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15 Days | Portrait of Majestic France


Day 1 | Paris, France. Embark. Arrive at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport. If your cruise/tour package includes a group arrival transfer or if you have purchased a private arrival transfer, you will be greeted by a Uniworld representative and transferred to the ship. (D)

Day 2 | Vernon (Giverny). Les Andelys.
The Seine River Valley’s unique light kept Monet in residence here, in the village of Giverny, for more than 40 years, until his death in 1926. The village and gardens surrounding his home frequently provided the subject matter of his paintings. It was after the move to Giverny that Monet began his famous series paintings of haystacks, cathedrals, and water lilies. You’ll explore Monet’s house, furnished as it was when the leader of the Impressionist school lived here, complete with his precious collection of Japanese engravings. Monet designed the gardens himself, and as you stroll through them, you’ll see the famed Japanese bridge and water garden shaded by weeping willows that he painted so often.

Note: Giverny will be closed during the March 15, March 22, and October 25 cruise/tour departure dates. Instead of Giverny, guests will visit Versailles Palace.

Your ship will arrive today in beautiful Les Andelys, a charming Medieval village of half-timbered houses nestled on the banks of the Seine. Perched high above the white cliffs of the river are the ruins of the late-12th-century Château Gaillard.

Join a guide on an invigorating hike up the picturesque hillside to the remains of this massive castle. (Guests who prefer a more relaxing journey may ride up on a motorcoach.) Les Andelys was of considerable strategic importance during the Middle Ages, a fact that prompted Richard the Lionheart to build a fortified castle here to protect the Duchy of Normandy from the French king, Philip II. While the construction of large stone castles in this period often took the better part of a decade, Château Gaillard was completed in less than two years through the combined labor of 6,000 workers. You’ll see how the stronghold was carved out of the natural rock, making this one of the best designed castles of its age. Your guide will explain Château Gaillard’s long and storied history, including the frequent transfer of ownership between the English and the French, and its use as both a prison and a place of refuge for troubled European rulers. After lunch, enjoy the enchanting beauty of the Seine’s lovely countryside as you sail to Rouen. (BB, L, Captain's Welcome Gala)

Day 3 | Rouen. Normandy Beaches. Normandy’s proximity to the sea has made it the site of many important battles. It was here that William the Conqueror launched his invasion of England more than a millennium ago, and it was here that the famous D-Day Invasion began in 1944. Begin your day at Arromanches, where you can view one of the two Mulberry Harbors deployed in the D-Day Invasion. These were artificial harbors constructed to ease and speed the process of unloading Allied troops (Americans, Canadians, British and Australian soldiers), vehicles, and equipment onto the Normandy beaches. From here, you may choose to learn more about Operation Overlord at the nearby D-Day Museum, explore Juno Beach and the sacrifices made by Canadian troops there, or view a depiction of a much older military conflict — the 11th-century Battle of Hastings — at the Tapestry Museum in Bayeux. (BB, D)

The "Choice Is Yours" Day 3 Excursion Options
A. Normandy Beaches with D-Day Museum at Arromanches.
Normandy beaches with D-Day Museum at Arromanches The D-Day Museum offers a multimedia experience that brings history to life for visitors of all ages. In addition to the site of the invasion itself, you’ll see a special diorama, the Hall of Allied Nations, and a film that details the design, transport, and deployment of Mulberry Harbor B (the one still on display at Arromanches, which the Allies called Gold Beach). You’ll have time to enjoy lunch on your own in Arromanches and stroll its main avenue before heading off to Omaha Beach.

B. Normandy beaches with Juno Beach and the Canadian Center.
Normandy beaches with Juno Beach and the Canadian Center When the Allies prepared to invade Normandy, they assigned a six-mile (10 km) stretch of beach to the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division under the command of Major-General Rodney Keller. The Canadians trained for their assault in Scotland and were generally regarded as the best-prepared of any of the invading forces. Unfortunately, preliminary bombing had failed to eliminate German battlements, so Canadian troops encountered stiff resistance and several companies suffered very heavy casualties. Walk the shoreline where so many died and visit Juno Beach Center, dedicated to the Canadian war effort. One million Canadians served during WWII, and 14,000 participated in the landing. Exhibits describe both life at home during the war and the service and sacrifice made by the men and women who fought. You will then have time for lunch on your own before heading off to Omaha Beach.

