Thursday, 7 June 2012

France, Day 4: Giverny

1 May

I remember so clearly the day that I went along with my sister to the Art Gallery of WA to see the Monet exhibition. The exhibition was beautifully presented, and the famous Water Lilies were placed in the perfect position for viewing. My sister and I sat on a bench, tears in our eyes as we gazed at that particular painting, so exquisite is it. You would swear that the canvas itself is embedded with gentle, soft lights. Monet was indeed a master.

How, then, could I visit Paris and not spend time at his beloved property in Giverny? It would be impossible, of course. And so it was that, on day four of our time in Paris, we boarded a bus for the short drive to that special place. When we set off from Paris the sky was blue, the sun was shining, the day was gorgeous. Then, however, as with that first night of our holiday, there was a sudden rain storm. I’m talking torrential. Our coach driver – and just about every other motorist on the auto route at that time – pulled over to the hard shoulder because the rain was so heavy that visibility was absolutely zero. The noise of the rain on the roof of the vehicle was incredible, like a train tearing through a tunnel. But then, just as if somebody had reached across to a master control panel and flicked the “off” switch, the rain stopped, the sun came back out, and the only problem then with visibility was that incredible glare from the wet road in the bright sunlight. Crazy!

Giverny - could anything be more beautiful.

You may be wondering, of course, why we got a coach and didn’t make our own way via train. Well, this was our first trip to France and the idea of a coach trip with a little bit of commentary along the way, suited us perfectly. Oh, and remember that I was still hobbling around a bit, and so I was a tad dubious about getting up and down stairs at railway stations. The coach was comfortable, and being so high up as you are in those tourist buses you are afforded a great view of the countryside you pass through. Okay? Just thought I should get that issue out of the way.

Or more peaceful.
Anyway, we passed housing estates and houses, passed the river, and the river again, and the river again – that’s the thing with rivers, isn’t it, they pop up again and again, never keeping to a straight line, bohemian non-conformists that they are. Through little villages, whose names I didn’t note and can’t now remember, we went, and then came to THE PLACE.  Honestly, it was so exciting I almost didn’t want to pass through the gates. You know how it is, you worry that perhaps the reality may not live up to your expectations, or – even worse – that it will and you don’t think you will be able to bear the beauty of it.


more right?

I have to tell you, it more than lived up to our expectations. Ah, if you get to France do not, and I really mean, do not pass up the opportunity to spend time wandering around those gardens. The Japanese bridge is there, just as he painted it. You feel as though you are yourself in a painting. So what if the bridge is packed shoulder to shoulder with tourists, all having their photographs taken there with the wisteria and the willows and the waterlilies? So what, indeed. This is magical stuff.

The gardens have been maintained expertly, and obviously with much love, in just the way that Claude Monet himself designed them, and it is a privilege and an honour to stroll around them, delighting over the colours, the textures, the absolute glorious abundance of it all. You want to photograph everything, yet at the same time  you want to photograph nothing but just to breathe in the beauty of the place.

The family home is truly charming, nothing beige and tasteful but something which you just know rang with lots of laughter, a home in the real sense of the word, a place where silence was never considered golden. It has colour, it has life, it has – oh, what is that expression, folks – a certain joie de vivre. I loved it and could just imagine sitting in that fantastic kitchen eating great food, drinking copious quantities of good cheap quaffing wine, and stroking the cat while conversation flowed all around and through me.

Even the gift shop is a delightful place to visit, I assure you, and so my credit card got a bit of a battering, but it was  well and truly worth it. I look at the drink coasters that I purchased there and I can still feel the magic of that day. Had we suddenly been told that we had to fly home to Perth that night I would have said, “It is enough".

I know you want more Giverny, so here you are:


C'est tout.

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