May 18, 2007 – Giverny, Monet’s Gardens, Les Andelys
I awoke too late for breakfast on the plane so I was starving as we set out. We grabbed our luggage with no problems and the rental car process was the speediest I can remember in Europe. We jumped on the highway and realized we didn’t really know where we were going, so we stopped at a gas station, split a croissant and downed two quick coffees, bought a map, and then made our way to Les Andyles by 9am.
Since it was still too early to check in, we jmped back in the car and headed to Giverny to visit Monet’s gardens, a lush overgrown place bursting with color and sporting an orchestra of singing birds. The tiny town of Giverny is home to the Ancien Hotel Baudy where painters and friends of Monet use to hang out, and we had lunch outside.
I had to start my vacation with my favorite of all French creations, Salad Chevre Chaud – greens with a simple vinaigrette, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers with toast just oozing with melted goat cheese and in this case accompanied by a heaping mound of crispy pan-fried potatoes. To wash it down, my first coupe du Champagne of the trip.
It was still early when we left Giverny so we crossed the Seine to the small town of Vernon, only to have our Hertz car break down. We sat at Le Paris Plage for 2 hours waiting for a mechanic to show up and just dying for a bed to nap. When we finally checked in to our hotel, La Chaine d’Or in Petit Andyles, we were delighted to find we had a rather large suite overlooking the Seine river that winds through the tiny town. La Chaine d’Or happens to have an excellent destination restaurant, and our first dinner didn’t disappoint:
Amuse Bouche: some sort of vegetable mousse
Sweetbreads seared with shallots and served with two deep-fried eggs that were still soft in the center and caramelized mushrooms (I know it sounds gross but it was sinfully good!)
Sea breem with baby vegetables
Cheese: epoisses, Camembert, and an aged Chevre
Apple tart flamed table side in Calvados with caramel (our first introduction to the cuisine of Normandy, the only part of France where grapes are not grown, but where the apple is king, whether it’s hard apple cider, Calvados, or the classic apple tart)
We hit the bed exhausted…