C. Normandy beaches with Tapestry Museum in Bayeux.
From Arromanches, you will go to Bayeux, the first French town to be liberated in 1944, and home to the Bayeux Tapestry, which is listed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register and was probably embroidered by monks in the south of England in 1066. The tapestry tells the story of the Norman conquest of England. You’ll watch a short film about and take a guided audio tour of this remarkable textile, which is over 220 feet (68 m) long and features 58 distinct scenes with Latin annotations. You will then have time for lunch on your own in this pleasant city, cradle of the dynasty of the dukes of Normandy, before heading off to Omaha Beach. (Note: The Tapestry Museum is a popular attraction in summer; therefore, the order of events may change to accommodate scheduling issues.) All groups will reconvene at Omaha Beach, where soldiers of the U.S. 1st Infantry Division landed under withering fire; half of these men were killed as they struggled to shore. You’ll see the battery of Longues-sur-Mer, part of Germany’s coastal “Atlantic Wall” fortifications, which fired on the troops landing at Gold and Omaha beaches. Then you’ll head to the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer, where 9,387 American soldiers are buried; their average age was 22. The wall of the missing lists the names of 1,557 American soldiers who lost their lives and could not be located. Beyond the reflecting pool, the mall displays rows of marble headstones facing west, toward the United States, as far as the eye can see. You’ll have time to walk in the memorial park and visit the American Center, which features an educational film and exhibits about Operation Overlord.

Day 4 | Rouen.
Today, you have your choice of two different ways to explore this beautiful city and discover just what drew these illustrious individuals. (BB, L, D)

The "Choice Is Yours" Day 4 Excursion Options
A. Walking tour of Rouen.
As you stroll into the well-preserved city with your guide, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back into the Middle Ages. The first majestic edifice to attract your eye will be the Cathédrale Notre Dame (Notre Dame Cathedral), which was begun more than 800 years ago and, for a brief period in the late 19th century, was the tallest building in the world. The cathedral houses the tomb of Richard the Lionheart, though only his heart is interred here. Over the years, famed artists, including Claude Monet, John Ruskin, and Roy Lichtenstein, have produced celebrated works depicting the cathedral’s extraordinary façade, with its multitude of towers and spires built in different eras and styles. From here, your local expert will take you through the old quarter, telling you about the astrological symbols that adorn the Gros Horloge, the Renaissance clock built into an arch that you’ll walk beneath as you leave the cathedral square, and down cobblestone lanes lined with half-timbered, slate-roofed houses. You’ll then reach the Vieux Marché (Old Market Square), which bears a bronze cross to mark the site where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. You may enter the modern Church of Saint Joan of Arc and admire the Renaissance-era stained-glass window that was rescued from the ruins of Saint-Sauveur church, which was destroyed in WWII. Spend the afternoon exploring the town on your own. Antique shops, galleries, and shops featuring craftsmen painting Rouen’s signature blue earthenware open their doors to art lovers around St. Maclou Church. To understand the role Rouen— the town Picasso found “as beautiful as Venice” — has played in art history, visit the Fine Arts Museum, which displays masterworks by Caravaggio, Eugène Delacroix, Amedeo Modigliani, and Claude Monet.

B. Exclusive “In the Steps of the Impressionist Painters” walking tour.
Light, sky, and water entranced the Impressionists, and they found the light of Rouen especially enchanting. Walk with an expert guide to see the views the painters immortalized: Boildieu Bridge, which Camille Pissarro rendered in a misty sunset, the historic streets, the Seine, the park, the cathedral — you will feel that you are walking through living art. Monet’s series of paintings of the Rouen cathedral, produced between 1892 and 1894, show the façade in varying light and weather and won instant admiration when he exhibited them. Caillebotte, Sisley, and Gauguin all produced outstanding work here, as did a group of young, less well-known painters who founded the Rouen school. Following your walking tour, visit the museum with its fine collection of Impressionist works, begun with a generous donation from François Depeaux, who was a patron of the Impressionists and gave many paintings to the museum in 1906.

