Rod drove us from Amiens to Giverny in just over two hours. It was a journey of over 130km, much of it on narrow winding country roads that took us through quaint little rural French villages. It’s days like this when you give thanks that you’ve got a GPS device in your vehicle. There was a persistent carpet of fog that had hung around since early morning and showed no sign of going away. There weren’t too many cars on the road.
But when we arrived at Giverny, it was bedlam. There were hordes of people everywhere. Tour buses and private vehicles had taken up just about every spot in the carpark. Soldiers armed with very visible machine guns wandered back and forth through the village, no doubt keeping order on a day when there was serious rioting from yellow vest protesters in Paris not too far away. In my opinion, it was the bank holiday that brought the crowds to Giverny today, so our timing wasn’t the greatest.
Walking up towards Claude Monet’s house and garden, we encountered a very, very long queue to get in. I’m convinced that the ones at the back might have to wait for over an hour before they neared the entrance. Luckily I’d pre-purchased tickets back in Australia, so we skipped the queue and entered the garden relatively quickly.
Claude Monet is one of my favourite French Impressionist painters. He liked to paint outdoors and was always able to do amazing things with natural light and the colours of nature. Here at Giverny, he lived in a very fine house, but it was his famous water garden that provided inspiration for some of his finest works – the water lilies suite of paintings. The Japanese influence is obvious in the design and placement of small bridges. On a day where there were such vast crowds in attendance, it was challenging to walk around and take photos without bumping into other patrons. Everyone wanted their portrait, or perhaps a selfie, taken on a bridge, and this slowed everyone down while we waited patiently for the photo/s to be taken before we could move past them. Luckily, I was able to take a few photos from angles where it appears there are no other visitors, but believe me, there certainly were!
The gardens in front of Monet’s house are also outstanding, with row upon row of mixed flowering plants, each of them showing off their bright spring colours. We stood in a really long queue to enter the house, but, when we finally entered, we discovered it was worth the wait. Different rooms of the house revealed the Japanese paintings that inspired Monet, and works by other French painters like Renoir and Cezanne. And, of course, works by Monet himself. Much of the furniture was in place. Bright natural light flooded in through large windows. There were no barriers or other impediments to protect the works on display, which I appreciated as it allowed people to get right up close to aspects of Monet’s works and inspect them in close detail.
There was little time to ponder what was on display in the house, as the security team continued to ask people to move on. We almost shuffled through the house at times when the crowding made regular movement impossible. We left the house and took one more stroll through the beautiful garden, then exited via the gift shop. Walking back to the car, we passed a queue of people waiting to enter that was probably one hundred metres long. It was 4.30pm, and our tickets had said the house and garden would only be open until 5.00pm. Somehow, I think a few of those people in the queue were headed for the disappointment of having the gate closed before they could pass through it. Nevertheless, despite the crowd, this was a wonderful place to visit and we all agreed that we were glad we came.