When I told Alex that we were going to Paris for our holiday, she clapped her hands in glee.
"We can go see Monet's house!!" she shrieked. I was, to say the least, surprised.
"Monet's house? You mean, Claude Monet? The artist?"
"Dude who painted the water lilies?"
"Yes!" I noted a hint of exasperation in her voice.
"You know who Claude Monet is?" I said, still confused.
"MOM. Yes! We studied him in art class. And now, we can go see his house! And his gardens! And the Japanese bridge!"
"There's a Japanese bridge?"
"MOM. YES. Can we go see it? Please?"
A quick Google search and I discovered that yes, indeed, it is possible to visit Monet's house and his gardens, which were the subject of so many of his paintings. It merely requires a quick train ride from Paris to the town of Vernon, followed by an even quicker bus ride to the village of Giverny, the home and "the heart of Impressionism," apparently. Simple enough. So I told Alex that yes, no matter what, we would find ourselves at Monet's house.
And on Day 3, we made it happen.
So here's the thing about French gardens: if you visit places like the Jardin des Tuilieries or the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris, or especially the gardens at Versailles, you will notice everything trimmed to within an inch of its life: the trees are literally shaped into cubes, the heights of blossoms are all perfectly measured, and the edges of hedges are so sharp that you could practically cut your shins if you walk too closely to them. When it comes to manicured gardens, the French know a thing or two, is what I'm saying. And they are all very, very pretty.
But Monet's gardens aren't anything like this.
Monet's gardens are, hands-down, the most beautiful gardens I've visited in. my. entire. life. There's organization, to be sure -- beds in neat rows, and blossoms coordinated by colour -- but it's as if Monet (and his future caretakers) decided to hell with the manicuring. These flowers grow as unfettered as they want to, and the result is amazing.
Whether it's true or not, I'm convinced that the design of each and every movie you've ever seen where the setting was lush and beautiful -- like The Secret Garden, say, or the forest in that regrettable Tom Cruise vehicle, Legend -- was based on Monet's gardens. Flowers explode everywhere (is it any wonder the man was an Impressionist painter? How else would he have painted each one of these beautiful blossoms?), and the air smells like air is suppose to smell -- clean, and fresh, and so sweet. I can't even begin to wonder what it must have been like to actually live in that house and with these gardens -- I think you'd seriously begin to believe you were part elf. Or pixie. Or, you know, unicorn.
Or, at the very least, that the garden had honest-to-goodness magic in it.
Man, a garden like this has to be bewitched.
Then, you follow a path to another section of these enormous gardens, to the actual pond where he painted his famous water lily paintings ...
... and check it -- right in the center of the photo above, where you can see tiny people? They're standing on the Japanese bridge! Alex was right, after all.
Visiting these gardens was undoubtedly one of my favourite parts of this trip, and I love that we would've had no idea it existed if Alex hadn't mentioned it to us. She, incidentally, was in her bliss: she brought her journal and her camera, and was as into the gardens as we were, recording as much of what she saw as possible. I'm sure that this visit will be something she will never forget.
By the way, here's some evidence that these gardens actually do have some magic in them: this is the 14th roll of film I've shot with my Hasselblad, and I've shared images from every roll with you; however, this is the very first roll that I've been happy with and shared every single frame I shot. In other words, for the first time ever, there wasn't one frame on this roll where I thought, "Yeah, no way that's going on the blog."
Magic, I tell you. Magic.