening.

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    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:
    Encounter new flavors during a cheese tasting aboard MS Bizet

    Spend time relaxing on the ship this morning.

    This afternoon, you may choose to join a half-day optional excursion to Fecamp and the beautiful cliffs on the Normandy coast at Etretat. Enjoy a scenic drive along the coast to take in the cliffs that, with their needles and natural arches, moved the brushes of Courbet and Monet, and continue to attract visitors today. You’ll also visit the Benedictine Order Castle at Fecamp and savor a taste of the famous Benedictine liqueur—made from 27 different herbs and spices. Finally, enjoy free time in town for your own explorations.

    Spend your afternoon at leisure. Early this evening, you’ll begin your cruise to Honfleur, your final port-of-call. En route, you’ll pass under Honfleur’s 90-foot tall Tancarville Bridge. You’ll also sample some local cheeses during an onboard tasting. Dinner tonight will coincide approximately with your arrival in Honfleur.

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    View the site of the D-Day landings in Normandy

    The D-Day landings, code-named “Operation Overlord,” were the largest military operation in recorded history. The beaches of Normandy bore the brunt of the invasion. Beginning at 6:30am on June 6, 1944, nearly 7,000 boats hit the beaches along the coast of Normandy. Those vessels carried tens of thousands of soldiers from the United States, Great Britain, Canada, and many other Allied nations, all of whom arrived determined to carry out General Eisenhower’s order, “Full victory—nothing else.”

    Begin your D-Day beach tour with a visit to the Battery at Longues Sur Mer. One of the most formidable gun emplacements the Allies faced, the four guns here could fire on either Gold or Omaha beaches and, at 215 feet above sea level, were ideally placed to confront the D-Day forces. Heavily bombed before the invasion began, these guns were only silenced by the combined firepower of the attacking ships.

    After a box lunch at the village of Arromanche, continue to the American Military Cemetery. You’ll see the monument that honors the fallen, and visit the cemetery of Colleville sur Mer, where 9,386 American soldiers rest.

    When they arrived on the beaches on D-day, the Allies were met with a deafening barrage of German gunfire. As the Nazis fired from secure pillboxes dug in high above the open beach, Allied soldiers were mowed down while exiting the boats and wading to shore. In time, some doggedly made it to the ridge overlooking the beach, finding shelter from the hail of enemy bullets. More than a thousand Allied troops died on Omaha Beach alone. You’ll have the opportunity to stand on the cliffs overlooking Omaha Beach and see the sand and breakers where the first Allied footing was achieved in German-occupied France.

    Then continue on to Pointe du Hoc—a place all Normandy veterans know well—where Allied forces scaled 328-foot cliffs as they sought to silence German artillery.

    After returning to the ship, your evening is at leisure after dinner onboard.

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    • Meals included:
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    Explore the French port town of Honfleur

    After breakfast, you’ll enjoy a walking tour of this well-preserved port town of Honfleur, founded in the eleventh century. Situated on a Seine estuary opposite Le Havre, the town was once one of the most important ports in France. It was from here that many voyages of discovery were launched, including the journey of native son Samuel de Champlain—who went on to found Port Royal in Nova Scotia and the settlement of Quebec in Canada.

    The port changed hands frequently between France and England during the Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453) and was finally won back by France in 1450. In the 1800s, Le Havre displaced Honfleur as a major port.

    Following your included tour, you'll have time to continue exploring Honfleur on your own.

    Or, join an optional visit to the Tapestry Museum of Bayeux, which showcases a remarkable piece of embroidered fabric—230 feet in length—depicting events of the 1066 Normandy invasion of England. Study elaborate scenes created with wool yarn of russet and gold, and learn the history that inspired this fascinating work of art.

    Gather with your new friends to share memories and toast to your enriching Seine River Cruise at the Captain’s Farewell Dinner. The ship remains in port tonight.

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    View the Peace Memorial Museum in Caen

    This morning, disembark your ship and transfer to the Peace Memorial Museum in Caen, a state-of-the-art facility that does an outstanding job of presenting the events of World War II, including D-Day, very vividly. It’s an excellent way to put into context what you saw at the Normandy beaches.

    After time for lunch on your own here, transfer to Charles de Gaulle Airport, located 18 miles from the Paris city center, for a final night in France before your return flight. Or, if you've chosen our post-trip extension to Brittany & St. Michel, France, transfer by motorcoach to St. Malo.

    Dinner is on your own this evening.

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    • Meals included:

    After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight home. Or, begin your post-trip extension in London, England.

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    Depart today on your flight to Paris, France.

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    Arrive this morning or afternoon in Paris. You are met at the airport and transferred to your airport hotel, located 18 miles from the Paris city center. If you began your European explorations early with our pre-trip extension in London, England, you will join the main group today.

    You have the balance of the day to relax after your overseas flight. Later, celebrate your arrival in France with a Welcome Drink and briefing with your fellow travelers and Program Director.

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    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:
    View the Peace Memorial Museum in Caen

    From Paris, you will transfer to the well-preserved port town of Honfleur, founded in the eleventh century. If you began your European explorations early with our pre-trip extension in Brittany & Mont St. Michel, France, you will join the main group today.

    En route, visit the Peace Memorial Museum in Caen, a state-of-the-art facility that does an outstanding job of presenting the events of World War II, including D-Day, very vividly. Your visit here will be an excellent way to put into context what you're going to see when you visit Normandy's beaches later in your trip. You'll have time here for lunch on your own.

    You'll arrive at and embark your ship in the mid-afternoon, with time to settle into your outside cabin, your private retreat for the next ten nights of your Seine River Cruise.

    Gather with your shipmates to toast the new friendships and enriching journey to come over a Welcome Drink and Captain's Welcome Dinner. The ship remains in port tonight.

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    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:
    Explore the French port town of Honfleur

    After breakfast, enjoy a walking tour of Honfleur. Situated on a Seine estuary opposite Le Havre, the town was once one of the most important ports in France. It was from here that many voyages of discovery were launched, including the journey of native son Samuel de Champlain—who would go on to found Port Royal in Nova Scotia and the settlement of Quebec in Canada.

    The port changed hands frequently between France and England during the Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453) and was finally won back by France in 1450. In the 1800s, Le Havre displaced Honfleur as a major port.

    After lunch on the ship, you are at leisure to explore Honfleur on your own.

    Or, join an optional visit to the Tapestry Museum of nearby Bayeux, which showcases a remarkable piece of embroidered fabric—230 feet in length—depicting events of the 1066 Normandy invasion of England. Study elaborate scenes created with wool yarn of russet and gold, and learn the history that inspired this fascinating work of art.

