Cruising the Seine River with CroisiEurope

WATERWAY CRUISE REPORT: Honfleur to Paris

our boat entire

Our Waterway Cruise Reports often consist of two highlights… things we experience that could not happen at home, and the occasional serendipity of finding a bit of “home” in our travels!  “Home” for our cruise along the winding Seine River was CroisiEurope’s sparkling SEINE PRINCESS. Limestone faced bluffs, a steady parade of tiny rural villages, historic ruins and churches, complimentary open bar, and exceptionally delicious meals were our daily fare.

 

For my Mississippi River friends, the tie between France and life along the Mississippi River is readily apparent. After all, we are couched culturally between Montreal in Quebec, and New Orleans in Louisiana! Our June cruise through the Seine River valley from Honfleur to Paris provided many surprising links to the Mississippi River which I’ll enjoy sharing!!

seine cruise map

Our cruise on the Seine  Princess would meander past castle and abby ruins, medieval walled villages, Joan of Arc’s city of Rouen, and culminate in an evening cruise among the night lights of Paris!

UPDATE: This specific cruise is currently ON SALE!  Contact:CROISIEUROPE… www.croisieuroperivercruises.com/…..
1 (800) 768-7232 

P1010927Rendezvous: HONFLEUR on the NORMANDY COAST of France. These very medieval warehouses which today house restaurants, art galleries, and butcher shops were once the depository of pelts from the French Fur Trade in North America!

Our gathering point for the cruise was Honfleur, which was conveniently located near the D-day Landing Beaches of Normandy. Our cruise normally included an optional shore tour of the beaches, but since it was actually June 6 that we would have toured… amidst stringent security… we spent the week before  boarding the Seine Princess at a hotel in Arromanches– with a rental vehicle for independent visits to the beaches and throughout the villages of Normandy.

Honfleur was a town of sea-going merchants, sailors, explorers, fishermen long before the travels of Columbus. Normandy had been sacked repeatedly by Vikings (North Men, thus, Normandy) so fishermen with restless Viking blood had long explored the ocean currents from Honfleur to Newfoundland as they fished for Cod. We found its beautiful pleasure boat harbour, lined with picturesque shops located in medieval warehouses, the winding stone paved streets, and the ancient wooden church well worth the two days allotted to our visit there.

We generally planned for a walking tour and a bus tour on shore each day. Our

 

 

Each day on the cruise two optional shore visits were planned… generally a guided walking tour and an afternoon bus tour.  In every case, we found the guides to be passionate, and very knowledgeable about our destinations.

 

 

 

One of the first merchants I met in Honfleur mentioned that many from North America and Quebec visit Honfleur today on the hunt for genealogical records of ancestors descended from the region. The very name QUEBEC represents, surprisingly, not a French word, but a Norman or VIKING word meaning a narrow spot in a broad stream of water.

In fact, a bust of Samuel de Champlain, a French explorer and cartographer best known for establishing and governing the settlements of New France and the city of Quebec adorns the castle ruins at the port… a monument to a “north man” who went on to be the governor of the infant city of Quebec. I was told that several other names, well known to us… such as La Salle and Cartier… would have left on their discovery voyages from this very port city.

Champlain began exploring North America in 1603, establishing the city of Quebec in the northern colony of New France. He became the de facto governor of New France in 1620. Champlain died in Quebec in 1635.

It is indeed a small world!!

 

Contact CROISIEUROPE… this specific Cruise is currently ON SALE!
CroisiEurope   www.croisieuroperivercruises.com/
1 (800) 768-7232

“Old Abe” participated in D-day landings via America’s 101st Airborne Division

Whenever we travel around the world, I love keeping an eye out for “things Mississippi River.” We recently participated in the 70th anniversary of the D-day landings on the beaches of Normandy France.Screaming Eagle

Among the Americans landing at Omaha Beach were the 101st Airborne Division whose logo is Wisconsin’s own “Old Abe” the eagle! We saw the “Screaming Eagle” displayed on hats, uniforms and even a French storefront!

