We planned to visit Giverny on our way up to Normandy, but first we had to get out of Paris. This is the part of driving in France that I was most nervous about. We didn’t have a paper map and had neglected to print off directions, so we were relying completely on Sir Percy the GPS to guide us to the freeway. However, Sir Percy had been in deep hibernation, and it took a long time for him to have enough energy to tell us where we needed to go.
Meanwhile, I was driving the streets of Paris. I would have parked, but I couldn’t find a parking space. Of course, that didn’t stop many people from just parking in the street and turning on their hazards. The prevailing attitude seemed to be, “I’ll do what I need to do, and you can deal with it.” At first, it’s kind of frustrating because I didn’t know what to expect from people, and I didn’t trust the drivers around me. But then I put my aggressive Paris driver face on and realized that I was out for myself, too. It didn’t matter so much when I was just going straight, but when it came to intersections and especially to merging onto the freeway, it was every man for himself. Here’s a basic picture of what it was like.
Oh, except, I forgot to add the motorbikes and scooters that are also weaving in and out of traffic at 50 mph. After the second or third car came within 1 inch of hitting me, I had to just trust that the other drivers knew what they were doing and do my own thing, too. And it worked. We made it out of Paris alive and with nary a dent on the car.
Once we got away from traffic and the city, driving on the freeway felt pretty normal. And then we got off at the exit for Giverny and started driving on these little roads and through some villages and I suddenly realized that I was driving in France. That doesn’t look very significant when I write it down, but it felt awesome. And everything was so incredibly charming.
When we arrived in Giverny, we circled the parking lot three or four times before a family walking back to their car took pity on us and allowed us to follow them and take their parking space. I was a little worried that crowds would once again dampen the experience, but then we walked inside Monet’s gardens and toured his house.
Photography isn’t allowed inside the house, but you can find a few photos online. For example, here’s the yellow dining room:
And here’s the kitchen:
Are you loving it? I totally fell in love with his house. It’s probably not even the decor, but the atmosphere there. It just buzzed with life somehow. I just wanted to live there and read and write and paint and maybe even garden, although I’d probably prefer to have gardeners. Plus, you could sit out on the balcony and look at this view.
And I could spend hours wandering these gardens.
And yeah, it was pretty crowded (and almost impossible to get a photo without another tourist in it), but it didn’t take away at all from how beautiful and peaceful the setting was. I could have stayed there forever. But eventually we had to move on. We still had a few hours to drive to get to Bayeux.
We arrived around 8 and checked into our hotel (probably the sketchiest of the ones we booked, but it was still pretty clean and nice). We were starving, though, so we ventured into town. Cristen had read about this pizza place, so we tried it first but were greeted with, “Non, non, termine, termine!” so we assumed they were closing for the night. There were a few other places nearby but they each had something against them (too pricey, no veggie options), so we headed back to the car. It wasn’t too much of a loss, though, because Bayeux is such a charming place (I may overuse the word charming, but is there a better alternative? France was just charming).
On our way out of the center of town, we passed an area with an open restaurant that looked pretty decent, so we stepped inside. Even though it was late, we were seated and handed menus. When our waiter came to take our order, Cristen and I could barely keep ourselves from giggling. He was the quintessential snobby French waiter. He sneered at everything we ordered (especially the water) and barely even let us finish ordering before he walked away. We ate in a lot of restaurants in France and never had another waiter like him, so I don’t mean to stereotype. I just thought it was hilarious that our very first waiter should live up to the caricature so perfectly.