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Rhone, Rhone, Rhone Your Boat; Lyon & Provence on the Viking Heimdal and Paris Too!

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Its been a couple of weeks since we returned from our first ever trip to France. This was segment # 7 in our Grand Tour of Europe, and our third river cruise with Viking.

 

I booked this trip nearly two years in advance, right after we had returned from our trip on the Douro. I decided to do something I had never done before, and add an extension offered by the cruise line to the beginning of our trip. I booked everything through Viking; air, hotel, transfers, etc. It's a convenience I am willing to pay for. Time marched on, and before I knew it our date of departure had come.

 

Our direct flight from Washington-Dulles over was on Air France. I had managed to get bulkhead seats for husband and I (Husband is 6'8" and needs every inch of leg room I can get him). I did inquire about a paid upgrade to premium economy, but the price started at 305 euro's per person, which I thought a bit steep. Flight was okay, not great, not awful, just your typical 7 and a half hour flight squeezed in economy. We arrived at Charles de Gaul in Paris around 10 am, greeted by grey skies, and a chilly wind. Its a huge airport, but at least in our experience, efficiently run. Passport control was fairly fast, found the correct luggage carousel and retrieved our bags, and in no time located the friendly Viking representatives, who escorted us to our waiting taxi driver. This was the only negative. The taxi was so tight. It seats 6, and there was only one other couple in it, but because its 3 seats facing 3 seats there is no leg room to speak of. In no time we had arrived at our hotel, Le Meridien Etoile.

 

The hotel was great. Very clean, modern. Free Wi-Fi, a restaurant, and a well manned concierge desk. Also in walking distance of a pharmacy, cafes, and a shopping mall. Our room was small (Common in Paris I am told) but clean and comfortable. Breakfast was included each day, and they had a wide selection of offerings. We first went to the Viking desk and met the Viking representative, who gave us the schedule. There was an included tour of the city the next morning, several optional tours, and instructions on the day we left for Lyon and the river cruise portion of the trip.

 

We did venture out for some lunch at one of the cafes and came back to the hotel for a much needed nap. How does one nap when in Paris for the first time? Easy, we are old, tired and I was coming down with a head cold. Plus it was cool and rainy outside.

Promise, not too many pictures of food, but this was my first meal in Paris; quiche and pastry.

 

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My favorite thing I ate the entire trip; grilled duck with seared foie gras on a toasted, buttered brioche bun.

 

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Looking forward to the remaining post! We just booked this itinerary for March 2018 with the pre-cruise stay in Paris. Very excited ��

 

Thanks in advance!

 

Jeff

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Day Two-Paris

Woke up to beautiful blue skies and ready to go on the included tour; Panoramic Paris. The tour was good as far as an overview of the city, but I think I would have gotten better photos, and seen more, on the top level of a HOHO bus. A couple of things did stick in my mind though. The Arc de Triomphe sits in the middle of a large traffic circle, there are no lane makers and its a complete free-for-all, not for the faint of heart. Every time we ventured out by bus or taxi we found ourselves in that traffic circle. Even at 1 am its a zoo. The Louvre is closed on Tuesday's, the Musee d'Orsay (Where all the impressionist art is) is closed on Monday's. We never made it to either one. We did get off the bus and made a short walk to Notre Dame where we had a tour of the interior and about a half hour of free time after. Back on the bus we saw more of Paris, and finally a stop where we had an excellent vantage point to take photos of the Eiffel Tower.

 

 

It was back to the hotel, with the afternoon free to do as we wished, and I took a nap (I know, I know, but the head cold was draining me of all energy and we were going to a cabaret that night-the tickets were not cheap, and I wanted to enjoy that).

 

 

Awoke much refreshed and it was off to the cabaret. This was booked through Viking as an optional tour. Now we had 23 people in all doing the pre-cruise extension in Paris, and only one other couple was with us at the cabaret. I don't know if it was the cost, or just not that much interest. I thought the meal was good; foie gras, Chateaubriand, and iced nougat for dessert, and the show was entertaining. It was at the Paradis Latin, a historic cabaret. Luckily my father had warned me to expect some nudity (It was tastefully done). I enjoyed the Cancan near the end the most. I will put this experience under the "Glad I did it, but once is enough" category. When it was over our driver was waiting for us, and had us back at the hotel a little after midnight.

 

 

No photos are allowed inside the Paradis Latin, but they do take souvenir photos for 10 euro each.Ours came out rather good.

 

 

The Louvre, one small corner of the Louvre.

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I know I Should know what this is, but I don't

 

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Just a tad taller than my husband, The Landmark of Paris

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Looking forward to the remaining post! We just booked this itinerary for March 2018 with the pre-cruise stay in Paris. Very excited ��

 

Thanks in advance!

