The Answer to 'What Was the Highlight of Your Trip'
08.10.2013 - 23.10.2013
This last post has been so difficult to write and I've just figured out why. Little Ms Perfectionist thinks she can't do justice to the story of the best day of her whole trip!
So I'm just going to plough on and if it's bad I'm sorry. But you can take it from me that this day was so breathtakingly beautiful that I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. THAT's why it's so dear to my heart, and why I want so much to measure up to its perfection. But like the photos don't do it justice, and can't capture just how exquisitely beautiful this place is, neither will my blog - and that's life.
These eight weeks have truly been the trip of a lifetime.
It was a gift of love from my Beloved who wanted this trip to be the Most Amazing 60th 40th a girl could have!
The route was devised around the core premise of spending My Birthday and Our Wedding Anniversary (39 years!!!!) in Paris, and spending time exploring France and Italy in the process.
There were so many things we discovered, laughed at, cried at, got frustrated by, and totally gobsmacked us, that no blog could ever capture them all.
I was a little surprised that I didn't fall in love with Venice or Rome but delighted I did fall in love with Tuscany. I enjoyed Provence and most of provincial France but didn't fall in love with it either. Though that Pont du Gard was certainly the second best highlight of the trip!
When we decided to cull some of our planned destinations in provincial France for the sake of our sanity, I was really happy to do so. But there was one condition. While I was happy for our visit to Giverny to be taken out of the plan, it had to be put into our schedule as a Day Trip from Paris. Phil seemed not to care much either way.
And then we went there from Paris.
I booked our visit for the day before my birthday. I'd always wanted to go, and thought it might add to the lovely build-up! We chose to get to Giverny on a half day small group trip, rather than train and bus and all that palaver. (Remember by this time I was walking with a stick thanks to unco-operative knees so choosing options that placed least hurdles in front of me was critical.)
Giverny is about 70km north-west of Paris and the location of Claude Monet's recreated gardens where he created so many famous and spectacular paintings, many of them painted right there in the garden not in any studio but there in his beloved light. I'm an Impressionist nut, but I'm a Claude Monet fiend! So I figured a trip to Giverny would be a mighty good way to spend my last day in my 50s 30s.
It was an early start and still a bit short on daylight as we gathered at our pick up point. But, as we travelled in our comfy van with helpful driver and 3 others, the sun began to come out for the first time in about a week. It was only about a 70 minute drive. By the time we arrived and began exploring there was some amazing morning light and quite a still day. How appropriate! After all Claude Monet spent so many years exploring light on the water lilies, pond, and surrounding gardens.
I've seen so many photos of this longed for location but NONE of them could have prepared me for it. It was so exquisitely beautiful, even though it was wearing it's autumn wardrobe. That caught me unawares - not the autumn wardrobe, I KNEW it was autumn! It's famous for its beauty in spring, so I'd prepared myself for some degree of dullness and little colour. But no!
The varieties of the green tonings are used to powerful effect. Even though it was too early in Autumn for much colour change in any deciduous trees, there was still enormous breadths of colour to the the "big pieces" of the garden.
In fact I shouldn't just call it "garden" because it is in fact 2 gardens on either side of a road. The famous water lily pond is reached by a neat little subway under the road and reveals itself slowly as you meander beside a stream. Following the stream and listening to the birds we came upon a woodland of bamboo trees that, either by nature or careful nurture, have little lower foliage so from a human level you are looking at an array of bamboo trunks that is soothing in its patterns, scale and infused light.
You pass a small pond with two boats that instantly reminded me of this painting of his stepdaughters. Then a little green bridge crossed the stream. Straight away I note its similarity and difference from my memories of the famous "Japanese bridge".
And slowly we came upon the beginnings of THE pond. The water gardens only covers about 2 acres but seems to be endless and like all good landscaping seems to have different areas delivering different views so that the garden keeps drawing you further towards its many highlights. Patches of particular colours and contrasts, clusters of particular plants, different stopping spots to view water lilies from different perspectives. Tall structured trees and bushes mix with curvaceous meandering plants and beautiful drooping willows and feathery foliage.
While we worked our way around the pond, firstly came views of a simple smaller bridge painted that unmistakeable green, and then the famous bridge the - the Japanese Bridge with all its wisteria foliage winding all over it. Sadly no clusters of drooping purple and white spring flowers, but insanely they were instantly there in my mind's eye from so many viewings of those gorgeous paintings. I could practically smell the heady perfume of those heavy flowers. (Yes maybe I do have a vivid imagination, but what a time to summon it!) The early simpler bridge just built the excitement at eventually finding the "real" bridge.
We spent about spent about 50-60 minutes working our way around this amazing pond and all its exuberance of flowers and foliage and trees and truly stunning reflections in the still water. The cameras were working overtime but it was impossible to capture just how truly AWESOME it was.
And everywhere AMAZING REFLECTIONS, so powerful you just KNOW why Monet became so obsessed as to paint the pond as if it had no edges but instead just water and the reflections in it.
Eventually we returned under the road and moved into the garden of Monet's house. Even more flowers and spectacular colours were to be found here as well as the arched walkways of his paintings. We met a lovely American girl who was working trimming plants in the garden. She was a trained horticulturalist who'd been working for 5 years in the US, and quit her job when she succeeded in her application for a month long unpaid internship in these amazing gardens. She was sooooo happy to have that heavenly gig she just kept smiling.
And that's what Phil said to me a little later. "You can't wipe the smile off your face, can you?" Sooooo right!
Then the unmistakeable Monet house, seen in paintings and photos. Again I could picture the tall formally dressed Monet with the bushy white beard! Yes I know - kinda freaky!
None of his paintings are kept in the house though there are a lot of replicas of his works in his studio laid out, edge to edge on the walls, as old photos showed he kept them. All through the house are family photos of Monet and his children, step-children and his second wife, extended family etc. As well, many rooms held Japanese works that Monet had collected during his ongoing fascination with Japanese art and had obviously influenced some of his work - and his garden.
The rooms are wonderfully recreated giving a real sense of a large family home. There was a gloriously warm and joyful BIG dining room painted chrome yellow where the family would gather. In contrast, the mix of pale blue and a striking shade of cerulean blue is used on a massive array of tiles in the kitchen. It turned the room into something like those "willow patterned" platters so beloved of that turn-of-the-century era. And then there was a wall long shelf of burnished copper pans and a massive stove all necessary for feeding family and friends.
We'd spent so long meandering that I suddenly realised I needed to be back at our car in 10 minutes and I was yet to reach - The Shop! Like a woman possessed, I did that shop in quick smart time, coming out laden with goodies for me and gifts for others and still a silly grin plastered over my face!