Old Abe was a mascot during the Civil War for soldiers from Eau Claire and La Crosse, Wisconsin. Abe eventually followed the soldiers for over 14,000 miles, and flew unfettered, above 36 battlefields in Missouri, Mississippi, and Louisiana throughout the Civil War.

Abe’s statue today sits above the Wisconsin monument at the Civil War battlefield in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Confederate sharpshooters were always assigned to bring down that “screaming ol’ buzzard.” Abe survived and was cared for at the Wisconsin state capitol by Wisconsin veterans until his death in 1881.

Old Abe, Vicksburg

I write quite a bit about Old Abe in Volume 4 of DISCOVER! AMERICA’s GREAT RIVER ROAD  …      “We enjoyed our epic journey enormously, thanks mostly to your DISCOVER! America’s Great River Road guidebooks. The history, culture, and suggested detours provided daily fascination. We just wanted to thank you for your good work!”   ~ Readers from Vermont

Our NEW MAP OF LAKE PEPIN is Here!

Our beautiful “New Map of Lake Pepin” drawn and illustrated by Wisconsin Map Artist, Lisa Middleton, is shown here framed. The gift prints are now available at better gift shops along both shores of the Upper Mississippi River for about $24.95. Or call us at 888-255-7726 to order!

framed lake pepin

The map, based on current USACE river charts is both historical and geographical in nature, with no commercial emphasis. The original painting and one full size giclee are available at Abode Gallery in Stockholm, Wisconsin. The original is close to 40″ long and 12″ wide. The gift prints which are a quality offset print product sized 11″x34″

Middleton also painted the 1887 Historic Reproduction of Glazier’s ribbon map, “The Father of Waters.” Gift prints of this map are also available at many fine gift shops along the river. Or call 888-255-7726 to order.

 

 

Hummingbirds are back! Time for Feeders!

Dan sent his birdlist for April 30th yesterday… and notes especially that the orioles, hummingbirds, and Grosbeaks are back! He recommends getting those feeder filled and hanging as there aren’t a lot of wildflowers out at the moment. His list follows… and Happy May Day!

Nice Vertical HummerWe ended the day with 27 species that included my First of Year (FOY) Rose-breasted Grosbeak.  Other birds of note included:
Several Hermit Thrushes
Winter Wrens
House Wrens
Eastern Towhee (heard only)
Brown Thrasher (heard only)
Many Ruby-crowned Kinglets – often feeding on the ground
Golden-crowned Kinglet
And more
Happy May Day,
Dan Jackson, President
Coulee Region Audubon Society
La Crosse, Wisconsin

 

Spring migration in full swing!!

During my lunch hour, I found a Harris’ Sparrow and other good birds along Fishermen’s road (on the east side of the La Crosse Airport). Other birds seen by me or Scott included: White-throated, White-crowned, Lincoln’s, Lark, Savannah, Song, Swamp, and Chipping Sparrows, Cliff, Barn, Bank, Tree, and Northern Rough-winged Swallows, Purple Martins, Spotted Sandpipers, Orange-crowned, Palm, and Yellow-rumped Warblers, Brown Thrashers, and more.

The flood gates are opening in terms of spring migrants!!

Good birding,

Dan Jackson, President
Coulee Region Audubon Society
La Crosse, Wisconsin

Spring Fun!

I very much enjoyed a spring hike at Goose Island where we found KC Kaudry and his niece playing his hand-crafted Didgeridoo! It was fun to return home and find his FACEBOOK site… https://www.facebook.com/midwestdidgeridoos?ref=stream

You’ll enjoy looking at his broad variety of creations made from local forest woods. Who knew you could make a didgeridoo from a white oak? Or a red cedar?

Thanks for a great impromptu concert, KC!!