    The ship remains in port tonight.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:
    View the site of the D-Day landings in Normandy

    The D-Day landings, code-named “Operation Overlord,” were the largest military operation in recorded history. The beaches of Normandy bore the brunt of the invasion. Beginning at 6:30am on June 6, 1944, nearly 7,000 boats hit the beaches along the coast of Normandy. Those vessels carried tens of thousands of soldiers from the United States, Great Britain, Canada, and many other Allied nations, all of whom arrived determined to carry out General Eisenhower’s order, “Full victory—nothing else.”

    Begin your D-Day beach tour with a visit to the Battery at Longues Sur Mer. One of the most formidable gun emplacements the Allies faced, the four guns here could fire on either Gold or Omaha beaches and, at 215 feet above sea level, were ideally placed to confront the D-Day forces. Heavily bombed before the invasion began, these guns were only silenced by the combined firepower of the attacking ships.

    After a box lunch at the village of Arromanche, continue to the American Military Cemetery. You’ll see the monument that honors the fallen, and visit the cemetery of Colleville sur Mer, where 9,386 American soldiers rest.

    When they arrived on the beaches on D-day, the Allies were met with a deafening barrage of German gunfire. As the Nazis fired from secure pillboxes dug in high above the open beach, Allied soldiers were mowed down while exiting the boats and wading to shore. In time, some doggedly made it to the ridge overlooking the beach, finding shelter from the hail of enemy bullets. More than a thousand Allied troops died on Omaha Beach alone. You’ll have the opportunity to stand on the cliffs overlooking Omaha Beach and see the sand and breakers where the first Allied footing was achieved in German-occupied France.

    Then continue on to Pointe du Hoc—a place all Normandy veterans know well—where Allied forces scaled 328-foot cliffs as they sought to silence German artillery.

    Your evening is at leisure onboard the ship.

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    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:
    View a cathedral while touring Caudebec en Caux

    Early this morning (depending on the tide), depart Honfleur and cruise to Caudebec, passing under the Honfleur's 90-foot tall Tancarville Bridge en route. You'll enjoy a cheese tasting as you cruise.

    This afternoon, perhaps you'll join a half-day optional excursion this afternoon to Fecamp and the beautiful cliffs on the Normandy coast at Etretat. Enjoy a scenic drive along the coast to take in the cliffs that, with their needles and natural arches, moved the brushes of Courbet and Monet, and continue to attract visitors today. You'll also visit the Benedictine Order Castle at Fecamp and savor a taste of the famous Benedictine liqueur—made from 27 different herbs and spices. Return to the ship for dinner onboard this evening.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:
    View Rouen's Gros Horloge clock

    After breakfast, disembark for a walking tour of Rouen. The capital of Normandy, Rouen is an important French commercial city with a distinguished history dating to pre-Roman times. But it is more infamous as the city where Joan of Arc was imprisoned, tried for heresy, and burned at the stake in 1431. Here you'll see the 14th-century abbey where she was sentenced to death, and visit the Market Square where her execution took place. You'll have free time to explore after your tour, and you might visit the Joan of Arc Museum, containing a fascinating history of the French heroine of the Hundred Years' War.

    After lunch onboard, return to the city for time at leisure. Perhaps you'll visit Rouen's wonderful Gothic Notre Dame Cathedral, whose facade has graced more than 30 Monet paintings. The great painter rented rooms across from the cathedral in 1892, and he painted several canvases simultaneously, capturing nuances of light and weather that played across its Gothic facade.

    Or, join an optional tour to Normandy’s Abbey St. Wandrille in the quaint village of the same name. The Romanesque abbey, named after the monk who founded it in AD 649, began as a missionary and spiritual center and has stayed true to that cause over its 13 centuries of history. Learn about the bishops and saints who spent time at the famous abbey, as well as the fascinating background of its founder.

    Savor dinner onboard this evening.

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    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:
    Explore France aboard the MS Bizet

    This morning as you cruise toward Les Andelys, enjoy an onboard cooking demonstration during an exclusive Discovery Series event.

    You'll reach the village of Les Andelys early this afternoon. After lunch onboard, perhaps you'll join us for a watercolor painting class. Or you can spend some time exploring Les Andelys on your own. You'll enjoy views of Chateau Gaillard, an imposing fortress from the era of Richard the Lionhearted. As you cruise toward Vernon, enjoy the opportunity to learn a few essential French phrases during a language lesson.

    After dinner onboard this evening, enjoy a presentation about the Impressionist period during another exclusive Discovery Series event. Your ship arrives in Vernon where it remains docked overnight.

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    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    After breakfast, disembark for an excursion into the countryside to see the lovely landscapes that inspired Claude Monet. He first witnessed the village of Giverny while looking out a train window in 1883, and the unique light of the Seine Valley  kept him in residence for 43 years. He stayed here until his death in 1926, and you’ll find his grave in the family vault at the town’s Romanesque church.

    Explore the artist’s home and gardens, left by his son Michel to the Academie des Beaux-Arts in 1966 and now a museum dedicated to the great painter. The house is furnished as it was when the leader of the Impressionist School lived here, including his precious collection of Japanese engravings.

    The gardens have been replanted, and as you stroll through them, you’ll see with your own eyes the landscapes that have graced countless Monet paintings. You'll spot the familiar Japanese bridge and water garden shaded by weeping willows, its pond still full of the water lilies that so permeated his work. "I want to paint like the birds sing,” Monet said. Perhaps you’ll agree that the idyllic setting in Giverny would lend itself to his dream. Please note: This tour is available on April through October departures only. On March and November departures, we offer a walking tour of Vernon instead.

    Later in the afternoon, make new friends as you are invited the residence of a local family for a Home-Hosted Visit.

    Return to the ship for dinner and a relaxing evening onboard.

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    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:
    Explore the street in Auvers sur Oise where Vincent Van Gogh lived

    As your Seine River Cruise continues to Conflans this morning, sample French delicacies during a gourmet tasting.

    Then, alight from your ship for an excursion through Van Gogh Country. The Seine, the Epte, and the Oise—three French rivers referred to as the "Rivers of Light"—neighbor each other in this area, and it was here that the Impressionist artists flocked to paint landscapes and scenes that have become so recognizable around the world.

    You'll have a guided walking tour of Auvers-sur-Oise, the village where Vincent van Gogh came to live after his release from the asylum in nearby Saint-Remy. Vincent and his brother, Theo, agreed it would be best for him to remain close to his physician, Dr. Gachet, who also served as the subject of several of his portraits during this time. Van Gogh remained here for three months, until his suicide in 1890, and during this time he created some of his most brilliant pieces. Remarkably, he produced almost 80 paintings in this short time, including the turbulent Wheat Field With Crows—one of his last works. During this tour, you will see the house where he lived and visit his grave. This picturesque village also welcomed Corot, Pissarro, and Cezanne, among others.

