Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Claude Monet's Gardens in Giverny

Claude Monet

The lily pond

June 19 - Evreux to Giverny and Gent (Belgium)    

Okay, just one more post for the evening. I was behind in posting due to not having internet access, so now's the time to catch up.

Finding our way to Giverny was a bit more challenging, but, with Diane being the top-notched navigator she is, we methodically found our way to the near-mythical village where Claude Monet had painted so many of his garden and pond scenes.

His house


Towards the pond

Giverny receives nearly one half million visitors per year - quite a lot for a postage-sized village. It felt like 300,000 of them were here with us today! A long line to get in to the museum. And once in, we found other hoards of people waiting to get in to his house, his gardens and the pond area. Luckily, everyone was respectful of each other and things worked out. Walking through Monet’s atelier and seeing all the paintings hanging on the walls from  top to bottom was a powerful and emotional experience. I could only imagine what it would have been like in the early 1900‘s, when he was walking these paths and sitting down to paint a scene.

After finishing the tour of Monet’s house, we strolled through Giverny, had a light lunch with two cafes alonge (expressos with a bit of water added to them), and headed for Gent, Belgium.

The water lilies

A Monet model

Chartres and Evreux

The Notre-Dame de Chartres

June 18 - Chartres and Evreux

The drive to Chartres was a quick one. Once there, we found a parking spot way underground (four levels down) at the Hotel de Ville (City Hall). All we really wanted to do was to have a quick tour of (yes, yet another) cathedral and the surrounding area.

The Notre-Dame de Chartres did not disappoint. With its two very different spires - one being Roman, the other uber-Gothic, the cathedral yields a very dramatic sight. Inside, too, it is quite amazing in its architecture, the sheer size and height, the ornamental Christian sculptures, the paintings, wood carvings, the marble floor - everywhere you look, there are works of art.

A wide pedestrian way and square in Chartres
After the cathedral and a quick tour around the old parts of the city, we found our way back to the parking garage and continued onward,

Evreux is a small town. For the first time, we had decided to go to a place without a hotel reservation. Big mistake. Evreux, it turns out, was having a music festival and its few hotels were booked. We ended up finding a room at the Grand de le Gare (in essence, that meant that it was a hotel located right across the street from the train station). Actually, it turned out to be okay.

We plunked our stuff down and went off to see what all the hoopla was about. Around town there were several different venues going on with people singing, playing piano, dancing and playing medieval instruments. We listened to several students doing their recital for a class in classical ragtime music. Really fun.

Cathedral in Evreux

The Hotel de Ville (city hall)

Evreux was nearly all destroyed in the WWII (the cathedral seems to have been kept in tact). So much of what we saw had been rebuilt. They did an excellent job of creating a warm atmosphere and utilizing the river to enhance the feel of the city. It was a very comfortable town and we definitely enjoyed our one night stay in Evreux.


View of Vendome from the castle

June 16 - Saumur to Vendome

After a breakfast of coffee, yogurt and muesli we drove east towards Tours and then northward. Here I must mention, that navigating in France is no simple task. Signs may display the name of a city at one point, then suddenly a round-about appears and the city you are heading for is no longer mentioned. We got used to keeping our eyes on Tout Directions.

We eventually made it to our destination, Vendome, in the heart of the Loir et Cher (not to be confused with the Loire River and valley). With its own wine appellation, there are lots of vineyards and wineries in the area. Vendome itself is very historic, dating back to a treaty that was signed here in 587 A.D. The remains of a castle still remain on the hill top overlooking Vendome. This very area was likely first inhabited by Celts and then Romans.
The Loir River

The cathedral in Vendome

Vendome itself is very quaint, with the Loir River running through it in several branches. The city’s architecture and design made good use of the river’s flow. On Friday mornings there’s a market held in the town center, with all the standard foods, wares and even clothes. It’s quite a lively event.

The Porto Entrance to Vendome 

Vendome has a lively Saturday morning market that is held in a central building that was designed just for the purpose. The city bought a block of houses, razed them and built the central market building.

We took a drive to visit the small village of Troo. What made it worth the side trip were its troglodyte (cave) dwellings. We had never encountered these before. Apparently some date back to the twelfth century when quite a number of the population in France lived in these limestone caves.

Troglodyte dwellings in Troo

In Troo a number of these caves remain in use. There are homes, bars, restaurants and even B&B’s in these cave structures. We walked passed very neat little gardens with elegant entrances built to the cave dwellings - lots of glass and ventilation pipes. We checked into staying at a B&B, but it was full. Next time.  

We drove back to hotel in Vendome and prepared for the next day's trip to Chartres and Evreux.