A Travellerspoint blog

Giverny - Monet's Gardens

Just like riding a bike

sunny 75 °F
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It's an early morning train to Vernon (near Giverny) and the train station is uphill, so we cab it to the train station - 8 people with luggage in 2 cars, it was a cozy ride :) Again a short commuter ride, but it goes fine. It is funny that on these commuter trains, there are no gates or any scanning of tickets - but we are glad to have paid for our train ride nonetheless.

The half-mile walk to the hotel seems straight-forward and we aren't aware of any real public transit (later we see the buses). Way too early for check-in we dump off the luggage and head back to the train station to rent bicycles, but more about that later. There is a fabulous market on the way - fresh fruit, cheeses, cooked meats, paella, olives, etc. It would have been nice to shop and such, but we are on a mission to get to Giverny and the gardens to have enough time there...

Rishaun had wanted to ride bikes in Paris, which seemed a bit dicey, so we had promised him we would do the bicycles from Vernon to Giverny. It is supposed to be a reasonably flat 3 mile ride. We let everyone else decide how they want to get there - some have not been on bikes in years, a great many years. Perhaps the peer pressure (not from me) was too much, we all decided to go by bike. Unfortunately, my phone was low on power and I knew I wanted some pictures at the garden... With poor directions we played musical leaders, backtracking and stumbling through town. Once we found the "road" to Giverny, we found it congested and not bike friendly. I very nice French lady flagged me down (as the currently misguided leader) and said to follow her, we would go through her yard/garden up to the very nice bike trail that was more of what were expecting/hoping for - another memorable experience... (and another extremely nice French person)...

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The trail was very nice and only about 3 miles (after getting out of town). But we had different paces and ended up separating before arriving at the Gardens (Phil and Kate broke off). It was difficult to know where to go into the "village" and what to see or do. Be we wandered around and found a no wait entry and went inside. As you might imagine, it was a fabulous place. The gardens are covered completely with plants, mostly in-bloom.

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The house itself was amazing with famous painters of all kinds hanging on the walls (besides his own works, Renior, Seurat, etc.) - it was like a mini-museum. The house looks out to the gardens itself a well.

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There's an underground passage to the incredible water lillies gardens - simply breathtaking despite the crowd. The place is truly sureal and really lived up to the hype about it, at least in my viewpoint.

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We had a nice meal - actually Rishuan and I had a 3 course extravaganza with Rabbit, Leg of Lamb and dessert) - in a showy, quaint but toursy restuarant in the village.

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As is typical, the bike ride back was easy and seemed much shorter. After some recovery time, we are ready to venture out in the city for dinner. As you might imagine, decide what/where to eat is somewhat of an ordeal with so many people. After an extensive search of the town, we land on an italian place (yes pizza, but at least with an egg). It is a nice dinner with lively conservations...

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Posted by M6-Greg 01:11 Archived in France Comments (0)

Rouen - Jeanne d'Art

Lucked into Music Festival

sunny 70 °F
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The train is not until noon and we are right across the street from the train station, so it's a day to sleep in, at least for some. It's a short train ride from Le Havre to Rouen, but these trains are commuter trains without any assigned seats, so it can be adventure to get all of us all with our luggage...

With the scare of places closing at 2pm though, we needed to eat right across from the train station when we arrive in Rouen. The waiter is a friendly, funny guy and happy to accommodate the 8 of us, with all of our luggage. Food was pretty good as well.

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With full bellies, we start the luggage drag through town. All along the way, we see plenty of places open and serving food (a bit bewildered). We have the typical experience of too many leaders, GPS signals being lost, a few missteps, etc. But we make the trek to the hotel to drop off all of the gear. With the help of the hotel staff, we get dinner reservations setup and venture out exploring.

They have a Notre Dame Cathedral (like many cities) which is nice and very nearby there's a Catholic Church (not sure what the difference is...). And lots of quaint and interesting buildings, clock tower, etc. The Jeanne d'Art site (where she was burned) houses a 3D movie, which we decided to pass on - but of course, we did partake in the toursy "Dame Cakes" which were very good indeed.

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Thirsty now, we decided to trek to a cool beer bar that I had read about (sans Kate, who goes back to the hotel for her typical afternoon nap). The bar is very good and the area is teeming with people and tons of local musicians on the corners. We met a nice couple from Chicago/England and they gave us a few pointers, especially for our Reims revisit. We are still perplexed on why this "sleepy" town is so packed with people...

Dinner is right around the corner by the Jeanne of Arc church - and the square there is packed with people. The dinner is nice, although I would find out later that some did not enjoy their beef that much (French beef is always very rare, no matter how you ask for it to be cooked :)).

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It is a sea of people after dinner and we just know we have stumbled into some holiday or festival or something. We would find out in the morning that indeed there was a festival this weekend. We stopped to enjoy part of the light show at the Cathedral (a summer ritual it seems, but more packed because of the festival).

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All in all, a great little town to add along our route (and it reminded Gwen and I very much of our lovely little home town, Konstanz, Germany a few years ago - well actually, many years ago now, but who's counting)...

