Giverny and Inspiration from Monet’s Gardens

Why is it when you live so close to something truly amazing and touristy, you avoid it? Antoine and I lived in rue Bosquet for 5 years, just a few minutes walk from the Eiffel Tower and yet we went up only after we moved out of Paris. Then last weekend - after 19 years of living here - we finally drove 45 minutes up the A13 to a summery Giverny, Claude Monet’s haven near the river Seine in Normandy.

The secret is to leave early and get there for opening time at 9.30am so that there’s not much of a bouchon (traffic jam) on Monet’s Japanese bridge. Last year there were 611,000 visitors so believe me, this is important. The house and gardens have been open to the public since 1980. It needed 10 years of renovation (with major donations from the USA) after the house and garden’s neglect after the Second World War.

Such a wet summer to date has been good for the lush greens of the gardens.  Most of the flowers are seen in the Clos Normand, in front of the house. What a lovely idea to have an avenue of nasturtiums up to the front door. Imagine how many summer salads you could decorate with these (and eat)?

Just a few snapshots of the hundreds of flowers and plants on show. Claude Monet set to planting and sowing seeds as soon as he arrived in 1883 and his house is filled with volume upon volume of plant encyclopaedias and Japanese prints. Giverny’s talented gardeners continue to succeed in showing different varieties all through the year, as the seasons change.

You can see why the master of the Impressionists lived in this idyllic spot for nearly 46 years (1883-1926.)  Seeing the water garden live for the first time, it was just as he had portrayed them in his works of art. Do you recognise them?

Sur le pont… de Monet

Unlike Japanese bridges painted in red, Monet painted his bridge in bright green. Everyone around the garden’s visitor route was transfixed on the lily pads and nymphéas, made so famous by his paintings of them started in 1897. My girls loved watching an cute ugly duckling hobbling from lily pad to the next.

There wasn’t much to visit in the house, to be honest, and there is a lack of information as to what you’re seeing. Unfortunately photos were prohibited inside. His living room was impressive and although it’s filled with replicas, it’s still incredible to think he would lie on his chaise longue, puffing on his pipe while looking up at his masterpieces. Photos of Monet are around the house. Do you love looking at old photographs?

Standing outside Monet’s kitchen window: somehow with lace curtains around the house or that check and shutters you can tell we’re in France. Just up the road, the Hotel Baudy welcomed guests – particularly many American painters who came to Giverny for inspiration and to meet Monet.

To see Monet’s lilypond paintings, visit L’Orangerie Museum, the Louvre and the Orsay Museum in Paris. For more of his paintings – including the original painting, Impression Sunrise, which gave Impressionism its name – visit the Marmottan Museum in the 16th Arrondissement. They even have his pipe, if you’re particularly sentimental like myself.

After our meander up to the church to pay our respects to the great artist as well as locals who didn’t make their return to the village after the World Wars, it was time for a picnic. A short drive further up the Seine, we found the perfect spot underneath a weeping willow tree with our toes dangling into the river. The ideal, idyllic summer spot in the shade, imagining Monet capturing the scene on his floating studio.

The Giverny look this summer

He’s still making an impression on us in different ways: we can’t all sport white beards but the look in Giverny is this straw hat; we’re also spending a few days in New York City at the moment and this lily pond is following us around Manhattan through his water lily paintings! More on that later.

What would you be inspired to make from Monet’s garden?

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20 Responses to Giverny and Inspiration from Monet’s Gardens

  1. Kate@Diethood August 29, 2012 at 23:16 #

    Jill, these photos are beautiful! I want to be there!! You’re so lucky to live so close.

    • Jill August 30, 2012 at 14:00 #

      Kate! You’re back. Gosh, lovely to hear from you.

  2. Kim - Liv Life August 29, 2012 at 21:56 #

    What a beautiful day, Jill!! I’ve never been to these gardens, however, they are now high on my list. What beautiful, beautiful photos you took.
    I know what you mean about not visiting what is in your own backyard, or at least photographing it.
    For years I drove twice daily across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and one of the most beautiful sights is when the fog is in, and lays just about the deck level, almost making it appear that you are driving on clouds.
    I always said, “Oh… I’ll shoot it next time…”. But then I moved away and now it’s a memory.

