Day three in the big city and things have started to fall into place, mostly! I’m not sure if today was good because we got out of the city. But we started the morning with a play again in the Tuileries. I’m not sure what the world record is for see-saw usage, but Hardy must surely have given it a nudge. Such a simple, old device! The meeting place for our tour to Monet’s house in Giverny was nearby so it was perfect. I also didn’t mind having another one of the fromage hot dogs from the stand outside the park. They’re so yum!
Our tour group was with Paris Info – the main tourist office. The double-decker bus (impressing Hardy obviously) was spacious and nice, making the one-hour (ish) drive to Giverny very comfortable. And it was a nice drive – the scenery was beautiful, changing between green forests, farmland, a few small towns, the odd factory as well of course! All the while an emerald green Seine (I think it’s still the Seine) comes and goes. Paris Info have these really nifty audio guides whereby you use this special pointer to point at different sections on a brochure and it will tell you about it. So I got to learn all I wanted to about Claude and the gardens before we even got there. Which was great, because then we could just walk around and I knew what I was looking at, as opposed to trying to listen and walk and see all at the same time.
The town immediately before Giverny (which in itself is tiny!) is Vernon. It looks really nice – a beautiful Notre Dame-esc cathedral and old town. It’s right on the river too and it looks as if some of the river cruises might stop here as one was docked. Would be a really nice cruise – the countryside was just adorable.
For a bit of background, Claude Monet and the other Impressionists found it difficult to sell their paintings for many years as they deviated from the norm (i.e. religion-based paintings) and what was considered ‘art’ according to the art schools and rules. Impressionism is basically paintings of real life according to the artist’s impression of what they see of that scene – people walking or dining, a landscape etc. These artists also felt that with the rise of photography, why should they try and replicate something exactly as it appears when a photo can do that for you?
He spotted the parcel of land in Giverny whilst on the train, and when his income increased he bought more land which was on the other side of the road. So he built an underground tunnel to link the two properties. It was in a perfect location – close to Paris as well as La Havre where he group up, which is further north in the Normandy region. I have been to this area before and I highly recommend it – Rouen and Honfleur in particular. Anyway I digress.
We started our tour of Monet’s grounds with the water garden. Mind. Blown. I can’t believe he created all this. No wonder he was so inspired by it. A path leads you all around and through the main lake. The array of plants is incredible. The children kept pointing to an animal in the water saying it was an otter. I’m not sure if it was as I’ve never seen one. Surprisingly we could only find one fish.
It was busy but not unbearably so. One lady though climbed over the fence to take some photos. Everyone just stared in horror but no one said anything. I wish I had now, retrospectively. Imagine the kind of person you’d have to be to think that that was ok?
From his water garden we moved into the other garden, which he planted very specifically – in colours. It was to represent the artist’s palette. There were some flowers I’d never seen before which was cool.
The queue to go inside his house moved quickly and it was so amazing to be able to see how they lived. He hung a lot of his art in his ‘lounge room’ so as to maximise any potential sales from people who stopped by or stayed with him. His last wife (he had two I think) had five children and he himself had two sons, so the house is quite large in order to accommodate them all. Interestingly there was no main hallway – each of the rooms were connected with a door so I imagine you had to walk through someone else’s room to get to your own?
Monet had a passion for Japanese art and there was so much of it all over his house – more so than his own art or any other impressionist work. Pretty interesting. The most amazing part though was the kitchen! Described as ‘ultra modern’ for its time, it was so beautiful (as far as kitchens go!).
Unfortunately the ride back into Paris took a little longer than anticipated because of the heavy traffic – a lot of people returning to the city after spending the weekend away apparently. But we successfully navigated the metro again and eventually arrived back to the hotel. Grabbed some cheese, bread, salami and guac from the supermarket for dinner. Again, not having a fridge is a real pain as whatever we don’t eat will get binned.
Hardy was acting strange in the supermarket and after a while I knew why. He’d sharted. The poor kid. At first I wouldn’t let him in the pram in case it leaked through but then I put the plastic bag down and he sat on that. I could see it coming down his leg. It took me so long to clean him up. ‘How did this happen!?’ I said. ‘I have no idea.’ Hmm. In the bath you go! Needless to say the pants have been binned. Sorry to the cleaner! Just when you think the day is going so well!!
On that note, while I write about my frustrations I’m usually laughing or at least shaking my head – I mean what can you do?! I’m not actually sad or down or anything like that! I’m disappointed I haven’t gelled well with Paris this time around, but that’s ok. I was thinking today that the chaotic nature of Paris was probably heightened simply by where we’d just been – small towns on the coast, rural Tuscany, Lucca and Florence. They were all very laid back or small or relaxed.
Disneyland tomorrow! Or as Hardy says ‘Disleyland.’ Might not get to write about it as we get home late I think, then up early to get to the airport. Almost home people!!