As the cold grey of winter begins to loosen its grip, my thoughts turn to the sunnier days of spring and look forward to warmer days, trees that are leafing out, and the vibrant colors of beautiful blooms to admire. Memories and pictures of our wonderful trip to Northern France were timed perfectly to admire this time of year in a different country.
Starting in Normandy, in the charming little town of Bayeux, we traveled for about two weeks and ended in a lovely old French farmhouse-turned B&B just outside of Rouen in a little hamlet called Saint-Martin-de-Boscherville. The location made it easy to explore the surrounding area including the city of Rouen and add on a day trip to Giverny to visit Monet’s Garden.
Despite the boom in tourism, Giverny remains a small, picturesque village. When Claude Monet settled in Giverny in 1883, its population was 301; in 2019 it was only 494. An average of 400,000 tourists visit each year, surpassed in volume only by Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy. With bucolic fields nearby, Giverny offers small, narrow roads with classic old French grey buildings that seem to have weathered the upheaval from wars fought over the past centuries. Now there are quaint shops and restaurants that dare to welcome the onslaught of tourists and art lovers. Various flowers were in bloom everywhere and visitors vied for outdoor seating for lunch or pastries under colorful umbrellas. Numerous gardeners worked in some of the formal gardens, trimming various hedges and other plants as if creating a masterpiece of their own.
Upon entering Monet’s Garden, we walked into an amazing world of beautiful colors. We had arrived at what seemed like a peak bloom time! Vivid colors of every kind mixed with each other in no apparent order. It seemed as if Monet had dropped his paint palette with the colors splashing in all different directions. It must have been an amazing way to greet the day for the great artist to walk out from his house to this kaleidoscope of color. Trellises formed beautiful tunnels to walk through offering cool shade. Gorgeous blooms of Red Garden Dahlia, pink and cream-colored Foxglove, and purple Canterbury Bells mixed with pink, white, and purple Lupines, Bolivian Begonias the color of fire, and the ever-present red Poppies. The various types of flowers were too numerous to keep track of.
Eventually, we followed the path to the Garden Pond. Splashes of color were everywhere, but here, the lushness of various trees gave off cooling shades of green. A bamboo grove followed a portion of a path along a small stream. Despite lines of visitors, there seemed to be little noise as we suddenly happened upon the incredible inspiration for many of Monet’s works.
The museum building is quite modern and houses beautiful works of art to gaze upon from Monet and many other artists both old and new. Monet’s Garden and house are open to the public April 1st through November 1st. The shoulder seasons of April and October are recommended for visiting, and our timing in May was perfect based on the abundance of flowers in full bloom. We had rented a car and Google maps took us everywhere with ease through the entire trip. Our preference is to go on the paths less traveled as well as stopping to see the more well-known sites on our journeys to different locations. I encourage my clients to do the same for a more culturally immersive experience, taking time to stop and smell the flowers along the way.