It's been a while since I wrote anything. I can only put it down to the fact that work has been really full on this year, and the mental batteries have been dead at the end of each day. Loads of stuff has happened, but that's another story, for another day.
We are however gardeners, and with that comes a never ending desire to feed ourselves with sights, thoughts, and inspiration, and to this end we had a week off and took ourselves off to France, where I personally ticked a few things off my bucket list.
The bike was ready for an adventure, and we were happy to join her, so after arriving in Cherbourg we headed south to start our thrills. We rode on only minor roads, deliberately avoiding motorways, as we wanted to experience the riding we had heard so much about, and I have to say that if you ever want to get some of THE best motorcycling, then get yourself to France!
There are two gardens on my list of 'must do's', and the first was Claude Monet's garden at Giverny. Carefully planted to give an informal, hazy, and dizzy summer display of colour, it makes one slow down when walking around. Having seen many of his paintings, it's easy to see where his direction and inspiration came from.
Gardeners weren't so much toiling, as carefully considering. They had time to carry out their work, to reflect, and it showed in their manner. I was really quite envious of the opportunity they had, and wondered if they were aware of how fortunate they were. It was blisteringly hot that day, and we strolled very slowly around, sipping water from a bottle, and talking endlessly to one another about the various plants, schemes and vistas etc.
Sprinklers sent cascades of water over the drier areas. Not something that we would personally recommend in such direct sunlight, but we justified it by the fact that the gardeners are only there during opening hours, and better to water then than not at all. Seed heads were left on to add to the overall effect.
Of course, having seen 'The Water Lilies' at the Musee de l'Orangerie in Paris, we were really excited about visiting the garden that gave him such inspiration. It was a lovely and cool change to the garden next to his house, and we felt ourselves physically settle in its peace. It was a garden to remember.
After a good ride back though the countryside, we arrived at our base. It was still incredibly warm, and a cool drink as we cooled our feet in the pool was just what was needed. Our own pool to ourselves......a perfect end to the day.
The next garden was a little nearer, and after a coffee half way into our ride, we arrived at Versailles.
It was a garden that I have wanted to see ever since I started in this work, and being someone who has a heart in the formal garden layout, I wasn't disappointed. Security was tight given the current climate, but the soldiers with guns allowed me a brief photo call with our bike. We had a two day pass, and it was needed. We saw the palace on the first day, saving the second day for the gardens.
The palace was impressive, but for us the gardens are what drew us, and after a short stroll we were met with this! From a gardeners point of view, pretty awesome, and for the entire day I was always putting myself with a hedge trimmer here, or a trowel there.
Thunderstorms were forecast later in the day, but it was hot and humid so far. The sun shone down.
I watched some gardeners trimming the low box hedging with electric trimmers, powered by batteries carried on their backs. Very quiet, but the blades needed sharpening. This guy was a delight to watch. Unhappy in the heat, but happy in his work, as I discovered in my broken French. The bare areas were to be planted soon after.
Formality was everywhere. I was in heaven. I wanted to offer my services for free, just for the experience.
Le Petit Trianon was given as a gift to Marie Antoinette from her king. She didn't like the garden already filled with rare, exotic, and incredibly expensive plants from all around the world (I have to take her side on this), and after having the entire collection sent to Paris, had them replaced with plants that more resembled an English country garden. It is planted thus today, and I have to say that she had good taste.
Versailles has an incredible garden, and it's far too big to see in one day. We must return. The day was coming to a close, and yet we were both still so excited, inspired, hungry. Before we left, we both headed over to see the Orangerie. Over 1000 fruit trees and exotics are brought out from there winter protection under the palace, and positioned formally to create this garden that took my breathe away. Formality at it's best. Our control over plants at it's foremost.
We watched as a gardener very slowly and painstakingly pruned the larger pieces of growth from this Cupressus, before finishing off by tightly trimming it with hand shears. In about half an hour, he only trimmed another foot higher. I wished that every gardener was allowed such luxury of time, as it is not only better for the look of the plant effect, but for the worker carrying out the task.
Two gardens, totally different, and yet both totally inspiring. Nowadays our work isn't in such splendid spaces, but gardens are where we spend most of our time, they inspire us still, challenge us, feed us, and long may it last.
We rode many miles in France, and spent time in Bayeaux, where we saw the famous tapestry (another thing on my own bucket list). We spent some time in Chartre with it's beautiful cathedral, and came away with some medieval stained glass for our home. We met some other wonderful people on their own motorcycle adventures, along with many, many French people that made us laugh, entertained us, fed us, and at times frustrated us. For someone that doesn't do mussels, I joined Amanda in what can only be described as a bucket of Moules, with a saucepan of frites, at a spontaneous motorbike pull in and eat in Alencon. Our last night was spent in a room on Mont St. Michel that overlooked the beach. The evening/night spent walking the walls and talking with young travellers as food and drink was laid out spontaneously.
We are counting the days until our return.