 

Jeff

 

It will take a few days for me to finish (I having issues with my photos), but I will give you a spoiler-It was a great trip. Viking does a great job, and we really enjoyed ourselves.

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Day Three-Paris

 

 

Our final day in Paris the day dawned bright and beautiful, but naturally after our late night we slept in a bit. But we soon roused ourselves as we still had my two "Must See/Do's" to accomplish. The first was to go to the Palais Garnier Opera House. I had seen photos, but I wasn't prepared for just how grand, opulent and impressive this place is. Even my husband said "Wow!" I was under the impression that the Garnier was only used for ballet, and all opera was now at the Opera Bastille, an impressive piece of modern architecture in its own right, but that may not be correct. We did a self-guided tour which was 11 euro each.

 

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The Palais Garnier sure is a magnificent building. We finally made it there last year, and we're glad that we did. Keep enjoying - I'm looking forward to your ongoing posts. The Rhône was great, and there is so much to see and do.

 

Sent from my SM-G930T using Forums mobile app

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For the afternoon we had signed up for another optional tour with Viking, this one to the Palace of Versailles. Like everywhere in and around Paris it was crowded. Our guide did have a reservation for 3:00, which allowed us to skip the line. Our guide was very good, and had all kinds of tidbits about the palace and it's three kings; Louis XIV, Louis XV and poor Louis XVI. The tour took about 1.5 hours and then we were allowed about 40 minutes of free time to see the gardens, visit the gift shop or the café. I know we just scratched the surface of the place, one probably needs all day to see it properly.

 

 

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Day Three-Paris

 

After we returned from our tour at Versailles it was time to get ready for my other "Must Do." I wanted to take a dinner cruise on the Seine. This I arranged through the concierge desk. There are probably several operators of dinner cruises, the hotel used Bateaux Parisiens. Our reservation was for 8:30, we were instructed to be at the boat by 8:00, and the hotel said we would need to leave by 7:45 (If going by taxi). Cost depends on where you want to sit. The better your seat, the better your meal, and of course, the more you pay. I had selected Service Privilege which was 168 euro pp. We took a taxi (About 11 euro), you pre pay for the meal, and then they seated us at a lovely table for 2 by the window. Included was the meal (Foie Gras, beef tenderloin and dessert), wine and plenty of it, champagne, live entertainment and of course Paris after dark. Service was great, the food was delicious, the wine much better than I expected. The weather was perfect; clear & cool. Very romantic.

 

My photos from the dinner cruise are not very good, but they do give you an idea of what you will see.

 

 

 

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Day Four-Transfer to Lyon

 

All too soon we said good-bye to Paris. Viking has the transfer of it's passengers down to an art. Besides our group of 23, there were 36 additional passengers that had done the Paris to Normandy cruise, and were now joining us for the Rhone cruise.

 

As instructed we put most of our luggage outside our room at 6:15, and then went to breakfast. Around 8:00 we confirmed that our luggage was waiting to be loaded on to a truck for transport to Lyon. Around 8:45 we were taken to the train station where we waited to find out what track our train would be on. Once announced a Viking rep gave us our tickets (Confirmed assigned seating in the First Class car), and made sure we all got on board. It's a high speed train that only made two stops, both when we got to Lyon. I would say the trip took about 2 hours. Once we arrived in Lyon another Viking rep gathered us up and took us to a waiting bus for the short trip to where the boat was docked. Lunch was ready when we boarded, and after lunch we could go to our cabins.

 

The cabin was just the same as our cabins on the Hemming and Odin, with one positive exception. We each had an additional pillow, and it was a full size pillow! In no time we had put away our clothes and tucked the luggage under the bed. There was an optional walking tour of Lyon that afternoon, that we skipped so I could take a nap. I understand that while informative, and free time was given, most of the shops were closed because it was All-Saints Day, a national holiday in France.

 

Later that evening there was a meet and greet with the senior staff. Our program director was Christine and I thought her very good. Always accessible and ready to answer questions. The captain, hotel director and Maitre d'hôtel were also visible throughout the cruise.

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Day Five-Lyon

 

The morning found us with the first of our included tours; Panoramic Lyon. First by bus we went to the Basilica of Notre Dame, at the top of Fourviere Hill. Along the way we passed some Roman era ruins, the first of many Roman ruins we would see. Then they took us to a building that has been painted using Trompe L'oeil to depict many famous sons & daughters of Lyon. Finally we had a walking tour in the old town before it was back to the ship for lunch.

 

Lyon's Notre Dame

 

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Doorway to the Basilica

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The breathtaking interior of the Basilica

 

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View of Lyon from Fourviere Hill

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The Trompe L'oeil building; explorers, artist, inventors and a famous notorious lady, Madame Recamier

 

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Loved your pictures and posts of Paris. We went there last summer and loved it and I hope to go back again. The Opera will be a must see.