    Dinner tonight is onboard.

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    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:
    View the Palace of Versailles

    Early this morning, we sail to Paris from Conflans. Upon arrival, enjoy a half-day panoramic tour introducing you to the city's classic highlights. You'll see the Eiffel Tower from different perspectives as you travel along the famed Champs Elysees. View the Arc de Triomphe (commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 and completed in 1836) standing at the end of the Champs Elysees at the large central roundabout where twelve elegant, tree-lined avenues converge. You'll also drive by the magnificent Gothic Cathedral of Notre Dame and the Place de la Concorde.

    Then you'll have the afternoon free to make your own discoveries.

    Or, you may embark on an optional half-day excursion to the Palace of Versailles—the former home of 3,000 princes, ministers, and servants. Your guided tour will take you through the palace's Grand Chambers, the renowned Hall of Mirrors (where the Treaty of Versailles, ending World War I, was signed in 1919), and the Royal Chapel. You'll marvel at the luminous decor in marble, chased bronze, and gold leaf, as well as Rococo-style woodwork and Italian-style painted ceilings. You'll also enjoy time to visit the magnificent French gardens at your leisure. PRE-SOLD ONLY: Due to limited space, this optional tour must be reserved at least 30 days prior to departure and cannot be booked on-site. 

    This evening, enjoy a Farewell Dinner with your fellow travelers.

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    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:
    View the Eiffel Tower while touring Paris

    Your day is free to enjoy time at leisure in Paris.

    Or, join an optional excursion to one of Paris' most famous and lively districts, Montmartre. Visit the famed Basilica of Sacre Coeur, with its dramatic perch on the top of the Montmartre hill. Delight in the views of Paris below, and spend some time exploring the charming streets of this romantic neighborhood. Watch the street artists at work or browse the local shops for some souvenirs to bring home.

    Dinner is onboard your ship this evening.

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    • Meals included:

    After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight home. Or further your discoveries with our Loire Valley, France or Paris, France post-trip extensions.

Extensions

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Questions and Answers

Want to know more about one of our vacations? Now, when you post a question, travelers who have been on that trip can provide you with an honest, unbiased answer based on their experience—providing you with a true insider’s perspective.

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Weather & Regional

Before you travel, we encourage you to learn about the region of the world you'll discover on this trip. From weather and currency information to details on population, geography, and local history, you'll find a comprehensive introduction to your destinations below.

Visit our “What to Know” page to find information about the level of activity to expect, vaccination information resources, and visa requirements specific to this vacation.

What to Know

For more detailed information about this trip, download our Travel Handbook below. This document covers a wide range of information on specific areas of your trip, from passport, visa, and medical requirements; to the currencies of the countries you’ll visit and the types of electrical outlets you’ll encounter. This handbook is written expressly for this itinerary. For your convenience, we've highlighted our travelers' most common areas of interest on this page.

Download the Travel Handbook

What to Expect

Pacing

  • 12 days, with 10 nights aboard the M/S Bizet, and a single 1-night hotel stay

Physical requirements

  • Not accessible for travelers using wheelchairs or scooters
  • Travelers using walkers, crutches, or other mobility aids must travel with a companion who can assist them throughout the trip
  • You must be able to walk 3 miles unassisted and participate in 2-3 hours of physical activities each day, including stairs

Climate

  • Daytime temperatures range from 50-80°F during cruising season
  • July-August are the warmest months
  • March and November weather can be unpredictable and change quickly within a short period of time

Terrain

  • Travel over some bumpy unpaved roads, hilly terrain, and uneven walking surfaces, including slippery cobblestones and stairs

Transportation

  • Travel by 45-passenger coach and 120-passenger river ship

River Cruising

  • Throughout the River Cruise season, weather conditions and tides affect European river depths; water levels may require adjustments to your itinerary, including the Paris scenic river cruise

Cuisine

  • Meals will be a mix of local specialties and familiar American standards
  • Meals onboard feature a variety of entrée options, including vegetarian

Travel Documents

Passport

Your passport should meet these requirements for this itinerary

  • It should be valid for at least 6 months after your scheduled return to the U.S.
  • It should have the recommended number of blank pages (refer to the handbook for details).
  • The blank pages must be labeled “Visas” at the top. Pages labeled “Amendments and Endorsements” are not acceptable.

Visas

U.S. citizens do not need a visa for this trip.

If you are not a U.S. citizen, do not travel with a U.S. passport, or will be traveling independently before/after this trip, then your entry requirements may be different. Please check with the appropriate embassy or a visa servicing company. To contact our recommended visa servicing company, PVS International, call toll-free at 1-800-556-9990.

Vaccinations Information

For a detailed and up-to-date list of vaccinations that are recommended for this trip, please visit the CDC’s “Traveler’s Health” website. You can also refer to the handbook for details.

Before Your Trip

Before you leave on your vacation, there are at least four health-related things you should do. Please check the handbook for specifics, but for now, here’s the short list:

Step 1: Check with the CDC for their recommendations for the countries you’ll be visiting.
Step 2: Have a medical checkup with your doctor.
Step 3: Pick up any necessary medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
Step 4: Have a dental and/or eye checkup. (Recommended, but less important than steps 1-3.)

What to Bring

In an effort to help you bring less, we have included checklists within the handbook, which have been compiled from suggestions by Program Directors and former travelers. The lists are only jumping-off points—they offer recommendations based on experience, but not requirements. You might also want to refer to the climate charts in the handbook or online weather forecasts before you pack. Refer to the handbook for details.

Insider Tips

Accommodations

Main Trip

  • M/S Bizet

    Our M/S Bizet ranked #17 in Condé Nast Traveler’s “Top 40 River Cruise Ships in the World” 2014 Readers’ Poll. Custom-built with our travelers’ needs in mind, your private river ship has a passenger capacity of just 120 with all outside cabins and an English-speaking staff. You’ll savor freshly prepared meals from the upper-level dining room. Plus, enjoy leisure time in the bar and lounge, library, and Sun Deck. Complimentary wireless Internet access is available in select common areas. Wireless Internet access is not available in cabins and connectivity is limited in certain locations on River Cruise itineraries. Your cabin features a flat-screen TV with CNN and movies, radio, direct-dial telephone, individual heating and air-conditioning controls, twin beds that convert to sofas, and private bath with shower and hair dryer.

SEE THE ENTIRE GRAND CIRCLE FLEET

Main Trip

  • Novotel Convention & Wellness Roissy CDG

    Roissy, France

    The modern Novotel Convention & Wellness Roissy CDG is within close proximity to Charles de Gaulle Airport. Each of its 289 air-conditioned rooms features a satellite TV, Internet access, and a minibar. Guests can enjoy the hotel’s indoor heated pool, sauna, and fitness center.

