Sunday, March 31, 2013

"Corporal Le Beau is Giving Us an Exhibition"**

                                 Andre, aka LeBeau

My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece”
― Claude Monet

Northern France has apparently forgotten that spring started a few weeks ago. While the temperatures in Paris were in the low 50s when we arrived last week, the highs in Vernon and Rouen have been low 40s. Those 10-12 degrees make a huge difference especially when one's blood is pretty thin after living in the desert for years.

It was rather cloudy yesterday as we headed toward Vernon, a town north of Paris.  The ship cruised into port a little early, and we were able to go into town for a bit before our scheduled excursion to Giverny, home to Claude Monet's home and gardens.  Five minutes after we left the ship, I knew I wasn't going to last very long.

"Holy crap!" I said to Mike. "Who turned off the heat?"  (Side note:  Said in jest, my innocent question would later prove to be prophetic.)  Luckily, we had both brought hats with us, but unluckily, we had not put them on before we left the ship. Within 10 minutes, we were frozen solid.

"I'm not going to last if the weather continues like this," I added.  "Going through Giverny will be murder."  We happened to notice a market in the main square in Vernon, and headed that way to look for gloves.  We each bought a pair and headed back to the ship less than an hour after leaving it.

We went to Giverny — hats, gloves, scarves, and three layers of clothes under our jackets — a little after 1:00.  The weather was still way too cold, but over 100 passengers and guides headed to Giverny to pay troop through Monet's property. Our guide was Andre (above) whom Mike immediately christened "LeBeau" after the French corporal character on "Hogan's Heroes."

 Creek through the Japanese Garden

"LeBeau! Let's go!" called my dear spouse in a French accent.  "It's cold. We must move fast."  LeBeau either ignored Mike or had no idea Mike was talking to him, but he took his time getting the 18 of our group together and moving us across to the Monet property.

"We wheel entaire de garden first," said LeBeau. "I geev you zee teek-et to get een, an' you vill need to keep eet to get een zee houz."

"I vill take zee teek-et fare my wifes, too," exclaimed my suddenly French husband.  A confused LeBeau looked at Mike and handed him the tickets.  "Zank you, LeBeau."  I was, at this point, laughing so hard I could barely aim the camera at what was Monet's supposed garden.  (Below)

"What's wrong with Chris?" our new Australian friend, Steve, asked his wife when he saw me doubled over.

"She can't look at LeBeau without laughing," said Carol, his wife.

   The Main Garden with Monet's House in the background

LeBeau guided us through the Japanese garden and the main garden before taking us to the house.

While I was excited to have the opportunity to go to Giverny, I was bit disappointed that we didn't get to see many flowers.  There were few lily pads on the pond, and a few daffodils ("zhon-queels," according to LeBeau) and forget-me-nots in the garden (above).  Other than that, there was little color around.

"Ve are un-looky because eet eez code an' cloody today," said LeBeau, "an' ve dough'n see zee flow=airs.  But eet eez goot to keep zee toe-reests avay. I pro-meez zat zee zun vill come out."

"Ven, LeBeau? Ven?" Guess who asked that.

"Shree-foorty-fives. Ve meet zen to go to zee moo-zeem," answered LeBeau thinking that Mike was asking when we'd meet as a group after exploring the house and tiny town.  Sigh.

                              Monet's Grave

Grateful to have a few minutes to get out of the cold, we walked through Monet's large house.  Interestingly, the house is quite wide, but it is only one room deep.  Monet's former studio is now a gift shop filled with over-priced items (How does a 320 euro scarf sound?) and held little interest for us, so we walked outside.  Low and behold, the sun came out (It was still too cold, though.).

Giverny is one street (Rue Claude Monet) long (maybe 1/2 mile or less), and a few tiny roads branch off from it. About 200 people live there, and most make their living either as artists, B&B owners, gallery/shop owners or staff at the Monet house. It's a charming village filled with stone houses, friendly people and dogs (Surprised that I noticed that?).

I was glad that we had the opportunity to go, but I questioned whether the flowers were actually blooming given the cold weather France has had this winter (According to Euronews, this is the coldest winter since 1939.).  I had the distinct feeling that the house gardeners planted some of the flowers just so tourists brave enough to tour the place this early would see some of the beauty that inspired Monet. Who knows? 

At any rate, by the time we got back to the ship around 6:00 pm, we were all quite cold (Frozen is probably an understatement.).  Even though we had on layers, Mike and I put even more clothing on when we got back to our room. I was considering taking a hot shower when our cruise director took to the airwaves.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I'm sorry to tell you that we have no hot water and no heat right now," said John Riley less than 24 hours after he made fun of Carnival Cruise Lines for having problems on several of their ships. "The captain and chief engineer are working very hard to remedy the problem and hope to have everything fixed by the time we are in Rouen tonight."

The heat came on several hours later, and when we arrived in Rouen around 10, engineers from the city came on board to help figure out what was going on. Thankfully, we had hot water when we woke up this morning.  

Karma is such a b!+(#.

Tomorrow: We make macarons on Easter Sunday.

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