...In October, we had a FABULOUS 7-day photo workshop cruise from Paris to Normandy on Viking River Cruises with 12 photographers and their companions taking pictures by day and by night in Paris, Vernon, Rouen, along the Normandy beaches, and in Les Andelys with guided tours and photo instruction at each stop.
The story of our workshop has been beautifully documented in a video produced by one of our clients, Beth Wolf of Midland MI, who came with her husband Ken. Here is a link to the workshop as told by Beth:
The weather was perfect - in the mid-70's and sunny, which is quite unusual for October in Paris. Locals told us it is usually in the low 60's, overcast and showers. We started with a whirlwind trip through Paris on October 13, seeing many iconic landmarks, such as the Arc de Triomphe (a challenge to photograph from the bus!) and the Pyramid in front of the Louvre. We stopped at Notre Dame (unfortunately, parts of the cathedral are currently under scaffolding) and the Trócadero to see the Eiffel Tower.
Our second full day on the cruise took us to Giverny, the home of Impressionist painter Claude Monet. Even though we were there early on a Sunday morning, it was still crowded...which made it nearly an impossibility to photograph the famous waterlily pond, the Japanese footbridge and the gardens as Claude Monet painted them, but it was still a thrill to be there and actually see it all! In the afternoon, we took a walking tour of the village of Vernon, which is where the boat was docked. After dinner, we got to do a little night photography in Vernon as well. It was another satisfying day for a photographer - whatever type of photography interested you - architecture, landscape, flower, street, food, night - the opportunity was there!
On the third full day of the cruise, we spent the morning cruising on the Seine, making our way from Vernon to Rouen by lunchtime. After lunch, we took a walking tour in Rouen, saw the impressive cathedral, built starting in the 12th Century! Much of what we see today are rebuilt portions of the cathedral - in the 13th, 15th and 16th centuries, as it has been through many fires, storms and wars. We also learned about Joan of Arc (now a Roman Catholic Saint), who was held captive by the English in Rouen (the English headquarters in France), put on trial for heresy, was ultimately found guilty and was executed by burning in the Vieux-Marché (Old Market) in Rouen. References to Joan of Arc appear throughout Rouen. There were also many picturesque 15th century buildings in the historic area, made with timbers. It was another beautiful day in a beautiful French town!
On the fourth full day of the cruise, we boarded buses and drove to the Normandy Beaches, stopping first at Gold Beach in Arromanches, to see where the " Mulberry" Harbor was built after the D-Day Invasion on June 6, 1944. (Note: the French do not consider it an invasion - they consider it a liberation!) . There are still remnants of the harbor there. After Arromanches, we visited the German Bunkers at Longues-sur-Mer. The German Bunkers survived 1,200 tons of bombs being dropped on them by the Allied Forces - the walls of the bunkers are 6 feet thick! The bunkers house 150mm guns which can shoot 6 miles. Luckily, none of the German guns hit an allied ship before they were taken out on the evening of June 6. Then it was on to Omaha Beach, where the American forces suffered heavy losses. At the request of their families, 70% of the Americans who lost their lives were repatriated to the United States. The rest, 9387 soldiers, are buried in the American Cemetery. Like Arlington National Cemetery, the American Cemetery is a very special place - of beauty and reverence for those who died in service to our country. The French pay tribute to the American forces every day, with a moving ceremony that includes the playing of the National Anthem and TAPS as well as honoring any military veteran who is
visiting the cemetery.
The last full day of the WPS Paris to Normandy cruise was full of activities! In the morning, several members of the group went to the Palace of Versailles to see the magnificent home of the French Kings from 1682 (Louis XIV) until the start of the French Revolution in 1789 (Louis XVI). The Treaty of Versailles, which formally ended World War I was signed in the Hall of Mirrors in June 1919. The palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, receiving 7.7 million visitors in 2017! (Only the Louvre had more visitors.)
In the afternoon, the group toured (and of course, photographed!) Château Malmaison, the home of Napoleon I Bonaparte and his wife Joséphine de Beauharnais. Naploeon lived there until his exile, and Joséphine continued to live there until her death in 1814. Joséphine created beautiful gardens on the estate and many of them were in "full bloom", with late fall flowers, like Dahlias and Zinnias. It was indeed a beautiful way to spend the afternoon!
Upon leaving Château Malmaison, we went to Saint-Germain-en-Laye, which is an elegant, royal town located just a short drive from Paris. Founded in 1020, it is the birthplace of Louis XIV. The Château du Saint-Germain-en-Laye was built by Louis VI in 1124, then rebuilt by François I and restored under Napoleon III. Today the château is the site of the National Antiquities Museum which contains artifacts from the Prehistoric Era to the Middle Ages. Around the Château is a 26 acre park, with a beautiful panoramic view of the western Paris suburbs.
After dinner, the group enjoyed a specially arranged tour - just for them - to photograph Paris at night! (Many many thanks to E. David Luria for making it happen!) We climbed into three Mercedes passenger vans and spent several hours in Paris. We photographed the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs Elysees, The Opera, the Ponte Alexandre III (an ornate bridge) and of course, the Eiffel Tower. It was a great way to end our trip!
The Viking River Cruises longboat "Kadlin", which was the name of Viking Rolf's daughter - Rolf being the conquerer of Normandy, was a very comfortable home away from home for 190 passengers and 35 crew. All of the passengers on this cruise were from North America - 182 from the United States and 8 from Canada! The décor was Scandinavian, with teak flooring and paneling in the main areas. The longboat had a Lounge where the Cocktail Hour was held every evening at 5:30 and then the Program Director had a presentation (called "Port Talk") on the next day's activities. Entertainment took place in the Lounge every night as well.
The top deck had plenty of tables, umbrellas and chairs to enjoy the beautiful afternoons we had! There were also mini putting greens and an herb garden, along with a jogging/walking track around the perimeter of the top deck. There were several seating areas throughout the longboat and a mini library was tucked into a corner.
There was a daily complimentary tour (sometimes two!) plus on-board activities such as a painting class or "Enrichment Lectures". The group had meals together daily in the dining room, which is where we spent most of our time when we were onboard. All in all, an enjoyable home away from home!