From Home to
November 7 – 15, 2009
Part 5: Conflans and Tour of Market
Part 2: D-Day Beaches on Normandy
Part 3: Scenic Coastal Town of Honfleur
Part 4: Rouen and Les Andelys
- Revised Jan. 2, 2010
About 35 photos mainly taken by Betty Nolan during this cruise are posted at www.ritzpix.com under member name of Lewis “Buzz” Nolan’s email address. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for instructions on how to access.
By LEWIS NOLAN
Nov. 7-8, 2009, Saturday and Sunday –
Our longtime friend
Nancy Russell once again had kindly agreed to provide transportation for my
wife Betty and me from our home to the
As promised, Nancy arrived at 12:15 p.m. That gave Betty and me the morning to sleep, eat
some home-cooked food and put the finishing touches on Betty’s customarily and long-practiced packing for international travel and trip planning.
We had booked an eight-day
cruise on the
This was our third
river cruise, a method of relaxed travel in
We especially liked
the opportunity to be back in
PARADE REST: Perfectly aligned
gravestones add dignity to American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach at
PARADE REST: Perfectly aligned gravestones add dignity to American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach at Normandy, France
is the world’s second largest airline and its ascendance in Memphis is admirable.
The usual excellent
service Delta provides had a minor glitch with our check-in, which was two
hours before scheduled flight due to a
slow-talking Delta agent in Atlanta giving me an “or else” recommendation for
early arrival at the airport on the day of our long journey on that airline.
The fact that our
Despite the repeated
efforts by a nice, middle-aged gate agent at Delta, the automated self-check in
machine would not produce our boarding passes. (I normally print them at home
on a computer for domestic flights to eliminate the main-gate lines and
hassle.) Finally, she used another machine and we got our boarding passes OK.
The flight got off on time and appeared to be about half-empty. But it was a
good flight and we enjoyed a lot of views out of Betty’s window of the
Mid-South and Midwest landscape along the
Dismayed by the hours-long delay in expected arrival and likely screw-up of our boarding the boat on time, Betty and I repaired to an airport saloon-restaurant for a light supper, Max and Erma’s. We enjoyed “half salads” of greens topped with fried and grilled chicken along with a low-alcohol beer for me and a margarita for Betty. The pair of $7 meal vouchers given us by Delta didn’t come close to paying for the food and drink. I really should write Delta and complain about it.
Luckily, we heard a PA announcement about the Delta plane boarding much earlier than first expected because they found the needed part on another plane at the airport. Our flight took off at 8 p.m. and the last-minute, quick shuffle by Delta employees to get everybody boarded and seated showed us just how quick they can work when the chips are down – which in this case could have been mandatory refunds and accommodation expenses for many stranded passengers.
It turned out Betty and I had the usually cramped seats by an aisle and window about mid-way back in Tourist Class in Row 32. Near us were three enormous women traveling together and loudly yukkng it up. But thankfully there were no screaming children to keep us awake as on other international flights. At 9:30 p.m., the crew served a dinner, which we passed on. Sleep for me was slight due to the cramped “pitch” between our seats and those of the seats in the row to our front.
We also passed on the breakfast, but I did snag a banana to eat later (the potassium from bananas and also the quinine in tonic water helps abate the leg cramps I get from taking a certain blood pressure medication.)
We landed in the
A handout given us by Viking said almost 80 percent of the French population is Roman Catholic, 5 percent is Muslim (causing a growing problem due to separatist movements) and 2 percent is Protestant. A handout warned, “The French maintain a strong gap between secular life and religion. Religion is considered as private as possible, and it is considered offensively inquisitive to enter religious discussions in most contexts.”
information also said in
More than half of
I thought the
As with our three
previous trips to
Since we couldn’t’ get into our cabin until nearly 4 p.m. and were a little hungry from not eating on the long flight, we sampled some of the offered foods and found them to be beautifully served and quite tasty. I had several tiny ham sandwiches on fresh French bread. Betty peeled and enjoyed a plump, naval orange. We also enjoyed glasses of champagne and Mimosa drinks served at no charge and met some of the ship’s officers.
With Cabin No. 100 on the lowest deck where the crew also bunks, we were a bit surprised to see how tight it was compared to more expensive and spacious cabins we had on the Grand Circle and Vantage river cruise boats we had experienced earlier. We later learned that this week’s cruise by the outmoded Viking Seine was its last in the Viking River cruise fleet and that immediately after this cruise that it would sail to Rotterdam and be placed on a barge for towing and refitting/scrapping in Scandinavia.
Our cabin was on and below the water line, with a small window about 6 inches above the level of river water. The tiny window was so low that it was covered with a steel plate when we cruised through a high traffic area of shipping on the river a couple of days later. We had reasonably comfortable “pull down” bunk beds and a table about the size of a pizza pan. The bathroom was so very tiny that somebody quipped the best way to take a shower was to first soap up the plastic curtain and walls and then spin around.
Faulty design did not leave enough room to store luggage under the beds. Hanging closet space was insufficient for two adults. There was a very small, dressing “desk” with lights and a big mirror, but no chairs to sit on. But, at least the price was right and there were no livestock or broke immigrants on our deck. There was adequate heat this winter’s chill and presumably adequate cooling in the warm months. But after experiencing the “cost” of really tight quarters, Betty and I quickly agreed that we’ll never again go for the bargain price if we take river cruises in the future.
However, the ship is a beautiful craft, long and slender like a cigarette 367 feet long. It is 38 feet wide and has a draught of 6 feet. Propelled by three caterpillar diesel engines, it has a top speed of 14 mph and cruising speed of 11 mph. It has a fresh water tank capacity of 200,000 gallons – none of that U.S. Navy-ship conservation for the affluent American passengers. Our cruise had 146 passengers in 76 cabins and a crew of 36.
This eight-day cruise would take us from Le Havre to Normandy; the scenic villages of Honfleur and Caudebec; the town of Rouen where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake; the villages of Les Andelys and Vernon remembered for Richard the Lionheart and the last days of painter Vincent Van Gogh; Conflans and its wonderful open market; and Paris where we re-visited the magnificent Tomb of Napoleon.
Among the Viking Ship Seine’s crew were English-speaking Davy Pontieux, a 29-year-old captain in a long family line of captains; Gerhard Bohl, hotel manager in charge of passenger operations; Monique Vanmierlo, program director and a native of Belgium with excellent speaking skills; and Andreas Patz, a superb chef from Germany who oversaw a kitchen staff that prepared the best shipboard food we’ve ever enjoyed. Among the gracious and expert waiters serving three meals daily in the elegant dining room at the rear of the ship were an Eastern European who went by the name “George” and a Frenchman called “No-no.”
attended the embarkation briefing after the “welcome aboard” reception while I
took a much needed nap in our tiny cabin. Later, we had an excellent dinner at
a table for six, with couples from
Tired from a long day of travel, we retired soon after dinner and passed on watching on our cabin’s TV a celebrated movie about the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. It was called “The Longest Day.”