When I was in university, I did what most students do and attended the yearly poster sale to decorate my room. Already a fan of Impressionism after a visit to the Musée d’Orsay as a teen, I purchased a poster representation of one of Monet’s water lilies paintings. Les Nymphéas hung beside my bed for four years and I would stare at it and let my imagination wander as I tried to put off studying or writing an essay.
I literally stepped into that painting when I visited Giverny. A perfect day trip from Paris for a gardening enthusiast, Giverny is located about 50 miles outside of the city. Monet settled here with his family in 1883. It was almost as if he envisioned his paintings in this pastoral setting before he’d even put brush to canvas. Monet was not only the heart of the Impressionist movement, he was also an avid gardener who ordered his own plants and bulbs, devoured gardening journals and planned the breathtaking gardens you can see on your tour.
As you stroll along the visitor paths of the Clos Normand, the garden by his pink house, you are in the midst of a riot of colours and shapes. Here Monet had gardeners plant climbing roses, hollyhocks, sunflowers, fruit and ornamental trees—a botanical representation of an artist’s palette. Click here for a complete plant list.
Even Monet’s pink house itself, restored in the 1980s to its former magnificence after falling into disrepair after the Second World War, is a long array of colourful, inspiring rooms.
Ten years after he bought the house, Monet, purchased the land on a neighbouring property and created a Japanese-inspired water garden, complete with the infamous arched bridge he had built by a local craftsman. The bridge is framed by the waterlilies, weeping willows and wisteria that added such an ethereal quality to his work.
After wandering the grounds, you may just be inspired enough to pick up a paintbrush yourself.
If you go
Unguided tours: 6 euros for adults and seniors
Open daily: April 1st to November 1st from 9.30 AM to 6.00 PM
Click here for directions.
If you are inspired to paint, there is a variety of art classes offered in the village by various teachers.
Where to see Impressionist paintings in Paris