Articles About Upper Normandy

Visiting the WWII Museums of Normandy France

It’s been 70 years since the defeat of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. Today, it’s hard to imagine what it took to win the war: the human sacrifice, the technology, and the planning. Visiting Normandy and the D-Day landing beaches can help put it in perspective.

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Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy, France

Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy, France

For many people, Normandy, France, conjures images of Saving Private Ryan and the D-Day landings. There is much more to discover in the region, including stunning coastal landscapes, dramatic architecture and a Viking heritage. We spent two weekends in this beautiful part of France and today I will share some of our findings.

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This entry is part 6 of 9 in the series Tour Daze France 2006
Monet’s Lily Pond

As I mentioned last time, the next leg of our journey was one of my favourites (although honestly, it was really hard to pick a favourite). After our final breakfast at Les Granges, we set out for a short drive to Giverny and the home of the painter Monet.

Monet has been a favourite of mine for ages. These days however, some of his more famous works have been reproduced so many times they’d started to lose some of their impact for me. After two stunning Monet experiences on this trip (you will read about the second one when we get to Paris), that is no longer a problem.

The Japanese Bridge

Giverny is a tiny village outside of Paris and the highlight of the town is Monet’s home and garden. Monet was as obsessed with his garden as he was with painting and he combined his two passions to great effect.

I had almost skipped this portion of the tour as I thought that this late in the season the gardens would be lacking. I’m so glad I was wrong. Even at the end of October there was still a plethora of blooms in the gardens and the fall colour of the leaves added to the effect.

The gardens themselves are immense and span two sides of the road. The other side is now accessible by a tunnel which takes you to the pond – home of the famous water lilies and the Japanese bridges. Despite having to wait ten minutes for a break in the tourists on the bridges, the pond was stunning. The colours reflected in the pond immediately brought the paintings to mind and you could feel exactly what it was Monet was capturing with his brushes.

Monet’s house in Giverny

Besides the garden, you can also visit Monet’s house. His collection of Japanese prints is on display here as well as some of his remaining furniture and photos of his family and friends. The blue tiles kitchen is a highlight of the home.

Monet was fortunate enough to have a huge studio space (although he did spend a great deal of his time painting in his garden). This space is now the gift shop but if you look above the racks of postcards to the high ceilings, you can almost envision some of his huge canvases hanging there.

The Matheson’s at Versailles.

After Giverny, our next stop was Versailles, that most opulent of palaces, built for Louis XIV.

Touring Versailles is overwhelming for several reasons. First, of course, is the amount of decoration. Everything is gilded or inlaid wood or carved marble. The ceilings are all frescoed and the walls are dripping in tapestries. It’s hard to know where to look.

Second, it is so bloody crowded. Both times I’ve been to Versailles I’ve felt like a little fish being pulled along in a big school. There is no turning around to go back and there is no sense in hanging behind because as soon as one group leaves a room, another floods in.

Finally, after a while it all becomes too much. Versailles is enormous. You could spend weeks visiting the palace and grounds. An afternoon barely scratches the surface, but it is about all you can handle at one time. I would love to spend a day just exploring the gardens, but I will have to add that to my ‘things to do’ list.

Toile overload at Grandes-Ecoles

When we had had all of the gold leafing we could handle, we headed into Paris to find our hotel. Le Hotel des Grandes-Ecoles, is another hidden gem and Andrew and I will definitely be staying there on future visits to Paris.

Grandes-Ecoles is hardly recognisable as a hotel, except for a sign above a large closed door. You are buzzed into a totally enclosed courtyard, full of flowers, which half of the rooms overlook. It is family run and amazingly quiet, considering it is seconds away from one of the liveliest squares in Paris’ Latin Quarter.

Our rooms were clad in toile and crocheted bedspreads. The closets and bathrooms were roomy and everything was clean and fresh. For many locations, the decor would seem a bit much, but somehow it screamed Paris, and that was a good thing.

More on Paris next time…

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