Walking Into an Impressionist Painting

IMG_1600We got up the earliest we had for the entire trip to head to Giverny, the home of Monet during the last few decades of his life. Many of his most famous paintings were painted there, notably the giant water lilies we’d seen at the l’Orangerie. Monet had a house and extensive gardens, both the water gardens and flower gardens. He designed, planted and maintained everything himself, and his landscaping style is rambling and natural, very unlike the gardens at Versailles or those seen elsewhere around Paris.

The train ride is a little less than an hour, and takes you to Vernon, which is little ways away from Giverny. It was recommended to us to rent bicycles to get from Vernon to Giverny. We did so, and had a lovely morning ride through the countryside of France. It felt great to be away from the crowds of people that are everywhere you go in Paris, and to breathe the fresh air. It was about a half hour bike ride, and we had to wait in line just a few minutes to begin our tour of Monet’s house and gardens.

IMG_1614We started in the gardens behind his house, and just enjoyed the natural beauty of the flowers. It truly is like being inside an impressionist painting when you’re there. Young people run around with wheelbarrows, tending the plants behind the scenes – what an amazing summer job to have. There are also some free range chickens of unusual breeds. When Monet lived here, he kept chickens for daily fresh eggs for the family.

IMG_1621Sitting on a bench just soaking in the beauty, we thought of both of our moms. Nathan’s mom is an artist and has always loved Monet, particularly his water lily paintings. She hasn’t been to see them or to see Giverny, but Nathan could see her really enjoying both and hopes she gets to go sometime with brushes and canvas.

Amy’s mom Rebecca is a landscape designer and Master Gardener. At Versailles, Amy kept on thinking about how inspired her mother was when she visited King Louis XIV’s gardens. It was on such a grand scale, and magnificent. But Giverny is magnificent too, but in a completely different way. It very much reminded us of all of the planning and hard work Rebecca puts in to creating a masterpiece garden. Giverny felt much like home to Amy.

IMG_1642We made our way to the water gardens, where the water lilies grow and weeping willows dip down into the streams and ponds. Many people were sketching and painting the scene, and we sat down to do the same. Well, Nathan drew while Amy took a nap. Of course the water garden is pretty crowded. The grass looked so beautiful, it looked like the perfect nap spot. But you weren’t allowed on the grass and so we had to fight for spots of benches. Amy had envisioned just being able to chill out where Monet had, it didn’t quite turn out that way. But it was still just beautiful.

IMG_3594We walked back to his house to visit the interior. Monet had an extensive collection of Japanese woodblock prints from Hiroshige and Hokusai; Amy particularly loves Hiroshige’s style and we both enjoyed seeing the collection. It’s also fun to be in the house and look out a window and see the gardens, thinking about what it would have been like to have that for your view each day.

We left Monet’s house and bought some sandwiches, finding a little spot of grass by the Impressionism Museum to picnic. Then we biked back to Vernon, and went down by the lake to take a nap. The Fat Tire Bike Tour group was just finishing up their lunch and headed to Giverny. Out on the lake we could see the remnants of a Norman stone bridge. In fact, Giverny and Vernon are in Normandy, and there are a lot of half timbered houses which are interesting and fun to see. We tried to take a nap but there were too many bugs and things falling from the tree whose shade we were under. So we got up and went back to the train station, returned the bikes, and caught the train back to Paris.

IMG_1673Sheila had invited us to a surprise birthday party for Austin, which we were happily able to make it to after getting back. A large group of their friends showed up at L’Assassin, a restaurant near their apartment. Austin and Sheila showed up, and Austin was surprised. We had good beer (Delerium Tremens on tap) and good food, and got to know some of their friends, including some Americans who were studying in Spain: Gus and Jen. Eventually we got tired and left the party heading back to crash after a long, fun day.

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