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Exploring Giverny - home of Claude Monet

Exploring Giverny - home of Claude Monet

Giverny was home to the renowned painter Monet and his famous gardens - a must see for anyone visiting Normandy. The gardens are quite simply spectacular and have set the scene for many of his well known paintings. Monet’s vision was to create a colourful oasis for him and his large family to enjoy, and is today maintained to the same standard for millions of visitors around the world to enjoy. In fact 500,000 people a year visit the gardens during the 7 months that they are open. The land is divided into flowerbeds where flower clumps of different heights create volume. Fruit trees or ornamental trees dominate the climbing roses. Simple flowers (daisies and poppies) are mixed together with the most rare varieties. Claude Monet did not like organised nor constrained gardens. He married flowers according to their colours and left them to grow rather freely. Ten years after Monet’s arrival in Giverny, he bought the piece of land neighbouring his property on the other side of the railway. It was crossed by a small brook, the Ru, which is a diversion of the Epte, a tributary of the Seine River. With the support of the prefecture, Monet had the first small pond dug; even though his peasant neighbours were opposed. They were afraid that his strange plants would poison the water.

Later, the pond was enlarged to its present day size. The water garden is full of asymmetries and curves. It is inspired by the Japanese gardens that Monet knew from the prints he collected avidly. In this water garden you will find the famous Japanese bridge covered with wisterias, other smaller bridges, weeping willows, a bamboo wood and above all the famous nympheas which bloom all summer long. The pond and the surrounding vegetation form an enclosure separated from the surrounding countryside. As guests of Tauck, we visited his gardens and his home BEFORE it was opened to the public. Arriving at 8am, a team of staff were on hand to greet us as we arrived in three groups, with each group accompanied by one of our three Tour Directors and a local guide. Our local guides shared their extensive knowledge of Claude Monet as we followed them at our own pace through these breathtakingly beautiful gardens listening intently through our personal audio voxes. We were also able to access his sizeable (and colourful) home where he lived with his large family, seeing many of his paintings adorning the walls including works in progress displayed on easels in his studio. This opportunity to visit Giverny before the crowds is priceless and was especially noted as we were leaving as the hordes of visitors began to arrive. Docked next to another Riverboat in Vernon (our port for Giverny), it is notable that the guests of that other Riverboat had a slower start to their day as unlike us they were unable to access the gardens until the general opening hour of 9:30am….along with everyone else. Thank you Tauck for this rare and very much appreciated exclusive opportunity – it was yet another highlight.

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