Monday, February 27, 2012

France - Giverny and Entering Paris

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Photo credit: Cooking Weekends

30 miles, Tuesday, August 2

Breakfast was a lengthy affair, flipping crepes on a one burner stove to satisfy two touring cyclists, but Andy was in heaven. Instead of syrup, apricot jam and camembert provided a delicious and filling topping.

On the way to Vernon we purchased two more maps, enough to round out the journey to Paris and northward to Belgium. While it’s true that beauty lies in the journey the European facet of our adventure is limited to 6 months and we’re always looking ahead. Andy and I love to pour over maps in the evenings.

Admission to Monet's Garden and the fantastic American Museum.
I am fascinated with Impressionism. For that artistic period in the late 1800s Claude Monet was one of a handful of artists who became famous in his lifetime, culminating his work with the water lily series, done at his residence. His property in Giverny covers several acres, bordering the Seine and the center of town. Rightfully, this is a busy place so we attended the artist’s grave at a church before the crowds thinned at the garden. At the pond where his famous work was done, I was euphoric. Lily pads still float like islands in the water. The willows, oaks, and flowers filter the hot summer sun. It’s easy to imagine how the serenity and light in the garden influence the colors he portrays so well on canvas. After 150 years, thanks to gardeners, the preservation is a testament to the lasting memory of an incredible French painter.
1903 Water Lilies (clouds) Photo credit: Web Museum Paris

By late afternoon we leapfrogged over the Seine again and climbed through a hot landscape with few trees, passing in and out of small villages. At 8 pm. we pulled into a campground, ready for a hot shower. In our crude French we verbally confirm the price. Andy scribbles the number on paper, disbelieving the 130 Francs (25.00 USD). The cost was twice what we expected. Disgusted, we continue on.  We ate dinner on the road and dashed off the highway after dark to try fee camping, erecting the tent on the edge of a field. We were sticky, but soon fell asleep. I worried the camping fee was indicative of more to come.

 Bois de Boulogne park and camping. Photo credit: Reissen aus Leidenschaft

45 miles, Wednesday, August 3

I woke to the first glow of light. The crickets chirped softly, something I’d never noticed before. I stretched out a pain in my shoulder blades. We’d slept upon hard cracked earth, bordering a newly plowed field. We began packing, catching whiffs of something wretched. Finally, a thawed package of spinach was unearthed, something we’d originally hoped to include with dinner before plans had abruptly changed.

We loved pedaling in the cool, quiet dawn. The towns began to slowly waken. Women shuffled into the street in their bathrobes; roosters crowed; farm machinery chugged to life, and eventually automobiles sped down the narrow roads towards the city. The clear sky promised another muggy day as we cycled toward the hazy Paris skyline.

Entrance to Bois de Boulogne campground. Photo credit: Beers and Beans

A map was cinched onto Andy’s rear baggage. I followed and at crossroads had easy access to navigate the next stretch of highway. In this manner we managed to enter the west side of Paris without a hitch while cycling comfortable roads.

The Bois de Boulogne campground displayed a “full” sign and we’re initially troubled, but upon inquiry discovered they’ll take as many backpackers and cycle tourists as will fit. And, the fee fit our wallet. The site is ¾ of a mile long on the banks of the Seine River, clearly the largest campground we’d yet encountered. A supermarche, restaurant, bar, information center, and phone booths are sprinkled among the sea of campers. A literal wall to wall encampment of tents fills our corner and we squeeze in the yellow tent, nearly overlapping stakes with others. It’s a welcoming bunch of international bike riders. A profusion of languages fly on the hot air, mingling with noisy traffic. We quickly befriend Scottish and Dutch travelers, getting tips for tomorrow’s Parisian adventure.

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