Tracey and I have gone on Viking’s Paris to Normandy cruise twice – in 2012 and 2015. On the first cruise our ship, the Viking Spirit, docked in Paris near Parc Citroen. On the second cruise we were on a new longship, the Viking Rinda, that was too long to be able to navigate into Paris. (Viking recently launched a slightly smaller version of their longships known as the Seine class that will sail from docks located very near the Eiffel Tower.) The 2015 cruise started from Le Pecq, a village straddling the Seine at the edge of Paris. With that change in itinerary, on arrival at the Rinda we were treated to a “welcome walk” at a new destination for us, the Château in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, which is located just up a hill from Le Pecq.
The Château was the home of French royalty in the years before departing for Versailles. On our walk, we circled the incredibly formal French-style park surrounding the Chateau with its view of Paris in the distance.
The high-rise neighborhood of La Défense at the western edge of Paris is visible from the park, including the Grande Arche that forms a line with the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile on the Champs Elysses and the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel at the Louvre.
The Eiffel Tower is also visible from the Château’s park, though with a different perspective than what most visitors to Paris would be accustomed to seeing:
Stretching out into the distance from the park is a 2.4 kilometer-long Terrasse:
The forms of nature are strictly controlled in the park. Tree pruning here undoubtedly involves lasers to ensure such straight edges.
Saint-Germain has grown up to surround the Château on the side opposite the park, with an RER train station located nearby. An archeological museum is located in the building.
Within the inner courtyard the intricate detail of the Venetian styling includes a collection of gargoyles:
The stained glass of the chapel is reminiscent of the design used in Saint-Chapelle in Paris on Île de la Cité near Notre Dame:
The parish church of Saint-Germain is located across from the entrance to the Château:
The church has a pretty interior and an interesting base for the pulpit.
The lion with its paw on a globe seems vaguely British. It might be because Louis XIV was the protector of King James II of England, who stayed at the Château starting in 1690 after it was determined by the Convention Parliament that he had “vacated” the English throne until his death in 1701. If you look closely at the lower right hand side of this side chapel memorial, you will see the inscription, “In this church lies James II King of England.”
From the inscription seen in the church, you would think that King Jame’s entire body was interred there. That is definitely not what happened. The Wikipedia write-up on what happened to his body after his death is eye-popping:
He died aged 67 of a brain haemorrhage on 16 September 1701 at Saint-Germain-en-Laye. James’s heart was placed in a silver-gilt locket and given to the convent at Chaillot, and his brain was placed in a lead casket and given to the Scots College in Paris. His entrails were placed in two gilt urns and sent to the parish church of Saint-Germain-en-Laye and the English Jesuit college at Saint-Omer, while the flesh from his right arm was given to the English Augustinian nuns of Paris.
The rest of James’s body was laid to rest in a triple sarcophagus (consisting of two wooden coffins and one of lead) at the St Edmund’s Chapel in the Church of the English Benedictines in the Rue St. Jacques in Paris. […] James was not buried, but put in one of the side chapels. Lights were kept burning round his coffin until the French Revolution. In 1734, the Archbishop of Paris heard evidence to support James’s canonisation, but nothing came of it. During the French Revolution, James’s tomb was raided.
At the end of the walking tour around Saint-Germain, we passed on riding back on the bus and chose to walk down the hill to the Rinda docked at Le Pecq.
The Rinda was docked just to the right of the near side of the bridge in the picture above. On the way back we checked out the local Monoprix. We love shopping in foreign supermarkets and often find food items that make for great souvenirs that are much more fun than refrigerator magnets.
I noted at the beginning of this post that this was our second time cruising on the Seine with Viking. The reason that we picked the same cruise was so that we could bring Tracey’s sister and mother back so that they could also visit a relative’s grave at the American Cemetery in Normandy as we did in 2012.
Before that somber undertaking, though, there was a lot of fun to be had on this cruise, starting with the obligatory safety drill where everyone looks great in orange!