Day 5 | Caudebec-en-Caux (Honfleur).
After crossing the Pont de Tancarville (Tancarville Bridge), you’ll drive through the beautiful Calvados countryside on your way to Honfleur, a major defensive port in the 17th century and the starting point of many expeditions to the New World. Birthplace of the unconventional French composer Erik Satie, the town has blossomed into a delightful seaside harbor and city of painters; over the years, it has been favored by artists such as Gustave Courbet, Eugene Boudin, and Claude Monet.

Your walking tour of the fishing village begins at the former smugglers’ harbor of Vieux Bassin — the most frequently painted scene in Honfleur — which looks much as it did a century ago, though these days the boats in the harbor are likely to be pleasure craft rather than fishing vessels. From the pedestrian streets lined with artists’ workshops to the Medieval town center, Honfleur is a delight to ramble through. Your local guide will take you through the tiny lanes, where houses stand shoulder to shoulder in a jumble of styles: narrow 19th-century slate-roofed townhouses, 15th-century fishermen’s homes, tall and elegant mansions, many adorned with figures of chimeras or saints. You’ll see St. Catherine’s church, built in the 15th century by shipwrights, who gave it an oak ceiling that looks like the hull of a boat.

Enjoy some free time amid a myriad of shops known for their paintings and handicrafts. The quaint houses converted into cafés and brasseries serving wine and seafood make for a special treat. Sample some fresh oysters and fruits de mer from local fishermen before you board the motorcoach to return to the ship in Caudebec-en-Caux via the majestic Pont de Normandie (Normandy Bridge). (BB, L, D)

Day 6 | Mantes-la-Jolie (Auvers-sur-Oise or Conflans-Sainte-Honorine).
Take a trip to Van Gogh’s Auvers-sur-Oise, or discover the charm of the barge port of Conflans Ste. Honorine. (BB, L, Captain's Farewell Dinner)

The Choice Is Yours Day 6 Excursion Options
A. Van Gogh Auvers sur Oise. 
Van Gogh Auvers sur Oise Van Gogh spent the last two months of his life in Auvers-sur-Oise; he lived here to be closer to his beloved brother, Theo, who lived a short distance away in Paris. During this short time, he painted 70 pictures of the town and its surroundings. You will follow in his footsteps as you walk along the village streets and pause before the town hall, the church, and the houses that he immortalized. The home and garden of Dr. Gachet, who tended the Post-Impressionist master, is now a museum and has been restored to look as it did when Van Gogh painted it. You’ll visit the cemetery where both Vincent and Theo are buried side-by-side.

B. Walking tour in Conflans Ste. Honorine.
Take a walking tour through the charming neighborhoods of Conflans Ste. Honorine.

Day 7 | Paris.
Today, you return to incomparable Paris to spend the morning exploring either the city of lights or the heart and soul of the city on a walk from Notre Dame Cathedral to the Latin Quarter. (BB, L, D)

The "Choice Is Yours" Day 7 Excursion Options
A. Paris city tour.
 The best of Paris will be unveiled during this panoramic tour of the magic city starting with the Arc de Triomphe, commissioned by Napoleon to celebrate the 128 victories of his Grande Armée. From here, like a head of state and guest of honor, we’ll head down the grand avenue of Paris, the Champs-Élysées, dazzled by the finest the city has to offer. The famed boulevard comes to its eastern end at the Place de la Concorde where the infamous guillotine was set during the French revolution.

Continuing the tour, we  will introduce you to the city’s most glamorous attractions, the magnificent Opéra Garnier, house of music and French Notional ballet, followed by  the sophisticated square of Place Vendôme, distinguished by designers’ salons, jewelers’ houses and hotel Le Ritz, all windows facing the Column, topped by a statue of Napoleon. We’ll then come upon the world’s largest museum, the Louvre where the modern glass pyramid designed by I.M. Pei marks the entrance to the half-mile-long classical edifice.

Crossing the Île de la Cité and driving in front of Notre Dame cathedral, we  will reach the Latin Quarter, the intellectual heart of Paris where you will see the famous Sorbonne University,  and the Neoclassical structure, called the Pantheon, burial place of luminaries such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Voltaire.

