Sunday, July 13, 2014

"Elisabeth in Monet's Garden"

Dimanche, 13 juillet.

Today I went to heaven. Did you know that it's located in Giverny, France?

Despite the fact that people have been living in Giverny since the Neolithic Era, the small city is known around the world for one certain inhabitant -- Claude Monet. Interestingly, although he is now the town's most famous resident, Monet wasn't even originally FROM Giverny. He was born in Paris and spent his childhood in Le Havre. It wasn't until the age of forty-three when, in 1883, he discovered Giverny while passing through on a train. He fell in love with the town and immediately moved his family there. In 1890, Monet purchased a home in Giverny and began laying out his now-famous gardens.

After the death of Monet's son in 1966, his home and gardens were bequeathed to the Académie des Beaux-Arts. Extensive renovations restored the house and gardens to their original appearance. The museum opened in 1980 and has been welcoming tourists from around the world ever since.

I've been to Giverny before, way back in 2000. I don't have particularly vivid memories of the trip, but certain souvenirs -- including my children's book, Linnea in Monet's Garden -- have stayed with me for years. I didn't have a chance to visit during my last stay in France, and it's been on my 'bucket list' ever since.

With only a few days left in my summer tour of France, I decided that Giverny simply had to happen ... and luckily, one of my friends from school felt the same way! So Lynn and I hopped on a train to Vernon and, from there, on a bus to the town of Giverny. We started off our visit with a trip to Monet's world-famous nymphaes, or water lilies. Lynn and I wanted to get to there before the hordes descended, so we skipped the house and rushed through the garden, eager to make it to the jardin d'eau. This land was purchased as an addition in 1893, when Monet decided to expand his backyard, and is therefore located just across the train tracks from the rest of the property. (Want a visual? Check out this map.)

Unintentional matching because there are only so many neutrals!

We had been a little worried about picking such a dreary day for our day trip, but visiting Giverny in the rain turned out to be a simply incredible decision. Although the rain held off during the time we were actually visiting the gardens, the threat of bad weather scared off some of the crowds that would have usually been swarming on a summer weekend. It was crowded, but doable.

More importantly, the rain also gave everything an extra dose of gorgeous. A morning shower just before our arrival had left the garden damp, covered in water droplets, and looking greener than I thought was possible!


We didn't quite beat ALL of the crowds, as some people arriving via car or private tour bus had arrived at Giverny before us. But I'd still definitely recommend making the water lillies your first stop. They're the most famous (and arguably the most magical) part of the gardens and you want to make sure to be able to give them all of your attention!


After having rushed through them on our way to the water lilies, we then returned to explore Monet's flower gardens. When Monet purchased the home, this part of the garden was filled with apple trees and a vegetable patch. He quickly renovated le Clos normand, replacing trees with poppies and peonies in what many people have compared to a real-life artist's palette.

The lavender bordering this central pathway was one of my favorite parts of the garden. It reminded me of my friend Marika's photos of the champs de lavande in Provence.

Want to see more shots of these flowers up close? Check out my post, "Giverny in Full Bloom."

Giverny is beautiful, but it's definitely crowded. (Understandably, I tried to avoid catching other people in my photographs, but I assure you qu'il y avait du monde.) So I had a great time wandering around the quiet paths next to the house, which were a little bit less popular than the central garden paths. Lynn is a great photographer and the two of us had a blast alternating taking pictures of each other -- "Wait, stop! Stand by that door. Perfect." "Okay, now you! Hand me the camera and go sit on the steps. And un, deux, trois ..."


Though nowhere near as breathtaking as his gardens, Monet's house is quite a treat. The whole place has been painstakingly restored over the past few decades, and although tourists aren't allowed to take photos inside, it's easy to find pictures on the internet. (If you're interested, you can read a little bit about the layout of the house here ... in English, albeit dubiously translated!)

Though visiting Monet's reconstructed workshop was a truly surreal experience, Lynn and I both decided that the kitchen was our favorite part. We wandered in slowly from the dining room, our mouths agape at the blue and white tiles and shiny copper pots. (Why didn't Monet ever paint THOSE?!) Entranced, Lynn reached out a hand to touch one of the biggest cooking pots; I realized what was happening and squealed, "LYNN DON'T TOUCH! We can't touch!!" We were the only people in the room, but I caught the young security guard in the corner laughing at our over-the-top reactions.

The only photos allowed inside the house!

After visiting the house, it was time to leave. Just kidding. We were nowhere near ready! Instead of heading out, we wandered around the garden a little bit more...


When it was FINALLY time to leave, we spent a good thirty minutes exploring the museum gift shop ... located in the atelier des nympheas where Monet painted his famous water lilies!

I truly can't express how lucky we got today ... the cloudy skies and water droplet-covered flowers made for an absolutely stunning tour of Giverny, but all actual rain held off throughout our entire tour. However, within ten minutes of finally leaving the house and gardens and sitting down to lunch at a local pizzeria, the sky opened up.

Luckily, the downpour stopped long enough for a couple more photos in the ivy-covered streets of Giverny... what an incredible little town!

It rained for most of the rest of the afternoon, including our entire walk back from the train station in Paris! Although we were a little damp by the time we made it back to my apartment, neither Lynn nor I could believe how fortunate we had been.

Rain turning train windows into impressionist art.


  1. Oh my gosh Elisabeth! How wonderful it all was! I'm so happy you were able to return. I went immediately and found our print of Monet's house that we bought when we went and never had framed. :( Also, I found the magnet of Monet's kitchen that we also bought there the day visited. It's been on our garage door forever! haha! Two posters hang in our store room of Linnea in Monet's Garden. We even still have the little dolls as well as the book of course. Awwwww!
    I love you!