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Wednesday, July 5: Notes to self: if you ever return to Giverny by train, do it as a full day trip, or for at least two nights.  A single overnight, relying in public transportation around rigid B&B check-in and check-out times, was not enough to make this leg of the trip satisfying. In any case, if you do return to that same B&B, take a cab from the station rather than the bus to the Monet parking lot. Oh, and don’t bother trying to use the toilet at the Vernon train station.* And most importantly: watch where you step.

*Which is where you pay 30 cents to enter, see the flooded squat toilet, and flee in horror.

So. After another lovely breakfast at the hotel and last coffee with the breathtaking terrace view, I waved goodbye to the rooftops of Paris, and made my way to the Gare Saint-Lazare, where I played spot-the-pickpocket until it was time to board the train to Vernon/Giverny.

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(Photos of the Gare Saint-Lazare can be seen in Sailor Babo’s chronicles.  Can you spot the pickpocket?)

Riding a train through the French countryside has been on my list of things to do in life for quite some time. This one was a brief but pleasant introduction.

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Check-in at the bed and breakfast in Giverny was not until 15:00, so I had lunch at the cafe across from the Vernon station and tried to stay in the shade before catching the bus to Giverny. The Giverny bus stop was about a 25-minute walk to the B&B. I paused to hydrate and get my bearings among the nearby trees, began to stride toward the path, felt my foot catch on something unyielding, and went down. Hard. Face inches from a big rock as well as the sharp edge of the roadway. Weighted down by a backpack full of books (or were they bricks?), my chest compressed. It was quite frightening (as well as painful).

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I tripped and fell here.

A kind French family came to my assistance and made sure I didn’t need medical attention before they cycled off. After a brief cry, conscious breathing, gingerly getting back on my feet (my right knee took part of the brunt of the fall), and strapping back on the backpack, I slowly made my way to the B&B, showered, and then limped back to the Monet Foundation in time for a whole hour of garden-viewing before it closed. At least it was the quietest hour, apparently. And lovely enough to take away the pain.

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Dinner at a nearby creperie also helped heal my wounds, capped off by the third ice cream of the journey.

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I really need to learn not to order things with an egg on top.

Dinner was followed by the slowest walk of the day through the charming village of Giverny. At this hour the tourists were gone and the village was quiet, almost magical in the late afternoon shadows, only the pollinators busy doing their thing.

 

And finally there was the lovely garden view from my room for the night.

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Thursday, July 6: After a delicious breakfast shared with three boisterous women from Belgium, it was time to return to Paris to catch another train to Lyon. Aware of my injuries from yesterday’s fall, my kind hostess drove me to the Vernon train station, where I was able to catch an earlier train than originally planned, which was good since I got lost navigating the Saint-Lazare station to find the Metro line 14 to get to another station in Paris, the Gare de Lyon, where I got lost again finding the platform to the train to Lyon.  The extra layover time also allowed for a nice lunch at the station, complete with iconic snooty waiter (actually the first I have encountered so far in Paris).

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I was too full from the pasta I ate here to order ice cream.

 

From Paris, I took the high-speed TGV to Lyon, which turned out to be stopped on the edge Paris for an hour waiting for an accident down the line (yikes) to be cleared. But eventually we got going, and I enjoyed the view from a window seat on the upper level during the journey to Lyon.

Which brings us to Lyon.

Lyon was the city I really wanted to spend more than one overnight in on this journey, but my ballet tickets and squeezing in the overnight in Giverny made that impossible.

Lyon was the city in which I was looking forward to exploring the famed traboules for a couple of hours at least .

By the time the train finally made it to the station, given my injuries, Lyon had become the city in which I was looking forward to doing laundry at the hotel (I had booked a room near the train station) and getting a good night’s sleep.

Upon arrival, Lyon became the city with the overcrowded clusterfuck rail platform, the overcrowded confusing rail station, and highest temperature I experienced during the entire journey. The rail station with inadequate wayfinding signage (or maybe I just missed it in my desperation to escape, through what turned out to be the wrong side). Where the chain hotel I’d booked had several variants near the station, and naturally I followed the signs to the wrong one, lugging my bags of bricks in the heat through overcrowded rush hour traffic street construction six blocks to the wrong hotel, where I had a meltdown in the middle of a crosswalk on the way back to the station, crossed through to the other side, emerged still kind of crying, and finally arrived at the correct hotel, only to learn there were no laundry facilities, but oh well at least I had an air-conditioned room where I could do a little hand laundry and still get a good night’s sleep.

