The French Countryside
Eure Valley & Haute Normandie
On our way to the b&b, we made a stop in Auvers-sur-Oise to see the home, Auberge Ravoux, where Vincent Van Gogh spent his final months. It was both a restaurant and boarding house/hotel when VG stayed and the tour guide told us that because VVG had so little money, he would sometimes use the tablecloths from the restaurant as his canvases. We saw VVG’s room (about the size of a standard closet), where he hobbled back after he shot himself in a nearby field and painfully suffered before he finally passed. Then we walked around the village, taking in the many sights that VG enjoyed and immortalized in his paintings (like the Romanesque/Gothic church shown below).
We also visited the cemetery where Vincent and his brother, Theo, rest side by side.
It felt like a true escape when we drove through the wisteria-covered gates, parked and took in the gorgeous view of our amazing b&b, La Buissonniere. We were greeted by the lovely hosts, husband and wife, Virginie and Frédérique, who welcomed us to our beautiful room. The view from our windows:
Frédérique recommended the nearby restaurant, Le Moulin de Fourges, (which was already on my itin!) for dinner and she kindly called over for us and booked us a reservation. The mill was designed by the same architects who designed the Queen’s Hamlet at Versailles (which I’m still swooning over!).
I really can’t express how beautiful the area was where we stayed. The definition of idyllic …
J&I must have sat watching the breeze make ripples in the water and listening to the frogs croak for at least half an hour. It was so gorgeous and crazy to know that Monet used to sit in the same(ish) place inspired by these same surroundings and paint for hours on end. The inside of his house was quite gorgeous, as well (too bad photos weren’t allowed!). If you google it, you can see the bright colors he boldly chose – so cheery!
We walked around the town of Giverny, visiting the church and grave of Claude Monet and ooohing and aaahing at all the beautiful homes. We stopped for lunch at Ancien Hotel Baudy (delicious) and then checked out the Museum of Impressionism which was small but enjoyable.
Day 3 – We headed out bright and early, fueled by a most excellent breakfast at the b&b, to check out a nearby flea market in Neaufles-Saint-Martin (second Sunday of May each year – 300ish Vendors, 8a-7p). The market sprawled throughout the town’s streets and most people set up tables right outside their house or in their garage. I found an amazing carved chair from the 1800s, several old French perfume bottles and a vintage snake necklace. After the flea market, we headed to Rouen:
Rouen is renowned for its well-preserved medieval architecture including half-timbered homes and buildings that are sprinkled generously throughout the city. The other claim to fame? Joan of Arc was imprisoned and burned at the stake here. There is a small memorial in the town center marking the spot of her death, which was creepy yet fascinating:
Below: La Tour de Jeanne d’Arc // The tower where Joan of Arc was imprisoned before her fiery death at the stake. It was truly surreal to walk up and down the same stairs that she had been forced to – incredible relic of history.
Day 4: A peaceful day exploring the nearby town of Vernon. I especially loved the old mill across the bridge:
As soon as we arrived, the winds picked up and the sky turned dark so we beelined for the nearest creperie and watched as it began to hail – yes, hail, in late May. Lucky for us, apres-crepes, the sun re-emerged and stayed with us all day:
There is also a unique wooden church near the central port that totally reminded me of Salem, Mass., for some reason:
Day 6: Lyons-la-Foret // Les Andelys // La Roche Guyon
I’m so glad we squeezed Les Andelys into our itin. It’s a charming little town with castle ruins looming above. The castle belonged, long ago, to Richard the Lionhearted. It was such a fun walk/climb to explore the ruins and the views made me think of Ireland just a little bit.
Above: The chateau of La Roche Guyon.
Below: Enjoying a mousse at Les Bords de Seine
Top Tips for France’s Eure Valley / Haute Normandie:
– La Buissonniere in Bus-Saint-Rémy. I really can’t recommend this b&b enough. It was truly the most wonderful experience. Kind and gracious hosts that enjoyed chatting with us and also made some fantastic breakfasts and gave out great travel and dining recs! Clean and charming accommodations. Idyllic setting and fabulous location for everything on our itin.
– Monet’s Gardens – a must if you’ve ever drooled over Monet’s waterlilies.
– Auvers-sur-Oise – a must if you’re a Van Gogh fanatic like myself.
– Le Moulin de FOURGES, 38 rue du Moulin; 27630 FOURGES, France. Fantastic food in a beyond-romantic setting. PS-They also do weddings here.
– The tower of Joan of Arc in Rouen. This may be one of the coolest, most moving places I have visited in Europe. Truly incredible that you can tour the tower where Joan was imprisoned and then take the walk to where she was burned to death. Horrifically moving. We watched The Messenger before going as a crash-refresher-course and to get in that state of mind.
– Honfleur. Grab a travel guide and check this adorable town out if you have the time. So glad we did.
– Les Andelys. Amazing views and intriguing ruins that are so different than the surrounding French landscapes.
– Auberge du Prieure Normand in Gasny – Our b&b hosts had recommended this lovely restaurant and, I have to say, if you ever find yourself anywhere near this little gem, you must find the time to enjoy 5 or 6 courses. Without a doubt, it is the best meal J&I have ever experienced in France and we’ve had our fair share! Oh, and the service was impeccable – attentive and prompt with the most charming Maitre D’ … I remember the escargot, cheese course and the Coupe Poire William dessert were seriously to die for!
Photography by Sarah Darcy of Classic Bride blog.