Versailles, Paris, the Seine, and London - Julie's Take on Tauck
Julie and Amy recently enjoyed a thirteen night tour and river cruise with Tauck, starting with two nights in Versailles, nine nights onboard the Swiss Sapphire (including three nights in Paris), and two nights in London at the Savoy - here's what our experienced cruise and travel consultant, Julie, thought about her experience.
Having travelled extensively around the world for far too many years to admit to, I have visited and experienced many wonderful and stunning places and countries in various standards of travel from first class to basic economy. Travelling with Tauck tours is at the top of my list, as their fine attention to detail, quality and high standards are all second to none anywhere in the world.
From day one and our arrival at Gare du Nord rail station in Paris, after travelling by Eurostar, we were met by a private chauffeur for our transfer to take us to the 5 star luxury Trianon Hotel in Versailles, which is a member of the Waldorf Astoria group hotels .The hotel was beautiful and elegant with fine dining and ambiance situated, just off one of the main streets in a beautiful tree lined avenue adjacent to the Gardens of the Palace of Versailles. After a swift check in and a friendly greeting from the Tauck Tour Directors a Gala welcome dinner was arranged for our first night in the hotel to enable us to meet and start making friends with our new travelling companions on our tour for the next two weeks. What a perfect way to start our adventure in France!
During our two-night stay at the Trianon hotel in Versailles we visited the grounds and gardens of the Palace of Versailles where Louis XIV once lived, and we also visited the halls and salons inside the sumptuous Palace, which were all totally stunning and were far more beautiful and extensive than I could ever have imagined, and would not have missed it for the world. We also visited Chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte, which is the largest privately owned castle in France and was the inspiration for the Palace of Versailles. Both times we were accompanied by the Tauck directors and local guides, who knew just about any and every detail you could wish to know. We were in small groups of about 25 people, so it was quite personal. We all had Vox-boxes to enable us to hear the guide’s commentary clearly, which were excellent and very informative.
After our stay in Versailles, we were off to Paris in our luxury coaches to spend our first night on the Tauck River Boat, MS Swiss Sapphire, which was docked along the Seine just a stone's throw away from the Eiffel tower. Early next morning, we were off on a wonderful sightseeing trip around Paris, taking in all the beautiful sights and sounds of this vibrant city, including the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe, Place de la Concorde, Champs Elysees, the Louvre, the Palais Garnier Opera House, and so much more. What a lovely, sunny day to explore the city. Our coaches were always there on time, and excellent drivers who had obviously done it so many times they knew everything and anything; they also helped and guided the passengers on and off the coach with a smile and a hand hold to negotiate the steps.
After a wonderful day we were both back onboard our Tauck River cruise ship, Swiss Sapphire, which is just awesome with her dark wood panels, gleaming brass, and full rich decoration. She shines above the rest of the river cruisers in quality, style, and class. Premium drinks including champagne, all your meals and snacks, 24-hour teas and coffee are also included, and served with style and courtesy from the fabulous friendly crew in either the Compass Rose dining room, The Bistro, or the lounge. Daily wonderful excursions and sightseeing trips are also offered and all included in your holiday cost. Normally each excursion has a little something special to surprise you and make you feel that it’s been very personal.
The Swiss Sapphire is a beautifully designed river vessel. Easily a 5-star in both style and standard, and she takes approx. 115 passengers. She sailed swiftly along the River Seine during 2016 summer season from April to October. Dark rich wooden panels and shining brass await you in the classy reception area, which is expertly manned 24 hours a day There is a small gift shop and the tour directors desk in the same area. In front of reception is a large panorama lounge where you can have a drink or cocktail and watch the world just drift on by. There are large panoramic windows or you can walk outside in the open air at the bow of the ship. The lounge is open all day and late into the evening, usually with some light entertainment or a pianist playing a song. The waiters are very attentive and friendly, and soon know what you like to drink – and often your favourite tipple arrives before you've had chance to order! Champagne, cocktails, wine, soft drinks, speciality teas and coffees are amongst the long list available, which are, of course, all included in your cost.
At the stern of the ship is the Bistro which serves the coffee, tea, chocolate, beers, wine and snacks 24 hours a day, and offers a light lunch at lunchtime or a beautiful dinner in the evening. The Compass Rose Restaurant is the main dining room for breakfast and lunch, and serves a buffet and hot/cold selection for both. At night, fine dining is served a la carte, with an extensive selection of excellent wines to accompany your meal. On board, you will also find a small gym, and you can also enjoy a wonderful massage Deck 2/3are all panoramic French balcony cabins with floor to ceiling windows that open on to a metal gated balcony to allow the sun and fresh air into your cabin night and day. Most of the cabins are approx. 150 square feet so are a bit snug but very comfortable and well-appointed with TV, Wi-Fi access, shower, toilet and wardrobes with a dressing table. Also, they have some larger suites on deck 3 as well, offering much more space. However next year after the ship has been refurbished over the winter several cabins are being removed from deck 2 and she will carry fewer passengers, so all the smaller cabins are being made bigger for next season, which will be really good for the Tauck customers. On top deck is the jacuzzi, open air seating area, Loungers, putting green, and giant chess board to enjoy the summer sunshine when you are cruising in the afternoon between ports.
Even the gratuities for all the staff and guides are included in your cost along with all your superb meals, premium drinks, and cocktails and excursions. There’s not many things you need to spend any money on. They even sometimes give you a cash contribution towards your lunch, if you are not on board over the lunch period and need to buy your own lunch.
So much was included in the excursions for us from the river vessel Including visits to the beautiful city of Rouen and its 100 bell towers, Conflans to visit Van Gogh’s house at Auvers-Sur-Oise, Giverny to visit Monet’s Gardens and house, Les Andeleys to sample Apple Brandy and cider making and visit Chateau Gaillard, which is famous for its links with Richard The Lion Heart, the vibrant port of Honfleur, and the town of Etretat on the Alabaster Coast. We were also privileged to visit the famous Normandy D-Day landing beaches at Omaha, and Ponte du Hoc, and visit the Monument and American cemetery. However, by far the most exclusive excursion was to visit the Chateau Bizy, which was a former home to King Louis XV, where we experienced a formal drinks reception and private dinner, and was a wonderful treat.
After our exceptional 10 Day River cruise, we departed Paris and arrived back in London at lunch time after our Eurostar from Paris to St Pancras Station. Swiftly we were escorted to our coaches for our Panoramic tour of the sights of London. By driving down the mall (with special permission) seeing Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and Westminster, The London Eye, Oxford Street, Regents Street, Hyde Park Corner, Regents Park, Fortnum and Masons, Covent Garden, and many more exciting and historic icons of London. Finally, we ended up at our Hotel, the Savoy, which is in Westminster, with its grand, gleaming entrance in gold and black to be met by Concierge with top hats and tails and its stunning restaurants and cocktail bar Kaspar’s, elegant lobby and reception and its beautifully appointed bed rooms and suites. All of which had an overall feel of class, and money, and opulence. This hotel was awesome and I truly enjoyed my short but memorable stay there.
On our last night, we were invited to a private drinks reception and gala dinner at Simpsons on the Strand, which is next door to the Savoy Hotel, and hosted by Celia Sandys, Winston Churchill’s Granddaughter, who gave a wonderful account of her Grandfather and his life before he sadly passed away in 1965. Afterwards she came and talked to every single person that attended the dinner, which was very special, and particularly the American passengers found this awesome.
Tauck tours are a truly wonderful experience and I would highly recommend them as they are in a class of their own and that's just perfect in my eyes. I feel very privileged to have been able to join them for this wonderful experience.
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