Friday, November 5, 2010
Another early breakfast and we are off by bus to see Château Galliard in Les Andelys and then to Roche Guyon, Rommel's headquarters during WW11. The boat will leave Vernon after the buses depart and meet us later at 11AM at Mantes-la-Jolie where we had docked after our earlier stop in Auvers sur Oise.
The buses drive us through beautiful countryside and up a winding road to the tallest hill in Andely where we have a 30 minute photo opportunity and rest stop. The Château Galliard (right) is a ruin. Built in 1196 by Richard Lionheart, King of England and Duke of Normandy, to keep the King of France from Rouen. After Richard died, and John was on the English throne, the French King laid seige to castle. The castle, it turns out, was well provisioned for a long seige, so the French decided to storm the fortress, which was successful after they breached the castle's main defenses by entering through the latrines. The garrison was forced to surrender and three months later Rouen too fell to the French. The Château Galliard was used for building material for years and is now a ruin being restored. Workmen were busy as we took photos.
Roche Guyon, a gorgeous setting resplendent in autumn colors is a photographer's dream. The Château, set below a castle ruin, is being restored as are the fruit and vegetable garden across the street and below.
As we returned to the boat we passed Giverny and I was able to snap this photo as the bus slowed just a bit. The water gardens were on the other side of the street, closed and not visible from the bus.
Roche Guyon was a wonderful place, but we had little time to explore the town which appeared little as well. The main attraction was, of course the Château which was being worked on and closed to visitors... a common theme. The garden across the street and below was open and it is a wonderful space. It too was being restored. The original garden was developed at the beginning of the 18th century as a classical ornamental and utility garden. It was so peaceful and the autumn colors alive in the morning sunlight. I could have spent another hour or two taking photos, but we were on a schedule.
You can get a good look a the white cliffs of Normandy exposed behind the Château. These are evident throughout Normandy and many of the small buildings in the towns are built right into the chalk. Entering Roche Guyon small rooms and garages were carved out of the cliffs. It is very primitive and at the same time very green.
Leaving Roche Guyon we drove along the river Seine and passed Giverny on our way to meet the boat at Mantes-la-Jolie.
Arriving back in time for lunch, we started our cruise to Paris which was an enjoyable cruise since the weather was not too cold and the sun was out. We met Bill and his Susan in the lounge for a disembarkation briefing prepping everyone for the drill on Sunday when we were to leave the boat and fly out of Charles de Gaulle. Then came the cocktail hour, a farewell from the crew with a champagne toast, and a briefing about tomorrow from Mieke. Change of plans. The thing is that the cruise was supposed to dock in Conflans for the night and then enter Paris on Saturday afternoon. There is a strike scheduled for Saturday protesting once again the 62 year-old retirement age. That means the lock workers would not be able to operate the locks and we would be stuck in Conflans. So the decision was made to return to Paris tonight to avoid this problem.
Another thing is the optional tour to Versailles. It too might be closed so we are waiting on that decision, but we were being disuaded by Mieke who said it is a lot of walking and standing and no place to sit and rest. For Susan this is problematic. She can walk, but standing is not kind to her back. We decide instead to enjoy Paris.
At dinner, after cocktails, Bill and Susan decide to do Paris with us, sharing cabs. With the four of us it would be only a bit more expensive than taking the Metro. We decide to go back to the Musée d'Orsay. Bill and Susan want to see it and we don't mind going again since the first time my Susan had been in pain and in no shape to enjoy the experience.
It is worth mentioning that this night's dinner was the Captain's Dinner and although it didn't involve dressing for the occasion, it was a special dining experience. There were several courses. We started with "Tandoori chicken in green rice flakes, parmesan foam and tomato tartar". This was wonderful. Four little, flavorful bites. Soup was "Cappuccino of forest mushrooms"... OK... followed by "Black tiger shrimps on saffron sauce and leek mousseline". Now this was spectacular, but also only a single shrimp. It was finished before you could read the description of the dish out loud. The main course was "Whole fried beef tenderloin with truffle crust, French Foie Gras sauce, vegetable tarte and potato soufflé" or Fillet of halibut on a lobster sauce, artichoke-fennel vegetable and rice". We had both and both were delicious. Dessert was Baked Alaska "Viking Spirit" and a selection of Petit Fours with the Chef's Compliments. The meal was truly an experience and one which we had not had heretofore on the Viking Spirit. I had to say, "There must be a visiting chef for the night", but the reality had to be that to make such meals for the entire voyage would have busted the boats food budget. Problem was that the meal just underlined the mediocrity of the meals we had been served up to this point on the cruise.