SPIRIT OF THE SEINE

IN ONE OF ITS MOST POP­U­LAR RIVER CRUISES, UNIWORLD’S CHIC SU­PER-YACHT JOIE DE VIVRE TAKES GUESTS FROM PARIS TO NOR­MANDY AND BACK IN EIGHT DAYS OF HIS­TORY, FOOD AND WINE, ART, AR­CHI­TEC­TURE AND HER­ITAGE ESTATES.

The Australian - Wish Magazine - - MOTORING - STORY LISA ALLEN

On the river cruise ship Joie de Vivre, as she plies the Seine from Paris to Nor­mandy and back, ev­ery pas­sen­ger has a stand­out ex­pe­ri­ence. For one Amer­i­can, a fleet­ing coach drive past Claude Monet’s coun­try house and dreamy water lily ponds in Giverny – even in the dead of win­ter – is alone worth the price of ad­mis­sion.

For other pas­sen­gers on Uniworld’s lux­u­ri­ous Parisian Royal Hol­i­day, the high­light is a day trip to meet the hand­some French aris­to­crat Jean-Charles de Vogüé, owner of the baroque Château de Vaux-le-Vi­comte, at an in­ti­mate re­cep­tion fol­low­ing a pri­vate tour of his vast es­tate south­east of the French cap­i­tal.

The eight-day round trip, start­ing from the Joie de Vivre’s moor­ing at Paris’s Quai An­dré-Citroën, in sight of the Eif­fel Tower, is prov­ing highly pop­u­lar with in­ter­na­tional guests, whether they are first-time vis­i­tors to France or old hands.

Cruis­ing through the night from the French cap­i­tal, the first port of call is Ver­non, home of Château de la Roche-Guyon, po­si­tioned high above one of France’s most beau­ti­ful vil­lages near Giverny. At dusk, Joie de Vivre guests visit more pri­vate grand houses, such as the 17th-cen­tury Château de Bizy, nick­named the ‘‘Ver­sailles of Nor­mandy”, near Ver­non for a torch-lit walk through the gar­dens and sculp­tured plants. Later a pri­vate cham­ber mu­sic con­cert is per­formed in one of the château’s re­cep­tion ar­eas, fol­lowed by cham­pagne and canapés hosted by the owner.

Day two is Rouen – one of the largest and most pros­per­ous cities of me­dieval France, with the very me­dieval dis­tinc­tion of be­ing the place where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in 1431, when the city was un­der English con­trol. A morn­ing tour takes in Rouen’s Christ­mas mar­kets with pit stops for high-end hot choco­late and mulled wine (it’s win­ter, re­mem­ber) as well as a guided tour of the gothic Rouen Cathe­dral, which took four cen­turies to build.

Af­ter­noon tea is served at La Couronne, a restau­rant dat­ing back to 1345 but with a more re­cent im­pact on west­ern kitchens: it’s where the late TV chef Ju­lia Child was in­tro­duced to French cook­ing. Joie de Vivre’s 128 guests are served af­ter­noon tea, in­clud­ing the oblig­a­tory lo­cal spe­cial­ity, tarte aux pommes à la Nor­mande.

Head­ing south now back to­wards Paris, the next stop is Mantes-La-Jolie, which of­fers a day trip to the Palace of Ver­sailles, in­clud­ing the fa­mous Hall of Mir­rors and a pri­vate view­ing of the deca­dent world of Do­maine de

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