The River Baroness did indeed sail at 5:30 PM Sunday afternoon, so it was a good thing we changed our airline reservations or we might have literally “missed the boat.” Our Captain gave us a little treat before we left for our first stop. He took us under some of the most beautiful bridges in Paris before turning upstream towards Giverny. Some were quite low, and the pilot house was lowered into the boat during this part of the trip. Then the Baroness turned around and headed towards our first stop,
Paris has lots of urban sprawl, and we snagged window seats at dinner so we could watch the mixture of old and new buildings, barges and houseboats, until dark.
On this trip, we wouldn’t spend as much time cruising during the day. The distance we would cover on the whole trip was not that great, and it was sort of a round trip as we would end up back in Paris at the end of the week.
Monday we were scheduled to visit two places, Monet’s house and garden at Giverny. The gardens are the main attraction. Afterwards we would stop near the ruined castle of Richard the Lion-Heart, at Les Andelys. a little further up the Rhone.
Monday morning, the Baroness docked at Vernon, a few miles from Giverney quite early. around 6:AM. Our tour busses would leave at 9:00 AM. There were only two busses this time, as many passengers had cancelled their trips because of the recent terror attacks in Paris and Rouen. Our ship was half full. This cruise would visit the sites of both terror attacks, but the Ramblers never considered cancelling out of fear. We both believe that when one’s time on earth is up, it’s up and cowering at home won’t extend it by even a minute. The positive side of the cancellations for the passengers tho not for Uniworld, was that there was plenty of room on board the boat and on all the bus tours.
Before I go any further, when talking about room, having a small group did not make our cabin larger. The Baroness has the smallest cabins in the Uniworld fleet; even though we were level 1, our cabin was still 138 square feet. This seemed very small to us, but it made our cabin on the Catherine that much larger later on. We probably should have booked a suite, even though you don’t spend much time in your cabin. And if you are contemplating this sailing, start with the smaller ship and move to the larger one. It would have been much harder to move to the tiny cabins on the Baroness from the spacious ones on the Catherine.
Those who love gardens were all looking forward to the Giverny. The countryside was green and beautiful.
Normally it rains a lot in this part of France, but we had not a single drop of rain on either half of this cruise. Uniworld offered a Go Active Bike Ride for the athletically inclined cruisers. There were quite a few younger cruisers on this trip, and many had signed up to ride to Giverny instead to taking the bus. Uniworld provides very nice bikes for its passengers as well as helmets, and the bike ride really looked like fun. Alas, the surgeon who installed my bionic hip joints gently suggested that biking and jogging were a no/no.
I do love gardens, the Senior rambler not so much, but he was a sport and went along anyway despite the fact that he had broken a crown and now looked like a mountain hillbilly. We soon found that Giverny attracted lots of tourists. Even though it was a holiday Monday when all the shops were closed, people were streaming into the gardens.
Irene, our proud Norman guide, had a hard time keeping us together. Fortunately even before we entered the gardens, she pointed out our meeting place, should we get separated. This was at a pleasant cafe outside one of the museums. To give you an idea of how crowded it gets, the Giverny management had built a tunnel across the road going past the gardens to prevent wholesale tourist slaughter.
The crowds also posed another problem for us photographers. Many gravel paths wound around the pond that featured prominent in Monet’s paintings, and there were even a few waterlilies left and lots of lily pads, but it was very difficult to get good photos that weren’t absolutely filled with fellow tourists. It really was a challenge, but as you will see, I did get a few good ones.
There are flowers everywhere in the Giverny gardens and Irene asked if we saw any that were bloomed out. I looked really hard and could find none. Those of you who have gardens know how much work it is to cut off the blooms that have withered. Imagine doing it in a huge garden. Irene told us that Giverny employs at least a dozen gardeners who keep the extensive flower beds looking absolutely wonderful and I believe it. Certainly it makes these gardens a magical place. We couldn’t linger in the gardens, as hordes more people were arriving every minute. It is a good thing we got there right when the gardens opened.
Our last stop was Monet’s house. I didn’t spend much time there as none of the painting in the house are original and it was also very crowded. However the flower beds leading up to the house were in beautiful shades of red and pink. When we reached the house, we had some free time and so after walking around the quaint village, we headed for the meeting place. Our tour director, Emmanuelle Bonneau had handed out Euro coins so we could enjoy a cafe au lait in the little town. Sipping coffee in the museum courtyard was a pleasant way to end our tour of Giverny.
One thing I haven’t mentioned is anything about Monet’s life and importance as an artist. To do justice to his life and artistic career would take way too much space in the blog, and it is a travel blog not an art history blog. However, you might enjoy reading the Wikipedia entry on Monet which is quite good and includes many examples of his paintings
. Monet had a long and fairly complicated life. For the Wikipedia entry, click the following link.
However, for those of you who only want to know a little about Monet, here is a brief bio. Oscar-Claude Monet 1840-1926 was a founder of French impressionism painting.
He had quite a long and complicated life, was married twice but had only one heir, his son Michel. He moved to Giverny in 1883 when he purchased the house and property and began to develop and landscape his garden and pond. In later life his method was to paint the same subject multiple times in different seasons and water lilies were a favorite subject. He left everything to his son who donated everything to the French Academy of Fine Arts who opened the house and garden to the public in 1980. Of course it is a very popular attraction and brings thousands of tourists to Giverny.
On to Les Andelys and the ruined castle of Richard the Lion Heart. This would be an entirely different experience, but before I end, I have to share a photo of the senior rambler minus tooth.