8 May 2007

Giverny for May Day Weekend

The weekend was in fact just a night away and with Claire’s hairdressing appointment earlier than previously thought it meant we could have lunch before the booked Shuttle train on Saturday.

I had planned routes to the Campanile at Evreux and also from there to Giverny. Claire is less trusting of “Doris” than I am and insisted we take a paper map as well. Not having been to Normandy for years and years meant I didn’t have one, so we left a little early and a stopped in the terminal building to buy one. On the approach there were signs to say that there were delays of up to 30 minutes following an “earlier incident”.

On the auto check-in I chose to go on an earlier train and off we went. In the terminal building they started to call our train s we walked in and I saw the display change from wait to boarding on the monitors. We hurried round and joined the queue of cars, strangely, not sent to a lane of our own, as is the “norm” on the Shuttle, but in the line of cars. Knowing we’d get singled out later and sit alongside the train as they loaded the cars past us. Despite being early we found we had missed the train or it had been cancelled as we were then re-assigned to the one we were booked on anyway!

The weather was dull and overcast and windy. After two or three weeks of sunny biking weather it was back to winter weather. On the French side it was no better and we set off along the A16 towards Abbeville intending to stop at the services at the Baie de Somme services. The weather didn’t improve and got very windy as we approached the toll section after Boulogne.

After a coffee and a look at the ducks and the amazingly tame and large carp in the river, we set off again. Time was getting on and Doris didn’t miss a beat. As petrol can be a problem off motorways on Sundays, we stopped just before Rouen and tanked up. In the station was a battered Fiat 500 on the back of a trailer. He was there when we left. Later on we caught up with him on the road between Rouen and Evreux. Doris’s quicker route planning not quite up to local knowledge! Some of the time loss may have been as we had to sit in a queue of traffic for a while as police and fire crews sorted out a big smash involving a car and a 4WD. I’ve never been a rubbernecker but had a quick glance, but the cars around us seemed to think it was a show for them to goggle at.

The rest of the run to the hotel was uneventful and we arrived at about 1845 local time. Booked in and secured the bike outside the room. Claire was so cold she had a bath and I watched PSG vs. Lyon on the TV. We played with the heating and couldn’t get it to work despite having it “on” and “heat” and the temp to 30°!

And then across to dinner. The Campanile in Evreux is like most of them by industrial park or out of town shopping parks. This one by the Carrefour. We chose the buffet dinner rather than the usual cooked menu. It was very nice but slightly more expensive than I remember. After dinner we watched a bit of TV, CSI New York in French. The dubbed voices not what I would call a match for the characters!

Sunday morning we were up quite early and across to breakfast and due to our (strict) adherence to the teachings of Swami Weight-Watcher we again couldn’t pig out, as we would once have done. Damn!

It was sunny and we wanted to make the most of it. Checking out and off following Doris’s instructions we arrived at Giverny in good time. Parking by the information office where we bought the guidebook. It’s in English and French and it quite good value for the €5.

On the first Sunday of the month the Museum of American Art is free to visitors. We had a long walk through their gardens. Of course, the Monet Foundation also owns this and the gardens are in the same style. Quite formal and arranged by colour of plants. We stopped for a coffee and then set off for the Monet House and Garden. There were so many people about and perhaps 50% were English and the rest a rich mixture of other Europeans and Americans. The pic shows the poppy meadow alongside the Museum.

The queue to get into the house and gardens was about 50 metres long and I got in it whilst Claire had a wander. It moved quite quickly and we were in. The entrance fee is €5.50 for adults.

The gardens are accessed through the shop (good move!) and then they open out in front of you to the rear of the house. We were lucky that the sun was out and quite hot, even if we did have to lug our jackets about. We were also lucky that all the garden plots were filled with colour. The irises were exceptional and the ground cover was perfectly matched by colour.

The famous lily pond is actually on some adjoining land that Monet bought and had the small river diverted to create it. Access is now by a tunnel rather than having to dodge the traffic on the road that separates the two parts of the garden. Unfortunately, although all the other planting was out and glorious it was too early for the lilies. The pond is also a lot larger than I had imagined and more of a small lake!

By now I was suffering from photo fatigue although the counter on the camera said only 105! We had a turn around the shop and then went into the outside world for a sandwich and a drink. After another turn around the Art Museum shop where Claire bought some cards, we went back to the bike and packed up.

I programmed Doris for a return trip and off we went. Another tour around the area to get across the nearest bridge over the Seine we headed north and then towards Beauvais.

At Gisors she took us north towards Dieppe and as we approached the A28 we peeled off onto it and head up towards the coast. I needed petrol so we stopped and hoped to get a coffee. It was quite cold and we both needed the warm java in our bellies, but the services on the A28 just before Abbeville aren’t that wonderful. We ended up having a coffee and a snack back at Baie de Somme before the 60 mile run back to the Shuttle. We arrived an hour before our booked crossing and the computer magnanimous gesture of letting us travel earlier at no extra cost.

We were home just before 7pm after a trip of about 385 miles door to door. Although the weather could have been better, it was sunny when it mattered. Pics to follow!

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