Giverny

IMG_4926While in France, we took a jaunt to the beautiful Giverny for a day. Giverny is a tiny little hamlet about an hour north of Paris, population 502. It is best known for being the home of the acclaimed painter, Claude Monet.

Linnea in Monet's GardensAs an eight-year-old I had a freakish love affair with Monet’s work. I read Linnea in Monet’s Garden about ten times… like, a week. Piles of birthday gifts were dedicated to Monet posters, Monet books, Monet postcards, you know, Monet. While other kids were getting rollerblades, I was getting Monet’s Bridge magnets – and was happy about it. Next time I complain about how no one liked me as a kid, remind me about my Monet collection. It will promptly shut me up.

So given the chance to finally visit his home and see his extolled gardens, obviously the eight-year-old in me spoke up and Evan and I took the train (way to go, Europe!) upwards. There’s this lovely option of being able to rent bikes from the train station and bike the four miles to Monet’s home, but it was very chilly and rainy and we forewent the bike ride for the bus, which takes the same route.

Evan and I were oh, about 40 years junior the youngest of tourists on the bus, but we fit in well enough and were delighted to schmooze with our fellow travelers. A lovely group of cluckety women with short silver haircuts and fanny-packs cooed over us when they figured out we were from their home-country. They fawned over our youth and confessed apologetically with lovable Southern accents, “Well honey, we’re from Texas. But we don’t have Texas politics!” (We hadn’t asked.)

Monet’s home and gardens were, I admit, oppressively touristy. The bridge was clearly rebuilt (and.. plastic?) and his home has been redecorated and painted, if I may say so, hideously. But the acres of gardens were absolutely glorious. It smelled unearthly (and, you know, earthly) and was really satisfactorily organized by color feeding the OCD in me. It was quite enchanting indeed.IMG_4893

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Here’s Evan enjoying a light Frenchy snack in the middle of our stroll.

IMG_4941Oh, and for lunch – pure joy. We had crêpes, one with goat cheese and honey, and the other with apple and camembert, a salad with tomatoes and a mustardy dressing, and kirs, one black currant and one peach. All in the cozy backyard of Monet’s classic landscapes.

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Paris in the (rather chilly) Springtime

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Six months of French lessons in preparation for our trip did nothing for me.

Well, not exactly nothing: I learned how to order a meal. And thus, I ordered many.

The first and most important thing upon exiting the Chunnel, and at the start of each day thereafter, was to find pastry. We lingered outside (and inside) patisseries wasting hours of our trip, sniffing the air like German Shepherds at the airport. I confess that we have almost no pictures of pastries, because they were gone before the camera could make it out of the bag. But we ate ample amounts of: croissants, croissants aux amandes, beignets, éclairs, something called an etoil… pretty much anything made with butter and sugar.

Oh, and cheese.

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IMG_4993So much cheese.

My stomach has never had it so rough. And so happy.

There were some tricky scenarios à Paris. As I suggested in the London Called post, Evan gave up vegetarianism for our trip so he could get the full range of European cuisine. I was never one to believe that the French are rude – and I still don’t. But if anything incurs the wrath of a Francophone, it is most certainly asking – in broken French, no less – if there’s anything on the menu without meat, or if something can be served “Sans viande, s’il vous plaît?” It was humbling.

Evan enjoyed some stunning meals of pretty much any animal he could get his hands on. Take this steak tartare from Bistrot Victoires with absolutely the best french fries that have ever graced my mouth’s vicinity.

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I ate the closest I could come to a vegetarian meal at Bistrot Victoires: pasta “sans jambon.” This quickly became a recurring theme: pasta and salads. Finding authentically French food that is also vegetarian was not an easy feat. Mostly it was bread and cheese and pastry – not that I’m complaining, of course. But while restaurant fare is carne-copious, it was clear that vegetables are a consistent part of the French diet (as is moderation – oops).

While we mostly ate out, we did have access to a kitchen and were able to utilize the amazing street markets for a couple of home-cooked meals. Our trip overlapped pleasantly with asparagus season, and the scene below could be seen on almost every corner. (Check out the teenie-weenie ones!)

IMG_4994The local restaurants were really consistent in offering seasonal ingredients, and everywhere we went was offering asparagus in some form or another. Below is ricotta with asparagus and cherry tomatoes, and two surprise gazpachos (identities of which are still ambiguous).

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At-home eating in France, from what we could gather, is also predominantly seasonal vegetables, and meat and starches tended to be a side note. We, of course, ate mostly out so didn’t get too much exposure to the homebody. So as a vegetarian who avoids dairy in her daily life, it was as much of an adventure in cuisine for me as it was for Evan stuffing his face with raw cow.

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IMG_5000And I would be remiss if I neglected to mention desserts. Our favorite thing to do after a meal was to order the café gourmand, which is positively the best plan ever. Three to four mignardises (sample-size desserts) and an espresso. I mean, really? France, you are so much better than everyone.

IMG_5192Oh, and um profiteroles… obviously…

941787_10101506488461850_523330829_nParis, as always, you are magical and full of fantasy and romance. See you again soon.

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