Last week, my mom and I decided to take Zephyr to Giverny. My mother had never been and I had gone with Zephyr only the one time, while he was still in utero. I was pretty sure he wouldn’t remember anything about our first trip, which was nearly a year ago to the day, 366 days to be exact, from when Zephyr and I returned with his grandma and stepped foot back into the picturesque town of Giverny.
Giverny, if you haven’t been, is something like Carmel in California. Like Carmel, it’s got a reputation for art and plays home to an abundance of private studios and tiny galleries tucked in the stone villas dotting the green countryside. Artists both live here and make their own sort of pilgrimage here to work in the studios on a retreat at one of the art colonies. The general vibe is a bit upscale, classically bobo, as the French might say.
The big draw here, of course, are the gardens of Claude Monet. It was here that he painted his famous Impressionist “waterlilies” cycle. This cycle of eight humungous, wall-size canvases hang in in the Orangerie Museum on the opposite side of the Tuileries Gardens from the Louvre near Concord. Either before or after a visit, a tour of these paintings is an absolute must. Sure, there is a virtual tour available, but it’s just not the same as witnessing these colossal masterpieces in person.
Giverny is about an hour outside of Paris. To get there, you have to head to the St. Lazare train station and catch one of the trains to Vernon that leave just about every hour. At Vernon, there are buses (8 Euros, roundtrip) or bike rentals (12 Euros for the day) you can hump the rest of the 3 miles or so to Giverny, the next village over. Monet’s house and gardens are impossible to miss.
Needless to say, the first trip to Giverny when Zef was still in utero was way easier. Amina was only a few months pregnant so we skipped the bus and the bikes and decided to walk to Giverny. The sky was blue, the wind light, the sun not too strong. In short, the weather was perfect for a long walk and the town of Vernon, with its medieval heart, and the countryside walk over the river, past the old windmill and the castle that once stood watch over this border of Normandy, was a fresh breath from the urban hustle of Paris.
For this trip, the weather was much the same and my mom, Zef and I braved the #80 bus to St. Lazare, stroller and all, and then boarded the first train for Vernon. We arrived just a few minutes before the train left. I asked the attendant if we could just buy a ticket on board. He said that we could, though there was a surcharge of a few Euros to do this. We boarded the train, spooned Zef’s lunch into his mouth, and waited for the controller to come so we could buy our tickets. The controller never came. Free ride!
On the bus to Giverny, we met people from around the world, Washington D.C., Japan, China and, of course, France, who smiled and cooed with Zephyr. A mother and daughter held him for a little while and took selfies as we talked about our favorite things to do around Paris.
At Monet’s Gardens, we were happy to find out that there is a little special treatment for people with wheelchairs and strollers. After buying your tickets, you are directed to another entrance at the bottom of the gardens and, even better, there are guards who will open a gate that lets you bypass a flight of stairs going down and then up, beneath the road that divides Monet’s house from the Water Garden. We quickly made our way to the waterlily pond and took plenty of selfies ourselves among the gardens that Monet called his real masterpiece.
Of course, no trip around Paris or its environs would be complete without Zef taking a big poop. And we’re talking BIG! One of those poops that manage to escape the confines of the lining of the Pampers and run down his legs. Unfortunately, the house and gardens don’t have a changing table for babies so Zef and I had to wing it (again) and use the toilet seat in the mens room as a changing table. Desperate needs, and all. Also, there was no warm water so it was a cold cleanup for the baby, which, as you might imagine, led to a few shrieks.
We were changing him on our way out of the gardens and on our way to lunch. It’s too bad we didn’t yet know about the great little crepe restaurant, La Musardière, just down the road that sports a solid changing station. It helps that their galettes (savory, delicious buckwheat crepes) are delicious as well.
With Zef getting napping in his stroller and the day winding down, we didn’t have time to tour the rest of Giverny, with all of its little art galleries and Monet’s flower-strewn final resting place tucked among its cobblestone roads. Instead, we made our way for the return bus and reunited with the mother and daughter who took selfies with Zef and chatted not he way back to Vernon.
At the Vernon train station on the way back, we bypassed the long lines of people queuing to purchase return tickets for Paris and thought we would by tickets from the controller if he passed by. The controller didn’t. So we rode for free back to Paris in a car where the air conditioning wasn’t working, so we sat in puddles of our own sweat as Zef cooed and smiled at more strangers, these from Korea, seemingly making friends wherever he goes.