“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!
Thank you, Mary, for this preview of your upcoming travels. I’m looking forward to reading everything you write about the trip. Can you share what river cruise line you’re taking?
You mentioned planning your canceled Africa trip when you were onboard a Regent Middle East cruise. And I was an avid reader of your account of that voyage (and I learned a lot). I booked a similar cruise on Crystal that should have embarked from Rome later this month, but, like your trip, was canceled. Now I’m booked again on the same cruise beginning in November 2022. Who knows what the world will be like?
And, thank you for the lines from the poem. I’m glad you’re traveling again in “your one wild and precious life.”
Hi Bill, I’m sorry to hear that your Middle East cruise was canceled. Rescheduling and dealing with disappointment have been a huge part of travel planning this past year-and-a-half, haven’t they? Despite all the inconveniences, when you do finally get there, I have no doubt it will have been worth the wait 🙂
Thanks so much for your kind words about the blog – and the Mary Oliver quote! I’m a huge fan of her poems and essays.
We will be sailing with Tauck, a new line for us.
Mary, we have done 2 Tauck river cruises, and all I can say is that you are in for an amazing time!
We did this itinerary, but on Uniworld (excellent, but not quite as good as Tauck). It is a great itinerary, and Normandy is an unforgettable, awe inspiring experience.
I can’t wait to read about your perspectives and enjoy your wonderful photography.
Have a blast!
That is so great to know, Bob! I remember reading about your Uniworld travels and will definitely revisit your Seine posts before we leave. We’ve heard wonderful reports about Tauck and are incredibly excited about this trip. Thanks for such an upbeat send-off!
Mary, how wonderful for you and your husband to be “back in the saddle” again so to speak! I think that special access to the Giverney Gardens would be worth the trip even without all the other fun stops – they will be icing on the cake! One suggestion – which you are probably already aware of but just in case – is to apply for the Covid-pass from the French government and download the TousAntiCovid app on your phone. Once you get the QR code from the Passe Sanitaire application you can load into into the app. We found this most helpful when we were in France last month. It was a requirement at every restaurant and train station, although they did except the US vaccination cards as a substitute. You can apply for the pass online prior to your departure. It’s a bit confusing and they are very slow in processing, but worth it in the end.
P.S. While we did not get to Giverney this trip, we spent all our time in the Alsace-Lorraine region. A belated 80th birthday trip for my mom who wanted to see where her grandfather had come from. My 14-year old daughter and two of my nieces came along as well making for a memorable girls’ trip! Highly recommend Colmar and this entire region – it was absolutely gorgeous!!
Also, my trusty Tumi cosmetics bag is proving to be a very useful travel accessory. Thanks again for the recommendation!
Maureen, “back in the saddle” is a perfect description and exactly how we feel! I’m always filled with anticipation before a trip, and this time it’s especially meaningful after such a long slog through the pandemic. And yes, the special access to Giverny promises to be a pretty great main attraction!
Thanks for the info on the Passe Sanitaire. We applied online awhile ago, but have only received an email saying how backlogged they are. I have no idea if our QR codes will arrive, but it’s great to know that our vaccine cards will be accepted as a substitute.
It sounds like you had a fabulous time and beautiful weather in Alsace-Lorraine. And I’m delighted that your Tumi bag continues to serve you well 🙂
Mary, so good to read you’re off on your travels again soon! We met some Regent friends on Friday, just before they boarded their round Britain cruise and we have another dear cruise friend here at home for a few days. It really does feel as though things are warming up again. I will look forward to reports of your progress very much indeed and hope all goes smoothly. Bon voyage, bonne chance et à bientôt!
Merci beaucoup, Gill! I love hearing that your friends are boarding a ship and that the travel world is opening its doors in various places. This should be quite an interesting journey…we nervously open our email every morning, fearing that either the airline or cruise line or France has changed its mind about letting us in! Many thanks for the good wishes!
Nice to be able to find alternatives when travels get canceled because of conditions beyond our control. Special access tours are a great way to enjoy places that have been over run with visitors. We still talk about the one we did in Venice a few years ago and the one visiting the catacombs under the Vatican. Fingers crossed your plans don’t get disrupted again.
Thanks, Erin, for keeping your fingers crossed! That seems to be one of the mantras of these times, doesn’t it? Making travel plans this past year-and-a-half has taken patience and flexibility and to an entirely new level. It was wonderful to hear about your Venice and the Vatican “special access” memories. I love how those experiences stay with us – and are sometimes top-of-mind – no matter how much time has passed.
Mary, even when you DON’T go someplace your writing is so elegant it’s hard not to rejoice in your travel plans! A bientot!
Aw, Steve, you just made my day…thank you! That means the world, coming from the great writer Steve Berg. Sending lots of love to you and Dixie!