I’m not sure I have the words to describe Giverny. It’s a Monet painting come to life; which is fitting, considering it was Monet’s home. Claude Monet and his family settled in Giverny in 1883, and he set to work bringing his vision to life. There are two parts to Monet’s gardens: the flower garden in front of the house called Clos Normand, and the Japanese-inspired water garden on the other side of the road. You can also explore the house, to see where the artist lived. Monet spent about 40 years here, building, planning, and perfecting his gardens. O, and painting them of course.
It’s an easy hour-ish trip from Paris to Vernon. Then I took an adorably touristy little train through the town. Dumb? Yes. But it was a good way to see some really, really old Norman architecture. Obviously being THE gardens used as inspiration for THE water lilies, Giverny is a very popular destination.
I walked around the Clos Normand first. At first glance it was a sort of visual shock – in the best possible way. The garden is sort of beautifully organized chaos. Nothing is overly manicured; it’s a planned sort of wildness. Walking through the garden was like walking through a forest of color. When the wind blows the right way the air is a beautiful blend of scents.
July in France is probably the peak-est of peak travel times. It was so beautiful I didn’t even mind the crowds. I’m sure being there alone, surrounded by peaceful solitude and every kind of flower you can think of is something akin to a religious experience. But my fellow floral worshippers didn’t bother me. Yes-kind strangers, I will share this paradise with you…and the bees of course.
After wandering through Monet’s house, I took the underpass to the other side of the road for the main event, what everyone comes to see: THE WATER LILIES. It wasn’t water lily season, but it’s still a beautiful sight. After waving hello to the cows grazing on the other side of the fence, I walked along a path that takes you around the pond. The pond is lined with flowers and bushes, and those weepy trees (like green curtains of leaves). A man in a tiny rowboat was skimming pond scum. He’s famous now because he’s in at least 100 people’s photos from the day. I’m sure it’s not an easy job, and might not be very glamorous, but gliding across that pond with his skimmer, looked like a very peaceful way to spend an afternoon.
Standing in that garden, absorbing the beauty of the famed water lily pond, I thought in a place like that, maybe anyone can be a great painter. Maybe all the rest of us ordinary people need are better inspiration.