Parisian Winter Holiday
The Palace of Versailles was the official residence of France’s kings and queens from 1682 until the revolution. As you enter the Hall of Mirrors, you’ll immediately understand why Versailles established the universal standard of palatial opulence. It will take a full day to explore the decadent world of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI with your specialist guide. From the Grands Appartements to the Queen’s Bedchamber, you will be taken on an exclusive tour of this fabled palace—one that gives you a peek behind secret doors. In the evening, enjoy a Captain’s Welcome Reception and Gala Dinner. (BB, L, WD)
Rouen is one of France’s best-preserved cities and the ideal setting for a Christmas Market. Admire the Medieval quarter with its half-timbered houses and Renaissance clock tower. Walk to Vieux Marché to see the bronze cross that marks the spot where Joan of Arc was executed. In the square near Notre Dame Cathedral, a Nativity scene adds to the festive atmosphere of the marché de Nöel. The scent of mulled cider fills the air as you shop for traditional crafts. Step inside the church to see the Christmas crèche and hear a recital. You may also wish to join a special “Taste of Christmas, Normandy style” outing with a visit to a historic café for tarte tatin served with coffee or chocolat au lait. (BB, L, D)
Take an invigorating hike up to the ruins of Château Gaillard, built by Richard the Lionheart, for a wonderful view of the winding Seine in her winter splendor. The castle was completed in a little more than a year by 3,000 workers and it survived for centuries. Although it was ultimately destroyed, its enchanting ruins are fascinating and reveal much about Richard’s canny grasp of Medieval warfare. Back on the ship, you’ll enjoy the traditional winter treat of galettes—thin buckwheat crepes—and Normandy’s famous cider. Later in the day, guides will lead you through Vernon, whose 15th-century core has survived the centuries largely unchanged. Admirers of Monet’s work will recognize the late-Romanesque church from several of his paintings. (BB, L, D)
Vincent van Gogh spent the last two months of his life in Auvers-sur-Oise. While strolling through the village, you will pass the inn where he stayed, the Town Hall, and the church—all buildings that inspired him and were immortalized on canvas. You’ll also see the restored home of Dr. Gachet, who tended to the artist. As you follow in Van Gogh’s footsteps, your guide will paint a captivating portrait of the life and work of this troubled Impressionist master. (BB, L, D)
Note: A Holiday Gala Dinner will be served on the December 6 and 13 departures. For the December 20 departure, a Christmas Dinner will be served. For the December 27 departure, a New Year’s Dinner will be served.
Explore the Île de la Cité, which is not just the center of Paris but of France (all distances are calculated from the isle). The island is home to the Cathedral of Notre Dame, with its grimacing gargoyles and impressive façade. The cathedral is considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture and, though damaged during the French Revolution, it managed to survive both world wars unscathed. Cross the Seine to enter the Latin Quarter and, as Parisians do at this time of the year, visit the gourmet shops to savor the season’s fleeting treats. Then climb aboard a boat for a look at the heart of Paris from the Seine. Later, visit some of the city’s delightful Christmas Markets, which take place directly across the river from the Eiffel Tower. Go ahead and shop with gusto. In the evening, enjoy a Captain’s Farewell Reception and Gala Dinner. (BB, L, FD)
Begin at the Place de l’Opéra, where you’ll go inside the famed Palais Garnier. Then visit two of the city’s most celebrated department stores, Le Printemps and Les Galeries Lafayette which are lavishly decorated during the holidays. (Don’t miss the view from the latter’s rooftop terrace.) Spend the afternoon at leisure in the city, and take advantage of a shuttle that will run between the ship and the Christmas Markets. Following dinner, take a scenic drive past “Paris Illumine Paris” (“Paris Lights up Paris”), the sparkling holiday display created by the city’s most talented lighting designers. (BB, L, D)