More for your Monet
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@ theaustralian.com.au. 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: everydaycashmere.com.