A cruise on the Seine at end of October? When I got the invitation my enthusiasm was lukewarm.

Unbelievable, it turned out to be one of the best cruises I ever did!

You will understand why, when you go through the photographs.

It was my third experience with Amawaterways. In 2015 I got the chance to sail down the Rhine, and last spring –lucky me!– I was invited again to discover the Bordeaux region (see here). Amawaterways is one of the top-ranked river cruise providers and has so many qualities, but for me one of the things I like most is the fact that the ships always carry a fleet of bicycles. Either you take one and go wherever you want, and/or you can join one of the guided tours.

On day two I biked with Ralph, Jeannine (photo) and James from Vernon to Giverny. 

The town of Giverny is known for Claude Monet, who lived there. He was not only a famous painter; he was also a creative gardener. At times he had up to six assistants to help him creating the wonderful gardens that we visited. The grey weather enhanced the beauty of the autumn colours.

The next day I woke up early because I didn’t want to miss the first daylight. It was still half dark when I went up on deck, and it was very foggy too. Several early birds passed me and my camera-on-a-tripod and they all said the same: “we’re sorry for you that the weather is so bad.” Much to their disbelief I said that I was the happiest photographer on earth, because the mist created such wonderful conditions.

When we arrived in Caudebec-en-Caux the sun had burnt the fog away. The weather forecast said the weather was going to be outstanding, with temperatures almost reaching the 20°C, and plenty of sunshine. Ralph and I decided to do a tour by bicycle. We crossed the huge bridge (elevation 65m) and our plan was to take the river ferry to come back. Unfortunately the ferries do not operate on Sundays. Result: we had to conquer the bridge for a second time. In total we biked some 50km, and enjoyed every single bit of it.

Normandie is such a beautiful area.

Yes we dit it. Twice!

As if the overdoses of positive vibes were not enough we were offered a spectacular sunset…

…to be repeated the morning after by a superb sunrise. 

Most American guests wanted to visit Honfleur or the Normandie landing beaches of World War 2. Ralph and I decided to have another day on wheels, and this time we took the downstream direction. Biking along the riverbank was just amazing, as was the weather. It was October 31 and we were biking in shorts and T-shirts!

Ralph Grizzle, biking in the most perfect landscape along the river Seine.

October 31, does that ring a bell? Indeed, Halloween!

Some terrifying good surprises were awaiting us.

The lady from the reception, journalist Jeannine Williamson, Amawaterways’ co-owner Kristin Karst and Cruise Manager Annie Lebailly

Halloween is in the details.

A spooky dessert.

We were already alongside the quay in Rouen when I woke up on November 1. Now the fog was really there to stay, I thought.

Together with my friends we were booked for the guided tour. By bike, of course.

Guide Frederic Ollivier is preparing us for a bike tour in Rouen.

Aître Saint-Maclou is an old cemetery from the 16th century, but was already used to bury victims of the black death in 1348.

The Saint Maclou church, in the mist, but still one of best examples of the flamboyant style of Gothic architecture in France.

The impressive Rouen Cathedral. You should hear the sound of the bells. W-o-w.

France… Normandie… oysters… cheese… wine… Yes, our little group decided to skip lunch onboard and to go for the real French thing in an oyster bar in the middle of the market place. OMG! What a mouthwatering experience. After the Utah Beach and the Saint Vaast oysters we finished off in beauty with the four well-known Normandie AOC cheeses: Camembert, Neufchatel, Livarot and Pont L’Eveque.

As if we did not had eaten enough we were welcomed on board AMALEGRO for the Captain’s gala evening.

On day 6 I was looking forward to the navigation. I had been told that the navigation up to Les Andelys is one of the most picturesque parts of the Seine.

Unsurprisingly I was one of the first to have breakfast. For me this is one of the USPs of river cruising. Restaurants are almost always on a lower deck, which means you are visually very much connected with the waterflow. Look at this picture, and you see what I mean.

By the way, look at this bread buffet. AMALEGRO has a baker onboard, making all these things fresh during the night.

We sailed the whole morning. It was great for me to catch up with my office work. My computer was installed in my room and the free WiFi was working as if I was in my home office. The big difference was the view!

Captain Claude gently enters the locks of Poses-Amfreville.

Cruise Manager Annie Lebailly on the bridge, giving comments over the PA, always with a smile.

As we came closer to Les Andelys, the landscape became better and better. It was unbelievable. When it was time for lunch I ate quickly, because the photographer in me said that this was going be THE day. 

First we joined the bike excursion, together with Fréderic, our guide from Rouen. The attraction of Les Andelys is Chateau Gaillard, Richard the Lionheart’s castle. However, Fréderic showed us the town of Les Andelys, which has some interesting surprises. One of them was this Mirage F1 aircraft, part of the Normandie-Niémen memorial dedicated to the WW2 squadron with the same name.

Elizabeth “Liz” Yanes, Inside Sales Representative, Latin America on the bike and ready to go.

Ralph, Nina, James, Jeff, Kristin and Liz.

Fréderic, about the Chateau Gaillard.

A visit to the city hall.

The painting of François Tattegrain in the city hall’s main room is so cruel that curtains had to be added. Nobody wants to see dying people during his wedding ceremony.

After the excursion we saw that there was still time to hike up to the castle. It would have been a shame if we lost this moment. Everything was so extremely perfect. Ralph, Nina, Liz and myself were absolutely excited about the view.

At 17:30 it was time to set sail again. Captain Claude invited us on the bridge and that was again a moment of happiness, especially when cruise manager Annie started to sing classic opera like a diva. Divine it was.

Slowly we were gliding into the night while Annie was giving a private recital.

The weather lasted until the last day, almost. On day 7 we approached Paris after having stopped in Conflans. The river got really busy. I loved the mix between nature and civilization. And the autumn colours were getting stronger and stronger.

When we were back in Paris in the evening it was time to say goodbye. Goodbye to old and new friends; to lovely people on one of the best cruise experiences I ever had. And this in the most stunning autum light one can dream.

And unbelievable, as I had to disembark on Friday November 4, it started to rain.

What an amazing trip with Amawaterways!

More photos can be found on Mike’s website  .