I have recently set off for a month of fun, food and study. Currently in Paris commencing a 2-week program ‘Diploma Universitaire Du Gout, De La Gastronomie et des Arts de la Table’ which translates to ‘Diploma of Gastronomy, Table and Taste’.
“I’ve booked us on a cycling tour of Monet’s gardens” my London based friend advised once we had established she would travel to Paris with me for the weekend prior to my course starting. “What a fantastic idea” I exclaimed. Cruise along the cycle paths, enjoy a picnic in the park, spend time in the local market, well she did actually ask prior to booking if I would enjoy this and after reading the tour highlights, who wouldn’t be excited about such a glorious adventure. It was a marvellous day with just a moment or two of panic once reality checked in that I haven’t been on a push bike in 20 years, I’m not exactly Cordel Evans fitness level and we would be cycling along the road, real traffic, real French drivers.
We started the day walking from our hotel crossing the Seine with amazing views of the Eiffel Tour, stopping at a Patissiere for pain au chocolat and coffee, I would need all the energy I could muster before the day was out.
Travelling via coach to the village of Vernon, Normandy. Our first task was to spend 90 minutes in the local markets buying our lunch provisions. I was in heaven!
I was so impressed with folk, young, old, men, women all taking so much time and care in choosing the fresh produce, discussions were brisk ( I just wished I understood more French) it was certainly clear to me that it is very true how much importance the French place on their produce. I had a ball and even with my basic French, stall holders gave me much advise and encouragement that my choices were the perfect one – well I thought that was the intent, without speaking the language I can only assume to be frank. Newly purchased ‘French market basket’ loaded with goodies, mission accomplished.
Next stop, collect the bikes. In a flash we were off down the street, no helmets thank goodness as I was having a good hair day. Our guide Thomas told us we must ‘dominate’ that simply meant we had to give the drivers attitude and stand our ground on the roads. Riding through the town, surviving a few roundabouts, crossing the river Seine, we settled on the river banks to enjoy our lunch. Fresh local cider, well I needed a courage burst to continue, traditional baguette, 3 different cheese, jambon, foie gras, radishes and apples for afters. A picnic that will be long remembered.
The time had come for the hard work, a couple more roundabouts and then we were cruising along the cycle path to Giverny: OK to be fair there were a couple of shaky moments when I really had to channel my inner child and remember “I could do this”.
Arriving in one piece we were at ‘Monet’s Gardens’. Truly spectacular, Monet’s story is quite fascinating, learning a brief version of his life and the story surrounding his house has encouraged me to read a little more about the artist and his life. After obligatory souvenir shopping, yes I do need the calendar, fridge magnets, pens etc, sipping a cup of tea it was time to head back to Vernon.
“Don’t worry” said Thomas it is all down hill, except for a little rise over the bridge and in town. He failed to mention it was peak hour, and the ‘little rise’ was fine for his 6′ frame and fitness level. I did survive, although I’m sure that was due to that fact that I knew the only other option of peddling furiously was to allow the drivers to get the better of me, and regardless of the hills (my opinion of the ‘little rise’) roundabouts, my heavy breathing and jelly-like legs we all arrived safely back to return the bikes and coach back to Paris.
Ending an amazing day with a final walk back to the hotel, sunset across the Seine, sighting the Eiffel tower again. Feeling very thankful, for friendship, abundant food, wine, unforgettable scenery and experiences plus still being able to walk without too much pain was definitely a bonus.
Our trip was with http://www.fattiretours.com Our guide Thomas was extremely knowledgeable and made each one of us feel comfortable. The group was mixed of age, fitness level and country. I wasn’t the only 50 something, unfit adventurer. I would do it all again!