As if the relaxed atmosphere, laid-back pace and brilliantly designed staterooms weren’t enough to like about a river cruise with Avalon Waterways, there is something I really appreciate… many of the shore excursion options are included in the cruise price. There are some that can be arranged for an additional price, however for our 8 day adventure all of our outings, except for one, are in fact no additional charge to enjoy.
This itinerary has various morning and afternoon selections. The first port of the journey offered excursions to Giverny Monet’s Gardens or a visit to Castle Chateau de Bitzy and Vernon as its morning tours. You can sign up before you travel or when you board the ship but remember some of the popular excursions may be limited so always pre-reserve any you have your heart set on.
What did I do in the morning? I did the the “recover from jet lag nap’ excursion. (better known as: I slept in.)
You will likely find you will end up doing the same if you don’t take the advice to come in a day prior, especially if transiting from the west coast of the US. The benefit of that particular anti-shore tour was I was awake, rested and ready to go for the afternoon activity.
Right after lunch, the ship arrived in Les Andelys. A small village in upper Normandy and home to our tour destination, Chateau Gaillard.
But before you go, be sure to stop at the front desk in the lobby for three very important items:
1) Your boarding card. This is given to each guest in the cabin as they leave the ship to help track who is on the ship and who hasn’t yet returned. When you get back on the ship, just hand the cards to the nice crew member behind the desk and all is well.
2) Your tour headset system. Each guest picks up a tour specific receiver so you are always guaranteed to hear your guide as long as you remain in range. Over the ear headsets are placed in room on embarkation day to use for the duration of the cruise, or you can use your own earbuds as well. Tip- Always be sure to ask the guide what channel to set it to before you claim loudly that yours is broken and need a new one to the entire group.
3) The ship provides bottled water for you free of charge as you disembark the ship for your excursion. Grab one and stay hydrated.
The group was lead by a French guide who speaks very good English in a pleasant tone that i could listen to all day. The french have a certain music to their accent that I adore… (note to self.. learn to speak French) We walked through the village to the beginning of the road that leads up 300 feet to the Chateau.
Its a pretty serious incline and anyone who makes a habit of a daily romp with a step machine would likely find it a good workout. Give yourself plenty of time and walk at your own pace to make it up the hill. If you have trouble walking at all, this is not the tour for you. There are no options for a lift up the hill. They do offer a walking tour of the town as well that has the beauty with none of the calf burning.
Construction on this fortress, backed by Richard the Lionheart, King of England and Duke of Normandy, began in 1196. If you make the climb to Château Gaillard the views overlooking the River Seine are an awesome payoff.
Our group was there on a day when medieval soldiers dawned the traditional fighting wear, shields, chain mail and weapons and did live battle demonstrations.
The weaponry, tents and re-enactments made for such a great atmosphere you could close your eyes and feel like you were back in medieval times (without the dry chicken at a Vegas jousting match.)
We spent about an hour exploring the ruins and watching the demonstrations… then started the trek back to town. Which was much easier than the way up.
A short walk through town and back to the ship where cold cloths, orange juice and ice water were waiting.
and better yet… Happy hour!
Half priced drinks are on special during one hour each day.
Oh happy day!
Tomorrow we overnight in Caudebec.