DRIFT Travel magazine - - Visiting France - BY: GAIL KA­VANAGH

When­the revered French artist Claude Monet be­gan paint­ing en plein air in 1858 un­der the guid­ance of land­scape pain­ter Eu­gene Boudin, it was the be­gin­ning of a jour­ney to a new kind of art. En plein air means in the open air, and this proved the per­fect set­ting for Monet’s im­pres­sion­ist style. His life was not a happy one in many re­spects, hav­ing ex­pe­ri­enced poverty, re­jec­tion as an artist, and the death of his beloved wife; yet his paint­ings were (are) full of light and joy.

In 1890, his grow­ing fame as a land­scape artist al­lowed him to buy a house in Giverny, where he lived with his sec­ond wife and their chil­dren un­til his death in 1926. Once he was able to own the house he had pre­vi­ously rented, Monet be­gan work­ing on a gar­den which be­came his great­est in­spi­ra­tion. To­day this gar­den still flour­ishes and is a Mecca for art lovers and gar­den lovers alike.

The gar­den con­sists of two parts, the clos nor­mand and the Ja­panese-in­spired wa­ter gar­den. The former is where vis­i­tors find the flower beds which Monet planted to pro­vide not only artis­tic in­spi­ra­tion, but also plea­sure and beauty through the sum­mer months. The main walk in the gar­den is cov­ered by iron arches which are be­decked by roses in the sum­mer and paved with nas­tur­tiums.

There is no for­mal order to the flower beds. Monet pre­ferred the flow­ers grow in pro­fu­sion as they pleased, and the re­sult is a feast for the eyes. Monet con­fessed to spend­ing far too much money on his gar­den, but never grudged a cen­time for the sheer plea­sure that it brought him and his fam­ily.

Three years af­ter mov­ing into the house at Giverny, Monet bought a piece of land on the other side of the road and cre­ated the wa­ter gar­den. He had amassed a large col­lec­tion of


Ja­panese prints, and wanted to recre­ate the seren­ity of a Ja­panese gar­den around a small rivulet called the Rui, which tra­versed his newly ac­quired land. He had a bridge built across the river and sur­rounded it with weep­ing wil­lows, wis­te­ria, and bam­boo. The re­sult was so in­spir­ing he cre­ated his “Ja­panese Bridge” se­ries of paint­ings, show­ing the scene’s many moods.

Since 1980, Monet’s re­stored house has also been open to the pub­lic, and here you can see Monet’s col­lec­tion of Ja­panese prints, and the beau­ti­ful yel­low din­ing room which looks as if the sun never stops shin­ing in Giverny, France.

Just 75 km (46 miles) from Paris, the gar­den is open to vis­i­tors from April 1 to Novem­ber 1 ev­ery year and you must call


ahead to book a guided tour, which lasts 75 min­utes. The best month to see Monet’s flower gar­den in all its glory is in June, when ev­ery­thing is in bloom. For any visi­tor to France, not just art or gar­den lovers, a visit to Monet’s Gar­den pro­vides re­fresh­ment to the spirit, and beau­ti­ful va­ca­tion mem­o­ries.

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