The Road to Rouen
Thursday, October 12, 2017
This morning, I awoke around 6:30am aboard Tauck’s ms Sapphire to take some early-morning photos before the rest of the guests awoke. I always like doing this early on in each cruise, to get it out of the way.
It’s also good to be up early to get a head-start on breakfast – but of course, I quickly realized you don’t need to “beat the rush” aboard Tauck’s Sapphire. With just 98 guests onboard, there is never any “rush”; just simply come as you are, and there will be a seat for you.
Full-service buffet breakfast is served in the Sapphire’s elegant main restaurant on Deck 1, but Tauck also offers up an early continental breakfast in Arthur’s on Deck 3 aft.
Arthur’s was first introduced aboard Tauck’s ms Inspire and ms Savor at the time of their launch three years ago, and is named after company chairman Arthur Tauck, Jr.
Originally, it was a complimentary steakhouse experience that required reservations. Here aboard the Sapphire, Tauck has made some wonderful changes. Arthur’s is now open for continental breakfast, casual lunch, and steakhouse-style dinner. Daily. No reservations needed; just come on up and take a seat.
This morning was spent cruising the Seine en-route to the French city of Rouen. It’s one of the only mornings of scenic cruising we’ll have on Tauck’s Rendezvous on the Seine itinerary, owing to the relatively short distance we have to cover between Paris and the Normandy region.
But Tauck doesn’t leave you to your own devices (though it can, if that’s your wish). This morning, Tauck Director Emilie gave a talk on the French language, while Tauck Director Gabrielle talked about French architecture. The thing with Tauck’s directors is that they are friendly, personable, and know exactly what they’re talking about. Their lectures are as good as any onboard lecturer I’ve experienced on many cruises.
The ship also has a decently-sized selection of books, tucked away on Deck 3 near the atrium staircase. While many of these are the rag-tag assortment of leave-behind trade fiction paperbacks that are the staple of the average cruise passenger, there is quite a decent selection of books on France and Paris. These can be borrowed and returned by guests at their leisure.
Or, you can just head up to the sun deck if the weather is good; the scenery along the Seine is beautiful, particularly if the weather holds up.
Rouen & Jeanne d’Arc
Rouen has a hugely rich history. King Richard the Lionheart’s heart is held here. Jeanne d’Arc, or Joan of Arc, was burned at the stake in Rouen in 1431. Henry V captured Rouen around the same time as part of the Hundred Years’ War. And famed French author Gustave Flaubert, author of Madame Bovary, called Rouen home.
Despite suffering tremendous damage in World War II, much of the historic town center – including the amazing Cathedrale Notre-Dame – survives to this day. You can’t see it from the river cruise ship, which docks along the banks of the Seine in the heart of concrete postwar architecture. But a quick two-block stroll away, the Notre-Dame Cathedral rises up in grand fashion as you come around the corner; like a great Hollywood reveal.
Our included walking tour today took us from the Sapphire throughout historic Rouen, starting with the Cathedral and continuing on down the main pedestrian shopping street to the church dedicated to Joan of Arc. The latter is situated just steps away from the site where she was burned at the stake on May 30, 1431 after being declared guilty on charges of heresy.
The first burning didn’t take. In an effort to ensure that she wouldn’t be martyred, two more fires were lit until nothing was left of France’s female warrior. She was 19 when she died. Incredibly, the Church exonerated and declared her a martyr just 25 years later.