Thursday, April 21, 2011

France, not Paris II

The remaining two days in France were spent wandering the by-ways and backroads of Normandy. I don't know why, but I had imagined this nock of the woods as being dull and lacking in interest. How wrong was I? Car travel is not my favourite form of transport, but given the time constraints it suited the Ramblers Four very well, with lots of ideas for future (read 'real') rambling in the future ...

We visited four gardens over our two days at a cost of about 8 euros per head per garden. Each possessed its own particular charm: one open and rambling, one overgrown and clumpy, another open (again) but dotted with sculptures and lastly the garden designed and built by the Master: Monet, hisself. The visit to the sculpture garden was enlivened by the emergence of the youngish sculptor. He enthusiastically encouraged us to take our picnic in the grounds, scurrying off to fetch an additional chair from inside a 15th-or-so century chapel. He explained that the chateau in whose gardens we were picnicking had been owned by his aunt, but had been bought by the local council. He was working, along with an architect, on the artistic development of the site. He invited us to visit his studio when we had finished our repast, although when the time came he was not to be found and a couple of sullen chaps with no English gave us the cold shoulder when we approached the inner sanctum.

At the first three of these gardens we were pretty-well the only visitors. It is only very early spring and despite the abundance of flowers very few people were out and about. The weather was a bit on the cool side, but very pleasant nonetheless.

The highlight of course was 'Monet's Garden' in Giverny. Youse just HAVE to get there! It's not good enough to look at pictures, it has to be experienced at first hand. We stayed in a cute little farm-stay-like accommodation down by the little stream that runs through the town. It contains a little menagerie with a variety of animal life that includes a few wallabies. There are a number of not-so-good reviews of this little 'gite', but we found the place totally charming, friendly and welcoming. We ate a lovely dinner there that night and felt very much at home, as did the ferocial-looking bikies who took off with a roar the next day.

Dear Stephanie had a little adventure at our temporary place of residence that brought a tear or two of mirth from me, her father. It happened that she took an interest in a cute-looking chook (one of the type that has feathers right down to the ground, making it look as though it has no legs and merely wafts about the farm-yard). Anyhow, Steph approached this chook along one of the garden paths that surround the house, expecting said chook to run away from her. This it did not do! Rather, chooky-looky flew at her in a cute-chicken rage, sending Steph into a very hasty retreat towards her spluttering father who had witnessed the whole incident. A story to be admitted into the family story vault for the grand-kids (if grand kids there will ever be).

The next morning we were to head to Paris to rerun the hire car and to hop onto the Eurostar, but not before we looked at a fifth garden out the back of an inn in the Giverny village. It wasn't 'payant', but did possess its own particular charm. Another incident worthy of mention also involved Dear Stephanie. As the four of us wandered about the hillside on which the garden was set, a screech of delight issued from the lips of our first-born as she spied a snake! We all scurried over, but by that time said snake had found a hidey-hole, though not one that totally put it out of view. The bit of it I saw was beautiful, exhibiting a lovely diamond pattern. Dear Steph said that it was about a meter in length. One of the peeps in the pub said that these asps come out of the woods behind in search of water, of which there is a shortage around these parts at present.

On towards Paris after Giverny, along the Seine Valley, though the suburbs and industrial areas, finally snarling past La Defense, through the roundabout surrounding the Arc of Triumph and onwards in a Paris-traffic-grinding sort of way to the Gare Du Nord for the car drop-off, dreading all the while the impossibility of finding the Eurocar drop-off point. When suddenly there it is! A little hole in the city with Europecar drop-off point written in large friendly French right there in front of us. Down we hurtle, in we park, out we hop, up escalators we zip and not the Eurostar we hop! Soon we are zipping across the countryside in which we have been immersed UK-bound.

A great little Ramble!

Good-bye for now,


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