Friday, May 22

Voyage a Giverny

Today we had a change of scenery and a change of pace and tried something we’ve never done before: a bike tour. Mom, Kelly and I booked a Fat tire Bike Tour to Monet’s gardens and the town of Giverny. I honestly don’t think we coul’ve asked for a better day. It was cool and a bit gray in the morning when we took the Metro to the train station (Gare St. Lazar) but by the time we arrived in Vernon the sun had decided to part the clouds and shine down. The town of Vernon was quaint and this is where we stopped and had a bit of time to shop for our picnic lunch later in the day. In charming French fashion there were fromagerie, boucheries and boulangeries s we stopped in to gather supplies for our déjeuner. We filled our bike baskets with freshly baked and still warm baguette, cold cuts of meat cut straight from the boucherie, an assortment of wonderful cheeses, a bottle of pink and crisp rose and a small box of sweet treats from the boulangerie…probably more than we should’ve ate in one sitting!

After spending a bit of time we met back up with our small group and we collected our bikes; cute and adorable red and blue cruiser bikes with oh-so-cute baskets to carry out bottles of wine and baguette. Packed up and ready to roll, we took off through the town of Vernon, our guide stopping occasionally here and there to point out a historically significant cathedral or building. The town has an interesting mix of Tudor-style buildings and traditional French country-style buildings. We biked thru town for a bit before climbing over a bridge and up onto the other side of the Seine River. Biking through a small park we stopped by an old Tudor bridge and parked there to have a lovely afternoon lunch on the Seine River.

Our picnic along the Seine was absolutely perfect, there was a slight breeze, birds were chirping, the temperature was perfect and our lunch was simple and so incredibly French. We laid lazily in the grass along the Seine and enjoyed our meal and wine while our guide talked about Impressionism and the impact Monet had on the artistic world. I think all three of us would have been just as satisfied to lay here the rest of the afternoon but we had to move on towards Giverny and Monet’s gardens. We packed up the remainder of our food (which was just some cheese and sweet treats at this point) and got on our bikes again to continue our ride to Giverny.

The bike trail to Giverny was so beautiful. It rolled through the countryside with little Tudor-style homes, cows and wildlife grazing in the grass and wildflowers. No wonder Monet lived out here, every few feet you could stop and create a painting (or take a photo in our case). Eventually we made it to the town in which Monet lived and grew his now-famous and breath-taking gardens. Charming doesn’t even accurately describe it; I don’t think photos can even capture it either! Little open-air art galleries dotted the main street that led up to Monet’s house. Cute café and shops were here and there…mom and I wanted to stop in every single one.

Made it to Monet’s garden and home and it was just like walking into one of his paintings. His paintings are so realistic it really does feel like every step is a moment to be captured by a paintbrush. Just mesmerizing. The lilies, the weeping willows, the little row boat in the water- perfectly staged for an artist to capture a beautiful French country moment for people to adore for hundreds of years to come.

I can’t recommend this trip and tour enough. I’m not a huge planned guided trip gal, but Fat Tire Bike Tours did such a great job to make it laid back, casual, and let you really make the trip what you wanted it to be for you. Some people napped, others went to the house and gardens, some people shopped. My only complaint: I wish we had another 8 hours to spend exploring the town and eating another meal by the Seine. But I think that is what France does, it awakens your taste buds to life and makes you come back for more. La vie est belle!

After returning by train to Paris we decided to try our luck at getting up to the top of the Eiffel Tower as we hadn’t been able to do that yet. We got there and the line was long but not too terribly long so we decided to tough it out and wait in line. Well we did make it up to the top, and the view was wonderful by night but man oh man was it freezing up there. We were so unprepared for the weather and how cold it was that it was almost comical. I’m a little disappointed to say we didn’t even go all the way to the top because it was that miserable up there. However at least I can say I went up the Eiffel Tower! Next time I am going to bring a much thicker coat, gloves and a thick scarf because who knew that even in late May, Paris can still be freezing at night. Brrr!