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Friday, June 24, 2016

Vive La France

Bonjour! My husband and I very recently returned from a week in France. We were on a Viking River Cruise from Paris to Normandy. We landed in Paris June 12, our 40th wedding anniversary. At dinner that night on board the ship, the staff sang a love song to us and gave us a cake to celebrate. Below is a picture of the cake and of us. Considering we were going on 36 hours without sleep due to flying in from Philadelphia that morning, we don’t look too bad. No matter what happens to us in life, we’ll always have Paris.

You’ve all seen the Viking River Cruise commercials and gotten the brochures. Viking is awesome. The staff, mostly from Eastern Europe, was gracious, attentive, pleasant. They couldn’t do enough for us. The food was amazing. The chef was Greek, and very creative. We ate and ate. I gained weight but refuse to get on a scale now. Why depress myself? Of course, no one forced me to eat. But how could I resist? Our ship, the Viking Rolf, was built this year. The stateroom was beautiful, if a tad small. We had a French balcony and could look out as we cruised along the Seine.

We toured Paris by bus, went to the Louvre, to Notre Dame Cathedral, saw Monet’s garden and house in Giverny. We also took walking tours of the medieval towns of Vernon and Rouen. Rouen was where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. We loved Rouen. Such a quaint little town. After our tour, we had free time. We used that time to have a drink at a 5-star hotel, where I got a short French lesson from the bartender, then we strolled around and bought chocolates and macaroons. My husband and I developed a taste for French macaroons. Yum! Every night during the summer months, the Notre Dame Cathedral of Rouen puts on a stunning light show. The show started at 11 p.m. We went with a group from our ship, and a good time was had by all.

We spent a full day in Normandy and saw Omaha Beach where the Americans landed on D-Day. Our tour guide, Michael, part Portuguese, part Australian, was very emotional when talking about Normandy and D-Day. His Australian grandfather was a medic at Normandy. Michael had us Americans stand on the steps leading to the beach and sing the National Anthem. When we got to the part about the rockets’ red glare, we heard thunder in the distance. He asked all the vets in the group to stand with him on the beach. My husband, a Vietnam War combat vet, had to be persuaded to join the others. We all clapped for the vets. I had tears. The whole thing was so inspirational, despite the pouring rain. Here’s a picture of the crosses at the American cemetery in Normandy. The flag was flying at half-staff to commemorate the slaughter in Orlando.

 The trip would have been much more enjoyable if it hadn’t rained every day. It seemed that it would pour just as a tour was starting, then clear up when the tour ended. The sun rarely came out, and when it did, it would peek from the clouds for several minutes, then duck out of sight. We also saw Versailles, and took a bus tour of Paris by night to see the light show at the Eiffel Tower. To us Americans, Versailles and the Louvre were super crowded, but our tour guides said they weren’t crowded at all. Tourism is down all over France due to the terror attacks.

The passengers on the Viking Rolf were mainly American, about 95%, with the rest being from the UK and Australia. However, and you knew a “but” was in there somewhere—as wonderful as Viking was, and as friendly as the other passengers were, my husband and I didn’t feel at times as if we were in France, as we were surrounded by Americans. We loved cruising down the Seine while sitting on the deck, weather permitting, or in the lounge. This was our first cruise, and we discovered we’re not cruisers. We like to be on our own to explore foreign cities. The Viking tours were well-organized and great, but we would rather have been able to linger at the places we liked. Being confined to a ship, even one as beautiful as the Viking Rolf, isn’t for everyone. We met many people on the ship who were on their seventh and eighth tours with Viking. They love cruising. If you are someone who enjoys cruising, I highly recommend the Viking River Cruises.

Of course, being a writer, I’ve come up with several scenarios for a story set in France. At dinner one night, some of our table mates threw out ideas for me to use in my story. I gave out my card to many of the passengers, who said they’d check out my books. I think my France story will be a romantic suspense, maybe on a river cruise. France is a beautiful country, very green with all the rain they’ve been having. I love to incorporate local scenario into my stories. Here’s a picture of the French countryside from our ship.

On the subject of stories set in foreign lands, I’m happy to announce I’m part of an anthology from World Romance Writers, made up of writers from all over the world. Our first anthology, Letterbox Love Stories, Volume 1, will be available for pre-order shortly.

What if a life-changing letter arrived in today’s mail? Now imagine it leads to love and adventure.

From the northern British Isles, across the mainland of Europe, and onto Turkey, nine international romance authors share spellbinding love stories told across time. And each begins with a letter…

My contribution is Curating Love, set in Ravello, on Italy’s Amalfi Coast.

A letter inviting Chloe Decker to curate the art collection of the wealthy DiMarco family of Ravello, Italy, lets Chloe begin to picture a new life for herself after a tragic loss. But she’d never included her employer’s sexy grandson in that portrait. Matteo DiMarco, the playboy scion of the DiMarco family, will never again let a woman betray him. But sweet, earthy Chloe reawakens old dreams. Wary of losing her heart again, Chloe’s not ready for a relationship, even with a fine Italian masterpiece of a man like Matteo. Besides, her future is in Philadelphia, not Italy. Can Matteo convince her to stay and take a chance on him? Can she open her heart and paint a new picture that includes them both?


Tina Donahue said...

How I envy you. Would love to go there and Spain.

Melissa Keir said...

Sounds like a fun time. I've never been on a cruise and I've considered the Viking lines because they are smaller than the big party boats. I am not a big people person. :)

Gemma Juliana said...

Sounds like a wonderful trip, in spite of the weather. Your river cruise story will be fun to write, and you'll be able to add that authentic 'feel' to it from experience. Thanks for sharing! :)

Cara Marsi said...

Thanks, Tina, Melissa, and Gemma. Although I don't know if we'll cruise again, my husband and I preferred the smaller river boat to the gigantic ships that cruise the Caribbean. I definitely have to write a story set in a river ship.

Paris said...

What an exciting and fun way to spend your anniversary! It sounds lovely. I've never been attracted to ocean cruises but I have seen the commercials for the river cruises and thought they looked like fun. Thanks for sharing your experience!

Cara Marsi said...

Thanks, Paris.

vicki batman said...

I wish I could do that cruise. I do love Viking. First class all the way. On our trip to the Rhine we had plenty of time to explore. And sometimes, we did the option ones, too. I can't wait for the Viking Baltic Cruise this summer. With cruising, I don't have to unpack, someone cooks and cleans for me and I just sit back. All your pictures look so lovely!

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