Monday 9 October 2017
We depart from London and Gatwick this morning and travel by coach to Folkestone to catch a Eurotunnel shuttle service to Calais. On arrival in France we continue to our accommodation, the 4-star Hotel Mercure Rouen Centre Cathedrale (or similar). A welcome drink and dinner is included this evening.
Tuesday 10 October 2017
After breakfast this morning we travel north to the beautiful gardens at Le Bois des Moutiers on the northern coast, near Dieppe. The garden, in part influenced by the English designer Gertrude Jekyll, is full of charm. Near the house a white garden, held in check by disciplined box hedges, is full of white valerian, Iceberg roses, white irises and other ghostly plants. One can amble through the glades whose themes, colours and scents vary enormously in one of the most beautiful landscapes of the region.
We continue to the nearby garden of Le Vasterival. In 1957 Princess Sturdza, a talented plantswoman, started to create this magnificent garden in a natural style covering 7 hectares of acid soil, a kilometre from the sea. Princess Sturdza died in 2009 but the garden continues to thrive, with a huge range of plants which grow to perfection in its composted earth. Its informal design with paths, woodlands, glades and immaculate grass walks leading temptingly in all directions, contains a richness of flora in a variety of settings all year round.
After a leisurely lunch in a local restaurant in nearby Dieppe (included), we visit the Château de Miromesnil, which represents four centuries of harmonious architectural styles including a rare example of Louis XIII monumental style. Of particular interest will be the kitchen garden which was restored forty years ago by the Comtesse de Vogüé, grandmother of the present owners. Separated by alleys made of grass, the squares are ordered with vegetables and flowers that contrast with the profusion of annual flowers on the sides. The surrounding park is dominated by a cedar of Lebanon, several centuries old, and there are also fruit trees, magnolias and a huge collection of clematis.
We will be joined this evening by the garden designer Matthew Wilson, who will give a talk, after which there will be an opportunity to have dinner in one of Rouen’s many fine restaurants (not included).
Wednesday 11 October 2017
This morning, following breakfast, we depart for Giverny and the world famous house and gardens of Claude Monet. Our early start today will ensure an early arrival at Giverny - a time when the gardens are at their most tranquil. Both the house and gardens have been lovingly and accurately restored - one would believe that the family have just gone out to walk in the garden. We will explore this marvellous garden with Matthew Wilson and at our leisure before lunch in a local restaurant near the garden (included).
Following our visit we will enjoy free time in Giverny along with an opportunity to visit the little church where Monet is buried.
We return to Rouen in the afternoon, when you are free to explore this marvellous historic town at your leisure. Recommended is a visit to the Musée des Beaux-Arts (Museum of Fine Art), which contains an exceptional collection of paintings, drawings and sculptures including works by Caravaggio, Velázquez, Monet, Sisley and Normandy-born Géricault and Dufy. Other recommended sights include the Gothic Cathedral of Notre Dame, dominated by the famous west façade which was immortalized in a series of paintings by Claude Monet, and the Place du Vieux-Marché, where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in 1431 (entrances not included).
Thursday 12 October 2017
Today, following breakfast, we check out of our hotel and begin our homeward journey, but before we leave Normandy we have time for one more visit, the Jardin Plume. Since 1997, Sylvie and Patrick Quibel have been creating this natural yet structured contemporary garden in a typical Normandy orchard. Making generous use of grasses and perennials, this four acre garden includes seasonal plantings, a central square mirror pool and a kitchen garden.
Following our visit we return to Calais for our Eurotunnel crossing to Folkestone. On arrival we return to our original departure points, where arrival is due in the evening.