Many years ago I walked into a museum gallery and was surrounded by flowers and waterlilies and light reflecting off ponds and trees. I remember being filled with longing to visit those flowers. On June 11, 2018 at 7 am our group of fourteen walked into the gardens that I saw that day in paintings. It was chilly and rain threatened, but nothing dimmed the light or the quiet of Monet’s gardens in Giverny, France.
Not many visitors get to spend five days in the gardens before they are opened to tourists and after the tourists leave. We were privileged to do that thanks to Elizabeth Murray from Monterey, who in the 1980’s visited Monet’s Gardens and as she said, fell in love. She persuaded the head gardener to let her work there.
Elizabeth is a gardener, an artist, a photographer and a writer. We were part of her tour Discover Monet’s Passion – The Gardens of Giverny.
In Monet fashion we would leave the La Reserve every morning at 6.45 for the short drive to Giverny to enter the gardens to paint, draw and photograph in the cool air and to capture the soft light. We were the only people in the gardens from 7-9 am and again from 6-8 pm. We waited for the gardeners who walked down the quiet streets of Giverny to unlock the green garage doors to start their day and ours.
As we entered I was struck by the quiet and peace. All week in the gardens I heard the songs and calls of the birds. I couldn’t believe the lushness of the flowers, the colors and the scents.
We strolled the paths to the house which is at the top of the garden. Monet first saw it when he stopped in Giverny on his way to Paris. He loved the pink brick and the land it stood on. In 1883 he moved his large family into the house and began creating the gardens.
It is now a museum that contains many of his paintings and art of his friends, including Japanese wood blocks.
The wall of paintings. Some of his and some from his fellow artists.
The view from one of the windows.
This path of rose covered trellises leads up to the house.
Paths of lavender and roses.
John literally took hundreds of pictures, so enjoy a walk amongst the flowers.
Monet laid out the gardens the way he painted, working with color and light and shade. He bought land across the railroad tracks and turned it into his water gardens. Join me as we go through a tunnel and up the stairs into the woods
winding along the pathway
through the bamboo
past the pond with the rowboats
to the small bridge.
I spent most of my time in the water gardens, sitting on a bench near the bridge trying to capture the water, trees and sky in paint. It rained the first morning but I was sheltered under my rain jacket and by the branches of the willow tree. Many of Monet’s paintings capture the willows fronds dipping into the water.
There were other artists in the gardens and one woman set up her easel near me. When the light rain started her husband stood next to her and held the umbrella over her head and the easel. She smiled at me and said, “Best husband ever”.
The next day the sun rose over the pond.
Join me on the paths and the benches in the Jardin D’Eau.
Monet was very influenced by Japanese artists. Today his water gardens still reflect that influence. These water lilies took my breath away.
Artists at work on the steps where Monet docked his canoe.
and on the only piece of grass in the water gardens
and some art work,
The gardens were smaller than I thought they would be, but I simply cannot convey the variety, beauty and all round gorgeousness (is there such a word?) of the place. So here are a few more of my favorites.
All things come to an end and on Friday at 8 pm we walk to the garage exit
and to our cars to return to La Reserve, our home for a week.
We prepare to gather outside before the final dinner.
A gorgeous end of the the day and the week.
Giverny is a lovely village (pop 500) with small restaurants, a hotel, another museum and flowers galore. It is an hour and fifteen minutes by car from Paris. There is a train to the town of Vernon and then a short bus ride.
The link to the gardens http://fondation-monet.com Click on the British flag icon for English.
If you cannot get there, enjoy the gardens through Elizabeth Murray’s book. She has written and published extensively, so you can tour the gardens through her eyes. Visit her website at http://elizabethmurray.com
All photographs on this blog are the property of John Lonstein.