I last visited France in 1977 when I was 23 years old. It was my first trip to Europe and there was no Internet, so no economical way of staying in touch with family at home. My friend, Helen, and I left from Philadelphia with little more than a hotel reservation and our heavy suitcases…. no wheeled luggage back then. At the time there were few English speakers in France and few Parisians seemed to understand my high school French. But we muddled through and I fell in love with the beautiful city of light.
Fast forward almost 40 years and I was yearning for a return visit, but with a twist. Everything I have read and seen about the D-Day invasions at Normandy fascinated me. So this time around I wanted to venture to the cities and beaches of Normandy – Bayeux, Honfleur, Omaha Beach, and more.
June 8, 2017
After arrival at Charles De Gaulle airport on a sunny Thursday, I picked up a rental car and headed west. The GPS skillfuly guided me to my first stop – Giverny, the picturesque village where Claude Monet tended his home and famous garden. Like many sites in France, it was crowded. But if you love Monet’s work, it is worth a stop. The house is very interesting, but the gardens and pond are the stars of this show.
Then it was on to the city of Rouen, where I enjoyed the first of many meals at one of France’s ubiquitous outdoor cafes. At some point I will list the names of the cafes, restaurants, and brasseries that deserve to be named, but this little place in Rouen will remain anonymous. To stretch my legs, I decided to walk to the cathedral, one of several named Notre Dame in France. The frilly facade of Rouen’s cathedral is so captivating that Claude Monet created 30 different studies of it, capturing the light at different times of day.
By 4:00 I was cruising into Honfleur, a quaint harbor town where I would spend the night at the L’Absinthe Hotel. I had eaten lunch so late that I decided to skip dinner and go straight to dessert – crème glacée, AKA ice cream. This particular version was texturely different and very delicious. I followed it up with my first French blonde beer at a nearby cafe, and an early return to my hotel.
After 38 hours of travel with only 2 hours sleep, I will wish you good night. À bientôt.