Living in San Francisco, I never fully appreciated the seasons. When the California weather stays between 50 and 70 degrees all year-long, there are always leaves on the trees and flowers of one sort or another. However, living in France, and especially now in the North of France, that has all changed. During the winter, the trees are barren and everything is brown and gray, making the winter months long and depressing. The only good thing about experiencing a true winter is subsequently experiencing the joy that comes from seeing the first sight of blossoms on the trees. Brown and gray give way to beautiful pinks, reds, yellows and blues.
There is no better way to experience this than at the Gardens of Monet at Giverny. Claude Monet, an impressionist painter, lived in a relatively modest house in Giverny for 43 years, surrounded by beautiful gardens and a pond which provided the inspiration for many of his paintings. Now, 100 years later, visitors can tour these gardens and walk in the steps of Monet. I’ve been told that this garden changes according to the seasons, and therefore, it’s worth experiencing it again during the seasons of spring, summer and fall. I haven’t been during other times, but I definitely think that the gardens in springtime are definitely my favorite.
It’s not too hard to get to Giverny from Paris. We took a train from Paris’ Gare Saint Lazare to Vernon (the closest train station to Giverny), which took 47 minutes and cost €14.70 one way. Then we took a shuttle bus (navette in French) from Vernon to Giverny, which took another 20 minutes and cost €4 one way. The shuttles seem to run in time with the trains from Paris, allowing a pretty seamless journey from one to the other.
Finally, we were in Giverny. Even before we reached the Gardens of Monet, we were greeted by these beautiful sights…
Finally, we reached the house and gardens of Monet. Although the weather wasn’t the best, with intermittent periods of rain, it actually worked to our advantage. There were relatively few people there, and that number dwindled even further as it got closer to closing time.
The gardens of Monet are divided into 2 main sections. The first garden, called Clos Normand, is right in front of the former house of Monet, with flowerbeds full of tulips and other colorful beauties.
The thing I noticed about French gardens versus other gardens that I’ve seen is that there appears to be a sort of randomness to the placement of the flowers. It’s not as neat and tidy as a British garden. Even with a well-maintained, beautiful garden such as this one, there’s still a feeling of savagery or wildness to the flowers. I understood a little more clearly why the gardens were laid out this way, as Monet reportedly did not like organized or constrained gardens. This seemingly haphazard variety of flowers creates a beautiful contrast of colors and textures.
The second part of Monet’s gardens is the water garden, not as colorful as the Clos Normand, but peaceful and tranquil with its still waters and towering bamboo. This same pond and water garden was the inspiration for many of Monet’s paintings, especially the series of 250 paintings called Nymphéas (or Water Lilies).
The Gardens of Monet at Giverny were the perfect way to get me out of the winter blues. This may have to be a recurring trip every year…
- Fondation Claude Monet, 84 rue Claude Monet, Giverny. Phone number: +33 (0)18.104.22.168.21. Open March 25 to November 1, 2016, 9:30am – 6pm. For more information, including transportation to Giverny, go to http://fondation-monet.com/en/practical-informations/.
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