Thursday, February 14, 2008

Monet and Richard the Lion Heart

Breakfast consisted of ham, cheese and bread. The coffee was a dark roast which reminded us of good New Orleans coffee but we would soon tire of this standard French breakfast.

It’s Sunday and we headed out to Monet’s house. Monet’s garden was on my list of “things to see before you die”.

Monet was probably one of those guys that the towns people loved to hate. He brought in the artistic riff raff from Paris, turning a peaceful country town into the hippie haven of the time. And he was a cantankerous and demanding old fart. While he hired the locals to work on his garden, being an artist, he was probably merciless in his micro-management of their labor. But they love him now and have built a major tourism industry around him.

The surprise was that his house displays what may be the largest collection of Japanese wood block prints outside of Japan. He became infatuated with Japanese woodblock prints and became an avid collector. Hokusai, Hiroshige, Utamaru…they are all here and fill the walls in every room. And the bonus was that we even saw a print that we have in the small collection that I acquired years ago when I lived in Japan.

The house and garden took about half of the day, so after lunch we set out to find Richard the Lion Heart’s castle. Normandy had been swapped between England and France since Guillame le Conquerant won the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Richard the Lion Heart built a castle overlooking the Seine River in the year 1098. The ruins are still there. Of course, the original reason for the location was to be able to see long distances and observe anyone trying to attack. But now it is simply one of the best views in the Seine River valley.

After exploring the ruins, we looked for a place to buy a cold drink. However, it was France and it was Sunday and everything, including McDonalds and gas stations, were closed. We were lucky to find a small restaurant near Giverny open for dinner that evening where we ate a romantic dinner under the stars.

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