Saturday, 1 September 2012

Day 24 - Giverny & Versailles

Monet's garden and "that" bridge.
So many of our days in France we have been convinced, as we have settled into bed and into that quiet wondrous review of your experiences during the day, that today will not be topped ...

... and then a day like today happens!

Up early and to our rendevous point on the Rue de Rivoli, we were able to grab a quick coffee before climbing onto our coach for a day tour outside of Paris. Striking out to the north west, our destination was the gardens of Claude Monet, at Giverny.

Whilst most visitors, at least on our coach, headed straight for the house and the main garden, Sue and I left them behind and went straight to the water lily pond. Whilst it was the wrong time of the year to see the lilies in flower, it didn't matter. Before long, the path around the extremity opens up and there among the drooping foliage from over-hanging trees, partially reflected among the lilies, is the famous Japanese bridge. We had already stood in so many famous places in the past few weeks that this should just have been one more ... but it wasn't.

There is such a sense of peace in this place, that despite a regular flow of visitors along the walking track, very few spoke. It was the sort of place where you hold your lover's hand, squeezing sporadically as you try to accept it all as reality. We walked slowly, pausing for a photograph to record views we would want to reconstruct as we aged, in order for the visual to trigger the memory of smells and the soft brush of morning air floating across the pond.

It was just such a beautiful experience. Please make sure you look at the photos.

We lingered so long that we were rushed in getting back to our coach for the second part of the day but Sue managed to buy a souvenir pen and an umbrella with a print of the garden.

In the afternoon, we travelled back toward Paris to The Palace of Versailles.

The Hall of Mirrors was remarkable or would have been without the dense crowds that filled it. Our tour squeezed among others jockeying for position in each of the rooms we visited. To be honest, I found it hard to be anything but disgusted by the last three French kings and their intransigence toward their subjects as exemplified by the pompous grandeur of the palace. Louis XIV, the Sun King, used to have two ceremonies just to get out of bed each morning! The extravagance didn't seem like anything to revere and with being packed in like sardines, we both became hot and light headed. We were both much happier once we got outside into the remarkable gardens but by then, we were again hurrying back to the coach.

The only other thing to share was the nature of our guide, Jean-Louis. He spoke english well but like a parody of every film ever made that was not of French origin but wanted the actors to sound French. Think perhaps Kevin Kline in "French Kiss" or John Cleese as the palace guard in "The Holy Grail", but most especially conjure up Peter Sellers outrageous Inspector Clouseau. I kid you not. Sue and I were often doubled up in giggles like naughty kids, hiding behind others or ducking behind structures. If he had said "minkey" or "pfern" I swear I would have needed a colostomy bag.

Packing, currency changeovers and checking all our passports etc as its London tomorrow via the Eurostar high speed train.

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