Posted by M6-Greg 23:59 Archived in France Comments (0)

Le Havre - Nicer Day

But missed the bus...

sunny 60 °F
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We have some tired arrivees again, so we get a bit of a late start. Unfortunately, we didn't realize that would mean that we missed the 10am bus to Etretat (beautiful cliffs - google for pictures if you'd like). We decide to go to the Suspended Gardens of Le Havre instead. The buses didn't really seem to be on the posted schedule - so we ended up hiking up the whole way instead - only about 1.2 miles, but mostly up hill...

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The gardens were nice (it is a converted old fort) - really more indoor/greenhouse place than outdoors, but nice for sure. Not really certain why it is the hanging gardens, but there are a few "hanging" things...

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We were in a hurry to hike down for lunch (most things closed at 1:30pm yesterday). But we ended up on the beach, perhaps because it was a game day? but found a nice spot overlooking the water that was open. There are some US fans around as well, but the Sweden yellow really stands out more - especially in groups...

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The FIFA fanfest is open but it is really just a fun and games place - on the beach, but no refreshments and no TV. Just a place to hang out really.

Back on the tram to downtown for a quick drink and then on to the market to get some picnic supplies for dinner. It is a free bus ride to the stadium, but there does not appear to be much in the way of restaurants nearby. The bus ride out there was fine - but we knew we were in trouble for the ride back, when everyone was leaving at the same time (we had arrived about 2 hours early).

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FIFA had changed some of our tickets - to try to address the stupidity of their first ticketing effort. However, this meant we had to guess at what tickets had changed. Phil and Kate had some difficulty getting into the stadium for some reason, and I printed the wrong new tickets for Ivan (I thought they moved their 2 seats next to Phil, Kate and Sally - which they did - but one on each end apparrently). After some nervous nelly moments, they settled in and enjoyed the game - go USA - clean sheet for the first round!

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As expected, the line/crowd for the buses back to the center of town was packed, but at least we met some nice Swendish fans to celebrate with.

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Posted by M6-Greg 23:51 Archived in France Comments (0)

Le Havre - In the Rain

Travel day and expand the group

rain 65 °F
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Goodbye to Paris (for now, for this group) and off to Le Havre (the Port). It's a couple of metro stops (always fun with luggage and all the stairs up and down) and a 2 hour train ride. It is a nice, comfortable ride in second class - where I can Phil's photos and I can get caught up on my blog entries :) - Note: I have back-filled some previous entries with additional pictures...

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It is a rainy day, and somewhat cooler, but we head out in search of something for lunch. Our phones are not very useful as there are places that are "open", but they are not serving food (only until about 1:30pm for lunch and then break for dinner). The O'planB place is nice and we enjoy some "creative" tarot card reading (by members of the group). The owner is very nice, even if he didn't have any food...

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We finally find a kebop place that is open and "enjoy" some local music videos (Phil is inspired that he will be making music videos in his retirement and was gathering some great ideas). Since it is raining, only Phil and I are interested in exploring more of the city - Kate, Gwen and Rishaun head back to the hotel. We find the beach (rocky), the fan fest (closed) and a tower church...

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It stopped raining and we visited the tourist office - found out about the tram/buses and then wondered into the downtown area. We just happened to find a very nice pub - a sports bar with lots of TVs - wacky drinks and piles of dishes.

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Meanwhile, Sally arrives, needs some supplies/groceries and then Ivan and Diana. We head out for some food, finding a nice Turkish restaurant and call it a night.

Posted by M6-Greg 09:55 Archived in France Comments (0)

Paris - Arc de Triomphe

Down to only 5 of us

sunny 78 °F
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In dire need of clean clothes, Phil and Kate do laundry this morning as we venture out to the Arc de Triomphe for Gwen and Rishaun's last real day in Paris. It's about 300 steps to the top, mostly via spiral staircase, but there really are some fabulous views of the city from there.

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After some more meandering down the Champs-Elysees, we decide to make our way to the Catacombs. Since the line is very long and we are getting hungry, we decided to have lunch and see if it gets any better. The lunch is slow, even by French standards, but very good. When we return to fully check out the Catacombs the line is worse than we thought (going around even more corners) and it appeared to be moving very slowly (seems like a timed-entry is the only reasonably way to see them)... So off to Napolean's Tomb (and Miltary Museum) instead. It is very grandiose and much bigger than we expected. Gwen has the observation that it seems odd to go from a monarchy to an emperor, but perhaps old habits die hard. We decided to only do some of the museum, which still took about 1.5 hours, and covered the world wars (1781-1950?). Gwen found it interesting that their record of the war recalled that the French fought the Germans valiantly and has some success against them (contrary to what we remember from American history)...

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Phil and Kate visited the D'Orsay instead and had a very good time there (sorry, no photos, as Phil likes to say, he is not a good "documenter").

We all meet up at our new favorite, Les Quais, and then on to the Blue Siam for Thai food. It was very good food, but indoors without any a/c, fans or breeze. I needed a shower afterwards :)

We decided we all needed to pack up and get ready for travel again tomorrow - so watched the Brazil-Italy game in the room (game time was from 9-11pm here).

Posted by M6-Greg 08:49 Archived in France Comments (0)

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