In the nearby Luxemburg Gardens, meandering around the public lawns and alleys, we will admire the main building, a palace built for Marie de Medici in 1615,  and the beautiful sculptures on display. Parisians love this park and bring their children to sail toy boats on the little pond, relax, read a book or romance in this quiet setting.

Back onboard the coach, we’ll then head to the École Militaire, an impressive complex that houses military higher-education facilities, and from the manicured promenade of Champs de Mars, you’ll have a chance to have your picture taken standing in front of Paris’ most iconic structure—the Eiffel Tower.

Then, crossing the lovely Seine again via the single-arch bridge displaying winged horses and graceful Art Nouveau lamps,  built in honor of the Tzar Alexander the third, we’ll spot the largest glass ceiling in France, which shelters the Grand Palais, a major exhibition hall, and finally, driving in front of the railway station turned into the impressive museum  d’Orsay, we’ll head back to the River Baroness, your home on the river.

B. Exclusive “Discover Paris as the Parisians Do: Île de la Cité and Latin Quarter” walking tour.
Notre Dame is the official center of the city of Paris; facing the main entrance of the cathedral is Kilometer Zero, the location from which distances in France (including those of the French national highways) are traditionally measured.

You’ll have time to explore both the interior and exterior of this remarkable church, which is considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture in Europe. Your guide will point out the structure’s most noteworthy details and explain the craftsmanship that went into fashioning them. After you’ve admired Notre Dame’s stained glass, flying buttresses, and grotesque gargoyles, you’ll cross the Pont de l’Archeveche (Archbishop’s Bridge) and work your way to the Boulevard Saint-Germain. You’ve reached the Quartier Latin (Latin Quarter), the intellectual heart of Paris, perched on the famed Rive Gauche (Left Bank). Through the years, many famous artists, poets, and philosophers have made the Rive Gauche their home, including Matisse, Picasso, Rimbaud, and Sartre, as well as American ex-patriots writers Hemingway and Fitzgerald. Before meandering through the area’s little squares, perusing its shop windows and perhaps taking a seat at one of its classic café terraces, you will have time to visit one of the oldest Parisian open markets which displays seasonal fruits, vegetables, baked goods and seafood magnificently arrayed along Rue Mouffetard during the day. Afterward, meet up with the motorcoach and ride back to the ship for lunch. After lunch onboard you may choose to spend the afternoon at leisure in Paris.)

Day 8 | Paris. Disembark. Transfer to Bordeaux via high speed TGV train. Embark.
Today, you’ll disembark the ship and be transferred to the railway station for your TGV transfer to Bordeaux, where you’ll join your next ship and begin the second part of this exciting journey. A host of charming towns and many epicurean delights await you in this ancient and beautiful corner of France. This is one of the world’s most celebrated wine regions, and you can look forward to exclusive tastings of its finest offerings—á votre santé! (BB, L, D)

Day 9 | Cruising the Garonne River and Gironde Estuary. Pauillac.
Set sail on the Garonne river for the pretty town of Pauillac, gateway to the Médoc wine route. Not far out of Bordeaux, the Garonne merges with the Dordogne river, forming the Gironde Estuary. At almost 50 miles (80 km), the Gironde is the largest estuary in Europe. Aside from being an important artery for the entire Bordeaux region, the Gironde is a rich source of shellfish, sturgeon (the source of Aquitaine caviar) and eels—all of which you’ll find on local menus.

When you arrive in Pauillac join us for a tour of the Médoc, perhaps take a complimentary bicycle to nearby Saint-Estèphe or explore the town on your own. The Médoc wine route takes you through the heart of the Haut-Médoc Appellation d'Origine Controlee (geographical indication used to identify where the grapes for a wine were grown), which includes six of France’s most prestigious appellations: Margaux, Moulis, Listrac, Pauillac, Saint-Estèphe, and Saint-Julien. One after the other, beautiful châteaux rise up from the verdant hillsides, creating one of the most scenic vineyards landscapes in the world.

For much of its history, the Haut-Médoc (much of the region, in fact) was salt marshes used for grazing cattle and sheep. It wasn’t until the 17th century that Dutch merchants began a drainage project with the hope of developing an area that would support a wine production significant enough to challenge Portugal’s dominance of the British market. The sandy terroir, sunshine, and cool Atlantic breezes provided the perfect climate, and by the 19th century the Haut-Médoc was one of France’s most prosperous wine regions.

