To France, With Love

eiffeltowerIt has been too long since I shared my travel journeys. However, with everything going on in the world—and specifically Paris—I needed to share my recent experience on the Seine River, taking an Avalon Waterways river cruise from Paris to the landing beaches at Normandy. The cruise began in Paris and ended in Paris. My wife, Nathalie, was born in Paris; this was a special journey.

Before we began our river cruise, Nathalie and I visited the Eiffel Tower. It is as magnificent as one can possibly imagine: 360 degrees of Paris. I particularly enjoyed seeing a replica of the Statue of Liberty on the Seine, a reminder to me of how close our cultures are, how France is our oldest ally and, in retrospect, how we stand together in times of crisis.

What makes the river cruise special is that you are up close and personal with the history and culture of the particular river you are on, in this case the Seine. With Avalon, each port offers multiple excursions. For example, the second day, we cruised right into Vernon; 10 minutes later we were in Giverny visiting Monet’s house and gardens. The pond with the water lilies and weeping willows were not only inspirational for some of Monet’s greatest paintings, they are still inspirational today.

After Vernon, we cruised into Caudebec where we would spend a couple of days, including the excursion to the landing beaches at Normandy. Prior to the landing beaches we discovered Honfleur. This is a truly quaint fishing village with a beautiful picturesque port with wonderful sidewalk cafes, art galleries and local shopping—probably the prettiest village I have ever seen—and Nathalie fit right in.

The day we visited the Landing Beaches at Normandy will stay with me forever. Sure, everyone knows the history of D-Day, but the history came alive that day as we drove from Utah Beach, Gold Beach, Juno Beach and Sword Beach. They let us out on Omaha Beach and we toured the pill boxes where American troops—kids—were massacred until the Army Rangers scaled the huge hill and took care of business.

The American Cemetery was sobering. Thousands of graves marked with crosses and stars of David aligned beautifully facing the United States. There is a memorial with a bronze statue in the middle called “Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves”—very powerful. There was a memorial service at the statue that started with the playing of our National Anthem. After it was evident that the PA system was broken, a few in our group started singing and we all joined in creating a spiritual moment complete with goosebumps and tears that we will never forget.

Making our way back to Paris, we toured the city at night and visited the Louvre and Notre Dame, reminding us again how special and important Paris is not only to the people of France but the people of the world. Every nationality converged in this city. It was quite obvious how important France’s place is in the world.

Our final evening in Paris was the most meaningful. As I mentioned earlier, Nathalie was born in France and her very close friends spent the evening with us, taking us to dinner and showing us where they work: the Ministry of Defense; they are both in the French Navy. Our hearts go out to Jean and Pascale as their homeland deals with the recent terrorism that impacts us all.

Andy ArluckTravel to France: normalcy will be restored allowing the world to continue to appreciate all of what our oldest ally has to offer.

Visit www.andyslandseatravel.com or call 516-822-0204 to find out more about Andy Arluck’s Cruise Planners.

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