Elliot Flagg ’20 shares highlights of the groups first full day visiting Normandy and Giverny.
Our group arrived in France early Sunday morning where we were pleasantly greeted by an hour-long customs line. Conversing in line, attempting to both distract ourselves from the fact that it was 1:00 AM in Deerfield and attempting to kick start the rusty cogs that were our French speaking abilities at the time, we gathered our belongings and got on the road in our too-big-for-small-French-streets bus along with bus driver Omar.
A short two-hour drive and we were in Vernon, a small town in Normandy, welcomed by the blistering sun of a 32º C – or 90º F for those of you still in the US – day. We were each handed a bit of money then sent out into town to get some lunch before our afternoon tour, still struggling to even form proper English sentences. Tents, Boulangeries, Medieval re-enactments and even a live petting zoo filled the street of the seemingly small French town of Vernon as thirteen, culturally shook Deerfield students fought through the language barrier to obtain their first meal.
In retrospect, this was a fantastic first lesson in self-sufficiency when dropped in the middle of a foreign country. Because the packed action of this small town did not stretch further than six or seven street blocks in any given direction, we all found ourselves back together in a shaded region of a park with various food items in hand. Some students even wandered down to the local river, which they later discovered was the river Seine, dumbfounded at the realization that this legendary river went through any other place in the world besides Paris.
Returning to the bus two hours later, and with full bellies, our group made its way to the neighboring town of Giverny where one can find the world-renowned Monet’s Gardens. There, we were met by a tour guide who led us through the intricately designed rows of flowers, towering bushes, groves of bamboo and even around Monet’s personal pond full of his famous waterlilies. We learned about Monet’s early life of struggling poverty and how with time he emerged wealthy and famous, perfecting his new form of illustrating the sky’s reflection on water as if it were an image.
Sun-kissed and feeling newly cultured, we then returned to our bus and travelled up north to the Atlantic coast of France, where we spent the night. Our group enjoyed a delicious dinner together in the hotel and some even got the chance to explore the local town before bed. After a long first day, we all enjoyed a pleasant sleep with the sound of waves crashing outside our windows.