    Select departures feature similar accommodations.

Extensions

  • Pullman Paris Montparnasse

    Paris, France | Rating: Superior First Class

    This hotel is set in the heart of the lively Montparnasse neighborhood, and within a short walk of the Latin Quarter. Each of the Superior First-Class hotel’s 953 air-conditioned rooms features a hair dryer, minibar, and satellite TV. Dine at the on-site restaurant, or enjoy many other dining options in the surrounding area.

  • Hotel Mercure Blois Centre

    Blois, France | Rating: First Class

    This First-Class hotel faces the Loire river, and is located in the center of Blois. Each air-conditioned room contains coffee- and tea-making facilities, a minibar, TV, and refrigerator. A free newspaper is delivered daily, and you may choose to relax in the on-site indoor pool or hot tub.

  • Novotel Roissy Charles de Gaulle

    Roissy, France

    This contemporary 201-room hotel is located within the Charles de Gaulle Airport with convenient access to its terminals. Each of the air-conditioned rooms features direct-dial telephone, complimentary Internet access, satellite TV, minibar, and private bath with hair dryer. On-site amenities include a restaurant, café, and bar.

  • Grand Hotel de Courtoisville

    St. Malo, France

    Located in the heart of charming St. Malo, the Grand Hotel de Courtoisville sits within walking distance of both the waterfront and the city center. You’ll find modern amenities and a private bath in your air-conditioned room, and on the grounds of the hotel, enjoy a relaxing pool and spa, as well as manicured gardens.

    Select departures feature similar accommodations.

  • Novotel Convention & Wellness Roissy CDG

    Roissy, France

    The modern Novotel Convention & Wellness Roissy CDG is within close proximity to Charles de Gaulle Airport. Each of its 289 air-conditioned rooms features a satellite TV, Internet access, and a minibar. Guests can enjoy the hotel’s indoor heated pool, sauna, and fitness center.

    Select departures feature similar accommodations.

  • London Lancaster Hotel

    London, England | Rating: Superior First Class

    The Superior First-Class London Lancaster Hotel is centrally located, just a short walk from the shops of Oxford Street and the Lancaster Gate Tube stop. In addition to floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Hyde Park, the hotel has two restaurants and a cocktail lounge. Your air-conditioned room includes a telephone, TV, safe, and private bath with shower and hair dryer.

Flight Information

Flight Options to Personalize Your Trip

You can choose to stay longer before or after your trip on your own, or combine two vacations to maximize your value.

  • Extend your vacation and lower your per day cost with our optional pre- and post-trip excursions
  • Choose our standard air routing, or work with us to select the airline and routing you prefer
  • Make your own international flight arrangements directly with the airline, applying frequent flyer miles if available
  • International airport transfers to and from your ship or hotel, including meet and greet service, are available for purchase
  • Stay overnight in a connecting city before or after your trip
  • Request to arrive a few days early to get a fresh start on your vacation
  • Choose to "break away" before or after your trip, spending additional days or weeks on your own
  • Combine your choice of Grand Circle Cruise Line vacations to maximize your value
  • Upgrade to business or premium class

The air options listed above may involve additional airfare costs based on your specific choices.

Or, when you make your reservation, you can choose our standard air routing, for which approximate travel times are shown below.

Standard Air Routing

w/out standard air $2995
w/ standard air $3995

Photos From Our Travelers

On location in France

Here’s how Grand Circle travelers have captured moments of discovery, beauty, friendship, and fun on previous departures of our The Seine: Paris to Normandy vacation. We hope these will evoke special travel memories and inspire you to submit your own favorite Grand Circle Travel trip photos.

  Encounter new friendships on the France river cruise  

C’est la vie ... Ginny and Bill Rowe (right), 11-time travelers from Tappan, New Jersey, celebrated their 31st anniversary while cruising the Seine. Toasting with them in the lounge on the M/S Bizet are Connie and Bob Yaw, 11-time travelers from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Thumbnail 1 Thumbnail 2 Thumbnail 3 Thumbnail 4 Thumbnail 5

How to submit your photos:

Please submit individual photos in jpeg format to: GCTtravelerphotos@gct.com.

Please be sure to include the name of your Grand Circle vacation, along with the travel dates. Tell us where you took the photo and, if you’d like, tell us why. And don’t forget to include your name and contact information.

Please note: By submitting a photo, you (i) represent and warrant that the photo is your original work created solely by yourself and does not infringe the intellectual property rights of any party; (ii) grant to Grand Circle LLC and its affiliates a worldwide, royalty-free, perpetual, transferable, irrevocable, non-exclusive and fully sublicensable right and license to use, in any and all related media whether now known or hereafter devised, in perpetuity, anywhere in the world, with the right to make any and all commercial or other uses thereof, including without limitation, reproducing, editing, modifying, adapting, publishing, displaying publicly, creating derivative works from, incorporating into other works or modifying the photo and (iii) hereby release and discharge Grand Circle LLC and its affiliates, officers and employees from and against any and all claims, liabilities, costs, damages and expenses of any kind arising out of or relating to the use by Grand Circle LLC of any photo submitted.

Remembering D-Day

It is hard to imagine that the now-tranquil shores of Normandy’s beaches were once the site of the largest amphibious military invasion in history. It was here that the tide of war was turned, where so many gave the ultimate sacrifice in the name of liberty. Determined to carry out General Eisenhower’s order—“Full victory—nothing else”—soldiers from the United States, Great Britain, Canada, and many other Allied nations fought fearlessly against the entrenched forces, decisively weakening the occupying armies and setting the Allies on a path towards victory.

STEP INTO HISTORY

On June 6, 1944, the World War II liberation of Europe began. An armada of 5,000 vessels crossed the English Channel, carrying more than 150,000 men and nearly 3,000 vehicles. The night before the invasion, more than 800 planes loaded with parachute regiments took off from British bases—and went on to drop more than 13,000 men behind enemy lines. In advance of the battle, more than 300 planes flew over the coast of Normandy, pounding its once-peaceful shores with more than 10,000 bombs. And the Allies landed on the five beaches that we now know by their code names: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword.

In all—throughout the next several weeks of Operation Overlord—three million troops arrived aboard 7,000 ships and 13,000 fighter planes, including the 23,000 men who descended from the skies by parachute.

DISCOVER NORMANDY DURING AN INCLUDED TOUR

On your full day excursion to the Normandy beaches, you’ll visit the infamous World War II sites that played such a crucial role toward the end of the war 71 years ago. See Omaha Beach, the western-most coastal stretch that served as a landing site and where the American forces suffered the greatest human losses … Point du Hoc, the 100-foot-high cliff from which the Germans gained an advantage … and the American Cemetery, where more than 9,000 U.S. troops—most of whom died during the Normandy invasion—were laid to rest.

