With so many beautiful sights and tastes in the last couple weeks, I haven’t yet had the chance to show you a couple of my favorite places during our two week trip in France.
I present to you twin stunners: Honfleur and Giverny.
And all I can say is: Holy Cow.
We had just a day between the two towns, but we packed it in.
First up, Honfleur.
It’s about a two and a half hour drive from Paris in northwestern France, and its too-picturesque-for-words harbor has inspired painters for centuries (most notably Impressionists including Monet, Boudin and Courbet).
Walking the streets it’s almost impossible to take it all in, and I’m afraid my pics don’t do it justice — the sidewalk cafes, the light streaming off the water, the boats, the slate-covered houses in dreamy pastels.
I had one of my two Visual Freakouts here (the other being upon seeing the Eiffel Tower up close for the first time).
I walked around almost hyperventilating from the perfection of the light and color here
feeling in a daze and just wanting to absorb every single detail (and then burn into the permanent hard-drive in my brain).
We feted our discovery and good fortune with a lunch out in one of the better cafes there.
Man I love all the chalkboard menus here with their beautiful scripts.
Probably more than anywhere else, I was grateful for my language skills in this restaurant; as stilting as my French was, it was incredibly helpful as the waiter spoke no English (or that’s his story and he was sticking to it) and I was able to order exactly what we wanted.
The kids ordered the predictable fish and chips but they were expertly turned out.
Hubby wanted seafood
which was incredible with the requested warm bread and aioli served alongside.
I had some of the best mussels of my life.
Here they served them in a reduced hard cider broth with lots of shallots and a touch of cream.
It was all so delectable, and I ate every crispy fry and mussel I was given.
Despite the heat, the kids insisted on a merry-go-round ride before leaving this lovely town.
The carousel sits right on the boardwalk looking out on the harbor so I kept struggling at what to look at: my kids’ faces, the view out beyond at the water — and up.
We window-shopped a bit, picking up fleur de sel and homemade caramels and the like — and then it was time to hit the road.
I wish we’d had days here, not just a few hours — but hey, First World Problem.
Goodbye, Honfleur — you are one of the prettiest towns I’ve ever seen.
Next up, Giverny.
I’d read both rants (too many tourists in too tiny a place) and raves (too beautiful for words) about this place so I wasn’t sure what to expect.
All I knew is that the Monet’s Lily Pads were there — and I really, really wanted to see them (and having the car to get us there would save us loads of time).
We got to Monet’s house and garden with just an hour before it closed, so we had to move quickly.
It was hotter than blazes, so Charlotte pulled out her umbrella to shade us from the most brutal of rays.
(That little umbrella makes me ridiculously happy, and it folds up to nothing and weighs only 5 ounces!).
First up, Monet’s house.
The color of the little pink house with verdant green shutters is spectacular– especially with the late summer light bouncing off it.
I loved walking through the various rooms, and who doesn’t love copper pans when they look like this in this striking blue room?
And the view from the modest bedrooms are crazy.
And then we stepped into the gardens.
With every step you can feel all the love Claude poured into that garden over his forty-plus years there.
Every inch of it was full of blossoms and blooming plants —
a riot of color and aromas.
You walk for a minute through the dense foliage, and then underground through a brief, well-lit tunnel and then you emerge on the back side of a small pond — clearly the inspiration for so many of his famous paintings.
It’s interesting when remembered images of paintings confront the reality of the actual locale.
Simply put, Giverny is magical.
The rowboat, the lily pads, the mirror image of the weeping willows — they’re all there (and just as vibrant as you’d expect).
And how about this?
We stopped for ice cream cones and then it too was time to leave Giverny.
We made the quick drive back to Paris, seeing old friends on the drive back into the city.
This one was particularly thrilling.
And then just like that, our time in France was over.
Now, back a week in Portland, I can still feel the magic of Honfleur’s harbor
and Giverny’s picture book garden.
I can still taste the pastries of Paris
and all those mouth-watering cheeses
If I close my eyes I can still feel the slight breeze on my shoulders as I basked in the garden at our cottage in Bayeaux,
walked the streets of Montmartre,
hung out on our rooftop deck,
and took in the views from the ancient Pont Neuf.
But Portland’s my home and it feels good to be back — with our beloved fella.
Do I miss Paris and travelling?
I do terribly, but some things are worth a long return trip home.
Okay, kids, back-to-school eating — and cooking— up next.