Rendezvous with Tauck in Paris for a Journey on the Seine

The Eiffel Tower, as seen from the Pont Alexandre III bridge. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Monday, October 9 & Tuesday, October 10, 2017

When I look back on all the river cruises I’ve taken, some of my most memorable experiences have been on my sailings with Tauck. From an after-hours tour of the In Flanders Fields museum in Ieper, Belgium to the private dinner and reception at Lobkowicz Palace in Prague, Tauck deals in special moments on every one of its river cruises. They seem fanciful and cinematic in retrospect. In many ways, I can hardly believe I was there.

I landed in Paris, France yesterday morning on my way to another adventure with Tauck: a nine-night Rendezvous on the Seine  river cruise that will take me to parts of this country that I’ve never seen before, from the beaches of Normandy to the quiet respite of Giverny, where artist Claude Monet called home.  

Notre-Dame Cathedral in the fall. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Starting with a two-night stay at the Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel hotel – just blocks away from the Eiffel Tower – Tauck’s Rendezvous on the Seine itinerary shifts to the river for a seven-day cruise aboard the ms Sapphire. Newly refitted for the 2017 season, Tauck has actually reduced her passenger capacity down to just 98 from 112 – far less than other river cruise ships of her size. That reduction allowed Tauck to add 20 Category 6 staterooms that are 225 square feet, complete with marble baths and rainforest showers; along with almost a full deck of 300 square foot, Category 7 rooms.

The full itinerary:

From Paris to Normandy with Tauck

DAYPORTACTIVITIES
October 9, 2017ParisArrival in Paris; check-in to Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel hotel.
October 10ParisTour of the Opera Garnier
October 11ParisTour of the Palace of Versailles; embark ms Sapphire
October 12RouenGuided tour of Rouen; evening chateau reception, dinner and music
October 13Caudebec-en-CauxVisits to Etretat and Honfleur
October 14Caudebec-en-CauxD-Day history in Normandy with visits to Omaha Beach, American Cemetery & the Arromanches Museum
October 15JumiegesVisit to Jumieges Abbey ruins
October 16Les AndelysChateau Gaillard tour; cider & calvados tasting; scenic cruising
October 17VernonGiverny and Monet home visit; farewell reception
October 18ParisDisembark ms Sapphire

A Room with a View

My deluxe balcony room at the Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel hotel. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

After clearing immigration and customs at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, I met my waiting driver, arranged by Tauck, who transferred me to the Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel hotel. Traffic is kind of a nightmare entering Paris, so the entire drive took an hour, most of which was spent either stopped or crawling along.

Inside the hotel, I was greeted by a Tauck desk, positioned front and center, with three smiling women behind it. Gabrielle, Sofia and Emilie are the Tauck Directors that will accompany us for the next nine days, and they’ll be joined by a fourth representative on the ship. That’s four people for just 98 guests; most river cruise lines assign just one or two for up to 200 guests.

The view from my balcony room at the Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel hotel. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

My biggest travel pet peeve is when I check into a hotel where the cruise line says, “There will totally be a letter there waiting for you that explains what we’re doing.” Of course, when you get there, there totally isn’t any letter, and you get a lot of shrugged shoulders as a response.

Not so with Tauck: Gabrielle handed me a personalized manila envelope filled with all the necessary information. She also pointed me downstairs, to the dedicated room just for Tauck guests, where complimentary tea, coffee, juices and sodas were available.

I’ve actually stayed at this great property before, back in April with Viking River Cruises. Viking is considerably less expensive than Tauck, though, so I was excited to see what that extra money buys you.

The bathroom in the room is a touch on the small side, but still has all the amenities you’d expect. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Tauck guests, including myself, are placed in one of the hotel’s larger balcony rooms that overlook the city and the Eiffel Tower. With Viking, I had a very nice, very comfortable room, but it was smaller and overlooked the rear courtyard. I looked out over the Mercure hotel; not the Eiffel Tower.

The sight of the Eiffel Tower by day and night is worth the price of admission – not to mention how ridiculously close to it we are (one city block). From my room, I can even lay in bed and still glimpse the tower outside my windows.

The Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel is a great hotel. Rooms offer North American and European power outlets, comfy beds (maybe too comfy!), complimentary bottles of sparkling and still water, in-room coffee and tea, and a bathroom with a great rainfall shower. Just watch the toilet: a door stopper is placed right at the base of it, and you’re going to stub your toe at some point.

The hotel has also set aside its own separate area for breakfast (complimentary) for Tauck guests. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Because so many groups from different companies use the hotel (during my stay, by Tauck, Viking and Monograms Tours), the elevators require a bit of patience. Ditto for the absolutely amazing breakfast buffet, which is frequently crowded but offers a wonderful array of French delicacies. Good news though: Tauck guests get their own private breakfast buffet on the Lobby level, within the hotel’s Frame Restaurant and Bar. It’s quiet and oh-so-tasty, offering an assortment of meats, eggs, pastries, and smaller breakfast items like cereals and fresh fruit.

Paris, In the Fall

This afternoon was so uncommonly nice out, that I ended up strolling the Seine all the way from the Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel to Shakespeare & Company. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

When I arrived in Paris yesterday, my hotel room wasn’t ready. Since most flights from North America arrive early in the morning, this will probably happen to you, too.

