World Cup Rugby:
What A Romantic Day
Story and photos by Roger Fallihee
he worst day in Paris is better than the best day anywhere else on the
planet. The larger-than-life French capital always offers the promise
of exciting adventure, amazing art and architecture, incredible food,
and incomparable romance. If youre bored in Paris youre
in big trouble.
It was a warm October morning when we wandered out of
our hotel to catch the morning train to Giverny and the home and gardens
of Claude Monet, one of the fathers of French
Impressionism. Both my wife and I had been inspired and moved by
the iconic work of Monet, so to see the gardens, the water lilies, and
the Japanese Bridge, the objects of so much of his art, would certainly
be an exciting and romantic day.
Little did we know that missing our train back to Paris
would lead to a late afternoon of wine, cheese, fruit, bread, and World
Cup Rugby, that would prove to be equally exciting and romantic. We
arrived in Giverny at 11:00 am and immediately hopped onto a waiting
shuttle bus that would take us the two miles to Monets home and
The charming village of Giverny, France.
Once we dispensed with the 21st century ritual of slapping
down the Visa card to buy tickets, we went through the gates and entered
a world that was at once as magical, beautiful, and captivating as the
collected works of Monet.
Monet (1840-1926) was the rarest of all artists: he was financially
successful. Today his work has been reproduced into countless posters,
calendars, and reproductions, making Monet one of the most famous, recognizable,
and posthumously wealthy artists in history.
One day in 1883, while riding through the village of
Giverny, Monet gazed out the window
and instantly fell in love with the light and the colors of this corner
of his beloved French countryside. Monet and his companion Alice
Hoschede, along with their combined eight children, rented a large
house on three acres. Over the next few years they planted thousands
of flowers and plants. In 1890 he had gained enough wealth to purchase
the property. An inspired Monet hired workers to dig a large hole in
the ground and divert a branch of the Epte River into the hole. The
resulting pond and Japanese Bridge would forever change the course of
Monets meticulous attention to detail created
one of arts most enduring settings.
Monet had a practical and businesslike approach to painting.
After years of watching himself and his peers struggle to find the correct
light and landscape to create art, Monet decided that the best way to
resolve the problem would be to build and maintain his own environment.
Monet, a practitioner of the en plein air (in the open air)
style of painting, directed his staff of gardeners and laborers to create
the world that he would paint for the next forty-three years. In addition
to the Japanese Bridge and the water lily pond, Monet had in excess
of 200,000 flowers planted. Half of these were perennials but the other
half had to be replaced each spring.
Monets beloved garden with his farm house
in the background.
Wandering around the grounds with my wife of two weeks
(I knew her for thirty-three years, but these things take time) we were
transported back to Monets wonderful world of light and color.
It was amazing to sit where he sat, look at what he looked at, and imagine
him painting some of the worlds finest and most works of art.
After several leisurely hours wandering through his house, studio,
and gardens, we realized that we needed to get back to the train
station in time to make our dinner reservation in Paris. We arrived
at the station just as our train pulled away. A quick look at the
schedule indicated that the next train wouldnt arrive for
two hours. Oh well, there goes our dinner in Paris. We walked up
and down the picturesque roads of Giverny eventually stumbling onto
a quaint looking establishment called Le
Havre, a pub that looked like a great place to unwind,
grab a bite to eat, and wait for the next train.
One of the many beautiful Water
Lily paintings that Monet created over 43 years. Photo
courtesy of arttoheart.com
We walked in expecting a low-key, quiet restaurant,
which Im sure is normally the case. However, on this day, France
was playing England in the semi-finals of the 2007 Rugby World Cup.
The place was packed with boisterous, loudly cheering and booing, smoking
and drinking, laughing and eventually crying locals. (Final score: England
14 France 9).
|The food was fantastic.
The rugby was sublime.
Photo courtesy of Giverny.org
Unlike American sports bars, with fifteen big screen
TVs, chili dogs, pizza, and pitchers of Budweiser, Le Havre had
platters of local artisan cheese, slices of pears and apples, Duck Foie
Gras, skate wing fish with green beans, small baguettes, and a single
13 portable TV.
We found a tiny table near the window, with a view of the train station,
and sat down for a pleasurable afternoon of wonderful food (how can
their bread be so good?), fantastic wine, and a lively and rowdy crowd
going crazy over a game that we knew nothing about.
The French didnt need a 60 Plasma TV and
plates filled with hot wings and potato skins. They had their camaraderie,
their bread, cheese, and wine, a fierce love for their team, an equally
fierce hatred for Team England, and in the end a strong spirit of attendre
jusqu'à la prochaine fois (wait until next year).
Romance can be found in the most expected and unexpected
places. The beauty and history of Monets gardens and the unexpected
thrill of watching Rugby World Cup and eating gourmet food with a room
full of emotionally charged French people, made us both realize that,
in the end, its not necessarily the events, but the time that
we spend together that creates the romance. And we did make it back
to Paris in time for the perfect ending to the perfect day. Love is
better the second time around.