More for your Monet

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - DAVID WIL­LIAMS RANT OR RAVE

FREWVILLE, SA THE trip to Giverny from Paris be­gan slowly. Jean, the driver and guide con­duct­ing the small group tour, picked me up from my ho­tel in the 7th ar­rondisse­ment on time, but the morn­ing traf­fic was jammed and we had to make two more in­ner-city pick-ups. Honk­ing the horn re­peat­edly, he shrugged, ‘‘This is Paris.’’ C’est la vie.

The coun­try­side was densely set­tled and I won­dered if the beau­ti­ful shots of Claude Monet’s gar­den I’d seen in books had been art­fully framed to avoid 14-storey apart­ment blocks and forests of elec­tric­ity py­lons.

But I was to dis­cover that Giverny is still very much a vil­lage, al­beit one per­pet­u­ally bustling with tourists. Our group of eight dis­persed with strict in­struc­tions to be back at the van on time.

It seems two kinds of vis­i­tors go to Giverny. There are those who see Monet’s home and gar­den as an es­sen­tial tourist des­ti­na­tion to be ticked off on a check­list, while there are art lovers who view the jour­ney as a pil­grim­age. Those in the lat­ter cat­e­gory, in­clud­ing me, recog­nise our fel­low pil­grims by the shared look of sub­lime joy as we gaze at the gar­den, the pond, the hump­backed bridge and those very fa­mil­iar wa­terlilies.

All too soon I needed to make my es­sen­tial visit to the gift shop. To save time, I asked a sales as­sis­tant to rec­om­mend some­thing that could be eas­ily and safely car­ried around Europe be­fore fly­ing to Aus­tralia. A mo­ment’s con­sid­er­a­tion, then she said, ‘‘Mon­sieur, for you, for Aus­tralia, I rec­om­mend place­mats.’’ She showed me a se­lec­tion of Monet’s best-known paint­ings, each one vac­uum-sealed with a clear plas­tic coat­ing. ‘‘ Monet avec plas­tique? Mais, non!’’ I said to my­self. But it was a sen­si­ble choice. I se­lected Im­pres­sion Soleil Le­vant, 1873, the paint­ing that be­came a poster child for im­pres­sion­ism. The mats even came with an im­pres­sive prove­nance — stamped ‘‘Fon­da­tion Claude Monet, Giverny’’.

Now, at home, my break­fast bowls of muesli, ce­real or grape­fruit rest on Monet; on Sun­days, I add eggs and ba­con. The place­mats cost just a few eu­ros. You could pay about $50 mil­lion for an orig­i­nal Monet, but try get­ting mar­malade or tomato sauce off one of those can­vases. Monet en plas­tique is clearly the way to go. Monet’s Gar­den: Musee Mar­mot­tan Monet is at the National Gallery of Vic­to­ria un­til Septem­ber 8. Send your 400-word con­tri­bu­tion to our Fol­low the Reader col­umn: travel@ theaus­ Pub­lished columnists re­ceive an Ev­ery­day Cash­mere Univer­sal Rib Scarf ($85). The uni­sex scarfs are 140cm long and 25cm wide and avail­able in a wide range of colours. More: ev­ery­day­cash­

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