French Impressionism: An Art Form is Born

A revolution in French aesthetics


Parisian artists presented paintings that relied on sunlight, motion, and color to express the fleeting nature of life’s everyday moments ...

Challenging the artistic standards established by Paris’ Academy of Fine Arts, a group of Paris-based artists organized an independent exhibition of their work in 1874. There, Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Degas, and several others, presented paintings that relied on sunlight, motion, and color to express the fleeting nature of life’s everyday moments … Describing Monet’s Impression, Sunrise in a satirical review, art critic Louis Leroy wrote: “Since I was impressed, there had to be some impression in it … and what freedom, what ease of workmanship!” And with that, the revolutionary art movement found its name. Throughout your The Seine: Paris to Normandy River Cruise, you’ll visit a number of sites that inspired the Impressionists’ unique vision.

Monet’s Giverny

Contrary to Friedrich Nietzsche’s contention that “an artist has no home in Europe except in Paris,” the father of Impressionism actually found his artistic home—and heart—in the gardens of Giverny. Located at the gateway to Normandy, this ancient village and its scenic environs became Monet’s frequent plein-air (“outdoor”) studio and muse beginning 1883—inspiring his series of haystacks and water lilies, among others. While he often traveled and worked in other settings, Monet always returned to his beloved Giverny, and eventually died there in 1926.

Auvers-sur-Oise

Although Vincent van Gogh was a Dutch Post-Impressionist with a truly individual style, his groundbreaking work—particularly his bold use of color in later years—reflects the influence of French Impressionism. Like his slightly older contemporaries, Van Gogh found great inspiration and comfort in the beauty of the French countryside—spending one of his most prolific periods at Arles in Provence. In 1890, Vincent moved to bucolic Auvers-sur-Oise where, after several months of productivity, he ended his turbulent life. His devoted brother Theo, a Parisian art dealer, died soon after, and they now lay side-by-side in Auvers-sur-Oise.

Rouen

Nestled in a small city square, Rouen’s French Gothic Notre Dame Cathedral was originally constructed in the 13th century. Between the 15th and 17th centuries, its ornate Tour de Buerre (“Butter Tower”) was added—reputedly financed by a tax on wealthy citizens who consumed butter and milk during Lent. In the 1870s, a new 500-foot iron spire made it the tallest building in France. And in the 1890s, Monet immortalized the cathedral forever, painting its intricate façade some 30 times in different light and seasons of the year. Today, Rouen’s cathedral—and Monet’s impressions of it—are among France’s best-loved treasures.

Honfleur

For centuries, sailors enjoyed Honfleur’s idyllic location at the junction of the Seine River and English Channel. And with the advent of painter Eugene Boudin’s Saint-Simeon artists’ colony in the mid-1900s, this enchanting port town won favor among generations of artists as well. Just as Boudin did before him, Monet and his associates flocked to Honfleur, attracted by the brilliant play of light and shadows in the harbor. Today, work by Boudin and other locals who influenced the Parisian Impressionists can be found at Honfleur’s Boudin Museum.

Normandy's Omaha Beach

In Remembrance
of D-Day

June 6, 1944

WATCH VIDEO

More than 150,000 Allied men stormed the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944 to secure the German-occupied beaches and beat back Hitler’s European campaign. Despite the risks, the Allied men were resolute: As Stephen Ambrose notes in his bestselling Band of Brothers, “They hadn’t come here to fear. They hadn’t come to die. They had come to win.” And win they did—at an incredible cost.

Join us in Normandy and you’ll visit the beaches that turned the tide of World War II. You’ll have a chance to visit the American Cemetery, where you can honor the more than 9,000 U.S. troops that were there laid to rest. Watch the video above that helps remember this important moment in history.

Learn more about this important moment in World War II history

READ ARTICLE

Experience the beaches of Normandy along with our travelers

WATCH VIDEO

Learn about Program Director Isabelle de Bisschop’s special connection to Normandy

WATCH VIDEO

History, Food & More

Learn more about the history, art, culture, and cuisine you’ll discover on this trip by reading the features below. These articles were collected from past newsletters, Harriet’s Corner, and special features created for Grand Circle by our team of writers.

French Impressionism: An Art Form is Born

Find out how Monet, Renoir, and several others created a revolution in French aesthetics in 1874.

Read More »

Remembering D-Day

Learn more about this important moment in World War II history and how it set the liberation of Europe in motion.

Read More »

D-Day & the French Resistance

See how France’s freedom fighters risked their honor and their lives for a cause greater than themselves.

Read More »

Tarte Tatin

Bring the sweet taste of France into your kitchen by creating this traditional French apple pie.

Read More »

The Darkness & the Light

Learn how Auvers-sur-Oise offers a remarkable glimpse into the life of Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh.

Read More »

History, Food & More

French Impressionism: An Art Form is Born

A revolution in French aesthetics

by Grand Circle Cruise Line staff

Challenging the artistic standards established by Paris’ Academy of Fine Arts, a group of Paris-based artists organized an independent exhibition of their work in 1874. There, Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Degas, and several others presented paintings that relied on sunlight, motion, and color to express the fleeting nature of life’s everyday moments … Describing Monet’s Impression, Sunrise in a satirical review, art critic Louis Leroy wrote: “Since I was impressed, there had to be some impression in it … and what freedom, what ease of workmanship!” And with that, the revolutionary art movement found its name. Throughout your The Seine: Paris to Normandy River Cruise, you’ll visit a number of sites that inspired the Impressionists’ unique vision.

Monet’s Giverny

Contrary to Friedrich Nietzsche’s contention that “an artist has no home in Europe except in Paris,” the father of Impressionism actually found his artistic home—and heart—in the gardens of Giverny. Located at the gateway to Normandy, this ancient village and its scenic environs became Monet’s frequent plein-air (“outdoor”) studio and muse beginning 1883—inspiring his series of haystacks and water lilies, among others. While he often traveled and worked in other settings, Monet always returned to his beloved Giverny, and eventually died there in 1926.

Auvers-sur-Oise

Although Vincent van Gogh was a Dutch Post-Impressionist with a truly individual style, his groundbreaking work—particularly his bold use of color in later years—reflects the influence of French Impressionism. Like his slightly older contemporaries, Van Gogh found great inspiration and comfort in the beauty of the French countryside—spending one of his most prolific periods at Arles in Provence. In 1890, Vincent moved to bucolic Auvers-sur-Oise where, after several months of productivity, he ended his turbulent life. His devoted brother Theo, a Parisian art dealer, died soon after, and they now lie side-by-side in Auvers-sur-Oise.

