We finally left Clamecy after almost two weeks waiting for the VNF (Waterways Service) to allow us through the lock. Luckily for us during this period we had plenty to do. First we had sister-in-law Pammie staying (see our last blog) and then were joined by our friends Di and Michael, also Aussies.
Once the Yonne was safe again, and we could move on, before we knew it we were flying towards Paris, down the Seine which was still a little higher and certainly faster than normal at this time of year.
On the Yonne we revisited some old haunts like Villeneuve, and stopped at a few places for the first time, like the delightful Sens.
We are now at Rouen having spent the time since our last blog on these waterways:
- From Clamecy on the canal du Nivernais into Auxerre: 61 kilometres and 31 locks, and a few swing or lift bridges
- Auxerre is the beginning (in our case) of the river Yonne through to Montereau where it joins the Seine: 108 kilometres and 26 locks
- Montereau along the Seine into Paris 101 kilometres and 9 locks
- From Paris continuing back down the Seine to Rouen: 242 kilometres and only 6 locks.
Stewart tells our story taking us from Paris to Rouen.
We set off back down the Seine, always a thrilling experience. The spectacular sites of so many of the buildings that have made Paris famous; the Louvre, d’Orsay, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Eiffel Tower so many bridges – all exquisite but different amidst the hurly-burly of the comings and goings of all the tourist boats and commercial freight barges. Then off from the Seine’s main “drag” to a secluded arm (Bras de Marly) into Rueil Malmaison, a favourite of ours as it was for the Impressionists a hundred and fifty years ago.
Before too long we were onto new waterways and with a three kilometre per hour current behind us “Endellion” was making good time while not using too much fuel.
The medieval village of Vernon is just a few kilometres from Giverny, with Monet’s home with its wonderful gardens and the lily ponds which he captured in those vast canvases we enjoyed at the l’Orangerie a year or so back. Along with packed visitor trains over at Vernon’s railway station, on our first pass, we could see a massive cruise ship moored there so found another spot and bided our time until “Viking Pride” had moved on later in the afternoon.
“Watch out for that little pleasure boat when you come in to tie up,” radioed Lesley standing on our roof. I could see what looked like a small rowing skiff at the jetty. So, where was this other vessel? As we got closer I could finally see that this tiny vessel “Willow Maid”, was a sail boat whose mast had been stepped and sent on ahead, but just 7 metres, around 25 feet!
Not long after we met and shared a coffee with Willow Maid’s loving and brave owners, Richard and Marian. Richard explained he had owned the yacht for 50 years, so when they had decided to do some sailing on the Mediterranean, he said they could hardly leave her behind, back in England. But (thankfully!) rather than tackle the ferocious seas of the Bay of Biscay they were taking the “easy route” South, via the heavily locked canals and rivers of France. Although they had just crossed the Channel in through Honfleur and up the tidal Seine to get here. “Intrepid” was barely an adequate description!
At the other end of the size and options spectrum another huge “mega” hotel barge soon arrived to loom over them, an unexpected chance to get to get to know more about a booming side to the business of waterway holidaying.
Two of the more prominent operators of river cruising vessels are here with us on the Seine; AMA which presently operates a fleet of 15 or so and Viking River Cruises , with 35 vessels and more being added all the time – 10 this year alone.
According to its website, Viking offers trips; seven to 23 days on Europe’s Rhine, Main, Danube, Seine, Saône, Rhône, and Elbe Rivers; Russia’s Volga and Svir; Ukraine’s Dnieper; China’s Yangtze; Egypt’s Nile and Lake Nasser; Vietnam’s Mekong and even on Burma’s Irrawaddy.
Tied up behind us one afternoon in Vernon, was AMA’s Dutch built, Swiss registered mighty AmaLegro. Like all of these river cruise ships she’s 110 metres long, 11.6 metres wide, has 70 “staterooms” and 4 suites. 148 passengers, mostly Americans or on vessels under other flags Germans or occasionally French. AmaLegro’s passengers are served by a friendly, hard-working crew of 42. We see they have a BBQ up on the sun deck, complete with a chef in formal attire and a piano accordionist who plays all the old songs of Paris. We learn that the passenger decks below are called the Violin and the Cello. Then the crew are further down below in the Piano deck.
Their advertising reads, and we’re sure all the other cruise ships say:
“After dinner, we invite you to enjoy engaging evening entertainment. You are sure to be enthralled as different performers come on board each night. It’s the perfect complement to your daily discoveries”.
The AmaLegro is almost seven times longer than us, and just a little older as according to her website, she was christened in 2007. We love the way her décor is described – it sounds like they must have had one of our real estate friends in to write it:
“The AmaLegro’s décor combines beautiful shades of terracotta with golds to create an elegant, yet inviting environment. Most staterooms feature French balconies, and all include amenities such as crisp white bedding, complimentary bottled water, Internet, hit movies and marble-trimmed bathrooms. AmaLegro also features a Massage, Hair and Beauty Salon; fitness room and sauna, plus a whirlpool and walking track on the Sun Deck, for relaxing and taking in wonderful views.”
Not to be outdone, the competitors boast:
“With their sleek, Scandinavian design, Viking Cruises’ newest longships evoke a feeling of calm and elegance. All make fantastic use of light, featuring glass, backlit marble panels rising above a terazzo floor and a grand wooden staircase to create a beautiful, modern space. French balcony staterooms feature floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors, while suites have their own veranda” “The Aquavit Terrace is a lovely place to enjoy breakfast (which can be cooked to order – we recommend the pancakes) or lunch al fresco”.
The ships boast quiet, environmentally friendly, hybrid engines as well as solar panels and even an organic herb garden on the large sun deck.
Now we have the solar panels, and could be growing more of our own herbs, have TV, great food and plenty of on-board entertainment too, but unlike those passengers who are all happy to stick to someone else’s timetable, we set our own and can wear whatever we like to breakfast!
We can imagine how lovely it is to travel in such luxury and care, and these cruise ships are wheelchair accessible. Who would want to use the cram-them-in system of aeroplanes, and book in and out of hotels, when you can travel on AmaLegro, or Renoir, or of course .. Endellion?
For a little more information if this approach is of interest, visit AMA’s website here.