I am looking forward to more photos and commentary of the cruise. Your cruise is no. 1 on my wish list.

PS: I really enjoy pictures of food.

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Loved your pictures and posts of Paris. We went there last summer and loved it and I hope to go back again. The Opera will be a must see.

I am looking forward to more photos and commentary of the cruise. Your cruise is no. 1 on my wish list.

PS: I really enjoy pictures of food.

 

It was a really nice trip. Kind of hard to rank as far as favorites. I am still giving the edge to a Baltic's cruise we did on Holland America back in 2015 as a 100/100 (It was perfect from start to finish), and the Romanic Danube during the Christmas Market season in 2014 (Also Viking) was magical just because of the season. So I would probably rank this a 95/100 or 97/100.

 

I laugh when people state they enjoy photos of food. When I wrote my review of our Holland America Baltic's cruise, another Cruise Critic Member remarked that he had enjoyed my review because I had no photos of food! For some reason his comments have stuck with me and I usually avoid food pictures. I think I have a fear that he is prepared to smite me if I dare to add any photos of food :)

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Day Five-Lyon/Afternoon

 

After lunch there were several options as the boat was to remain docked in Lyon for another day. One could explore Lyon on their own, nap, or take one of two optional tours. One choice was The Abby of Cluny, and the other was The Timeless Town of Perouges. We took the Town of Perouges.

 

This medieval stone village sits high upon a hill, and there are some very pretty views. Weather in the afternoon was just perfect for wandering around the town with its cobblestone streets. We were warned before we left to make sure you wore very thick rubber soled shoes. The cobblestones were rough underfoot.

 

The town is so quaint it looks like a movie set, in fact several movies have been shot here. After the walking tour we had ample time to explore on our own and shop.

 

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Day Six-Lyon

 

Day three of our cruise and we are still docked in Lyon. Yes, about 42% of the cruise was spent in Lyon. If I remember correctly we were originally suppose to go somewhere else day two, but due to "Operational reasons" that port was cancelled and we stayed in Lyon. Anyway, we had another beautiful day; bright & sunny.

 

The included excursion was to the Beaujolais Wine Country. Were divided into 4 buses, which went to 4 different vineyards. The tour description mentioned a stop at a small museum that at least our group didn't have, and seeing a famous windmill, Moulin-a-Vent, that I only saw in a flash as our bus raced past it. I did notice another of our buses did stop for a photo op. I personally like windmills and would have enjoyed a 10 minute stop for photos. Oh well. Anyway, our first stop was at a small village for restrooms, a bit of shopping and use of an ATM. I think the stop was really for the benefit of the bus driver, mandatory break or something. The village was quaint, but nothing extraordinary. Restrooms were available at the vineyard, and the shop had very little in the way of souvenirs.

 

Off to the vineyard (Owned by a hospital I think), we had a tour of their cellars, walked to the edge of their vineyards (very pretty, nice views), and off to a barn where they had the tasting set up. The tasting was nicely set up. They also had small cubes of bread to eat with the tastings of Beaujolais. Overall a pleasant morning.

 

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Day Six-Afternoon, Chateau de Flecheres

 

We signed up for yet another optional tour for the afternoon, Secrets of the Chateau de Flecheres. This was not only the highlight of our trip (For me), its probably one of my favorite all time excursions.

 

There were only 14 of us on this trip. It was maybe an hour drive to the Chateau, which lies deep in the country, far away from hordes of people and traffic. The Chateau has a fascinating history. Twenty years ago it had been abandoned for years, had changed hands a number of times by those who wanted to restore the building, but had become daunted by the task. It was then bought by two men, antique dealers, for 1 million euro. As they began restoring, they discovered under wood paneling put up in the 18th century, frescos painted in the early 17th century. They have done a magnificent job, but still have quite a bit to do. Apparently in France, restoring a historic building is no easy task. You have to get approvals from different departments/ministries all which require blueprints, historical studies, etc. It's taken them 5-years to get approval to replace the roof. The one bright side is once you get the approvals the government will cover 40% of the cost.

 

After our tour we had free time in the garden, and then aperitif's and pastry in the salon with one of the owners. It was very special.

 

The Main building of the Chateau

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The first floor Salon

 

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The chandelier is 18th century Murano

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The Dining room

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The gatehouse as viewed from the second story of the Chateau

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And still more Chateau de Flecheres

 

 

The Grand Salon

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View of the main house from the Garden

 

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Fit for a King (In fact Henry II did stay here in the 17th century)

 

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Part of the moat still survives

 

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