In my last post, M1623 – A good walk Rouen-ed, I described the tour I took on my first day in Rouen – a guided walking tour around the historic centre of the city. We stayed in port overnight and were not due to set sail until 3pm, allowing time for another tour on the second day.
For the second day I had chosen what was likely to be the highpoint of the cruise – a tour to Giverny, the house and gardens of Claude Monet, the impressionist painter.
We had a coach drive of around an hour to reach Giverny, and our local guide very wisely used this time to tell us all about the life of Monet, and about the house and gardens that we were about to see. This meant that the whole time we were there we had free time to explore as we wished on our own, which was much better than other groups who were led around together in the confined spaces of the garden while the guide tried to make them all hear what he or she had to say.
The guide explained how Monet and Alice Hoschedé first rented then bought the house in Giverny following the death of his first wife Camille Doncieux. They needed a large house as he had two children from his first marriage, and Camille had six children from her marriage to Ernest Hoschedé, a patron of Monet. Ernest died in 1891, leaving Camille free to marry Monet a year later.
Monet lived and painted at Giverny for 42 years until his death in 1926. The house passed to his son Michel, but he did not live there, and it was his step-daughter Blanche who looked after the property. Following world war two the property fell into neglect, and on the death of Michel ownership passed to the French state. A ten year program of restoration of both the house and gardens followed, and both were opened to the public in September 1980.
The guide then explained what there was to see at Giverny. There are two distinct gardens, separated by a road – an underpass links the two. The first of these gardens is the water garden, where Monet painted his pictures of water lillies and the Japanese bridge. The second garden, a large flower garden called Clos Normand is adjacent to the house. The house is also open for viewing, and contains a huge collection of Japanese prints which Monet had collected during his life.
On arriving at the coach park for Giverny, our guide led us slowly towards the group entrance to the house and gardens. There were several pauses, some to allow the slower members of the group to catch up which was fair enough, but some were to point out the location of cafés where coffee could be bought, together with a detailed description of the speciality eats at that café. I know I am biased as I don’t drink coffee, but why when you have very limited time at such a special place as Giverny would you waste time drinking coffee which can be done anytime anywhere?
The result was that when our group finally reached the entrance, a coach load who had driven into the coach park after us had got there first by a more direct route, so we had to wait for them to slowly enter before we could.
When at last I was into the gardens and I immediately headed for the water gardens:
I then used the underpass again to enter the flower gardens:
I looked at the length of the queue to enter the house, and decided my time was better spent in the gardens than queuing. In one corner of the flower gardens were some hens and a noisy cockerell – with my love of quirky photographs I was pleased with this one which I call ‘running around like a headless chicken’:
As we left the house and gardens (via the gift shop of course!) and made our way back towards the coach, we passed a recreation of a hay meadow scene similar to that in one of Monet’s paintings:
It was a lovely and very memorable tour on a beautiful sunny day – I thoroughly enjoyed taking the Monet – well at least taking pictures of Monet’s garden!