Article and photos by Karen Lewis

As we overnighted on board the ship, Silversea offered an opportunity for interested cruisers to either overnight or spend the day in Paris. We booked a tour to Giverny, France. It was an hour from the dock and well worth the ride. It was exactly as I had pictured it to be: the lily pads and pond are beautiful and picturesque. Monet had the pond built to make this lovely setting into one of his most famous paintings. The shades of greens and the grays in the sky accentuate the beauty here. The entire grounds are bursting with wild flowers, roses, hydrangea, as well as every possible variation of daisies and wonderful sunflowers.

Monet’s house is also on the grounds . The old dining area is brightly lit with yellow walls, blue porcelain, blue checked seat cushions and white free standing breakfronts. Brass pots of every size line one wall of the kitchen and on the opposite wall there is an old farm sink and a wonderful old stove. There is a very small village just down the road. It is well worth the short walk to see the other homes in the area. 
Honfleur is where Monet spent a great deal of time painting as did students studying the various hues of grays in the sky along with the beautiful views of the Seine River looking across to Le Havre. What a beautiful village. The architecture is mostly half timber but the buildings are made of various stones. From limestone to slate, it gives a colorful and interesting texture to the village. It is a port city with many yachts in the harbor, the reflection in the water and the backdrop of the buildings create a wonderful scene. It is charming and delightful all at once. Honfleur is an art colony with many studios where you can meet the artist and view their creations. I recommend visiting the Eugene Bodin Museum which has a permanent exhibition displayed in 9 different rooms. 
We then drove on to Deauville, which is the Riviera of Normandy. This area is very upscale with many fabulous privately owned villas and two very large casinos. Many Parisians summered here. The beach itself is very large and lined beautifully with umbrellas of every color. Next to Deauville is Triouville which is up further in the hills and is also a very affluent area. Shopping here is like Rodeo Drive, with top designer stores. In Oostende we took a very short walk from the ship. It is a small interesting town with a shopping area. There is a wonderful cathedral and baptistery located here. 
Ghent, however, has more Catholic churches than I have ever seen in one city. Each church has it own unique design set with very tall steeples and displays several periods of architectural design. They definitely add to the charm of the city. I recommend a canal trip through the city to see the various architecture styles. Chocolaterie Van Hoorebeke is a wonderful chocolatiar where we had a chocolate demonstration. The entire process was explained and demonstrated with samples. It was a lot of fun and the chocolate was excellent. We also sampled Ghent’s Belgium waffle served on the street. It is rectangular in shape served hot with a multitude of choices for toppings. I of course, chose Chocolate. It was wonderful! Completely different than those served in Bruges, which are served as a meal and are delicious in a very different way. 
Antwerp, the diamond capital of the world, was the next port of call,. It’s walking distance from where our ship docked. We had a lovely guide who showed us the town with some very interesting and humorous tales. Three of Rubin’s paintings are in the cathedral, a must see. In addition there is a printer’s museum with one of the oldest bibles and presses dating back to centuries ago. The town is very interesting with small lanes and intriguing residential architecture.
Brussels is a great city, home to the EU and NATO calls this home. There are an enormous amount of ornate buildings filling the squares, each more interesting then the next. Their main square has numerous diagonal streets which spoke off and lead you down wonderful streets loaded with tourist shops and therefore many chocolate stores. The streets just explode with the aroma of chocolate. Note: Do not buy the inexpensive packaged chocolate– go instead to a chocolaterie. Brussels also has wonderful green space and some of the parks have lounge chairs where many people simply enjoy reading or sleeping. This is truly a beautiful city worthy of a few days.