|Vernon and Giverney (Claude Monet's house and famous gardens)
We did have some difficulties getting here (Vernon) from Eu... Firstly, when we arrived at the town square beside the cathedral in Eu for the bus from Eu to Dieppe, we discovered it was market day; the place was crammed with vendors and it was obvious the bus was not going to arrive there. Fortunately, it was late enough in the morning for the tourist office across the square to be open, and they informed us that on market days the bus leaves from another place… about 10 minutes’ walk… which was exactly the amount of time we had. (Good thing I hadn’t been “last minute” that morning!) Off we jogged, packs on backs and fronts, through the cobbled streets – and made it in time. (So much for that nice shower this morning!) When we arrived in Dieppe, we discovered the train I had booked was not happening; the next one was not until that evening. That meant that we had another half day in Dieppe, and a long trudge with our heavy packs from the train station (where you can’t leave baggage) to our old hotel Aguado on the waterfront, which offered us asylum from the rain (and internet connection while sitting in their lobby)!
By then we couldn't make it all the way to Vernon that evening, so we had an unplanned overnight in Rouen. Happily, when we arrived in Rouen at nightfall, the hotel Astrid right across from the train station had rooms available and was reasonably priced. We had to leave Rouen at 9 am, so I got up before daybreak in order to see a wee bit of the city: the Tour de Jeanne d’Arc which is the remains of the dungeon where she was imprisoned before she was burned at the stake; the Jeanne d’Arc cathedral, whose square was in the process of turning into the Saturday morning market – an interesting process to watch in the pre-dawn drizzle; the Rouen cathedral that is famous for the various versions Claude Monet painted of its western portal; and so to the bridge over the River Seine in the wakening dawn… It was really quite a worthwhile little tour of centre ville Rouen before anyone else (excepting the market vendors) was up and about. Oh, but I was able to get a cup of café crème in a bar that was open at that early hour and found a couple of croissants to take back to Kirianne.
On to Vernon, which held no special interest for me, other than the name (!), but is the nearest train station to Giverny and Monet’s famous garden. Turns out it is worth a visit in its own right - especially when one arrives the weekend there is a 400-minute free concert in celebration of the 400-year-old organ in the town's cathedral! One was not expected to stay for the whole 6+ hours, but could come and go between segments of the programme, which is what we did. We listened to a couple of different performers in the late afternoon, left for a delicious tuna pizza supper, and returned for the grande finale, complete with a 150-voice choir and orchestra along with the organ, performing selections of Verdi and Handel's Messiah. Quite stirring!
That was the end to a wonderful day that started out sunny and just warm enough to enjoy the 4 km walk to Giverny and Monet's house and gardens. Who knew that flower gardens could be so bloomingly beautiful in mid-October?! And what a lovely day for it! With the warm sun shining, Kirianne and I could not resist taking dozens and dozens of photos of the colourful flowers. Oh, and the house was interesting, too. We also visited the local churchyard where Monet and many of his family rest in peace. We really enjoyed being outside in nice weather!
When we first arrived in Vernon, we walked to the local chateau Bizy (twice, there and back, because we weren't sure of the directions and turned back just before arriving at the gate the first time) but it was disappointing. The only highlight was that Kirianne got to play a scale on the baroque piano! And I discovered cyclamens - or something very like them - growing wild in the treed lawn! Otherwise, not worth the price of admission. The free organ concert certainly balanced it out.
We have a comfortable big hotel room, with good internet access and ample breakfast croissants and pain au chocolate, yogurt, etc. We are happy.