Europe 2008 (Paris to Caen) Day 19 – June 12

12 06 2008

We got up at a reasonable hour and started out from the hotel.   I headed down to where I parked the car and paid my ransom to get it back.  105 euros to park for 4 days.  The joys of big city living.  We got moving around 0915.  Great.  Paris rush hour.   Like most big cities, rush hour in Paris is a horrible misnomer.  Nothing like standing almost still as you try to weave your way across two lanes while your GPS is telling you "Stay LEFT ahead", "Right turn ahead". Of course "Ahead" is another 5 minutes away when you’re not really moving :( 

We finally got going out of Paris and it was toll time again.  I don’t know if I mentioned it previously but if you want to drive on a road that lets you haul ass at 130 kph you’ve got to pay for it.  Tolls.  Lots of them.  Oh well.  Gotta get where we’re going.  We don’t really have that much of a choice.  The non-toll roads would take me another 2 hours according to Tom Tom.

So, while whipping along the highway the French government has taken it upon themselves to tell you about great things that are in the area where you are driving.  Castles, Historic events, stuff like that.  As we were on pace to get to Caen pretty easily today something had to come up. It did.  The little government "feature" sign said simply "Giverny" with a picture of water lilies.  I turned to Mrs D, "Monet’s Garden?"

"Yes"

And so I plugged "downtown" Giverny into Tom Tom and immediately got the "Take the next exit".  Off we went to find Giverny.

Interesting sidebar.  "Center of city" in Tom Tom parlance seems to mean "Place in small town where the biggest church is located" so sometimes you don’t so much end up in the center of the city, but next to a cool big church wondering where you’re supposed to go now.  Thankfully Giverny has a thriving population of approximately 500 residents and probably holds another 2000+ tourists in summer.  This meant that if I was heading for the center of the town I was pretty likely to find directions to the garden too!

We found our way to where the five tour buses were parked.  It was pretty heavily overcast but we figured teh rain would hold off long enough.  We got to the gardens at about 1030.   We paid for entry into the gardens and the house.  Probably would have been a better plan to just get the garden ticket.  We figured we’d go to the gardens first and if it started to rain we could head towards the house.  It had been a cool spring and we were in the part between the summer blooms and the early spring blooms but the garden keepers had managed to have a nice variety of flowers around the garden bringing an aromatic bouquet on the air as well as lovely splashes of colours from the trellised roses and other lovely flowers.  We wandered down in quiet contemplation of how Monet must have felt in the tranquility of his gardens when the other 100 tourists weren’t walking around and babies crying.  It was a challenge to imagine, but I managed to bring myself there.

Just as we got to the Japanese garden, about the furthest from the house, the heavens opened up.  This made quiet contemplation a bit harder, as it was accompanied by the "plink, plink, plink" of rain constantly hammering the water.  Where there was slight shelter from the trees you had the solitude of having your own 2 square feet of tranquility to revel in the lily pond.  Seriously though, it was very pretty down at the lily pond and I could certainly imagine great inspiration coming from there.  We took a few pictures in the downpour and headed up to the house.

The house was a basic little house with a fairly turn of the 19th century look to it.  Simple but nice.  Monet had hung many paintings of Japanese artists on his walls.  He obviously really enjoyed to style of the japanese art, having so much of it around. The extra cost of touring the house just didn’t really seem worth it though. In retrospect I would have been fine with just the gardens.

As we finished our visit at 1200, so did the rainfall.  Fate, I guess.  It continued to spit a little, but nothing like the deluge of earlier.  The drive to Caen was fairly short from there and after paying more tolls we arrived at our location by 1400.

The nice thing about arriving early is that you have time in the afternoon to do something.  At about 1600 we took the rest of the afternoon time to visit the Caen Normandy Memorial.  The building is very large and houses a couple of small theatres, a permanent WWII exhibit, a temporary 9/11 exhibit as well as a small exhibit about the French Canadian soldiers in the war.  We saw one of the movies, explaining the landing at Normandy and the history behind it.  It helped Mrs D get a better grasp of what happened in the European theatre of WWII.

After the movie, we had enough time to visit the WWII museum and see what conditions in Europe led to the outbreak of the war.  The display took you through French life during the war and the work of the resistance.  They helped to explain about the formation of the Vichy government and formation of the Free French led by Charles de Gaulle. It was quite enlightening.   They had a battle map of how the invasions of D-Day occurred and where.  Mrs D could clearly see where the Canadians assaulted vs the British or Americans.  They had various relics from the war as well as a wedding dress that had been fashioned out of parachute silk during the war for a French bride. I don’t recall WHY they used the silk for a dress instead of a parachute, but it was still quite cool to see.  We finished our tour of the memorial by 1900 and stopped at the gift shop to by a nice map/guide of the Normandy D-Day sites for 5 euro, which would help me plan the next day’s upcoming D-Day beach tour.

Our hotel was located about 2 blocks from a big mall with a Superstore like grocery market.  We stopped in and bought some Normandy cider, red wine, a baguette and MORE Camembert!!! Yummy.

A 250g package of Camembert cost only 2.50 euros and the wine put me back a whole 2.35 euros for a bottle of Cotes du Rhone.  I love it.  No wonder they drink so much wine here.  Much cheaper than water.

When we got home we had some cheese and bread as well as the cider.  Delicious, although Mrs D found this cheese to be a bit strong in smell compared to the last camembert.  I found it nicer.  Everyone has their preferences I suppose.

As Mrs D settled down for the night, I planned the next day’s Normandy beach assault of our own.  I had plans to visit about 8 different sites that day.  It was going to be a long day even if we were only going to actually drive 200km.

I’m excited about tomorrow.

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