Penne Cole's thoughts on food, travel and more
We drive past it at first, unsure if we have reached the spot despite the small country road being thronged with tourists who are seemingly deaf to the rhythmic chugging of our diesel engine. Monet’s house and gardens are surrounded by an unassuming stone wall that keeps prying eyes away from the treasures within. Pass through the obligatory gift shop, however, and you will come face-to-face with his expansive formal garden.
The formal garden sprawls in front of the green-shuttered pink house that Claude Monet called home. It is laid out in rectangles, with colourful flowers in the borders, and smooth lawn interspersed with clumps of flowers and trees within. Hyacinths of every hue perfume the air. Butterflies flit from flower to flower, basking in the rays of the sun. Today, she has decided to peak out from the dull matt of grey clouds that have been hiding her for the past few days. We stride through these gardens at speed, heading with single-minded purpose towards the lake and its iconic Japanese bridge.
After the orderly lines of the formal gardens, the lands around the famous lake that inspired Monet’s series of paintings on water lilies and the Japanese bridge have a wild, almost untamed feel. Much to our disappointment, the nympheas or water lilies are still on strike. Nary a single lily pad can be found on the water, and someone tells us that we will have to return in July to spot them. The wisteria that hugs the Japanese bridge are also still deep in slumber and aren’t expected to show any signs of life until May. However, the water is surrounded by a riot of colourful flowers. Being hopeless with flower names, the only one I can identify is the poppy. We make a slow circuit around the pond, admiring the view and enjoying the sunshine. At the end of the circuit, the find the lush, green bamboo grove. It is surprisingly tranquil and one can almost believe that one is alone in the gardens despite the crowds.
Back in the formal gardens, we take more time to enjoy its beauty before heading up to the main house. It is pleasingly pink and homey, serving as Monet’s refuge from 1890 until the end of his days. In some rooms, the walls are crowded with Japanese prints, while others are packed with Monet’s works. My favourites, however, are family photographs, depicting wedding after wedding. It would have been an amazing place to get married.
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