“So, where are we staying tonight?” I ask as we drive back from the shores of Normandy, France to Giverny. “Not sure yet. We’ll figure it out when we get there. I’m sure there’s something available.” My dad replies with his usual optimism (which I inherited) that usually allows him to get by without planning ahead.
I hear my mother exhale in a way that comes from years of experience traveling with my father and learning to adventure forth with him when planning ahead has simply been “forgotten”. To be fair (and my mother would argue), his approach hasn’t always turned out the best results. However, I think we could all agree, they’ve been adventures…
As we arrive in Giverny, it is obvious everyone else had the same thought some weeks or months prior, asking themselves the question of where to go for their summer holiday? – “to Giverny it is!” and of course booked they’re accommodations soon after. As I ooh and aw at the crowds along the only street in the tiny village, my mother reiterates the fact that it being a mid-summer weekend in France, “of course everyone is in Giverny.” The packed parking lot, crowded cafe’s and the busy street show us she is right.
Pulling into an empty parking space left miraculously open for us , my mother and I share a knowing look that can only be known within families who’ve shared years of experience doing annual family vacations. But maybe the empty space was a sign of our fortune to come.
We head for the information center and are greeted by 2 young, cheerful women happy to help us with our cause. One phone call after another – full, FUll and more FULL – our odds aren’t looking so good. They decide to send us off while they do the hard labor of finding us a place for the night. “Check back at 5, there are some no shows for a reservation from yesterday and the hotel is holding it until then. We’ll continue looking for you though in the mean time.” They say smiling at us with the same optimism my father shares.
We’re off to join the crowds and first find an outdoor organic, botanical cafe. Here my mother and I (being vegetarians) are finally able to find something other than bread and cheese in the meat heavy cuisine of France. The cafe serves fresh breads and pastries, of course, but also a variety of mixed salads, soups and grain bowls. After the leisure lunch, we head for a stroll through Monet’s gardens where we are met with the usual euphoria that enables worries to discretely disappear as if they never existed in the first place.
We enjoy the regular floral fashion show and when it begins to rain, retreat quietly under one of the many large trees here that are so full and voluptuous right now they can keep us dry for hours if they have to. We stay until closing, soaking up the magnificent beauty, peace and calm that generates here. We leave the gardens embodying the same acceptance and relaxation you find in people walking away from a full body massage – ready to face whatever destiny awaits them. So, what’ll it be? Hopping back into the car to drive until we find a place or staying here?
Hopping into the car it is! Only for a few short minutes though. Five at most. The two lovely gatekeepers of our nightfall fate found us a place in the next village over, Gasny. And so the adventure continues…
A large, wooden gate opens, and a long, shaded driveway greets us. A beautiful, two-story cottage peeks out of an opening in the trees. A woman steps outside the front door, “Bonjour!” we all say with big smiles to ease the language barrier. My dad knows just enough french to get by so we look to him to start or keep any conversation flowing. We introduce ourselves and Madame Baduel of “Aux Marguerites” invites us to have drinks around back before settling in.
Peering around to the back patio, I see laundry hung to dry. A hammock and a few toys strewn here and there with a young boy and girl playing together in the yard. And it hits me, we are staying in someone’s home! Turns out, Madame Baduel, with 3 empty rooms and a bathroom upstairs, opened up her home to travelers and Giverny guests just 2 months prior to our arrival. The experience is what American’s might call “Bed and Breakfast,” but here in Europe, it is typical to receive breakfast along with the bed.
Sitting down for drinks, Madame Baduel, immediately apologizes for the presence of her grandkids. Our stay was unexpected, and she had agreed to take them for the weekend. We assure her it was more to our delight than burden. On top of staying directly in her home, the children made us feel more like family rather than people just passing through for the night.
After drinks, she leads us upstairs to show us the rooms and I’m in awe of the elegant, yet cozy, decor. It is here that I’ll leave you with the pictures to speak for themselves …
If you find yourself traveling, in need of accommodations and have the money to spend on a hotel, I recommend using it on a stay more personal. In Germany and Austria, they call them Zimmerfries (free rooms), in France Chambres d’hotels. They are rooms available in the comfort of another’s home where you are welcomed in as an invited guest. Contrary to the experience of a hotel, it is here you may not know what experiences you’ll stumble upon when you arrive – You may find kids playing and giggling in the night serenading you to sleep. You may find laundry being done or a living room actually lived in. A dog that wants to play. You could even find friends of the host dropping by. Who knows, one things is for sure though, you’ll have an adventure…oh, and breakfast too 😉
Happy Travels to all.
If you find yourself in or nearby Giverny, France – For reservations you can email Madame Baduel: firstname.lastname@example.org or go to her website www.auxmarguerites.com
***The following is an eco-travel recommendation***