But then Lyon became the city where I found the bedbugs.

Baby bedbugs, otherwise known as nymphs.

Not in the bed, but on the back of the pants I had worn that day, and on the outside of my roller bag. (Yes, I was hauling one of those in addition to the backpack of bricks.) Five of them in total.

Thus Lyon became the city where I spent the night dismembering and carefully inspecting every item in my possession in search of more bedbugs, before a couple of hours of very low quality sleep.

I found no more evidence, so I hypothesized–or at least hoped–that they had hitched a ride on the last train I took that day and hadn’t made it inside my stuff. Fortunately I had several ziplock bags with me, and stashed what I was wearing in them to deal with later.

Friday, July 7: Lyon became the city which made me cry for the third and final time this journey. Or rather, the mean man at the Paul bakery/deli counter in the train station made me feel stupid enough for trying to speak French that I had a mini-meltdown in the the waiting area.

That was enough of Lyon for me.  It was a relief to board another TGV headed on to Milan. Although I was unable to find my reserved seat on that train, at least I found no more bedbugs, and no one kicked me out of the alternate seat I took.

Next stop, Milan …

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4 Comments

  1. Ouch. I winced, reading about your fall in Giverny. I immediately thought about my younger daughter falling and smashing her kneecap in London, and how scared and upset she was. Strangers can be amazingly kind when you’re traveling and need help, but still, that feeling of being so vulnerable at a time when you need all of your limbs and body in working order….

    The outlier region around Lyon was heavily in favor of Marie Le Pen during the last election: there was an ugly streak of populist xenophobia there, and I guess from your experience it’s still active, though I’m surprised it was right there at the train station. Lyon itself is very cosmopolitan, at least in my ancient memory.

    The need to carry my own luggage everywhere has made me hate books. I know I sound like a philistine, but after lugging 10 pounds of books all over a steamy afternoon in Manhattan during a book buying spree, I decided that a Kindle was the best way to read on a trip.

    Traveling abroad alone requires guts and gumption: I admire you for going to France on your quest for ballet and beauty.

    • Thanks, HG … I am totally on board with the idea of using a kindle next trip. But it’s hard not to buy books as souvenirs. Of course everything I brought home is now marinating in sealed bags fumigated with Ecoraider, just in case of any six-legged stowaways, and will probably emerge ruined (or at least wrinkly and reeking of Ecoraider). That’s interesting about Lyon; I hadn’t expected anti-tourist attitude there. I really didn’t give it a fair shot though, since I never left the vicinity of the train station (Part Dieu, east of the touristy part if town). I hope your daughter was able to enjoy London despite her scary fall.

      • I completely get the part about buying books as souvenirs. Every time I visit a museum or art show, I have to buy a catalog or book related to the art. On my last trip to New York however, I found myself mumbling, “It wasn’t a good idea to buy the complete works of Thoreau from the Morgan Library, knowing you have to walk eight blocks to meet someone at Times Square. In summer heat….”

        (I’m going to Portland in a couple of weeks to visit my younger daughter. It’ll be tough, but I’ve promised myself we are NOT going to Powell’s and I will NOT blow a hundred bucks on books.)

        Diana was leaving London to catch a flight to Denmark at Heathrow Airport when she tripped running to catch the train. She managed to hobble around Copenhagen for a day before her friend insisted she go to the ER on account of her knee swelling to the size of a small cantaloupe. The Danish doctor discovered she had split her kneecap into three parts and would need surgery to piece it back together. Did she cancel her trip and go home right after that? Noooo: she stayed the additional three days and saw the sights on crutches, with her knee strapped in a brace. I should add her friend in Copenhagen was living in an apartment up a flight of stairs. (-_-) She has more courage than me, I will say. I would have run home crying after that fall by the train station in London.

        • Maybe the thing to do is have the museum ship books home (at least domestically).

          Ouch, poor Diana!

          The bedbug thing complicated books as luggage… am excited today to remove my books (and dirty clothes, etc.) from the airtight sprayed-down quarantine they’ve been in since I returned. The books are likely to be slightly ruined from that, though.

          Hope you had (or are still having) a wonderful visit to Portland! And Powells definitely ships, for not very much!


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