Thursday, June 21, 2012

My Mom's 75th birthday in Giverny

My Mom had thought long and hard as to where she wanted to spend her 75th birthday. It was also the 75th anniversary of Casablanca, so that seemed like a romantic idea as to where to be, until we discovered it's not really where you want to be in Morocco. We loved Italy, so Rome was an option. I think the heat would have melted my Mom. My Mom would have loved a long windy canal tour through the wine area, but Paris seemed to make her smile, so Paris was the chosen destination.

We walked over to Ian & Sue's hotel, the Hotel de Sèze, and all walked up the the train station, St. Lazare, to make our way over to Giverny, and Monet's home, gardens, infamous lily pond and studio.

What time is it, really?

Our local train staion, Gare Saint Lazare.

There was quite a queue for the train ticket — a good thing we got there early, and made the train with five minutes to spare. Giverny is a 44 minute train ride west of Paris. At Gare Vernon, we boarded a  bus that took us to Giverny, along with what seemed like 90 other Impressionist fans.

Tourists on a bus.

We walked along a lovely quiet town to take us to Monet's house. The gardens were in peak bloom — peonies, roses, aliums, sweet williams, bachelor buttons and poppies were showing their best faces. I saw popppies in colours I didn't know existed.

My Impressionist ode to Monet.
A pleasant mistake.

Monet's home.

Now this is my idea of a lovely garden.
Looking wild and natural.

On approaching the famous lily pond, you could hear the chatter of bull frogs. They were loud. It was wonderful to hear their conversations and watching them darting about in the water. Not doubt they were complaining about the throngs of people surrounding their beloved sanctuary and gawking at them. It was amazing the "bridges" didn't collapse under the weight of the tourists. Everyone had to have their photo on the large bridge, that Monet painted so many times, including me. Unfortunately, I have more "out of focus" photos of myself, that there isn't one I like. Alas.

The birthday girl on one of the smaller bridges,
hence no tourists clambering to get on.

The "big" bridge in the background.

Monet's house was decorated with his actual pieces. Beautiful bedroom with a corner view of his garden. His dining room sat 14 comfortably, with spare chairs  tucked along the wall. His salon was filled with his work. It was a proper gallery in its own right. His studio space was massive, almost train station like in design with a tall peaked roof made of glass with a curtain acting as diffuser strung underneath the roof line. Walls were wide enough to easily accommodate his enormous canvases of the water lilies we saw the day before. The studio had two over-sized "husband waiting area" couches, that were original to Monet's era, that were a pleasant relief for husbands to plop into while their wives shopped for Monet souvenirs, in this converted studio.

In front of Monet's door.

Take a break on the "husband" couches
in Monet's studio/souvenir shop.

We walked beyond his house to "La Musardier's" restaurant, the creperie, for lunch. I think we all had crepes for lunch — either savory or sweet. I had a buckwheat crepe with camembert and apples. Yummy.

We sauntered back slowly towards our bus area, going along quaint country roads, that I'm sure have not changed much since Monet's day. We saw the same hillside poppy scenes that Monet painted. I bought floral sachets that were made in France. They were a bouquet in my purse. The rain held off till we almost made it onto the waiting bus.

The vines on this house were enormous.

Gotta do the tourist thing.

Our bus driver was a card. Tall, dark, stylish & 25ish, we seemed to take up a little banter with my very broken French. I honestly don't know how it started, but isn't that usually the case? We had tickets that needed to be validated once we got on the bus with a little machine. I was the keeper of our bus tickets, and the last of my little group on the bus. Well, somehow he got me to put our tickets in the machine. Flirting shamelessly, putting his arms around me, showing me how to use the machine. Yup, I could be a cougar, if this was my pup. But I digress. It was all good innocent fun as he then had me validate all the remaining passengers' tickets - as they boarded the bus. He asked if I was with my sister, and I said my mother, en francais, & that it was her 75th anniversaire, today. Well, a big sing song, broke out on the bus with kisses for my Mom from our cute driver. My Mom was tickled. Alas, my little flirt was over & we were in Vernon, walking in to the train station, waiting for our train back to Paris.

To kill time in the train station, I used one of those old style photo booths and had my photo put into a postcard that said, "I love France." My Mom couldn't resist getting the fun kitsch done too. We all collapsed on the very full train back to St. Lazare Paris.

Once again, we asked Praxede at the front desk, suggestions for dinner for tonight. "Le Madeliene C", which was around the corner, was recommended. It was a neighborhood restaurant, that was cute, had good ambiance and an easy walk away. I had brought a candelabra birthday candle from home, to the restaurant to put on my Mom's desert.

We all had the specials for dinner — Scallops in lobster bisque and Ian had the prawn & "best lobster he had ever had." I couldn't resist, & ordered my favorite dessert, crepes suzette. My Mom didn't want dessert. Well, I went back to the kitchen & asked them to put the candelabra on any dessert they thought it would work on. The restaurant's lights were dimmed, and the gateau au chocolate with the candelabra & sparklers came out with the entire restaurant singing to my Mom. It was great. Then the owner/maître d', put a little firework that shot up a foot on the cake. 1, 2, 3 and she blew out the candles. It was a fun moment that was accompanied by a glass of champagne. Somehow our hotel had given the restaurant a head's up about the birthday. I later discovered that Praxede at the front desk, had let the restaurant know, when she made our reservations. She had overhead us talking about celebrating a birthday in the lobby. Now that's what I call, attention to your detail.

The mini flame on the gateau au chocolate.

My Mom's birthday was a fun success. We walked back in the drizzle to our hotel to plot our moves for tomorrow, which, as always, will be weather dependent.


  1. Hi Kathi, thanks for sharing. Jean is looking great, and so are you. (you cougar)

  2. Happy belated birthday to your mom, Kathi! The Monet flower shots are stunning....


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