Rouen

Nestled in a small city square, Rouen’s French Gothic Notre Dame Cathedral was originally constructed in the 13th century. Between the 15th and 17th centuries, its ornate Tour de Buerre (“Butter Tower”) was added—reputedly financed by a tax on wealthy citizens who consumed butter and milk during Lent. In the 1870s, a new 500-foot iron spire made it the tallest building in France. And in the 1890s, Monet immortalized the cathedral forever, painting its intricate façade some 30 times in different light and seasons of the year. Today, Rouen’s cathedral—and Monet’s impressions of it—are among France’s best-loved treasures.

Honfleur

For centuries, sailors enjoyed Honfleur’s idyllic location at the junction of the Seine River and English Channel. And with the advent of painter Eugene Boudin’s Saint-Simeon artists’ colony in the mid-1900s, this enchanting port town won favor among generations of artists as well. Just as Boudin did before him, Monet and his associates flocked to Honfleur, attracted by the brilliant play of light and shadows in the harbor. Today, work by Boudin and other locals who influenced the Parisian Impressionists can be found at Honfleur’s Boudin Museum.

History, Food & More

Normandy's Omaha Beach

In Remembrance
of D-Day

June 6, 1944

WATCH VIDEO

More than 150,000 Allied men stormed the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944 to secure the German-occupied beaches and beat back Hitler’s European campaign. Despite the risks, the Allied men were resolute: As Stephen Ambrose notes in his bestselling Band of Brothers, “They hadn’t come here to fear. They hadn’t come to die. They had come to win.” And win they did—at an incredible cost.

Join us in Normandy and you’ll visit the beaches that turned the tide of World War II. You’ll have a chance to visit the American Cemetery, where you can honor the more than 9,000 U.S. troops that were there laid to rest. Watch the video above that helps remember this important moment in history.

Learn more about this important moment in World War II history

READ ARTICLE

Experience the beaches of Normandy along with our travelers

WATCH VIDEO

Learn about Program Director Isabelle de Bisschop’s special connection to Normandy

WATCH VIDEO

History, Food & More

D-Day & the French Resistance

France’s freedom fighters on the inside

by Pamela Schweppe

It’s a funny thing about heroes. More often than not, they’re just ordinary folks who suddenly find themselves in extraordinary circumstances, called upon to risk their honor and their lives for a cause greater than themselves. That’s certainly the case for the men and women of World War II’s French Resistance. Catholics, Jews, communists, anarchists—they came from all economic classes and all walks of life to participate in one of the greatest movements of mass resistance of all time.

The event that shocked the nation

It all began in May 1940, when German forces rolled across Belgium and France. In June, Philippe Pétain, then Vice Premier of France, requested an armistice with Germany. Under the terms of the armistice, Germany would control northern and western France, including Paris. Pétain would be put in charge of a Nazi-approved government controlling the central and southern regions of the country, then known as Vichy France.

The armistice had many unpalatable provisions, including surrender of all Jews living in France, the disbanding of most of the French Army, an injunction against resistance, and even a requirement that France pay for its own occupation. Nevertheless, France formally surrendered to Germany on June 22.

The people of France were shocked by Germany’s easy victory, and General Charles de Gaulle, addressing the nation from London, urged his countrymen to fight back. Still, early efforts at resistance were disorganized and ineffectual. It wasn’t until November 11 that the first real act of defiance occurred—when high school youths publicly celebrated France’s World War I victory over Germany at Paris’s Arc de Triomphe.

Gradually, various Resistance groups began to form. Those whose focus was killing their German oppressors were called maquis. Others chose non-violent methods, such as publishing underground newspapers, broadcasting anti-occupier radio programs, and cutting phone and rail lines.

Soon after the occupation began, in July 1940, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill announced a new organization known as the Special Operations Executive (SOE), whose mission was to advance the war by means of espionage, sabotage, and resistance in occupied Europe. Many of France’s resistance groups joined forces with the SOE to harass the German occupiers, disrupt communications, and help Allied soldiers and airmen escape capture. It was dangerous work, as those who were even suspected of resistance were tortured or sent to concentration camps, and it was not unheard of for entire villages to be destroyed as a warning to others.

“Full victory—nothing else”

It became increasingly clear, however, that an Allied invasion was the only path to French freedom. In January 1943, at the Casablanca Conference in Morocco, Churchill and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt began planning what would become the largest amphibious military operation in recorded history. Code named Operation Overlord, it is better known today as D-Day. Beginning at 6:30am on June 6, 1944, nearly 7,000 boats hit the beaches along a 50-mile stretch of the coast of Normandy. Those vessels carried soldiers from the United States, Great Britain, Canada, and many other Allied nations, all of whom arrived determined to carry out the order of the commander of the operation, General Dwight D. Eisenhower: “Full victory—nothing else.”

In all, roughly 156,000 Allied troops landed on the Normandy beaches that morning. Of those, 73,000 were American. While 83,115 British and Canadian troops landed on beaches code named Gold, Juno, and Sword, the Americans sent 23,250 and 34,250 respectively to beaches codenamed Utah and Omaha. The remaining 15,500 were airborne troops.

It was Omaha (dramatized in the gripping opening sequence of Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan) that saw the most brutal engagement of World War II. The American troops who launched themselves full-tilt into the might of the German military were met with a deafening barrage of German gunfire. As the Nazis fired from secure pillboxes dug in high above the open beach, Allied soldiers were mowed down while exiting the boats and wading to shore.

In time, some doggedly made it to the ridge overlooking the beach, finding shelter from the hail of enemy bullets. Over the course of the next four hours, Allied troops managed to capture the beach and pry out the German troops massed there. More than a thousand Allied troops died on Omaha Beach alone.

On the ground, behind the scenes

Ultimately, the Germans were defeated in one of the greatest turning points of the war. It was one of the major successes of World War II—and the first cross-Channel military landing to be successful in more than 800 years.

It might not have happened without the support of the French Resistance.

By the time D-Day occurred, France had been occupied for four years. At that point, the number of people involved in the various French resistance groups was estimated at 100,000—up from 40,000 just a year earlier. Britain’s SOE supplied equipment and training, and, in 1943, America’s Office of Strategic Services (OSS) began sending agents to aid the effort, as the concept of an invasion of Normandy began to take shape.

In return, the French Resistance provided intelligence reports that were critical to the mission’s success. Even those who had previously supported the Vichy government began to join in the Resistance movement. In May 1944 alone, 60 intelligence cells of the resistance movement sent 3,000 written and 700 wireless reports to the Allies.

