Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Almost the last of the Paris blogs

I intended to write this last blog up over the long holiday weekend, but laziness prevailed and I instead spent most of the weekend curled up with a book rather than working on the computer. That’s what holidays are for, right?

I wanted to sum up the last half of my week in one blog, but it didn’t work out that way. Too many photos taken on the first day, so I’ll have to keep the last two for another blog. But that one will be the last, I swear.

Monday morning dawned bright and clear, but cold. I wasn’t feeling too great, either, so I was worried how my day was going to go, but the ickiness eventually passed. The forecast had it warming up later (which it did), but initially it was a pretty chilly morning, which messed with my plans a little. This was the day I’d decided to take my one excursion out of the city, to see Monet’s house and gardens in GIverny. Part of that plan was to rent a bike once we arrived in Vernon (the train station closest to Giverny), and ride it to Monet’s house rather than wait for a bus to take me, but it was a little cold for bikes, I still wasn’t feeling completely great yet, and no one else was renting them, so I chickened out and got in the bus line with everyone else. If I have one regret about that day, it’s that I didn’t go ahead and rent the bike anyway, but at the time it seemed like the best thing to do.

My research before making the trip told me that the bus from Vernon to Giverny was 2 euros each way, so I had my coin all ready to hand to the driver. Only when I boarded, he announced the fare was €6.50 instead. I scrabbled to get the right amount, nearly fell on my face as I turned to walk down the aisle (there was a step I hadn’t seen, and I tripped), then staggered back to an empty seat, feeling confused and mildly embarrassed at my clumsiness. I searched the ticket I’d been given to try to see if I’d paid a round-trip fare or one-way, but couldn’t find anything, so I decided I would walk back rather than chance paying another €6.50 to return. Later Internet research told me the €6.50 was round-trip, so I basically wasted half of it by walking back, but the return walk was lovely, so I don’t regret it too much (my feet did, however).

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The train ride to Vernon was uneventful—though I almost missed the stop because I didn’t hear the announcement for Vernon—and the bus ride was quick. The line to get into the attraction wasn’t too bad, so my not being able to buy tickets at FNAC in advance didn’t hurt too much. I went to the gardens first, as instructed by online advice, but since I arrived with a busload of people, it was already getting crowded. Still, the gardens were lovely, and kept nearly identical to how Monet had them when he lived there (and painted them).

(Many of his paintings from Giverny can be seen here: http://www.art.com/gallery/id--a43/claude-monet-posters.htm Yes, it's a poster site, but it's one of the larger groupings of his art I could find. The Giverny stuff is all mixed in, but it's mostly obvious which is which.)

Since photography is a hobby of mine, and I especially love to photograph flowers, I took a LOT of pictures here. I won’t post them all, but you can find the others on my Flickr page. I’ll put that link when I’m done with these blogs. Here are a few of my favorites:

The Japanese bridge in many of his paintings. I loves the pretty purple wisteria hanging over it. I'm a sucker for anything purple.

Such a pretty, scenic place

There they are, the famous water lilies. Minus the actual lilies. Must have been the wrong time of year for those.

Everything was so vibrant and colorful. It was beautiful.

The house itself

It only took an hour or so to wander the gardens and tour the house. Photos of the interior weren’t allowed, though that didn’t stop people from trying. One woman near me was very boldly aiming her camera phone everywhere and shooting (after checking to see that no employees were around), until she was caught in the last room and reprimanded. I can’t deny I wasn’t a little pleased at that. People like her, who think the rules don’t apply to them, drive me nuts.

Once I had seen everything and circled the garden a couple of times, it was time to leave. It wasn’t even noon yet, so I decided since I had lots of time, I might as well make the trip back to Vernon on foot. The day had turned gorgeous: cool but sunny and very comfortable. I knew people walked it all the time, so I set off for a leisurely stroll to soak in the countryside. It was about 4km, about 2.5 miles, but that didn’t sound too bad.

It was a looooong walk. At one point, when I thought I must be almost there, I passed a sign saying 2.3km left. Not even halfway! Good thing it was such a nice day, and I had lots of time before the next train, because I needed to stop and sit on the benches along the way more than once. My poor feet. But if I hadn’t walked it, I wouldn’t have seen the cute little church where Monet and his family are buried, or any of the other picturesque views along the way.

Such a pretty little country town, and so peaceful

Horse! I love horses, so I was really excited to come across this cutie. He came right up to say hi and then walked alongside me for a bit.

I finally made it back to Vernon, and was able to make a quick detour to see something I'd found online (which is a big reason I decided to walk back): A castle! I have a thing for old castles, and this one is from the 12th century. One of the towers was destroyed by a bomb in WWII, but was recently rebuilt (the whiter one in the front). It sits along the bank of the Seine River, near an old mill, and the whole area is so pretty. I sat down on a picnic bench in front of the castle and soaked it all in for a while before moving on. One thing I learned on my previous trip to Paris: I really love little French country towns. They're just so quaint and peaceful.

Tourelles Castle.

The Old Mill. It used to sit at the end of an ancient bridge (about as old as the castle), but all that's left of that are a few stone pilings.

At this point, I crossed the Seine back into Vernon and set out to find the train station so I could finally have lunch (it was well after 1:00 by then). The signs up until that point had been very clear, so I wasn't worried about finding it, but I must have missed one because once I was across the river, there were no more signs to the station, and I got horribly lost. I don't know how many streets I wandered (at least they were pretty?) before finally spotting a sign to the "gare" (French for train station). I still had some time before the next train, but not as much as I planned, so I ate at the cafe across the street. Another croque monsieur, which was delicious. They always are.

I was back in Paris by about 4pm, and headed to the apartment for the night, needing to put up my sore feet. This was becoming a theme. If I ever go back, I’m going to have to make an effort not to walk so much. I never once got out after dark to see the city lit up. Though part of that was due to the city not even getting dark until after 10pm.

I really wanted to get the rest of my trip into one post, but I should probably stop here and save the last two days. There wasn’t as much on those days, so I should be able to wrap it all up in one last blog. It may take me a few days because I have work on my day job’s website to do tomorrow, but I will get it up by the end of the week, promise!


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