If Springtime in Paris is lovely, spring is even lovelier in the countryside for this Walla Walla girl. And after a week of navigating crowded Metros, museums, and churches, a day trip to the small village of Giverny is a perfect antidote to city-fatigue. But why Giverny? It's the home of one of my favorite Impressionist artists Claude Monet.
Getting there is easy. From Gare St. Lazare, take the train to Vernon. From there take a bus, rent a bike, or walk the last few miles to the village of Giverny.
|Monet lived in this house with its famous pink crushed brick facade from 1883 until his death|
in 1926. Can't you just imagine the leafy Virginia creeper and fragrant roses all in bloom?
ABOUT THE HOUSE
According to stories, Claude Monet noticed the village of Giverny while looking out of a train window. He made up his mind to move there and rented a house in the area surrounding it. In 1890 he had enough money to buy the house and land outright and set out to create a house big enough to accommodate his large family as well as the magnificent gardens he wanted to paint.
At one end of the house, Monet added a room for his studio including this multi-paned north facing window which is noticeably of a different size and shape than the windows of the central, original part of the house.
At the opposite end, Monet designed a large kitchen with sleeping rooms for his four step-daughters above. Including these two additions, the house now measures 132 feet long by only 16 feet deep.
Some of Monet's most famous paintings were of his garden in Giverny famous for its rectangular Clos Normand (walled garden) with archways. This central path is known as the alley and is completely covered in late summer with colorful nasturtiums under a canopy of climbing roses that grow across the iron arches. Note the green chain in the foreground preventing people from walking down the alley.
Because it was only the first week of April when I visited the garden, there were few blooms to be seen. Nevertheless, I was enamored by the bare bones architecture of the gardens themselves. And I appreciated being able to stroll about the grounds listening to the crunch-crunch of the gravel paths underfoot and the birds singing in the trees, all the while taking photos unhindered by crowds of people.
|Early springtime allows for peek-a-boo |
shots like this of the house as seen
from within the garden
RESTORATION & RECONSTRUCTION
When Monet and his family settled in Giverny in 1883, the piece of land sloping gently down from the house to the road was planted with an orchard and enclosed by high stone walls. Here Monet divided the nearly one hectare into flowerbeds where he married flower clumps of different heights to create volume. Fruit trees and ornamental trees rise above the assorted climbing roses, long-stemmed hollyhocks, and the waves of colorful annuals.
After Monet's death in 1926, his son Michel inherited the house and garden. He did not live there, and it was Monet's step-daughter Blanche who took care of the property. Unfortunately after WWII, the house and garden were neglected, and it was not until 1977 that a team of curators were appointed to not only restore but reconstruct the garden just as it was during Monet's life.
It took almost 10 years to restore the garden and the house since not much was left after the war. The greenhouse panes and windows in the house were reduced to shards as a result of the bombings. Floors and ceiling beams had rotted away, and a staircase had collapsed. Three trees were even growing in Monet's big studio.
In the Clos Normand (walled garden), soil was removed to find the original ground level. Then the same flower species as those of Monet were planted.
Thanks to generous donors the house underwent complete restoration. The antique furniture and Monet's collection of Japanese prints were restored, and public areas were created to accommodate visitors. Since September 1980, the property has been open to the public every year beginning April 1 through October 31.