When I bought my first house in Melbourne back in the mid 1990’s it came complete with run down unloved garden, and as soon as the first priority of eliminating the 70’s Mission Brown paint trim from all of the exterior door and window trims was complete, I bought the Australian Womens’ Weekly Monet’s Garden book and started dreaming about how my garden might look.
20+ years on I now live in Queensland, and work and life have evolved to a point that doesn’t leave a lot of time for gardening, and Brisbane’s climate certainly doesn’t allow for any Monet-like floral fantasies to be indulged, but this week I found myself in Paris with a completely free day in my schedule and when a friend showed me the photos she took at Giverny last weekend I realised that now was my chance to see the gardens in person.
Giverny is only an hours drive from the centre of Paris, and I planned to leave bright and early on Sunday morning to beat the crowds. It’s highly recommended to book a ticket online rather than queueing up for one when you get there, but the online ticket site is all in French, so I had to enlist help in getting mine booked. I was glad I did though, even arriving just 15 minutes after the gates opened at 9.30 still saw a lengthy queue to get in, but I merrily skipped past that and went in the pre-paid entrance without a moment’s pause.
I decided to head straight for the lily pond as there were already plenty of people around and I thought that was likely to get busy. After Monet died the French authorities constructed a new road through the middle of the gardens, so you have to go through an underpass to reach the pond. As soon as you pop up from the stairs the landscape is immediately familiar, with the scene of so many paintings right before your eyes.
The gardens are so lush that it’s possible to take beautiful pictures that look like you are the only person present – nothing could be further from the truth, and while I’m sure it gets far busier later in the day, there were still dozens of people wandering along the same path but the foliage hides them almost completely.
Life got in the way of my Melbourne garden having the chance to bear much resemblance to anything I saw today in Giverny, but a dwarf Japanese maple tree (the burgundy leaved beauty below for all you non Japanese maple tree afficionados) did hold pride of place, and still probably represents the most money I’ve ever spent on a plant before or since!
The lily pond was just beautiful, with so many colors of foliage and flowers, and it wasn’t hard to see how it had been the source of inspiration for so many of Monet’s works.
The crowds were growing, so I made my way back under the underpass to walk through the remainder of the garden. While beautiful in its own right it was much more structured than the lily pond and its surrounds, plus getting quite crowded, so I didn’t spend too much time there before joining the queue to walk through the house.
As you would expect the rooms were crammed with reproductions of Monet’s work, but it was hard to spend too much time in any of the rooms as there were so many people in there you really just had to shuffle through. I can’t imagine how packed it must be on a busy day!
This was the view from Monet’s bedroom, which shows the much more formal layout of the gardens around the house. Still incredibly beautiful to wake up to though! I’m amazed how few people there are in this shot, they must have all been crammed into the bedroom with me at that point….
The kitchen was probably my favorite room, it’s blue and yellow colors making the room seem filled with sunshine even though it was totally gloomy and grey outside.
And again the view from the kitchen window was amazing, everywhere you look you there is a riot of color and texture awaits and it’s no wonder that Monet was so prolific in these beautiful surroundings.
The photos don’t do justice to how beautiful the gardens actually are, and of course don’t convey at all one of the most powerful components of the experience – the smell of the flowers. It was a lovely way to spend a solo Sunday morning in Paris, and one I’d highly recommend if you have a spare half day in Paris.