July 18, 2013

Last Days in France

“The rewards of the journey far outweigh the risk of leaving the harbor.”   Anonymous

Carol writes:  When we left Paris and headed north to the coast, I had the opportunity to get in one of my ‘wish list’ stops at Giverny, where the artist Claude Monet and his large family lived for 40 years in pastoral bliss.  The famous pond full of floating lilies that Monet painted obsessively in all kinds of lighting, in addition to the wonderful Walled Garden that he designed, were in splendid condition.  The garden contained every variety of perennial I could imagine, along with wonderful iron trellises of climbing roses.

The water garden with its stands of bamboo

and grand weeping willows along the edge of the pond of water lilies was a photographer’s paradise.  It was hard to stop taking pictures.

After Al had attempted half a dozen shots of me by experimenting with all kinds of camera settings, we finally got one that worked with me in the shade and the pond in the sun.  We could sort of imagine Monet’s fascination with the lighting at the pond.

Our guidebook pretty much gave the Monet house a pass, but that comment could have been written before the 2012 restorations were completed.  We thought the house was wonderful, especially the yellow dining room and the blue-tiled kitchen.  No photos were allowed in the house, so I have pulled up a few from the Internet.

After spending a few hours walking around Monet’s little corner of rural paradise, it was easy to see why he spent so many years of his life there and was so prolific and inspired in the new style of Impressionism.

DIEPPE:  Our next stop was on the coast in Dieppe, a destination not covered at all in our guidebook.  Nevertheless, we found Dieppe a very nice city in several ways.  Much like Honfleur, it had a very picturesque commercial and pleasure harbor

that has served as an inspiration for some of the same artists that painted in Honfleur.  Boudin, for one, painted the harbor with a viewpoint of the high ground with its conspicuous church.  Our camp for the night was just below this cliff.

Boudin's "The Entrée of the Harbor, Dieppe, 1896
Dieppe was also the site of an attempted landing that resulted in a tragic failure for the Allies in WW II.  On the beach there was a monument to the brave Scottish regiment that suffered terrible casualties in the failed raid.

The beach at Dieppe was not a typical sandy beach but was a small rounded-stone beach that somehow seemed more appropriate for a beach so far north.  It was very windy with lots of whitecaps out over the Channel, but that didn’t stop some very experienced surfers who went running barefoot over the stony beach and into the water to catch some pretty impressive waves.  Similar wind and wave conditions at Florida beaches would have definitely been “red flag” warnings.

We took about 3 days to saunter along the coast up to Calais to catch our ferry ride to Dover, England.  One night we stayed in a beach camp

with a town view of some impressive white cliffs overlooking the English Channel.

Sunset was a popular time for some quiet thoughts on the beach as the sun set over the English Channel.

The next two days were devoted to doing last-minute laundry and cleaning chores at two campgrounds out in the country.  The first night we had white cows, goats, donkeys and chickens as our neighbors.

The next night we had a most interesting stay on a farm where we were surrounded by fenced dairy cows and chickens running around at will.  One particular rooster with his companion hen was particularly vocal, and I predicted that rooster would be the one who would wake us up early the next morning.  That was an easy prediction; it was 6:30 a.m. when he greeted Al outside our bedroom window.


This morning we arrived in Calais and are parked for the day and most of the night in the ferry terminal parking lot.

The date is July 14th, France’s Bastille Day, the day that the French mark as the end of the monarchy and the beginning of the modern republic.  We’ve been told to expect fireworks along the harbor tonight.  Tomorrow at 5:40 a.m., our ferry will depart for its hour and a half crossing over the English Channel to Dover, England.   We can only wonder what adventures await us in the United Kingdom.

During our 8 weeks in France, we saw so many fabulous sites and met countless wonderful people of all nationalities along the road and in the campgrounds.  It is with lots of happy memories that we bid France a fond “au revoir.” 

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”   John A. Shedd 




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