- Published: Sunday, 11 June 2017 18:19
BEAULIEU TRAVELLERS RETURN FROM THEIR TRIP TO NORTHERN FRANCE TO VISIT GIVERNY, ROUEN AND VERSAILLES
Our enthusiastic band set off on their adventures to Northern France at 6 a.m. from Beaulieu Abbey Church carpark on Monday 15th May. Our coach took us to Portsmouth from where we enjoyed an uneventful and easy crossing to Caen and a pretty drive to Evreux, the old capital of Normandy, where our group of 24 stayed for the visit.
All our trips, while we were in Northern France, were about one hour’s drive from Evreux. So, on our first day we headed towards Giverny and the stunning gardens created by Claude Monet (1840-1926) which he painted many times during all seasons of the year in different lights.
This was really overwhelming in both its symmetry and wild abandon. A formal garden was laid out in front of the house and then beyond this was the wild garden with ponds, wilderness and, of course, water lilies and the famous Japanese bridge. We were a little early for the water lilies to be in bloom. However, beautiful sunshine and a sympathetically described talk by our guide Ariane brought the gardens and Monet’s story to life. He was an extraordinary painter, perhaps the first Impressionist, and a visionary gardener leaving a legacy for everyone to enjoy.
We all visited his house, too, appreciating the welcome of a sunshine yellow kitchen and his spacious studio with the glorious views of the garden.
Each day we visited a new destination so, on Wednesday, we found ourselves on the way to Rouen, the medieval town which welcomed us into the iconic and historic story of Jeanne d’Arc, (1412-1431). The newly opened museum graphically shared her story in son et lumière. We visited the ruins of the old church in the square where Joan had been burnt at the stake by the English following her capture, imprisonment and trial after failing to take Paris for her King. The guilty verdict to the charge of blasphemy was reversed in later years. Clearly a powerful character had been at work but much of her story still raises questions although her trial is fully documented and was a widespread attraction at the time. In this square, adjacent to the fascinating building of the covered market, there is now a small, new, modern church, incorporating some of the ancient glass.
The medieval town of Rouen has many extraordinary half-timbered buildings and the great height of the Cathedral welcomes you into its vast space with its variety of windows of which some are old, some new and some clear. Again, ancient glass has been well used. The restoration work achieved since the heavy bombing of WW 2 is absolutely superb. Many of the sculptures originally on the outside walls are now housed inside. One tomb we found fascinating was that of our King Richard the Lionheart which, apparently, houses just his heart.
Our third and last day was spent sharing the excesses of the Sun King at Versailles. Originally a hunting lodge, when Louis XIV (1638-1715) moved the French Court from Paris out to the wild and extensive area around Versailles, it is now overwhelming opulence. He would have had no idea that later that century would see the French Revolution and the end of the French Monarchy. This would have been an unthinkable idea for a man who considered himself an absolute monarch with his power coming directly from God.
Much of the outside is in the process of being re gilded and certainly shone brightly in the sunshine. We all enjoyed the magnificent rooms and pictures in the palace while the uncrowded gardens gave light relief. A small train took in a visit to the Grand and Petit Trianon, Marie Antoinette’s own estate in the palace grounds. Some of the group were very impressed by the mews which housed a variety of coaches and carriages.
Our last jolly evening was spent all dining together in La Gazette in Evreux, a most enjoyable French restaurant with a delicious menu including amuse bouches and macarons.
During our return trip to Caen we stopped for light lunches in an extremely quiet , very old, small village named Beuvron-en-Auge. Then it was on to the ferry for the return crossing, which was as smooth as the outbound, followed by Dave’s last duty of getting us back to Beaulieu by 10.30 p.m.
The 24 of us who travelled on this journey of adventure felt that we had experienced a very enjoyable blend of culture, religion, history, art, horticulture, gastronomy, laughter and special friendship. A truly special mix in a short few days.