I was privileged recently to see the lake where Claude Monet lived and painted Water Lilies at least two hundred and fifty times. We’d managed at last to make it to Paris to meet up with my son and family for the first time in over a year. It goes without saying that being reunited with them again was the highlight of the trip, and they took us to many wonderful places, of which Giverny, the village where Monet lived for the last forty-three years of his life, was one. Monet’s house and gardens, in all their stunning beauty, send off an air of calm and tranquility and an understanding of why the great artist lived there for so long and painted the lily pond so many times. The garden is much like a painter’s palate, a rich mixture of colour at the expense of formality. Tall hollyhocks, still in bloom, and sumptuous, frothy lady’s mantle (alchemilla mollis) pop up at random which together with the overhanging willow trees make you feel you’re ensconced in paradise. In the time Monet inhabited the house in Giverny he enlarged it and laid out the garden to make the home he wanted, a place of calm and peace that inspired his painting ambitions.
At other times on our trip to Paris, we visited Versailles, toured the Louvre and saw the great lady, Mona Lisa, in her home. We went up the Eiffel Tower, took a boat along the Seine, ate a lot of good French food and drunk many a glass of their excellent wine, travelled to some historical chateaus, walked many kilometres, and did some shopping. The weather was kind, we were in the company of loved ones, and all our visits were good, Monet’s house and garden being for me the highlight. We found Paris a clean, beautiful, and efficient city with a friendly and helpful population.