As you travel through this idyllic landscape, you’ll see such world-renowned wineries as Margaux, Lafite Rothschild, Mouton Rothschild, and Cos d'Estournel. A highlight of the tour will be visiting a château, where you’ll meet the winemaker and enjoy vineyard and cellar tours, as well as a tasting. (BB, L, Captain's Welcome Gala)

Day 10 | Cruising the Gironde Estuary. Blaye. Libourne.
Today you’ll depart Pauillac and sail across the estuary to Blaye, where the ship will dock. The scenic journey through the estuary offers a unique look at the delta. Not only will you see vineyard-covered hillsides, but high limestone cliffs and grassy marshlands dotted with fishing huts built on stilts. (BB, L, D)

The Choice Is Yours Day 10 Excursion Options
A. Scenic drive along the Route de la Corniche fleurie. 
Running along the cliffs of the Gironde, between the towns of Blaye and Bourg, is a little road known as the Route de la Corniche fleurie. The road winds through the tiny, picturesque hamlets of Pain de Sucre, Marmisson and Roque de Thau, where you’ll find charming stone houses built by 19th-century ship captains. Many of the captains traveled to far-off locations and returned with exotic plants, which they planted in their gardens and along the road. You’ll see a variety of tropical and Mediterranean plants, including palms, bananas, laurels and wallflowers. And, if you look up to the cliffs above the road, you’ll spy prehistoric cave dwellings. It seems people have been enjoying the pleasures of the area for some 400,000 years.

B. Hike through the Blaye fortress.
Hike through the Blaye fortress ?For those who are looking for something more physically active, consider hiking the walls and ruins of the Blaye citadel, which was built by Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban, a military engineer of King Louis XIV, in the 1680s. The site has been under the watchful eye of UNESCO since 2008. Before dinner, you’ll arrive in the English bastide town of Libourne.

Day 11 | Libourne (Bergerac and Périgord).
What better way to spend a day in this part of Aquitaine than by taking full advantage of what it knows best: how to eat. Bergerac, in the southernmost part of the Périgord, boasts twelve AOCs (appellation d'origine controlee) — it’s an oenophile’s paradise — and such local delicacies as foie gras and duck confit. Sample your way through an open-air farmers’ market, which is as much a treat for the eye as for the taste buds. Hear the fateful love story of Cyrano de Bergerac and his Roxane. Board a traditional flat-bottomed boat, known as a gabarre, and glide along this beautiful stretch of the Dordogne. (river condition permitting).

Then visit Périgord, a magical area that melds Medieval architecture, sunflower fields, and the dense oak forests that cloak the famed Périgord truffle (it’s known as the “black diamond” for the high prices it fetches). As if the day hasn’t yielded enough delectable treats, tonight you’re invited to an epicurean dinner. The “gastronomic meal of the French” is so indelibly linked to the country’s identity that it was added to UNESCO’s list of “intangible cultural heritage” in 2010. (BB, L, D)

Day 12 | Libourne (Saint-Emilion). Cruising the Dordogne River. Bordeaux.
Saint-Émilion, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offers an exceptional landscape of historic architecture and even more historic vineyards—first planted by the Romans, and virtually untouched since, they were the first vineyards to be protected by UNESCO.

The town, built atop the limestone hills, offers a charming array of interesting shops along its cobblestone streets. But what makes this town particularly special is what exists below the town. In the 8th century, a monk from Brittany, a northern region of France, named Émilion fled to southern France to escape persecution by the Benedictine order, and he made a home out of a small cave with an underground spring. Dedicating his life to God, Émilion, a hermit, performed numerous miracles and developed a following of monks. Upon his death in 767 and with so many good works done, the area became known as Saint-Émilion. In the 12th century, near the site of Émilion’s cave, work began on a subterranean cathedral. Workers carved into the limestone, creating a massive monolithic church with three naves, a high altar, and catacombs. Its 175-foot (53 m) bell tower heralds its location. It took just forty years to complete and is a marvel of engineering. After touring much of Saint-Émilion’s history, it’s time to taste its world-class wines. The microclimate and exceptional amount of sunshine this region receives, combined with the richness of the soils (clay, limestone and sand) virtually ensure an excellent result. You’ll set sail westward on the Dordogne river, returning to Bordeaux. (BB, L, D)