Acts of sabotage by the French Resistance also advanced the Allied plan. Between April and May 1944, while Allied bombers were busy destroying 2,400 railway engines, Resistance members demolished another 1,800, in addition to attacking bridges, roads, and especially rail lines throughout the country, crippling the Germans’ ability to transport equipment and supplies across France. By targeting rail lines throughout the country, the Resistance helped to confuse the Germans about where the attack would actually occur, leaving them expecting an invasion on the Pas-de- Calais beaches north of Normandy.

In the days leading up to D-Day, German forces in Normandy outnumbered the Allied troops massing for the invasion, so it was also critical for the French Resistance to prevent German reinforcements from reaching the beaches. Most notably, Germany’s powerful SS 2nd Panzer Division was based in Toulouse, a city in the Languedoc province of southwest France. Disruption of the rail line prevented this important division from reaching Normandy for eleven days, giving the Allies time to establish the beachhead that would enable them to advance further into the countryside after the invasion.

The Allies communicated with the commanders of the Resistance by means of coded radio messages, each directed to a different Resistance cell in order to help protect them from reprisal. On June 5, 1944, the BBC broadcast the opening words of a poem by Paul Verlaine, “Les sanglots longs des violons de l’automne/ Blessent mon coeur d’une langueur monotone” (“Long sobs of autumn violins / wound my heart with a monotonous languor”). When these words were said twice, Resistance leaders knew the Allied invasion would occur within 48 hours.

Subsequent messages such as “Les des sont sur le tapis” (“The dice are down”), “Il fait chaud a Suez” (“It is hot in Suez”), “Le chapeau de Napoléon est dans l’arène” (“Napoleon’s hat is in the arena”), “John aime Marie” (“John loves Marie”), “La Guerre de Troie n’aura pas lieu” (“The Trojan War will not take place”), and “La Flèche ne passera pas” (“The Arrow will not get through”) let the various Resistance cells know it was time to escalate their acts of sabotage. Rail lines, water towers, factories, and ammunition stockpiles were destroyed, and all German lines of communication were cut. The invasion was about to begin.

When the fatal day arrived, French Resistance members remained active participants, giving American and British military commanders vital information about German defensive positions. Even French citizens who weren’t involved in the Resistance movement gave directions to the Allies and kept them informed about where the German troops were posted.

The price of Resistance

Nazi retaliation against the Resistance was swift and brutal. On June 9, 1944, there were hundreds of hangings and murders at the hands of the Germans. The next day, 642 men, women, and children in the village of Oradour-sur-Glane were slaughtered, and the village was burned.

Still, the Resistance fought on. In June and July, a group of maquis fought valiantly against a battalion of 10,000 German soldiers and was defeated, and when the Allies marched toward Paris and the south of France, the Resistance was by their side.

Even with the high price paid by so many Resistance members, its numbers continued to strengthen. From within its ranks grew an organized fighting force known as the French Forces of the Interior (FFI) that, by October 1944, grew to 400,000. It was the base from which France rebuilt its army to 1.2 million soldiers by VE Day (May 8, 1945). And all because of people whose acts of bravery weren’t inspired by dreams of glory. Rather, they were ordinary people living at an extraordinary time, who circumstances called upon to help reclaim their country.

History, Food & More

Tarte Tatin (French apple pie)

by Amanda Morrison from Currents

For the uninitiated, a French meal is often comprised of three acts: an hors d’oeuvre (introductory course), the plat principal (main course), followed by dessert. The meal may begin with an aperitif, like the licorice-flavored, local spirit of Pastis, as a vehicle to “open the appetite.” And it may end with a digestif—like a Cognac, or another kind of brandy—to help with digestion.

And what routinely baffles outsiders is how the French can use such rich ingredients—take the classic mother sauces, like Hollandaise, made with egg yolk and clarified butter, or Béchamel, whole milk thickened with flour—and yet, the population is a model of cardiac health. According to the World Health Organization, France’s heart disease mortality rates are the second lowest worldwide; their obesity rate hovers just over 9%, while we battle with ratings over 30% in the United States.

This has led to the phrase, “the French paradox,” a topic of hot debate. In Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food, he argues that their health is linked to their consumption of natural provisions versus heavily processed foodstuffs. Meanwhile, The Fat Fallacy of Will Clower cites smaller portions, less snacking, less sugar-packed fare, and overall, less junk food available as the underlying “X factor.” And then there was that episode of 60 Minutes spotlighting resveratrol—found in red wine, which the French drink liberally—and studies that linked it with longevity and a lower risk of cardiac arrest. (Consequently, red wine began to fly off the shelves.)

Whatever the explanation is, this much is clear: French cuisine is in a class all its own. And with this recipe courtesy of Marian Pikna, Chef de Cuisine of the M/S Bizet, we invite you to bring a taste of France into your kitchen. And don’t be intimidated: As Julia Child once wrote in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, “No one is born a great cook, one learns by doing.”

Ingredients

6-8 Granny Smith apples (peeled and sliced)
½ package thawed puff pastry
6 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp lemon juice
¼ cup butter
Vanilla ice cream
Mint leaves

Preparation

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Toss the sliced apples with the lemon juice and a sprinkling of the sugar, then set aside.
  2. In a medium-sized skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the remaining sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves. Turn the heat on low, and carefully place the apple slices into the skillet. Turn the heat back up to medium and cook the apples until a thick caramel has formed (should take 20-25 minutes). Turn the heat off and set the skillet aside.
  3. Roll out the pastry dough into an 11-inch circle. Lay the pastry around a rolling pin and place it over the cooked apples to cover them completely. Tuck the edges of the pastry down inside the skillet and then prick the pastry lid all over with a fork.
  4. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Loosen the pastry edges and turn out the tart, upside down, so that the pastry becomes the base, under the apples.
  5. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream, and garnish with a mint leaf.

Serves: 8

History, Food & More

The Darkness & the Light

Creativity and struggle in van Gogh’s Auvers-sur-Oise

by Victoria Welch from Currents

Auvers-sur-Oise was to be the ideal place for Vincent van Gogh to let his artistic spirit run wild.

A French village of less than 2,000, an artist-friendly enclave full of provincial charm and limitless inspiration. Vibrantly hued fields peeking out from behind quaint, thatched-roof houses, while clusters of stone buildings are separated only by narrow, winding streets.

This setting was ideal for the archetypal names of the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist movements, which made Auvers flush with talent, all of whom could enjoy the pleasure of creating art in the country and then transporting their new works the 17 miles southwest to Paris with relative ease.

In fact, walking through Auvers today offers the opportunity to feel a museum gallery come to life. Renoir’s 1901 Landscape Auvers-sur-Oise emerges from a windswept pasture, while homes still maintain the feel captured in Pissarro’s 1873 Village Street, Auvers-sur-Oise.

This hotbed of potential was quickly noted when van Gogh—only 37 years old—arrived in May of 1890. Shortly thereafter, he wrote to Theo, his younger brother and closest confidante: “There is a lot to draw here.”

