The Road to Rouen

After an afternoon in Rouen, Tauck took guests to a private chateau for an evening to remember. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Thursday, October 12, 2017

This morning, I awoke around 6:30am aboard Tauck’s ms Sapphire to take some early-morning photos before the rest of the guests awoke. I always like doing this early on in each cruise, to get it out of the way.

It’s also good to be up early to get a head-start on breakfast – but of course, I quickly realized you don’t need to “beat the rush” aboard Tauck’s Sapphire. With just 98 guests onboard, there is never any “rush”; just simply come as you are, and there will be a seat for you.

Full breakfast…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…and plenty of seating…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…is on offer every morning in the Dining Room on Deck 1. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Full-service buffet breakfast is served in the Sapphire’s elegant main restaurant on Deck 1, but Tauck also offers up an early continental breakfast in Arthur’s on Deck 3 aft.

Arthur’s was first introduced aboard Tauck’s ms Inspire and ms Savor at the time of their launch three years ago, and is named after company chairman Arthur Tauck, Jr.

Originally, it was a complimentary steakhouse experience that required reservations. Here aboard the Sapphire, Tauck has made some wonderful changes. Arthur’s is now open for continental breakfast, casual lunch, and steakhouse-style dinner. Daily. No reservations needed; just come on up and take a seat.

Continental Breakfast is also served each day up in Arthur’s on Deck 3 aft. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

This morning was spent cruising the Seine en-route to the French city of Rouen. It’s one of the only mornings of scenic cruising we’ll have on Tauck’s Rendezvous on the Seine itinerary, owing to the relatively short distance we have to cover between Paris and the Normandy region.

But Tauck doesn’t leave you to your own devices (though it can, if that’s your wish). This morning, Tauck Director Emilie gave a talk on the French language, while Tauck Director Gabrielle talked about French architecture. The thing with Tauck’s directors is that they are friendly, personable, and know exactly what they’re talking about. Their lectures are as good as any onboard lecturer I’ve experienced on many cruises.

A look at the grand entry lobby aboard Tauck’s ms Sapphire. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

The ship also has a decently-sized selection of books, tucked away on Deck 3 near the atrium staircase. While many of these are the rag-tag assortment of leave-behind trade fiction paperbacks that are the staple of the average cruise passenger, there is quite a decent selection of books on France and Paris. These can be borrowed and returned by guests at their leisure.

Or, you can just head up to the sun deck if the weather is good; the scenery along the Seine is beautiful, particularly if the weather holds up.

Rouen & Jeanne d’Arc

Tauck’s ms Sapphire, docked in Rouen, France. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Rouen has a hugely rich history. King Richard the Lionheart’s heart is held here. Jeanne d’Arc, or Joan of Arc, was burned at the stake in Rouen in 1431. Henry V captured Rouen around the same time as part of the Hundred Years’ War. And famed French author Gustave Flaubert, author of Madame Bovary, called Rouen home.

Despite suffering tremendous damage in World War II, much of the historic town center – including the amazing Cathedrale Notre-Damesurvives to this day. You can’t see it from the river cruise ship, which docks along the banks of the Seine in the heart of concrete postwar architecture. But a quick two-block stroll away, the Notre-Dame Cathedral rises up in grand fashion as you come around the corner; like a great Hollywood reveal.

Rouen’s Notre-Dame Cathedral towers over the city. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Inside the Cathedral. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Our included walking tour today took us from the Sapphire throughout historic Rouen, starting with the Cathedral and continuing on down the main pedestrian shopping street to the church dedicated to Joan of Arc. The latter is situated just steps away from the site where she was burned at the stake on May 30, 1431 after being declared guilty on charges of heresy.

The first burning didn’t take. In an effort to ensure that she wouldn’t be martyred, two more fires were lit until nothing was left of France’s female warrior. She was 19 when she died. Incredibly, the Church exonerated and declared her a martyr just 25 years later.

After a walk through Rouen…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…we came to the spot where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Inside the Cathedral dedicated to Joan of Arc, constructed near the spot of her death. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

The tour was well-paced, and guests were given about 90 minutes of free time following the tour before having to return to the ship. I like that. I’ve taken river cruises were little to no free time is provided, and I think it’s a shame. Tauck recognizes, rightly, that guests need to be given the time to discover each destination on their own, in addition to guided activities.

A Dinner to Remember

Our private dinner and reception at the Chateau du Taillis. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

This evening, Tauck took guests on another of its signature travel experiences: a private dinner at a historic French Chateau, Chateau du Taillis.

Built in 1530 by Jehan du Fay du Tailly, it is now maintained lovingly by a local family that does the work on the Chateau themselves. There is also a stunning museum on-site, inside a former stable, that houses thousands of relics from the last days of the Battle of Normandy. We had the opportunity to explore this great museum following dinner, and it was well worth it.

Champagne…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…and live music in the garden greeted guests…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…before we made our way inside…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…for a memorable dinner. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

But first: no Chateau dinner is complete without cocktails, which were provided outside on the grounds of the palace. Champagne flowed liberally and canapes were passed around, but this being Tauck, if you wanted something else to drink you had only to ask for it. And in typical Tauck fashion, this was all complimentary.

Inside, dinner carried on within the Chateau’s ornate interior. Lit only by candlelight, we dined much as guests would have hundreds of years ago, feasting on a multi-course meal of local delicacies in a cozy and warm atmosphere.

On the menu tonight:

STARTERS

Lobster Raviolis in a Sauternes Cream

APPLE SHERBET IN CALVADOS

COURSES:

Veal with Porcini Mushrooms

Olive Mousse

Zucchini Flan

CHEESE TRAY FROM NORMANDIE

DESSERT:

Assorted Plate of Sweets:

Pecan Pie Lemon Cake

Lemon Cream

Crème Brulee

Fresh Fruits

Macarons

People often ask me, ‘What do you get with Tauck?’ This. This is exactly what you get. Uncommon, private experiences that aren’t available on other river cruise lines. Experiences you couldn’t buy your way into. Experiences that are so out-of-the-way and off the regular tourist path that you’d only discover them by knowing a local.

When you cruise with Tauck, you’re sailing with a local each and every day – and the line delights in providing guests with surprising and unique experiences at every turn.

That’s the Tauck difference.

Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Our Voyage Report from onboard Tauck’s ms Sapphire continues tomorrow as we travel to Étretat and Honfleur, France! 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
 

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