Today was our long-awaited day trip to Giverny. Susan had been there some years ago when she got caught in Paris after the volcano erupted in Iceland and had a few extra days to kill. She has been saying ever since that we needed to go there together — and with the exhibition of works by the Spanish impressionist Sorolla at the Impressionist Museum in Giverny - there was no time like the present.
Using the SNCF (French railway) website we purchased our train tickets online and were eager to see if we would be able to use the automatic kiosks at the railway station to print them out.
We walked up to Place Gambetta and took Metro line 3 to Saint-Lazare train station. Once inside the station we were confronted by a three levels of (mostly) shops and various train offices. Although caught up in half the population of Paris rushing every which way we eventually found our way to the “Grand lignes” ticket office where we learned much to our chagrin that we could NOT access our tickets using the kiosks. (The same problem was experienced by the MacDs in Lille when all of us went to Bruges.) While I stood in line for a ticket agent Susie buttonholed one of the information agents standing close by and even he couldn’t figure out why our chip-card wouldn’t work.
(The fine print on our ticket pointed out that credit cards with the magnetic stripe would NOT work at the kiosks. Go figure.)
After getting our tickets we had a short wait for the train to Vernon; Giverny is a few kilometers away and can only be accessed by bus, car, on foot or, as we were to experience, the “little train.”
It was a quick SNCF train ride from Paris, about 50 minutes or so, and we were in Vernon. Although we knew there was a bus to Giverny every 15 or 20 minutes, the only buses we saw once outside the station were a half block away and appeared to be city buses (in fact these were the buses we wanted but no matter). What we were faced with right outside the station entrance was one of those little tourist trains that meander all over creation before ending up at one place or another. We asked the man hawking the train — he would also be the driver — about the bus and he pointed out that the train was cheaper (6 versus 8 euros for the bus).
So we opted for the tourist train. It was a bit chilly — naturally I was unprepared — and after a few minutes the tiny train was wending its way through the warren of streets with a recorded guided tour of the high points of Vernon. A bit hokey to se sure but frankly we did get to see some pretty interesting sights of the city, half-timbered homes, medieval structures and the like, things we probably would not have seen had we taken the bus I suppose.
Before long we made our way to the lovely village of Giverny where we spent the next two hours or so connecting the present with an incredible past. Our first stop was the Impressionist Museum to see an exhibition of work by the Spanish impressionist Joaquin Sorolla (1863-1923); that alone was worth the trip. Fantastic whites, striking seaside scenes and a wonderful portraitist, especially where his family was concerned.
From the exhibition to the cafe was simply a matter of a few steps and, it being time for lunch, we opted for the closest venue for food. I ate little of mine since a pair of bees seemed to relish the sweetish red sauce that accompanied my fish so I focused primarily on wine, not a bad tradeoff, this being France.
Anyway, after lunch we made our way into the village of Giverny and to the grave of Claude Monet and his family. Also buried in the tiny church cemetery are the seven crewman of a British Lancaster shot down by a German fighter the night of June 7-8, 1944. Their plane exploded into a ball of flames on hitting an open field just outside Giverny. In the 1990s large parts of the wreckage were unearthed and an intact propellor blade was found, serving as part of a separate memorial to those seven men — the memorial is located near Claude’s grave.
Leaving the cemetery we retraced our steps and made our way to Monet’s house, taking a turn around the wonderful water features that lie next to his home. The gardens are pretty much everything I expected and more — striking colors to be sure but all was lush and the growth thick, almost wild. Truly a wonderful thing to see.
His house is equally wonderful: the rooms quite small, which makes me wonder how big a man Monet actually was. His atelier was a joy to see, that space where he created so many beautifully moving works of art, the dining room so very yellow and the kitchen with a long row of copper pans of varying sizes strung along the long wall, all truly impressive.
Upon leaving the house we took our time making our way back to the rendezvous with our little train and we were soon chugging along the backroads toward the town of Vernon and the train station. The train ride back was uneventful although once back at Saint-Lazare it seemed that the other half of the population of Paris was determined to thwart our attempts to get to the Metro. Their efforts were to no avail, though, and before long we were on our way on the number 3 in the direction of eastern Paris.
Once back in our cozy apartment we decided to stay put for the evening and I fixed dinner. Another wonderful day in France — wish you were there. . .
|Giverny train station|
|the little train|
|Cousant la Voile 1896|
|Pècheuses valenciennes 1903|
|Pècheuses valenciennes 1903, detail|
|Retour de la peche 1894|
|Instantané: Biarritz 1906|
|cafe at the museum|
|grave of seven British airmen shot down near Giverny|
|memorial to the airmen, using a propellor salvaged from the wreckage|
|French memorial to the men from the village who died during WW1 next to a dolmen|
|a prehistoric tomb (dolmen) found nearby during routine excavations|
|the Giverny church|
|road through the village|
|water features at Monet's home|
|gardens in front of the house|
|original main entrance to the house|
|Monet's atelier or work room|
|kitchen -- what a selection of copper!|