    So glad you enjoyed your day!

    • Jill August 30, 2012 at 13:59 #

      Isn’t that funny, Kim? Just shows that we perhaps need to look at all things with a tourist eye, eh?

  3. Mum August 29, 2012 at 21:14 #

    Thanks so much for the photos Jill. I wish I could take photos as good as these. A great reminder of being there with our good friends Rena and David. Especially poignant since David is no longer with us. We did get in to see the house though and he thoroughly enjoyed the trip.

    • Jill August 30, 2012 at 13:58 #

      Precious memories, indeed, Mum. xo

  4. Rachel @ My Naturally Frugal Family August 28, 2012 at 17:17 #

    I was excited to read this post from the moment I saw the first picture. I have always loved Monet and his water lilies. I have been to the Musee D’Orsay, Louvre, and L’Orangerie when in Paris just to absorb all of the wonderful art.

    Thanks so much for sharing some real life shots of his wonderful haven.

    I hope you are having a wonderful day Jill!

    • Jill August 29, 2012 at 18:13 #

      Thanks – so pleased you enjoyed this, Rachel. Not much to do with macarons, but I wanted so much so share with you! I’ve also seen these paintings in Paris – amazing – but couldn’t believe how many there were also in NYC. Saw more at MoMA and the MET to continue the adventure.

  5. Lora August 27, 2012 at 03:45 #

    Native New Yorker here – never been to the Statue of Liberty. What a lovely day you had!

    • Jill August 29, 2012 at 18:11 #

      Just back from NYC and still never made it to the Statue of Liberty since it did seem too touristy. Instead we fought the queues at MoMA, the Met, and avoided that shooting scene at the Statue of Liberty – yikes, was just around the corner.

  6. Gerry @ Foodness Gracious August 24, 2012 at 06:21 #

    Isn’t that how it always is, I live 20 minutes from Disneyland but haven’t been in a long time..Hollywood is just up the road but..meh and Muscle Beach in Venice is close too, maybe I’ll frequent there more and try to age gracefully…

    • Jill August 29, 2012 at 18:10 #

      You make me laugh, Gerry. So, you HAVE been to Disneyland, though? Lol ;-)

  7. Nami | Just One Cookbook August 24, 2012 at 06:19 #

    My husband grew up here in SF and never been to Alcatraz, which is a very touristy spot. I lived near Tokyo, but never been to Tsukiji (the famous fish market). I think we just take it for granted and we always know it’s “crowded” and “touristy” places that we tend to avoid. Thanks for sharing lovely photos of the gardens! Oh, and enjoy NYC! I wish I can tag along!

    • Jill August 29, 2012 at 18:09 #

      I wish you could have tagged along in NYC, too. It was great fun and like all things, though, it’s also good now to be back home…

  8. Nic August 23, 2012 at 22:46 #

    Gorgeous! Thanks for the reminder of the happy memories of this place. I visited 13 years ago next week on the holiday when my now husband proposed :)

    • Jill August 29, 2012 at 18:08 #

      Happy Anniversary, Nic. Good timing, then. Cheers to happy times!

  9. Liz August 23, 2012 at 14:59 #

    Oh, I love this post, Jill! And how fun to see the slight changes in the foliage since June. I won the cookbook “Monet’s Table” from another blogger this summer…and hope to make something wonderful from there :) Your photos make me feel as though I’m back at Giverny~

    • Jill August 29, 2012 at 18:07 #

      True, these gardeners manage to continue the magic through all seasons. I’d love to see them with the wisteria most – and I want to see what you made from that book, Liz!

  10. Hester @ Alchemy in the Kitchen August 23, 2012 at 09:48 #

    It’s too true, Jill. Often the treasures on your own door step get ignored for more exotic excursions. Glad you got to Giverny. My husband took me there to celebrate my birthday a few years ago – it is absolutely magical, like stepping into Monet’s paintings. Lovely photos, thanks for the trip down memory lane.

    • Jill August 29, 2012 at 18:06 #

      What a wonderful way to spend a birthday, Hester. Glad it brought back memories.

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