Not too long ago, I finally experienced something that I have been longing to see since I can remember. That was taking a trip to explore Monet’s gardens for the first time. It seems to be a cliché as an Art Historian to say that you love the Impressionists – but I really do! There’s something about their work, especially Monet’s, dreaminess and visionary paintings that captivates the viewers. When looking at their work, I could stand for hours staring at the various colours, watching them wash and merge into one another as you move your gaze around the surface.
It was here in Giverny where Claude Monet lived from 1883 until his death in 1926. Living in a delightfully sweet house, Monet transformed his gardens into an amazing landscape of beauty – an ode to nature.
“It’s maybe because of flowers that I’ve become a painter.” Claude Monet (1840 – 1926)
Monet’s gardens are divided into two separate areas – the Close-Normand and the Water Garden. Starting at the Close-Normand, which was remodeled according to the original design, the garden is made of winding paths with a variety of beautiful flowers wherever you go. The sheer amount of flowers is overwhelming – in the good sense! Everywhere you look there seems to be a different species, and of course you don’t want to miss a thing. The amazing array of colours within the garden reflects the work of Monet, and walking around the Close-Normand, one feels as if they have entered one of his paintings.
A descent through an under-ground path takes you to the infamous landscape that was the inspiration of Monet’s Water Lilies collection. Purchased in 1893, Monet transformed this land into a heaven – and into the ‘Jardin d’eau’ (Water Garden). This garden reflects Monet’s interest in Japanese Culture, with its own Japanese bridges and oriental plants, including magnificent Weeping Willows surrounding the pond. In contrast to the traditional red bridges of Japan, Monet’s were painted green – as if to blend into the landscape of the garden.
Having seen many of Monet’s Water-Lilly paintings in person all over the world, it was a surreal experience to finally be able to come to the place which ignited his inspiration for those works. Having spent time wandering around the Water Garden, it was easy to see how Monet was so inspired and devoted to this garden.
Monet once wrote of the gardens: “The overall effect is endlessly varied. Not just from one season to the next, but from one minute to the next… the heart of everything is the reflecting mirror of the water, whose appearance fluctuates endlessly according as it catches the teeming life and movement of the every-changing sky. A passing cloud, a freshening breeze, a squall that looms then strikes, the gale that comes without warning, the light that fades then intensifies anew – all these things transform the color and texture [of art].”
I felt that I experienced this when visiting the gardens, as every view created a different vision, with the reflections of the water changing and the slight breeze moving the plants.
As well as exploring the gardens, you can also head inside the house itself. Recently renovated in the style of Monet’s original décor, it’s interesting to be able to attempt to picture yourself in his life. In the bedrooms on the second floor, you can gaze out onto the landscape, which I can only imagine being twice as serene without the tourists. I am a little obsessed with the pink exterior of the house – it looks almost as if it could fit in Notting Hill without looking too conspicuous!
Overall, I had an amazing time visiting Claud Monet’s Gardens. It was a beautifully sunny day, with the flowers in full bloom – what more could you ask for? Despite taking around 600 photos, I still don’t feel as if I got enough, or did the stunning landscape any justice!
Advice for visiting Monet’s Gardens in Giverny:
- Pre-book tickets: I had pre-booked my tickets online – which included no a fixed date, meaning that I had a lot of flexibility for when I decided to go. When I arrived at the Museum, despite it being early in the morning, there was already a big queue. But with my pre-booked ticket I was able to skip all of this and enter extremely quickly!
- Getting there: Take a train from Saint-Lazare in Paris to Gare Vernon, which takes around 45 – 50 minutes. From there, either take the shuttle bus or hire bikes (or walk!). If a nice day, I would recommend hiring bikes – you cycle along a beautiful cycle path, and get to experience the cute town of Giverny.
You can see all the photos that I took during my visit to Monet’s Gardens here.