We left off on our last post when we were house sitting in the little French village of Lerrain. We loved that experience and we are hooked on house sitting. If we could do that long term we would… but we have a boat to get back to!
After leaving Lerrain we had a 6-hour drive west to Brittany. We zeroed in on the town of Carnac. I’d heard some cool things about the ancient standing stones – menhirs and tumuli – evidence of Europe’s early human civilization. We explored, ate lots of fresh seafood and learned about the largest standing stone formation in the world! WHO KNEW! The “Alignments” are a collection of aligned standing stones which stretch over 5 Km in length and are made up of rows of standing stones. The current theory puts their age at around 4,000 BC and the function of them as a lunar calendar. It was just lovely to be on the beach as well. While there we met up with Cameron’s parents!
Soon after their arrival, we drove a few hours north to the small village of Antrain. Antrain doesn’t have tons to offer in itself, but the little house we stayed in was so precious and Antrain was a great jumping off point to check out Mont St. Michelle as well as St. Malo and surrounding seaside villages like Cancale.
On our way to Antrain, we stopped at a very fun Demonstration farm called Poul Fetan where they are keeping the middle ages alive, teaching people about the old ways and preserving heritage breeds of farm animals as well as crops. I was like a kid in a candy store learning about what everyday life was like. They had a wonderful interpretive audio guide and we even got to watch butter being made by hand AND we got to eat it… try that in the states…
Antrain was lovely and mainly because we had a sweet little house, Doug and Barbara are always wonderful to be with and we got to see some pretty great sights. While I’m glad I got to see Mont St. Michelle, I don’t know if I ever need to fight the crowds up that tiny medieval village road ever again. The Abby was amazing and we enjoyed learning the history of the place… but the crowds were crazy…. It was too much.
From Antrain we drove north to Normandy and settled in at a lovely little hotel in Bayeux. We were all giddy to meet up with my sister, brother-in-law, and niece. We met up with a total of 20 people (including Doug and Barbara) with whom we were about to embark on an educational and emotional journey through the history of World War II. Carver McGriff, a close family friend had been in the infantry and fought in the hedgerows of Normandy immediately following D-Day. Carver guided us on this journey, sharing his personal stories as well as his perspective on the larger story. He even shared a little ditty he learned in a pub at the time. The kids weren’t allowed to be present during his rendition of it. He and his lovely wife Marianne curated our experience beautifully, taking us to many important places related to the war as well as Carver’s own personal story. I can’t fully express how impactful this time was for all of us. It was an experience we feel so thankful to have had.
It was go-go-go while we were in Bayeux. There was so much to see and learn and we didn’t let any opportunity pass us by. But, by the end of it most of our family was fighting off colds and we were ready for some downtime. We headed off with my sister and her family to La Roche-Guyon, a small village near Giverny where we planned to tour Monet’s Garden. We had several relaxing days, the cousins spent tons of time jumping on the trampoline overlooking the Seine while Karen, Daniel, Cameron and I cooked, rested and made infrequent hikes down to the little village to refill our stores of bread, cider and cheese.
We all squeezed into a little 7 seater car with all our luggage! If you look closely, you can see everyone in this fuzzy photo.
Daniel was looking very dapper the whole time and Karen and I happily sipped lots of Kire Normand at every stop. We had a ball.
Once we’d seen Monte’s garden (amazing), it was time to head back to Paris for a few days to soak up the city, eat some yummy food and drop in on a few museums. We stayed in the Montmartre district which we loved. We were in easy reach of the Sacre Coeur and just off of a wonderful little shopping district with great boulangeries, restaurants and dress shops. The highlight was going to L’Orangerie early in the morning and being first in line to walk in and experience Monet’s huge water Lilly paintings.
While in Paris we ran into a celebrity! While walking down to the market we ran into the YouTube star Alice, from Alice in Paris. After binging several episodes of her show in preparation for our time in Paris it was so much fun to see her on the street and say “hello”. She was so sweet and seemed rather pleased to have been recognized.
Fun things we learned along the way:
- Monet was a huge collector of Japanese prints… well, that makes sense!
- There is a large subculture in Europe of veteran groupies who dress up like they are American soldiers in 1944, drive around in vintage army jeeps and chase after 95-year-old veterans asking for their autograph. We didn’t expect that.
- If you can afford the airfare, a rental car, and your food, you can live for free by house sitting around the world… more to come on this in future blog posts.
- Rick Steves is the bomb… I love his walking tours
- Not all HomeAway/VRBOs in Europe have TP and garbage bags.
- Kir Normand is my new favorite aperitif.