The last time we were in Paris, we painted the town; now it’s time to paint the city. And the country. And surrounding cities.
So on August 13 we’re hopping on the AmaWaterways 400-foot “AmaLegro” docked right in Paris for its special “Art Illumination” cruise up the Seine River and into Normandy. We’ll head to Monet’s home and gardens in Giverny; stop in Honfleur, a town painted by many famous artists; stroll through historic Rouen; visit Saint-Pierre de Lumieges, considered one of France’s most beautiful ruins; and bicycle to the historic area of Les Andelys.
There are options to visit the beaches of Normandy, but we did that impressive and moving tour a few years ago. Another excursion will take us to Chateau Breuil, where we will visit the distillery and castle and taste Normandy’s famous Pommeau cider and Calvados brandy both made from local apples. Afterwards we’ll stop in Cambremer and Beuvron-en-Auge, the latter village voted one of the most beautiful in France. Another option will take us to visit the Auberge Ravoux-sur-Oise, the last home of artist Vincent Van Gogh. The artist was extremely prolific in his 70 days here; he painted more than a painting each day.
We’re traveling to the areas of France that inspired Monet, Renoir and Gaugin, among other painters, and, we hope, they will inspire us to paint as well, because on this cruise, that’s the point: Professional artist Elizabeth Grebler will be on board ready for us with lectures, all the necessary art supplies, and the encouragement to try our hand – whether we’ve ever picked up a brush or not – at painting what we’re seeing along the way. We will gamely put down on paper the famous Monet water lilies, Japanese bridges and graceful willow trees. Three two-hour painting sessions are scheduled on the 8-day trip in between the excursions and the lectures, all of it included in the price of the cruise, and we will take home our works of art as a personal memento (my husband, who has never painted in his life, says he’s going to sell his work of art in Paris as soon as we disembark, “as it will probably pay for the trip”).
This is the second art cruise given by AmaWaterways. The last one, in 2014, was successful enough that they scheduled another this summer. Next year, no less than five Art Illumination cruises are planned aboard the 148-passenger river ship.
The guidebook that AmaWaterways gives its passengers includes interesting stories of the people and places on the itinerary, such as this about Monet’s haystacks: He had a hard time settling into his new home at Giverny, the literature tells us, because the locals were wary of him, probably because he moved in with his mistress Alice Hoschede and eight children. Thus, when he went to paint his famous haystacks, he had to hire them from the farmers to prevent them being moved.
During our last day on board we will visit Chateau de Malmaison, best known as the former home of Napoleon and Josephine Bonaparte. We will stroll the garden that, it is said, Josephine did her best to transform into “the most beautiful and curious garden in Europe.”
Some river cruises have gotten the reputation of being suitable only for the sedentary, but it looks as though AmaWaterways’ Art Illumination cruise, despite the fact that it includes six hours of sitting before an easel, also gives passengers a wide variety of levels of difficulty on the walks, bike rides and hikes offered on the excursions. One of the hikes is described as “extremely strenuous.”
With Impressionist dreams and aspirations swirling around in our heads, we are ready.