“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
~Mary Oliver, The Summer Day
I never expected to find myself in Paris this fall.
But in a way, Paris found me.
We were supposed to be in South Africa, sailing from Cape Town to Namibia and around the Cape of Good Hope, safariing with elephants and the other exotic creatures they call the Big Five. It was a trip we had begun planning two years ago while on board the Regent Voyager, on one of our days crossing the Red Sea. It was a time when thoughts of travel were ripe with promise, when future itineraries tantalized, challenging the imagination to dream of possibility.
Even when the pandemic had pressed pause around the world – even as 2020 folded into 2021 – I had little reason to doubt that this trip with such a late-in-the-year departure date wouldn’t happen. We cautiously but optimistically moved forward with our plans, securing airline tickets, selecting excursions. I researched and read and regularly reminded myself that it was still too soon to shop for a proper safari hat. Despite all the uncertainty over what the post-pandemic world would mean for travel, I held out hope.
On May 26th, Regent cancelled the trip.
It turns out that getting refunds for our travel arrangements was the easy part. Reimbursements for dashed dreams and disappointment are a little more difficult to reclaim. I packed away my notes, pages that had grown so thick they required one of those winged fasteners that you squeeze open, slide over the papers and then press the wings back down in place. Although I intellectually knew that cancellation was a possibility, I was much more emotionally invested in this trip than I had admitted to myself.
I think it took about a week before I was able to dust off my disappointment and begin looking for an alternative plan. It had to be something that would make sense in this precautionary time and somehow safely salvage a second year of lost travel. I researched other cruises, land journeys, independent options – places that have remained firmly planted on my impossibly long travel wish list. And as futile and last-minute as the whole process seemed, one morning in early June I ran across a tour that set my heart racing: Early access to Monet’s Gardens in Giverny, before it opens to the public.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a fair amount of time – for which I’m incredibly grateful! – you may know that I’m a huge fan of special access tours, especially when they involve a place notorious for crowds or where standing in your own quiet moment is particularly meaningful. Giverny, for me, is one of those places.
Our previous attempt to visit Monet’s Gardens didn’t go quite as planned. In fact, it didn’t go at all. Giverny closed its doors on the day of our visit due to the risk of flooding from the Seine’s precariously high water levels. We remained in Honfleur instead, wandering its lovely little streets and charming Vieux Basin. It was a terrific back-up plan, but deep down I knew – and I imagine Honfleur did, too – that Giverny was where I really wanted to be.
This special access tour of Giverny is part of a round-trip river cruise on the Seine, which is how Paris fits into the plans. We will spend several days there before beginning a cruise that will also take us to Versailles, Rouen and the Normandy coast before returning to the City of Light. Most of the ports will be new for us – except Paris, where I’m tremendously thrilled to return, whatever it may hold this time around.
I will be posting photos on The Modern Postcard’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages throughout our travels. And as always, I will be sharing stories and photos on the blog when we return.
My high school French teach once said that people in France don’t typically use the term adieu – a farewell that has a forever implication – when saying goodbye to friends. Instead, she taught us to say au revoir – goodbye – or à bientôt – see you soon. I’d like to think she also would have wanted us to know that the same endearing word choice applies to places as well as people.
À bientôt, Paris!