Smell the Roses

In dark times, sometimes we just need to be surrounded by flowers.

Being fall, it’s not so easy to find many flowers in nature, so I thought it would be a perfect day to throw way way back to a beautiful and flower-filled place I visited back in 2013, when I interned in Paris. Then, I saw from the Chicago Art Institute that yesterday was Claude Monet’s birthday, and I knew my idea was meant to be.

In June 2013, some friends and I took a day trip out to Giverny, famous for the residence and gardens of renowned impressionist  Claude Monet. The village is about 80km west of Paris. To get there, we had to take the train to a slightly larger town called Vernon and then a shuttle bus to Giverny. I remember that we all had major issues purchasing our tickets, because the machines in Gare St Lazare only accepted cards with the little chips. We were so afraid of missing the train that we dared not wait in the long line at the ticket counter, so the one girl with a chip card generously bought everyone’s tickets and we made firm promises to pay her back in cash.

By the River at Vernon, Monet, 1883
The little Norman town was obviously charming, though very one-track minded — it’s ALL about Monet. Makes sense, considering probably 75% of the people in the village that day were tourists visiting the famed painter’s house.

En dehors de la peinture et du jardinage, je ne suis bon à rien! Mon plus beau chef-d’oeuvre, c’est mon jardin.

Outside of painting and gardening, I’m good for nothing! My most beautiful masterpiece is my garden.

~Claude Monet

Monet moved to Giverny in 1883 and lived there with his family until his death in 1926. In 1966, his son left the house and estate to the Académie des Beaux-Arts, and it became a museum in 1980. I loved wondering around the gardens, which Monet painstakingly curated during the end of his career and life, and which brought him so much joy and inspiration. I remember most distinctly what a colorful place it was. The sky was a clear and piercing blue. The flowers where overwhelmingly in bloom, tiny explosions of every color imaginable. In the middle was the little pink house, with rooms of brightest yellow and blue.

Though the place was crawling (it was a weekend in the summer, after all), it was still easy to get lost in the peacefulness of blooms. Through an underground tunnel lay the iconic water garden, home of Monet’s waterlily pond. Ever since I learned it, I’ve always thought the French word for waterlilies, nymphéa, was so much more magical than our practical English one.

We stopped in a bar in Vernon before our train back to Paris. One of my friends ordered a glass, and this wine novice learned a tip from her: you can’t go wrong with a glass of Côtes du Rhône. Who knew that a little over a year later I’d be living in the very region that produces the delicious red. ❂

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