River-lution: Top travel writer Nick Constance takes a luxury cruise down Paris’ River Seine
For the perfect Spring getaway, leading travel writer Nick Constance is bang on the zeitgeist when it comes to a jaunt along the Seine – especially as the ship visits the Normandy coast, 170 miles North West of Paris.
When it comes to luxury travel, nobody gives a fig about 5-star mini bars and posh body-wash, any more. Today’s modern nomads are seeking a deeper, far more spiritual adventure.
We’re not suggesting high-end travel has gone all shoeless lunches, but things are definitely changing. Less vulgarity, more sustainability – swapping work and worry for joy and wisdom. ‘Health In Totality’, as it’s rather snappily being referred to.
On the other hand, don’t go crazy seeking some kind of spiritual enlightenment, just chill out and soak up the moment. Get out of your head and get outside. Everything will seem clearer with a dose of sunshine and some silence.
For my previous London-Paris trip I chose train over plane. After all, trains are a grillion miles from the stressy nightmare airports have become.
Admittedly, one usually associates the word arduous with trains, but my journey is anything but – a light meal, a drink, glossy magazines to flick through and oodles of leg-room are all included. On a train I can stare out of the window and meditate.
Thankfully, a car is on hand to whisk me off to the Eiffel Tower, where M.S. Seine Princess is moored. The 30-minute drive from Gare Du Nord, across Place du Concorde and past the high-end stores of Rue du Rivoli, ramps up the excitement, accordingly.
M.S. by the way stands for Motor Ship, the equivalent of H.M.S. or Her Majesty’s Ship.
Each 144 sq. ft. cabin boasts a shower, toilet, a satellite TV and large picture window, which gives me a perfect view of the landscape. Up above, there’s also a spacious sundeck, for the milder weather.
I addition to the above, another focus of our trip is an option to visit the beaches of Normandy, to reflect on the losses of those who fought in the 1944 D-Day landings. (Full day, lunch included.)
Foodies can also get their Parisian fix, as the ship is conveniently moored near the Eiffel tower for the first 2 nights. Take advantage of one of the sightseeing coach tours of Paris, with a free afternoon in the capital.
Eventually, the ship throbs and shimmies its way up river, under bridges, past elegant houseboats, until we eventually wake up in the charming town of Vernon, 70 miles North West of Paris.
It’s here we take an excursion to the village of Giverny, home to artist Claude Monet for more than 40 years, where his estate is now open to the public. Knowing the great man himself once painted in these very same gardens, lends some spiritual voltage to the visit.
Moments from the garden – 99 rue Claude Monet- is The Museum Of Impressionism. This wonderful museum covers Impressionism from 70 artists from across the world.
Next up is Honfleur, a picturesque town with galleries galore selling art inspired by the surrounding seascapes. It also boasts some of the best seafood restaurants in France, so you might want to leave room for what could be a memorable lunch.
Life on-board is not all poodles and lollipops, however: fixed-times, fixed-tables, and fixed-menus eventually becomes tiresome. Or, perhaps it’s just me, who prefers ninja-style buffets to picking my way through plates of food to get to the good stuff.
What’s totally unnescesarry – and rather disappointing – is the incessant use of plastic water bottles and plastic straws in the bar. I questioned the bar staff on this issue and was met with a sheepish shrug. Considering the present ‘climate’, perhaps a new environmental program should be considered?
During milder weather, head for the sun deck, which covers the whole 110-metre top deck. It’s the optimum spot to grab a ‘fun’ lounger as the ever-changing vista slowly segues from Normandy to the Île-de-France.
So, we’re down to the final day and the final gala dinner. Unfortunately, this throws up a tiny dilemma. How much to leave as a tip?
Luckily, CroisiEurope has a decent policy on ‘gratuities’. It’s both discretionary and anonymous. This means you put what feel is deserved in an unsigned envelope and either leave it in the cabin, or drop it off at reception. Impasse sorted.
Ditch the gadgets and dump the smartphones. In fact, go tweet-free for the week and pay attention.
Only then will we notice how blue the sky is and how green the trees are.
You’ll disembark dazed and delighted.
Nick Constance travelled with CroisiEurope, 020 8328 1281.
Prices for six-night cruise round trip from Paris start from £791 per person (based on the 24th October departure) including all meals, port fees and most* onboard drinks. (*Excluding Champagne, certain beers and spirits.)
Image credit at the very top of the article CroisiEurope