KC with Didgeriedoo at Goose Island

Audubon Club observations around Goose Island on 3/31/2014.

Broad swathes of water opened up Monday and migrating waterfowl are abundant along Hwy 35 in Wisconsin. Pelicans are in!

Other observations from Dan Jackson and the La Crosse Audubon group:

On Saturday, March 29th, a nice sized group met at Goose Island to look for waterfowl and other spring migrants. We saw 47 species of birds which included most of the species of ducks that are typically seen on the river during the early part of the spring migration (missed Green-winged Teal, Black Ducks, Redheads, Greater Scaup, and Red-breasted Mergansers.

The highlights were probably a female Great Horned Owl on a nest, a pair of Trumpeter Swans, and a soaring Red-shouldered Hawk.

On Sunday, the geese were really on the move. I had 10-15 flocks go over my house in the morning while I was boiling sap. These included mostly Canadas with a few Cackling Geese. The last flock of the morning was a flock of Greater White-fronted Geese that included a single Snow Goose. A nice distraction from tending the fire and gathering sap!

The first weekend in April join the Audubon group at the Genoa Fish Hatchery at 10:00 a.m. The Genoa Fish Hatchery will be giving the Coulee Region Audubon Society a tour. It will last about an hour.

Audubon Report on Pool 8

Great Tundra Swans landingDan Jackson, President of the La Crosse Audubon Club has sent us a detailed report on his observations over the past weekend. This IS THE TIME to get out on the river!! Thanks so much, Dan!

A few observations:

This morning, Monday, 11/11, Ruth and I were able to get a fairly good ground count on the number of swans using the Wisconsin Islands Closed Area. The number was 22,000+ with main concentration areas in Raft Channel West, below Horseshoe and Boomerang Islands, and on the sand flats below/between seed islands along Raft Channel. Yesterday, in the Shady Maple portion of the Goose Island No Hunting Zone, I counted about 2,000 tundra swans with what appeared to be new arrivals late in the day, 500-600 Canada geese, 300-400 pelicans, and 10,0000+ ducks (gadwall, pintails, wigeon, and mallards). The Beiers Lake portion of the no hunting zone was also loaded with birds, but there is limited visibility from the overlook, hence an incomplete count.

People are learning about the large concentrations of birds visible from the overlooks and the fact we are staffing the overlooks on weekends, and responding accordingly. To that end, we had nearly 1,200 visitors this past weekend at the overlooks.

Visitors are asking how long the swans will be here. For those asking the question and mean how long will they be on the Refuge, the answer is there will be swans here until the river freezes. For those who mean how long will they be here in the numbers seen this past weekend and near the overlooks, that is a bit more complicated. A few swans may leave with this brief cold snap, but be replaced by others moving in from other staging areas on the river or elsewhere.

We are going to begin seeing swans move around the closed areas in response to the need for thermal cover, i.e., this morning’s conditions, and as their food resources are depleted, i.e., the large bed of arrowhead plants in front of the Brownsville Overlook.. Some of the latter is already occurring. On Sunday morning, one group of hunters mentioned that the area they hunted in the morning was full of swans. The swans likely fed all night and moved back to the closed area when disturbed by the hunters. This is a common occurrence, but seems to be early this year.

P1050320  Tubers the swans are eating.

Further, this morning, we saw groups of swans, and ducks, tucked into more “out of the way” areas where small patches of arrowhead are present. On calm days, the swans will likely move to open water water areas away from the islands in search of winter buds of wild celery. It also amazing to watch swans feed in the middle of the large wild rice beds.

With the forecast for warming beginning about mid-week and continuing through next weekend, we should have excellent conditions for viewing next weekend. Another large turnout of visitors is likely.

There are a number of bus tours, or other groups, scheduled to be at the overlooks this week.

Long-time river observers are saying they have never seen, or it has been a long time, since they have seen the number of waterfowl now present in lower Pool 8!