Draw—and paint—he did. Experts now attribute more than 70 van Gogh paintings to the roughly 70 days he spent in Auvers, among them some of his most highly regarded pieces. It was here he created the acclaimed 1890 L’église d’Auvers-sur-Oise, vue du chevet (The Church in Auvers-sur-Oise, View from the Chevet), and his highly scrutinized Wheat Harvest series.

From a professional standpoint, this village provides the setting for one of the brightest spots in van Gogh’s life—resulting in works that continue to dazzle audiences and serve as insights into his artistic mind and talents.

But from a personal perspective, it is in Auvers where emotional and physical turmoil with which van Gogh struggled for much of his life returned in earnest. It’s here—specifically, in a wheat field featured prominently in several of his final paintings—that most historians believe van Gogh shot himself in the chest on July 26, 1890. It was an injury from which he would die, two days later, in his bed.

As the location for such darkness and light in the life of van Gogh, Auvers and its history offer a remarkable glimpse into the life of this Dutch painter, which is all the more incredible given the short time he actually called the village home. And the resulting works of art add to the story—particularly one piece that most succinctly reflects the talent and struggle at play there. Today, it’s known as the highest-priced piece of art ever sold at public auction (for $82.5 million, in 1990). But beyond the price tag, the piece casts light on the key reason van Gogh found himself in Auvers at a critical crossroads of his life.

The portrait is of the man van Gogh sought out in May of 1890, in a desperate attempt to find peace in his life … the same man who would be at his side as he lay dying two months later.

It’s called Portrait of Dr. Gachet.

A troubled life

After so many experts have devoted time to studying and dissecting van Gogh’s life, it seems like an exercise in oversimplification to describe him as a troubled soul. And yet that’s one of the few things on which those experts can agree. To be sure, van Gogh had issues. It’s simply not clear precisely what was at play.

A heavy smoker and drinker, van Gogh suffered gastrointestinal issues, headaches, and fevers. In one letter to his brother, Theo suggested Vincent refrain from painting (he was too fond of tasting his materials and possibly poisoning himself). The painter reported “attacks,” episodes after which he could recall few details. Medical professionals who treated him suspected epilepsy, as did the artist. Over the years since van Gogh’s death, others have diagnosed possible schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and more—a cornucopia of possible conditions that may have played a part in his life … and his death.

Whatever the root of those struggles was—or whatever combination may have been at play—the road to Auvers-sur-Oise was paved with struggle and sorrow. And given that van Gogh went on to produce more than 2,000 works during his lifetime, it can be difficult to wrap one’s mind around the fact that the artist, born in the Netherlands on March 30, 1853, began only to establish himself as a focused artist at the young age of 30.

The results of those final seven years, however, made up for the years spent discovering his path. After moving to France and focusing his efforts, van Gogh began to develop a trademark use of color and shape. His technique featured rich layers of paint and an undulating brushstroke that gave his pieces a dreamy, borderline-abstract quality. At times, he used this tool lightly—the 1888 Café Terrace at Night reflects the linear structure of its subject. But at other times, he embraced this fluidity whole-heartedly, as is the case in his iconic 1889 The Starry Night, a masterpiece of swirling stars in an inky sky. As he learned to master this craft in portraits or still life scenes (such as Van Gogh’s Chair and Still Life: Vase with Twelve Sunflowers, both completed in 1888) the work developed a singular, identifiable style reflecting his Post- Impressionistic approach.

And when van Gogh worked, he worked—incredible bursts of output at a staggering volume. But when the artistic mind was racing, so came the struggles. Each of van Gogh’s three most prolific spans of creativity was accompanied by increasingly severe episodes of physical and emotional struggle.

Today, these phases can be most easily identified in a geographical sense. The Arles period (1888-1889) yielded gems like the 1888 Night Café and the emergence of van Gogh’s love of bold color. And yet it is also forever linked with December 23, 1888, when van Gogh cut off his left ear and brought it to a brothel.

The subsequent year (1889-1890) in Saint-Remy, at the Saint Paul-de-Mausole asylum, van Gogh produced The Starry Night as he started making a turn toward the positive—until a crippling two-month series of what his doctors described as “attacks” left him incapable of writing or reading letters between February and April 1890.

As Vincent struggled to recover, the idea of Auvers developed. In a letter to Theo during the previous autumn, fellow artist Camille Pissarro suggested Dr. Paul Gachet, citing him as “someone in Auvers, who’s a doctor and does painting in his free moments.” Auvers was an artist-friendly village with an artist-friendly physician. And not only was Gachet friendly with many of the local talents, he was also known for his skill in treating nervous disorders.

By May, Vincent had jumped upon the idea, asking his brother to reach out to Gachet, post-haste. Gachet agreed to the request. And thus the Auvers phase began.

The portrait … of the artist?

Despite the strong recommendations, the Gachet that van Gogh met upon his arrival in Auvers could have seemed a curious choice given Vincent’s fragile state. There were strong similarities between the two men, to be sure, right down to the bright red hair atop their heads. But there was something else as well. Something all too familiar for van Gogh. “This doctor’s experience must keep him balanced himself,” Vincent wrote Theo, “while combatting the nervous ailment from which it seems to me he’s certainly suffering at least as seriously as I am.”

Regardless of whether the doctor-patient relationship was the best one for van Gogh—debates are still being waged on the subject—the two formed a quick friendship. Van Gogh came to refer to the bond as brotherhood. “So much do we resemble each other physically and mentally,” van Gogh said of Gachet.

Stressors, however, were setting in. By July, Vincent was in a state of agitation. Health issues were plaguing Theo’s son (and Vincent’s namesake). Vincent was also worried financial strains were looming in his brother’s life. As the regular recipient of money and art supplies, it’s logical to believe Vincent may have begun to fear he was being a burden. And—as was a trend throughout his life—stress, physical ailment, and emotional struggles traveled hand-in-hand.

Letters written during this time began to reflect a defeated spirit. And among the paintings flowing from his hands onto canvas came two versions of what would become known as Portrait of Dr. Gachet.

The doctor sits at a table, his right arm propped up to cradle his cheek. Red hair peeks out around the doctor’s temples, just beneath the brim of an off-white cap, a worn, troubled face on display below it. Historians have noted that that face is thinner than in real life. In fact, it more closely resembles van Gogh’s features than his subject’s. As such, it can be—and widely is—seen as much a self-portrait as a portrait of Gachet.

Looking at the furrowed brow and defeated body language of the subject slumped at the table, this portrait—perhaps even a thinly veiled, final self-portrait of Vincent van Gogh—represents the short time he spent in Auvers: beautiful and deeply heartbreaking, both at the same time.