Day 13 | Bordeaux. Cadillac.
Today join a tour to the nearby town of Cadillac (you’ll have plenty of time to explore Bordeaux tomorrow) to indulge in an exploration of Sauternes, the sweet wine which is named for the region. Sauternes is made from grapes that have been affected by Botrytis, or noble rot, a fungus that causes a raisin-like decay. The result is a concentrated and distinctly flavored wine, characterized by a balance of sweetness with acidity, and with particular notes of apricots, honey and peaches.

You’ll travel to one of Cadillac’s finest estates to meet the winemaker and share a country lunch paired with Sauternes, before traveling to Château d'Yquem for a chance to view the beautiful grounds. Of all the makers of Sauternes, this is perhaps the most exclusive. In 2011, famed sommelier Christian Vanneque paid a staggering $123,000 (97,000€) for a single bottle of a 200-year-old vintage.

Bordeaux under the stars—what could be more magical? Take an evening tour through the heart of this city and you’ll understand why Queen Elizabeth deemed it “the essence of elegance” on a state visit in 1992. Bordeaux’s development is the result of continuous expansion since Roman times, and its planning and architectural heritage (particularly from the 18th century) make it an outstanding example of urban coherence. After Paris, Bordeaux has more protected buildings than any other French city. From the narrow alleyways of the Saint-Pierre district to the broad avenues of the Place des Quinconces, you’ll get a sense of the city’s development, and see many key monuments: the Grand Théâtre, which opened in 1780; La Place de la Bourse, an open square dedicated to Louis XV; La Grosse Cloche, the city’s bell tower; Bordeaux Cathedral, where Eleanor of Aquitaine married the future Louis VII in 1137, and the Great Synagogue of Bordeaux, built in the 1880s. (BB, L, Captain's Farewell Dinner)

Day 14 | Bordeaux. Though Aquitaine is profoundly French, its history and spirit owe a great deal to the Romans, who colonized the region in 56 BC, and to Eleanor of Aquitaine, whose second marriage to England’s Henry II initiated a period of tremendous British influence.

Bordeaux prospered under the English, who bolstered its wine production by shipping countless bottles of claret, as it was known, across the channel. (The area still retains a certain British accent, and is one of the few regions in France where le golf has gained a following). The city has long been known as La Belle Au Bois Dormant (Sleeping Beauty) — she’s definitely beautiful, but does seem to be waking. Over the last decade, her charming boulevards have been made pedestrian zones, a modern transportation system was installed and her exquisite neoclassical architecture has been restored. There’s also been an influx of university students, giving the city a youthful, revitalized spirit.

See Bordeaux à pied on this fascinating walking tour, which will include stops to at some of the city’s most mouth-watering merchants. Not only will you see the sights of Bordeaux (like the Grand Théâtre, a 15th-century bell tower, and Bordeaux Cathedral) but you’ll taste its many delicacies too, including foie gras, freshwater and seafood specialties, wine and canelés, the pastry whose curious 18th-century origins are still shrouded in mystery.

This afternoon, you’ll have free time to enjoy the city on your own. Revisit some of the places you saw on your tour or explore new areas. It’s a great time to do a little shopping, either for yourself or for loved ones at home.

It is said that ten bottles of Bordeaux are opened around the world every second. Each should offer a toast to this glorious region and its bewitching capital city! (BB, L, D)

Day 15 | Bordeaux. Disembark. Transfer to airport.
You’ve sampled culinary delights, touched history and experienced the best of life along the three rivers of Aquitaine. Now the journey comes to a close and it’s time to disembark the ship. If your cruise package includes a group departure transfer or if you have purchased a private departure transfer, you will be transferred to Bordeaux–Mérignac International Airport for your flight home. Your Uniworld adventure may be over, but we know you’ll enjoy the memories you’ve made for years to come. (CB/BB)

NOTE: Itinerary is subject to change without notice. For the most up-to-date information, please refer to the itinerary schedule you receive with your final documents.

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