I had heard it said prior to seeing Monet’s Garden for myself, that some have found it a disappointment – that it looked uncared for and unloved. Well, I am not one of those who found it so. I loved it! In fact for all four of us, it was an absolute highlight. We left our Paris hotel early to avoid traffic, and within half an hour or so of picking up our car, we were there, ready for the opening at 9.30am. The tourist buses had already arrived, but we easily found shaded (and free) parking – a boon since it was a beautiful sunny day. We took a short stroll along the pristine lanes in the sun while we waited, but were soon able to enter.
Personally, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had wanted to see the Gardens for so long, that I wondered if I might be disappointed. I needn’t have worried. Finding words to adequately describe this historic place is difficult – idyllic, charming, spectacular, beautiful, magical – it is all those things and much more. It may be that we had perfect weather in mid-May, and that there were so many flowers in bloom, but I have seen photos of the place in winter, after snow has fallen – a different light, different colours, but it still looks amazing.
I have to say from the outset, that I am no gardener – I am completely ignorant when it comes to planting and nurturing flowers and plants (though strangely they do seem to grow for me), but one of my great joys in life is appreciating the great beauty inherent in flowers and beautiful gardens.
My mother was a wonderful gardener and I so admired her for it – her garden gave her the most immense pleasure especially as she aged, and I loved watching her tend it. I like to believe that her love of beautiful gardens rubbed off on me, and as I wandered through Monet’s, I knew how much she would have loved it – I think that it is one reason that it was so special to be there.
We started by walking down through the top beds near Monet’s house, stopping along our way to take in the profusion of colours, in bed after bed – irises, roses, pansies and the like. These are not your traditional well-manicured gardens such as you find elsewhere in France – say around the Loire chateaux – but I am sure there is an absolute art in making these truly abundant flower beds seem as if they began casually flourishing, completely unaided… the gardeners who tend them must truly be artists themselves.
As you continue the walk towards the water garden, you must negotiate a rather quaint tunnel and then you are there – and it is spectacular. Despite the numerous others taking in the pond, it didn’t bother me as I was so absorbed in the beauty of my surroundings – it even seemed tranquil. At this time of the year, the azaleas, rhododendrons and wisteria were in bloom and oh so pretty. Having been there now, it is very easy to see why Monet took such inspiration for his painting here.
After a very special time wandering around the pond, which has quite a Japanese influence throughout (maples and bamboo flourish there), we made our way up to Monet’s authentically restored home. The ‘no photography’ rule is very firmly policed, but I will always vividly remember the rooms, – especially Monet’s bedroom with its view out over the garden, the yellow dining room, and wonderful blue and white tiled kitchen with its collection of copper utensils. Being in the house was like going back in time, comparable for me with Clos-Luce, where Leonardo da Vinci spent the last years of his life, and also the stunning Rothschild villa.
Below I share some of the photos I took – one of the most appealing photos was the old boat under the trees – and the other favourite is of my friend Frances (for whom this visit was an absolute highlight), enjoying the peonies- two memorable moments from a special morning, shared with great friends, in a perfect garden.