We take the Eurostar service from London St Pancras to Paris (exact time will be indicated on travel documents), arriving at Paris, Gare du Nord approximately 2 hours 15 minutes later. A coach will then take you to your hotel in Rouen.
Rouen really does defy description – it is one of the most beautifully preserved medieval towns in Europe despite its often turbulent past. This morning we will have a walking tour around the centre of this superb city and although it is not very long in distance, in time however, history will come alive. In the cathedral, immortalised by Claude Monet, you can see the tombs of Richard the Lionheart and William the Conqueror’s grandfather. During the afternoon we take a short drive to Fécamp, home of the famous liqueur Bénédictine. It was originally distilled in an old monastery from a blend of 27 plants and herbs. Today the Bénédictine Palace itself is a treasure house of artefacts. You can see beautifully delicate alabaster and ivory carvings, old chests with a fantastic number of locks, gold and silver chalices all dating from the Middle Ages, plus a fantastic collection of 19th century ironware and Flemish paintings together with a host of other interesting exhibits. After our visit and tasting we drive through beautiful pastoral countryside, so beloved by the Impressionist artists who lived throughout the region during the last century, on our journey back to Rouen.
Today we have a full day out visiting places for which Normandy is perhaps more famous. We first of all visit Bayeux, which as its name suggests is home to the world famous tapestry depicting the Norman invasion of Britain in 1066 which subsequently led to the Battle of Hastings and the firm establishment of William as, not only Duke of Normandy, but as King of England too. The embroidery is extremely delicate and indeed this is arguably the most perfect relic we have of the Middle Ages. After lunch we visit nearby Gold Beach, made so famous on 6th June 1944 – D-Day, the landing of the Allied Armies which led to the final liberation of Europe during the Second World War. We have the opportunity to visit perhaps the best museum in the area, at Arromanches, where the remnants of the Mulberry Harbour can be seen. We then return to our hotel. Whilst the excursions are included in your holiday, they are not compulsory so if you do not wish to take any of them, you can have more time to explore Rouen. Its attractions are numerous: it boasts the largest ceramic art museum in Europe, an excellent Fine Arts museum, including works by Monet, Renoir, Boudin and Delacroix, a superb shopping area, the fantastic cathedral, together with some of the most beautiful “olde worlde” streets you will find anywhere.
Today we take the drive to perhaps the most picturesque spot on the northern French coast – delightful Honfleur. Beautifully preserved, its old harbour, complete with both fishing boats and luxurious pleasure craft, is surrounded by a perfect waterfront of tall, pastel coloured 18th century houses, many of which have been converted to restaurants specialising in seafood. Along the waterfront, watch the talented artists at work, capturing the delightful view for eternity whilst the intricate maze of streets behind are worthy of some exploration. The eaves of the tall, half-timbered buildings almost touch and on the streets below is an abundance of traditional shops selling all sorts of items such as antiques, books and fine foods. The locals stop to exchange a few words, kiss each other on both cheeks and continue on their way: everything here blends together so effortlessly to create a most charming example of a French provincial town. Honfleur was the birthplace of Eugene Boudin, the forerunner of Impressionism whose most famous pupil was a certain Claude Monet. There is a museum, which is well worth a visit, housing a number of his works together with those of other artists including Monet himself (please note opening hours vary according to season). We return to the hotel late afternoon.
At the appropriate time, the coach will return you to Paris to take an afternoon Eurostar service (exact time will be indicated on travel documents) to London St Pancras International.