Road Trip Day 1 – Giverny and Rouen

Late Summer at Giverny

My best friend Natalie and I decided to take a quick 4-day road trip through France, more specifically, Normandy.  What follows is an account of the events, sights, and stories that took place.  This is just part 1, you can read day 2 here and day 3 HERE.

Day 1 technically began with an extremely early wake-up alarm, a bus ride, lengthy walk to the car rental office, and subsequent loss of direction.  Somehow, we ended up on the wrong motorway about 20 minutes into the trip, but with a bit of spontaneous redirection, we were able to get back on track.  It seemed this first mishap would set the tone for the rest of the trip, as we became lost – without fail – every single time we turned the car engine on.  More on that later…

Our first real stop (if you don’t count a McDonald’s egg McMuffin pitstop), was Giverny!  It was my second time there, and it was just as beautiful as the first.  Last time, it was early spring, the garden overflowing with multicolored tulips.  This time around, it was late summer, so the greenery was much taller, much more overgrown, and the dominant flower was the Dahlia.  Dahlias as big as your head, no joke.  Here I have inserted Natalie’s hand for reference.

Big Pink Dahlias at GivernyIt was so cool to see the dramatic differences between early spring and late summer.  It made me think for a moment about taking up gardening as a hobby.  I think that’ll have to wait until we have more outside space though… Currently all we have are a couple window ledges, which I suppose I could make some use of… hmmm
Late Summer at GivernyLate Summer at GivernyI tried to restrain myself with the close-ups of flowers – last time I went, I ended up posting about a thousand.
Pink Dahlias at GivernyLate Summer at Giverny lily pondMe at GivernyYou’re technically not supposed to take pictures inside Monet’s house, but I just couldn’t help myself!  Those copper pots!
Monet's Kitchen at Giverny

After reluctantly leaving the peace of Giverny, we made our way over to Rouen.  Now, the last time I was in Rouen, I was about 15 years old, so of course, my memory was a bit fuzzy.  I will say that Rouen didn’t quite reach the level of charm I had preserved in my head, not to say that it wasn’t wonderful, it was just much more urban and city-like than I remembered.  It’s very interesting actually, the old, charming areas are almost walled-in by unappealing, modern buildings.  On our first walk, we were attempting to find the (massive) cathedral, but couldn’t seem to find it, even though we had to be only a block or two away!  The modern facades were like a veil, and the small alleyways housed those wonderful timbered buildings that look like they’re about to fall over from centuries of gravity’s pull.  Maybe It was simply the location of our hotel that gave me a bad first impression, or maybe it was the result of false expectations.  Looking back though, I’m glad we stopped off here.
RouenOne of the highlights was the Cathedral.  Driving up to the city, it literally dominated the cityscape, even with heftier buildings surrounding it.  It really does look like it’s reaching up towards the heavens – “the higher the spire, the closer to God” is what I always say (not really).
The Monet theme continued here as well, since this is the cathedral facade he painted numerous times for his series on light effects.  He painted it at all hours of the day during different times of the year, and I can definitely see why.  The cathedral is extremely detailed.  Later in the evening, once the sun had set, Natalie and I discovered that a light show is projected onto the Cathedral’s facade, complete with music!  It was so incredibly awesome, and really highlighted every architectural detail.  The symbolism of the show was also really connected to the history behind Rouen, including, most famously, Joan of Arc, who was martyred here in 1431.Rouen CathedralRouen CathedralI didn’t get a great picture of the front because of some unfortunate scaffolding, but the inside had some great details.
Rouen CathedralRouen CathedralDoesn’t this staircase look like something out of Harry Potter?
Rouen CathedralRouen ClockBesides having a near panic attack from trying to successfully navigate the awkward roads of Rouen, I’d say our first day of road tripping was a success.  After leaving though, I was excited to be exploring some more rural areas.  I’ve been inhabiting loud, busy city streets for too long, and I was excited to drive on tiny country roads with cute cows, walk through some gardens, and see some apple orchards.

I'm a Californian in my mid-twenties who studied Art History and lived in France for 3 years. I blog honestly about my travels, share my thoughts on life, and get poetic about art and photography. I also sell prints of my photographs on Etsy.


  1. Reply
    Catherine Short

    It’s hard to imagine that people like Joan of Arc and you walked the same streets. Incredible. This summer in NYC we were able to see Monet’s waterlilies and it’s no wonder he painted the outdoors so beautifully with a view like that!

    1. Reply
      Hannah Wilson Post author

      It’s kinda inconceivable, actually, to think how OLD some of the things in Europe are. There’s nothing quite like it the States. It makes me feel like an actual part of history, in a way.

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