Our first berth outside Paris is Vernon, where we clawed our way on a road under repair to Claude Monet’s gardens at nearby Giverny. This is his home, the second most visited tourist site in France, where every day people flock to see the magical inspiration that he termed his “greatest masterpiece.”
The “masterpiece” quote refers not to art, but rather the flowering gardens of beauty, color, and light nurtured by his own hand. He worked them as delicately as his canvas creations.
Tip: Visit a museum to see Monet paintings; there are no original paintings at his home.
Having absorbed the aura of Monet’s impressionist setting, the tour group returns to port. By osmosis, it appears the same aura has been transferred to the ship, at least when viewed through the camera lens:
After Giverny, we hurry to the next port the same day: ¡Ándale! ¡Ándale! (not a French word!) we anchor in Les Andelys, which rhymes with ¡Ándale!.
A 300-foot hill holds ruins of a mammoth old castle drawing attention to history. Normandy is a land where war was waged long before the Allies on D-Day, so I begin to learn about the fights of French, English, and … Vikings(?).
Why was this castle built on this spot? It defended a border 1100 years ago for the territory of Normandy, which was not then part of France. The first ruler of Normandy was the Viking invader Rollo in the 9th century, who signed a treaty in 911 with King Charles III of “West Francia” and needed this castle to watch over his territorial boundary.
While U.S. history would highlight “on 9/11,” this place addresses “in 911.” One is the current century and the other backtracks across two turns-of-millennia. Each time visiting Europe I have to adjust; the entire text of American “history” is little more than “current events” on the timelines of this continent.