Today was one of the longest, fun filled travel days in a long time.
Also today was the start of yet another long holiday weekend!
We started the morning early and got out of the house just before 9. We headed to pick up our rental car. It actually went very smoothly. Jer found a rental place on the outskirts of Paris by the A13 (the freeway), so he didn’t have to drive through the Arc de Triomphe.
Then we were on the road! We headed North West on A13 towards the Normandy region of France. On our way out, about an hour outside of Paris is Giverny, which is where Monet’s home and inspiration can be found. The weather was a little overcast and cold, which I think helped keep the crowds to a minimum. We parked and headed to Foundation Claude Monet. The line was surprisingly short, maybe 10 people in front of us, to pay the under 10 Euro charge to get in. It was totally worth it. The weather in France, in this area, has been unseasonablely cold, so not all the flowers were out in full force, but OMG this place is stunning. I can see how Monet was inspired all the time by living here. Here are a few pictures from our time in Giverny.
Strolling through the gardens
The famous water lilies
Looking back from the bridge
Kitchen in Monet’s house
We had a quick lunch then got back on the road. A note for all those driving in France, they love tolls. It really caught Jer and I off guard with the sheer number of tolls on the same road. So we didn’t have a lot of cash, and HSBC sucks, so we used our phones and found out that the ONLY HSBC was in Caen. Looks like we need to make a pit stop! (Side not this is a different Caen than the Cannes film festival, bummer)
We found the HSBC in the middle of town. Jer french-style parked (consists of parking in a no-parking zone with a minimum 1-2 tires on the sidewalk) to let me run the the ATM. I had bought Rick Steve’s France, on a recommendation from a colleague, and it is well worth the $15 on my Kindle. Rick told us about an old school fort a few minutes from our beloved HSBC. We figured, why not.
All I have to say, is Rick does not disappoint. We went to Le Chateau de Caen (Caen Castle). This place had so much history (and it was free to walk around, there are a few museums but we decided to skip them knowing what we had planned for tomorrow). We walked through the ruins of an 11th century castle which was built by William the Conquerer around 1060. We also went into la salle de I’Echiquier (The Exchequer Hall), which was built in 1120, and could totally have been the place of the Red Wedding (GoT reference, look it up, but not for those faint of heart). We had some beautiful views throughout the entire region. The Castle was built on the high ground strategically. Check it out for yourself below.
Church next to Caen Castle
View into the city of Caen from the castle
la salle de I’Echiquier
We then got back in the car to head to our hotel, well chateau. We stayed at Chateau de Sully. This place set the bar SO high for future hotel stays. I will get back to this in a little bit. After checking in, we headed into the near by town of Bayeux. Why you may ask, well Rick told us to. (We are now on a first name basis, Rick Steve and I). We parked downtown and headed into the city center to find Cathedrale de Bayeux, Paroisse Notre Dame. The city of Bayeux escaped bombing from D-Day as the priest at the Cathedral (somehow) got a message to London letting them know that the Germans had not set up shop in town and it was not a strategic strong hold. The priest (obviously) went down in history. This cathedral rivals the size and beauty of Notre Dame in Paris. It was breath taking. The church was built in the 11th century and it showed in all it’s old school glory. Some of the stain glass even lasted since the 13th centrury. Just think of how many people over that time have looked up at the pictures and scenes in the stained glass. Then in all the church’s 11th century glory, there is a crypt under the alter. There is so much cement that as soon as you are in the crypt, its a cell dead zone. I have to say, it was creepy (and a little smelly – old smelly). There were multiple angels painted in the pillars holding up the ceiling (and therefore the alter). On our way out, we stop, light a prayer candle, said a prayer for our friends and family at home, taking the whole experience in.
Cathedrale de Bayeux, Paroisse Notre Dame
Inside the Cathedral
Then we headed back to the Chateau for the evening. Ok, this Chateau is sick! I know I sound like a 6th grader, but its out of a story book. One of the reasons why Jer picked this place, is that is has a one Michelin star restaurant that only Chateau guests can eat at. We got the last table for Saturday when we checked in.
For dinner you ‘show up’ between 7 and 9 to have appetizers and aperitifs in the sun room, bar area or game room. Then you place your order before getting to the table. You can get items a-la-carte, a pre-fix menu that is actually reasonable priced, or just leave your life in the Chef’s hands with a tasting menu. We each picked a different pre-fix menu. I was in food heaven follow by a food coma. The food was magnfique! Dinner was also an experience, we sat down for appetizers in the sun room at 20:15 and we finished dessert at 23:45. Yes you read that right, a 3 and a half hour dinner. O and before dessert, there was a cheese tray of about 15 different types of cheese, all from the Normandy region, that you could choose to sample.
Here is a brief overview of dinner and some easy insight into why it took so long. They started by bringing fresh made bread (of course) with two different types of local butter. This was followed by a small soup with asparagus and lobster foam. Then they brought out something to cleanse the pallet which may have been one of the most interesting things. It was a small ball (which kind of looked like a powdered munchkin) that was told to be taken like a shot as once the harder outside shell melted there was a lemony liquor inside. Then it was on to our actual meals that we chose. We both had a starter of local red mullet, and then Jer had chosen an additional starter of local scallops which came out next. Jer also go two main courses so first to come out was the local lobster with local chorizo (the real reason he chose that one). Then onto my main course, the daily fish, which today consisted of two different kinds Cod and Sea Bream. Jer’s second main course was local filet.
I didn’t want to embarrass Jer with taking pictures of our food, so I only took pictures of dessert. I had a local apple dessert which consisted of apple ice cream, crusted cinnamon puff thing, and sugary goodness while Jer had a cylindrical looking small ice cream cone which had everything coffee flavored in it from ice cream to gelatin and everything in between. Also, we had dinner facing the back garden where we were able to watch the sun set through the trees. It was just magical.
Chateau de Sully
Appetizers and Aperitifs
We then tried to play some French pool, which was a lost cause (only 3 balls and no pockets to hit them into?), then headed for bed. We have a long day of museums and tours ahead of us tomorrow.