There was nothing “bijou” about our first port of call, Château de Bizy, however. We docked at Vernon, a 15-minute drive away. The house is set in magnificent grounds, with a beguiling English-style park. Built by France's last king, descendants of Emperor Napoleon's brothers still live there, and its present owner – herself a Bonaparte descendant – the immaculately turned-out octogenarian Isobel Verge, met us in one of the sumptuous halls.
Château de Bizy
The ornate and extravagant rooms of the chateau are adorned with Regency woodwork and house mementos from the Bonaparte family. During our tour we were stalked and then entertained by a foppish, preening Louis XIV impersonator who possessed a keen eye for the ladies and a guillotine-sharp tongue for the men.