Flowers, Cathedrals, and Food. Oh My.

Trip Start May 12, 2012
Trip End May 29, 2012

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Flag of France  , Normandy,
Wednesday, May 16, 2012

We have a car!

So we finally left Paris today, and we were all glad to not be tied to public transportation anymore. There's something very freeing about having your own car. And we were really looking forward to not being on our feet 24/7.

We were headed to Normandy for a few days, but first we had to navigate through the Paris metro one more time. But it was very easy. I had found an Avis office that was literally right next to a metro stop. And it was on a main road just a few blocks from becoming the highway we needed to take out of Paris. It all went very smoothly. The only problem was that they didn’t have the GPS I had "requested." So I had to navigate on the fly using a not-very-detailed atlas and a computer mapping program we’d used two years ago in Germany.


Our first stop was at Giverney, to see the house and gardens where Monet painted his most famous works. The garden had two parts – a walled garden that was full of flowers, and a water garden. The water garden was basically a big pond, but it had the water lilies, willow trees, and bridge that are in the most famous of Monet’s paintings.

I was in picture heaven. I just wish it hadn’t been sunny, it made the colors in a lot of my photos way too bright. But it was still an amazing place and we all really enjoyed it.


Our next stop was the city of Rouen. It is famous as being the city in which Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. She was only 19. It’s also the site of Rouen’s cathedral, which was famously painted 30 times by Monet. Each one was in different light conditions.

We first walked along the main pedestrian street, which was full of half-timbered houses. Unfortunately I think I’ve seen too many half-timbered houses at this point to truly find them exciting anymore. I wasn’t that impressed.

But I was very impressed by a chocolate shop called Les Larmes de Jeanne d’Arc. Not by the chocolate, because I’m not a huge fan, but by the macaroons. They were amazing.

Back on the main street, there was a big clock called the Gros Horloge where we could climb a tower for a good view of the city. And it’s hard for us to turn down a good tower climb. This one was a piece of cake, only 100 steps. And the view was well worth it.

We next went to the cathedral, which was undergoing renovation. Unfortunately the most striking feature of the church was missing. There’s an inverted “V” structure on the front that’s very prominent in Monet’s paintings. But it had been completely removed while it was being cleaned. The inside was unimpressive.

We strolled down a couple more streets with half-timbered houses and then went to a half-timbered courtyard that housed a plague cemetery. During the Middle Ages as many as two-thirds of the people near Rouen died from the plague. So dealing with the bodies wasn’t easy and they ended up creating a mass grave. The timbers in the courtyard were even decorated with skull and bones.

Our last stop in Rouen was the Joan of Arc Church. It’s actually a pretty modern church, but the design was pretty amazing both inside and out. Very unique.


Our last stop of the day was Honfluer, where we would be staying for the next two nights. We managed to find our way through the narrow cobbled streets to our hotel. It was appropriately named as Hotel Monet. And wow did we feel like we were in the lap of luxury after the non-existence of our Paris hotel rooms. I seriously think I went from my smallest hotel bathroom ever to my largest hotel bathroom ever. It felt awesome.

We were all hungry so we walked to town for dinner. It was ~ 6:40 pm, but restaurants in France don’t open until 7 pm. So we walked around Honfleur for a while first. We ate at a place called La Tortue (“The Turtle”). We ended up getting a fixed menu meal. This is where you pay a fixed price for a full dinner with all the courses. We got a 5 course menu and had some choices on the main dishes. This is what I had:

1.     Duck pate – I was trying to be adventurous, but I really did not like this. Thankfully Dad traded me for some of his salmon appetizer, which was amazing.

2.     Apple-brandy drink with cinnamon

3.     Hake fish

4.     Cheese plate – I really didn’t like this either. I think maybe my taste buds aren’t sophisticated enough to appreciate a lot of French food.

5.     Apple pastry with caramel sauce.

Aside from the pate and cheese, everything else was just really good. Nothing to rave about. And the meal literally took 2 hours. I was very unimpressed and didn’t think the meal was worth it. But everyone else really enjoyed it. Maybe the pate just ruined my palate for the night, or maybe I just made the wrong choices.

After dinner I was actually awake for once, so I had time to blog before going to bed.
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