SAILING holidays have become the ‘in thing,’ whether it’s on the high seas or cruising along a river, you only have to unpack once and everything including all meals are supplied.
So for Marie Burley of Kialla and travel companion, Coral Williams of Euroa it was off to Paris from where they would sail the Seine and the South of France.
On arrival they had one night in Paris. They arrived too early to book into their hotel so they decided to walk the city as far as the Champs Elysees, with its many shops, cafés and patisseries with freshly baked delights.
Then back to their hotel to get some rest. The next day they were up early and decided to take the hop on hop off bus tour of Paris.
It was great with English commentary on the sights they would see. The first stop was the Eiffel Tower and they took time to explore the area. Marie says there were police and armed army soldiers everywhere; yes Paris was on alert in September well before the recent massacre.
Their next stop was Notre Dame. The line to get in was huge but it moved quite quickly and they were soon on the tour. Reboarding their bus they continued to see the other major sights of Paris.
Time was getting on as they had to be back at their hotel at 2:30pm for the transfer to their ship. They arrived at 2:45pm but all was ok and soon they were relaxing on their Scenic river cruise ship, the Gem.
The first part of the tour would be for 10 days and then a change of ship and a total of 23 days cruising.
Marie says you have a choice of various activities. While ashore, a trip to the palace of Versailles and tour of The Louvre and a local village were all good and made the visit very interesting.
They now sailed to Rouen. They took a walking tour to see the site where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. The memorial is still there, as is the massive cathedral. Then onto Lyon. They visited a cider factory. The cider was sweet just the way they liked it.
Now a full day excursion to the Somme battlefields. It was very moving. Marie was not aware how big the battle had been, claiming over 150,000 lives of soldiers from Britain and the commonwealth. They also saw the Australian National War Memorial at Villiers-Bretonneux.
The Australian soldiers are held in high esteem by the French, as they fought to reclaim villages and save lives.
A local school was destroyed in the war only to be rebuilt many years later by donations from Australian school children from Victoria. On the roof of the school are the words Never Forget Australia. 1,200 Aussie soldiers fought and gave their lives to save the town.
Some more luxury time river cruising and then they arrived at the port for another full day excursion exploring the D-Day landing beaches of Normandy.
The site is scattered with old bomb shelters and many museums stand as memorials to the landing. There are displays of landing vehicles, gun turrets and fortifications all commemorating D-Day, June 6, 1944.
Now for a change of pace and a visit to Giverny and Monet’s house and famous garden. The great artist had drawn much insight from the gardens and as his sight faded so did the crispness of his paintings, which gave them a special glow.
They now changed ships to the Scenic Sapphire, but first they boarded the ultra-fast TGV train for a whirlwind 300 kilometres an hour ride to Dijon, where they boarded their ship.
They would now sail onto Burgundy and visit the Chateau de Cormatin, with its beautiful gardens and water features. You have to use a drawbridge to gain access to the chateau and its beautiful rooms.
They now sailed onto Tournon and Viviers, Avignon visiting wonderful valleys and national parks along the way.
After 23 days of luxury travel, great food and so many exciting things to see for Marie and Coral their dream holiday was drawing to a close.
They now transferred to Nice for one night to explore before boarding their flight back home. Both Marie and Coral would like to thank Rebecca Smith at Helloworld Shepparton for arranging everything.
Until next time,