That’s actually a great thing, as it forces you to get out there and really get to know this magical place. Paris might be the most written-about, idolized, idealized and loved city in the world. Visitors will overlook its flaws (the rust-streaked Eiffel Tower; the constant strikes and protests) because Paris is just so darn wonderful.

Paris, as seen from the Trocadero, on October 9, 2017. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Once I found out I couldn’t access my room, I stored my luggage with the hotel, grabbed a map and my camera, and went for a walk. You might think going to the top of the Eiffel Tower or visiting The Louvre is essential in Paris. I’d argue it’s not. What you definitely need to do is lose yourself in its cobblestone streets.

The Seine in fall, looking towards the Louvre. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

The Louvre, as seen from the opposite side of the Seine. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Booths selling art line the banks of the Seine…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…as do cafes and pubs of all kinds. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

There are some amazing photographic opportunities in Le Quartier Latin, in the city’s 6th Arrondissement. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Cafes line the streets…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…outside the Shakespeare & Company bookshop, originally founded by Sylvia Beach. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

With the weather fair and the skies blue, I took a 10 kilometre walk through Paris in the fall. I only meant to walk a few blocks from the hotel. It was just so nice out that I couldn’t stop. After I’d passed the Eiffel Tower and the Trocadero, I wanted to walk past Les Invalides and Place Concorde. And from there it’s an easy walk to the Musee D’Orsay, The Louvre, Pont Neuf, and the Notre Dame Cathedral, all of which border the left and right banks of the River Seine.

France Takes a Holiday

Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

When I first came to Paris back in 2001, a strike at The Louvre scrapped plans to visit the museum. Today, France suffered one of the largest public-sector strikes in the last decade, with French Air Traffic Control, local schools, and transportation networks across the country affected. It’s enough to make you drop your croissant into your café au lait.

Tauck reacted quickly to news that the Musee D’Orsay, which was one of our scheduled museum stops today, would be closed. It re-routed folks booked on that included tour to the stunning Paris Opera house, Palais Garnier, instead. It turned out to be one of the most spectacular spaces I’ve seen in the city.

Boarding the coach…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…for our grand tour of Paris. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

The Palais Garnier is exactly what you think of when you picture the Belle Époque: prosperity and the arts, combined with an almost obscene level of money. Seriously. The interior of the Palais Garnier is so elaborate and gilded that it looks like Napoleon maxed out France’s credit cards in one lavish, absinthe-induced spending spree.

Built at the request of Napoleon in 1861, the opera house opened in 1875. It immediately bedazzled visitors, much in the same way it does today. The word “grandeur” doesn’t go far enough: the Palais Garnier is a jaw-dropping look into the world of the ultra-rich at the height of one of France’s most prosperous ages.

Some images of this gorgeous building:

The Opera Garnier. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Our local guide explains the history of the Palace Garnier…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…before we enter this breathtaking space. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Opulence is the word of the day…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…with every step we take in this opulent Opera House. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

The sweeping entry lobby is a place to see and be seen…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…while grand lobbies provided guests with the necessary space to mingle. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Using the Metro in Paris

Don’t be afraid to use the convenient Metro to get around Paris. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

After our visit had concluded, we were given free time for the rest of the afternoon and evening. Lunch and dinner are on your own today, and you might be tempted to go back to the hotel and eat, or to grab something familiar, like a burger from one of two Five Guys’ locations in Paris. Don’t: Paris is filled with wonderful cuisines of all kinds.

To get around, do make use of the Paris Metro. Most maps will have the printed Metro routes on them, and it is relatively easy to plan your route. Stations are equipped with easy-to-read signage and route maps for you to double-check your journey, and the €1.90 one-way fare makes it the most affordable way to get quickly around the city. The Metro station closest to the hotel is Bir-Hakeim, on the Number 6 Etoile-Nation line.

Trains and stations can be found in nearly every quarter of city, and barely cost two Euros for a single trip. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Our introduction to Paris concluded on our first day with a lavish dinner on the 10th floor of the Pullman hotel, within sight of the Eiffel Tower. As its lights turned on for the evening, champagne and wine were served on the balcony so that we could take in the fresh fall air.

This is the Paris that is romanticised in books, movies and song. It’s also decidedly classic Tauck, offering guests an experience that would be otherwise almost impossible.

Best of all, our journey along the Seine is just beginning.

Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Our Voyage Report from onboard Tauck’s ms Sapphire continues tomorrow as we visit Versailles and embark the ms Sapphire. Follow along with our latest cruise adventures on Twitter: @deckchairblog.

From Paris to Normandy with Tauck

DAYPORTACTIVITIES
October 9, 2017ParisArrival in Paris; check-in to Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel hotel.
October 10ParisTour of the Opera Garnier
October 11ParisTour of the Palace of Versailles; embark ms Sapphire
October 12RouenGuided tour of Rouen; evening chateau reception, dinner and music
October 13Caudebec-en-CauxVisits to Etretat and Honfleur
October 14Caudebec-en-CauxD-Day history in Normandy with visits to Omaha Beach, American Cemetery & the Arromanches Museum
October 15JumiegesVisit to Jumieges Abbey ruins
October 16Les AndelysChateau Gaillard tour; cider & calvados tasting; scenic cruising
October 17VernonGiverny and Monet home visit; farewell reception
October 18ParisDisembark ms Sapphire
 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:


Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!