Normandy Cruise – 2009

Joan of Arc’s Rouen and Lionheart’s Les Andelys

 

November 7 – 15, 2009

 

Part I:  Memphis to Paris, Viking Ship Seine

Part 5: Conflans and Tour of Market

Part 2: D-Day Beaches on Normandy

Part 6: Paris and Visit to Napoleon’s Tomb

Part 3: Scenic Coastal Town of Honfleur

Part 7: Flights to Cincinnati and Memphis

Part 4: Rouen and Les Andelys

Link to Travelogue about 2001 France Cruise

 

-  Updated Monday, Jan. 4, 2010

 

About 35 trip photos mainly taken by Betty Nolan are posted at www.ritzpix.com in an album entitled “2009 – France” under member name of Lewis “Buzz” Nolan’s email address. Email lewis_nolan@yahoo.com for instructions on how to access. Note: captions were being added to photos in late 2009.

 

By LEWIS NOLAN

  

Nov. 11-12, 2009, Wednesday and Thursday – In Normandy, France

 

Sleep was fitful through the night. That was at least in part due to the sound of Seine River waves lapping the side of the boat and probably our “sealed window.” The noise from the engine room near our lower deck cabin awakened Betty about 4 a.m. She later complained of feeling seasick from the wobbly boat motion during the night, which may have been caused by large wakes of commercial shipping on this section of the busy Seine.

 

Flowers Planted in Rouen Mark Spot where Joan of Arc was Burned at Stake

 

 

 

At breakfast, Betty had only a cup of coffee and a few carryout, green grapes. But sound sleeper Lewis had another excellent breakfast of scrambled eggs, thin slices of ham and turkey, half of a banana, tomato juice and a glass of ice water. Presently, I subscribe to the European diet tip of eating a “breakfast for a king, a lunch for a prince and a dinner for a peasant.” I do enjoy a substantial meal in the morning even without all the carbohydrates that come with bread and pastry. In fact, I have had few carbs of any significance for five months; I’m pleased with the moderate weight loss I’ve worked to achieve despite insufficient exercise for the regime.

 

Our ship arrived in Rouen, the capital of upper Normandy, at 9 a.m. The city of 400,000 is the largest in the region and is roughly midway between Paris and the Mediterranean. It became important in the 3rd Century when Christianity was introduced by St. Mellon, who was the first bishop in the area and was later canonized. The area gained the name of Normandy after it was invaded by the Normans in 876 and became subject to the English crown after the Norman conquest of England in 1066.

 

During the Hundred Years War, Rouen was taken by England’s Henry V; in 1430 French peasant woman Joan of Arc was imprisoned in a tower there that now bears her name. She was canonized and made a Saint by the Roman Catholic Church.

 

Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in Rouen by the English in May, 1431. Large boulders in the town’s old market and a modern, Roman Catholic Church named for her mark the spot of her death today. Our tour of that location and other highlights was led by a middle-aged, female native of the city hired by Viking for the outing. It was plain to us that our guide, Marie, knew a great deal about the history and importance of Rouen’s sights. She obviously wanted to share every bit of her vast knowledge. But maybe partly due to her heavy accent as well as a radio plug in my left ear, I couldn’t quite understand some of her commentary. So I rapidly became rather bored with her commentary.

 

Our tour group of 20 or so passed by two or three very old Roman Catholic Cathedrals or churches. (It is my understanding that church leaders ranked Bishop or higher rated a Cathedral and regular priests a lesser structure). We also passed dozens of French businesses including a branch of the Paris-based Galleries Lafayette department store. However, most of the stores and offices were closed due to this day being the country’s Veterans Day holiday. Thankfully, the lack of native pedestrian or vehicular traffic spared me the scare and ruined shoe I got when a careless motorcyclist nearly ran me and Betty down on a walking tour in Italy a year ago. 

 

Since we had been well briefed on the saga of Joan of Arc the previous night by our ship’s tour director, the great story of her brief life and her vaulting into being considered the patron saint of France made for an interesting walking tour of Rouen. We again “paired off” for part of the walk with our new friends Paul Granett and Gloria Solomon of New Jersey.

 

Back in the boat for lunch, we had what amounted to real American food – or at least an

excellent imitation of it cooked by European chefs. We really enjoyed reduced-carb, grilled hamburger patties topped with cheese and sliced tomatoes. They were served with Dijon Mustard on the side along with large salads of green lettuce and assorted garden vegetables.

 

Tired from the two-hour walk through the central town, I napped in our cabin for three hours. Betty read a book for a while in the boat’s lounge then also retired to a bunk bed for her nap.

 

That evening, we were treated again to another great meal of Continental Cuisine at dinner. Betty had slices of marinated chicken breast that tasted like turkey, served with Brussels sprouts and a Provencal salad of green beans and lettuce. I had salmon tartar for an appetizer, whitefish served with snow peas and a Caesar salad with freshly sliced Parmesan cheese. Afterwards, I enjoyed a small plate of local cheeses, a taste of Betty’s dessert of apple tart and a bottle of Beck’s low-alcohol beer imported from Germany.

 

We shared our table with Paul and Gloria plus another charming couple, retired high school teacher Walter Wimpenny and his wife, Marie, of Manahawkin, NJ. He had served as an adjunct professor at Farleigh Dickinson University, where several of my former associates based at Schering-Plough headquarters at nearby Madison had also served in leadership roles.

 

The next morning, Betty and I had our usual breakfasts as the ship arrived at the very scenic port of Les Andelys at 8:30 a.m. The village has special significance for people with an interest in England because legendary King Richard Lion heart, also the Duke of Normandy, built a massive fortress on a high cliff there overlooking the river and the beautiful Seine River and Valley there in 1196.

 

Because of Richard’s reputation as a warrior and for boldness, the French King Philippe Auguste did not dare try to dislodge the English. But when Richard I was succeeded by English King John, the French king first tried to starve the fort’s residents into surrender then attacked through the latrines after mining the outer strongpoint of the fortress called Chateau Gaillard in 1203.

 

Physically fit Betty joined a tour group from the boat to trudge up a steep path to visit the ruins of the fort that even eight centuries later command a majestic view of the river and rich farmland of the surrounding countryside. I was among the few boat passengers who decided to tarry in the village rather than take the uphill hike. I went into a store where the proprietor spoke no English but managed to purchase a souvenir thimble for Betty before returning to the boat.

 

I spent most of the afternoon in my fold-away bunk with an upset stomach likely caused by eating too much French cheese made from unpasteurized milk. Before eating cheese in any quantity or eating food made with diary products, I normally take an OTC Lactaid pill containing the enzyme that helps digest milk, a substance that seems to disappear in many men as they age.

 

The ship stopped at Vernon, a substitute place for late-in-the-season cruises like ours. During the warm months, the tour offers a visit to nearby Giverny, the celebrated home and magnet for tourists and art aficionados devoted to the impressionist Claude Monet, his home from 1883 until his death in 1926.

 

Betty joined a small group of passengers on a replacement excursion to Auvers sur Oise, a village where Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh spent the last days of his life. Like many other artists, his fame was much greater after he died than during his sometimes tortured life that included his cutting off one of his ears. On an earlier trip to Amsterdam, Betty and I visited a huge museum bearing his name and many of his and other famous works.

 

Interesting, while the small group of art fans toured Auvers sur Oise, the boat and remaining

passengers like me sailed further up the Seine River to Mantes La Jolie. There, Betty and others re-boarded the boat for the continued sailing to Conflans near the outskirts of Paris.

 

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