Tuesday, March 29, 2016


After our morning in Rouen and a nice lunch on the ship, we drove about 2 hours to Giverny. Giverny is a delightful, typical Norman Seine-side village. Were it not for the arrival of Impressionist master Claude Monet in 1883, the village might have remained a quiet provincial backwater. The long years Monet spent here would turn it into a place of artistic pilgrimage, even in his lifetime. He settled at Giverny with his companion Alice Hoschedé. They had both been widowed and their respective children came to live with them.

Monet designed several exuberantly colorful gardens, getting his enlarged new family to help him. His most ambitious project was to create a garden with lily ponds, which caused discontent among some local people, as it involved shifting the course of a stream. Monet was not seeking specific inspiration with this new plan, but once the ponds were flourishing, they led to his very finest paintings –Les Nymphéas, a series loved across the planet, and that put little Giverny on the world map. Monet had become a hugely admired artist by this time. A colony of followers came to visit him in Giverny, changing the face of the village. Monet lived here up until his death in 1926.

I had visited Giverny back in 2007 after my study abroad in Italy, and I was excited to be back. As you can imagine, Monet's gardens are a place bursting with tranquil beauty, and no matter how many times I visit, I will never be able to get enough of this place.

The day we visited was overcast and rainy, thus all the colors of the flowers and trees were rather subdued. It's easy to see why Monet filled so many canvases with images of his garden, depending on the light, time of day, season or weather, the garden took on a whole new look than it had the day before.

After a much too short stroll around the lily pond gardens, we made our way to the gardens surrounding Monet's well known green trimmed, pink, brick house. These gardens have a completely different feel than that of the water gardens. Here we were met with rows upon rows of flowers and greenery over flowing onto the small walk ways. The types of flowers are very different in this garden, there seemed to be brighter colored blooms and bigger blossoms.

Then it was time to tour the beloved impressionist's home.

The impressionists were greatly influenced by the Japanese wood block prints that were beginning to circulate around Europe during their time. It was so interesting to see how Monet had surrounded himself with gorgeous examples of this unique, oriental artwork.

The figure of a sleeping cat has a special meaning and status in Japan and in Japanese art. Nemuri neko [眠猫] is Japanese for sleeping or peaceful cat but it also is the name of a famous sculpture of such a cat in the Shinto Tosho-gu shrine in Nikko, Japan and has been an inspiration to Japanese artists. Claud Monet had such a figurine in his brightly colored dinning room. He had a special interest in Japanese art and received this sleeping cat figurine as a present from a Japanese associate. It lays very peacefully on a pink, silk cushion. Small replicas of Monet's Nemuri Neko were for sale in the gift shop complete with tiny pink, silk pillows, my dad and I thought it was the perfect souvenir for me to take home to remember my time at Giverny. It now graces my front room study with it's peaceful presence.

The kitchen was one of my favorite rooms. All the walls were covered with blue and white tile which made the room feel cool and comfortable. I have alway loved the look of displaying copper cookware, but the copper against the royal blue was such a gorgeous contrast. The kitchen also opened up right into the gardens, if that were my kitchen, I might cook a lot more than I do now just to spend time in that beautiful room.

And that was the last stop on this wonderful adventure of a cruise. We had such a fabulous time and made so many fun acquaintances. It took me a little longer to find the rhythm of this tour than it does with Tauck Tours, I am more familiar with their way of running things. But I must say, by the time the end of this cruise came, I found myself not wanting to leave, I had so much fun exploring these lesser known gems of cities and towns and appreciated the art history excursions so much. I am so grateful my parents invited me along on this experience and that I was free and able to go.

Since we were so close to Paris, we couldn't pass up the opportunity of spending a few extra days after the cruise visiting the City of Light.

Posts on how we chose to spend our time in Paris coming up next!

Rouen, France

The next couple of days on our cruise were quite the adventure. After our time in Belgium, we were supposed to sail through the night and wake up in Dover, England. However, since the seas were so rough, our captain made the decision to not sail during the night and attempt to sail in the morning when the seas were supposed to be a little calmer. We began sailing at 7 am, and the seas were anything but calm. Our little ship got rocked every which way, most guests spent the entire day in bed with major sea sickness or, like in my case, in an attempt to avoid getting sick. My crew member friends said they haven't seen seas that rough very often and some even got so sick they missed their shifts, which is not common for cruise crews since their bodies get so used to living on the ships. Our meals were quite the adventure, first of all, getting to the dining room was a challenge. The adorable crew members escorted guests up and down the stairs and hallways. Once safely seated at our tables, our servers had quite the challenge of serving us our meals. We sailed all day and all night in those conditions, everyone was extremely happy and relieved when we finally reach Rouen, France and anchored safely at the port.

And now for Rouen! Rouen is a city on the River Seine in the north of France. It is the capital of the region of Normandy. One of the largest and most prosperous cities of medieval Europe, it was the seat of the Exchequer of Normandy in the Middle Ages. It was one of the capitals of the Anglo-Norman dynasties, which ruled both England and large parts of modern France from the 11th to the 15th centuries. It has Gothic churches and a cobble stoned pedestrian center with hundreds of medieval half-timbered houses.  It was here that Joan of Arc was executed in 1431. Rouen is also the home of the cathedral that graced so many of Monet's canvases.

We made our way through the tiny, cobblestone streets to the Rouen Cathedral. The Gothic architecture of this building is exquisite and incredibly detailed.

The inside is rather plain, with limited decoration but the size and height of the nave were very impressive.

The astronomic clock, also known as the Gors Horloge clock, lays on a Renaissance arch which has spanned the street since 1527. The clock lies roughly equidistant between the Place du Vieux Marché and the cathedral. The Gros Horloge itself dates back to the 16th century and its movement from 1389. The two faces of the clock display 24 rays of sun against a blue starred sky, a single hand ending with a depiction of a lamb shows the hour. The moon phases are indicated in the oculus above the clock face. It completes a full rotation in 29 days. There is also a hand showing the week, inside an opening at the base of the dial. It is decorated by allegoric characters: Diane as the moon (Monday), Mars (Tuesday), Mercury (Wednesday), Jupiter (Thursday), Venus (Friday), Saturn (Saturday) and Apollo (Sunday).