Friday, July 8, 2011

Day 3 - July 1 : Giverny

On day 3 of our trip, we left Paris and headed out into the countryside of France. Everything was planned out- the car was booked, the directions were printed out, the map was there for back-up and we had snacks. Of course, then nothing went according to plan.

The problems started out quickly. The metro stop, the one that we had been using for the past two days, inexplicably wouldn't let me through. I put my ticket in and pushed through the turnstyle and nothing happened. I put the ticket back through. Nothing again. I used two other tickets. Nothing again. I turned around to the ticketbooth and all of a sudden there was a huge line, of course. I waited in line while several people bought monthly passes. When I finally got my new ticket, I put it through the machine and nothing happened again! Luckily the woman working at the ticketbooth saw it happen and let me through!

Finally we were on our way! We changed lines after a couple of stops and took the metro to Gare du nord, where the commuter trains to the airport depart. Gare du nord is a huge station, with multiple metro lines, multiple commuter lines plus the inter-country and international long distance trains coming and going. We got in line at the first ticket kiosk that we saw and waited. The line was not that long but it was extremely slow moving. After 15 minutes it was finally our turn. I ordered our tickets and put my credit card in to pay for them but my card was denied! Then the same thing happens to every card that we have. Now I remember that European cards have microchips and some card readers only read the microchip. The machines only accept coins, not bills, so we didn't have enough to get the tickets from that kiosk. We finally got in the right line and got our tickets.

We hurried down to the platform and it was packed! There were way more people waiting than would fit on a train and about a fifth of them were in costume- there must have been an anime convention in town or something. The first train came and the crowd thinned out. The second train came and now we were next up. I heard the next train coming, so I looked up at the departure board- Airport Charles de Gaulle. That was us. We got on the train, found seats and started reading while we rode. After about 5 stops, I heard the conductor make an announcement- This train goes to Mitry! We were on the wrong train and the conductor made the announcement after the stop where the lines break off, so we had to go back. We hopped off at the next stop and switched to the other side of the track to get on the next train going the other way. We only had to wait a couple of minutes before it came along and then we hopped off that train at its next stop. Now we just had to wait for a train going to the airport.

When we got to the airport I realized that I had forgotten to print out my rental car confirmation. Oops. I knew that I had booked an American company, at least. After walking 10 minutes to get to the rental car area of the airport, we found 2 American car rental agencies to choose from. Avis had a line with 10 people waiting, Hertz had no line. I figured that after everything we had gone through, we deserved a break. I held my breath and asked Hertz if my reservation was with them. It was! Finally something good. After filling out the paperwork, we were on our way.

Traffic was heavy around Paris, but not too bad. There were a lot of trucks though and we missed our exit because the trucks were blocking the signs. After a little turning around, we ended up using GPS to get there- which I wanted to avoid because it would cost my cousin an arm and a leg. Luckily we were relatively close, so it was easy. We arrived at Giverny a couple of hours behind schedule and more than a little frustrated/tired/stressed.

Monet's gardens at Giverny are very relaxing and soothing, so our day turned around some. The gardens at Giverny are where you can find the famous waterlilies that Monet painted so many times in so many lights. It's pretty amazing; being in his garden is like being in one of his paintings.

Monet's house as seen through his gardens

One of the many walkways through the garden

One of the bridges on the pond

Another bridge on the pond

Close-up of the waterlilies

When we were finished touring his house and gardens, we had a quick snack and realized that at 5:15, we should start heading to the hotel, skipping the rest of the stops that we had scheduled for that day. This complicated things a little because our directions were no longer relevant. It actually worked out ok with the map. We had to stop a few times, but we only made one truly wrong turn and that was a pretty neat wrong turn to take. We ended up on a tiny country road in Normandy, going by tiny little villages, through tunnels, and along densely forested roads until we ended up at a sign that read "La plus petite mairie en France" The sign could mean either the smallest town or the smallest town hall in France. A Google search later proved it to be the smallest town hall in France, a 12foot x 12 foot building, in a village of 140 people. At this point, we decided that we had definitely taken a wrong turn and headed back the way we came. After asking directions a couple of times, we were on the right track.

We arrived at the hotel, got settled in and then had crepes for dinner at just about the only place still open in the town of Lisieux. The best way to end a rough day is definitely Nutella!

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