This morning we were out of the house by 7 so that we could make an 8:15 train to Vernon, which is a few miles from Claude Monet’s house and garden in Giverny. These have both been restored to look like they did during the artist’s lifetime and are recognizable instantly to anyone who has ever seen his paintings, including the famous series of water lilies or the green bridge that he painted at different times of the year.
The boys were really excited for this outing. For one thing, they both were thrilled with the prospect of the train ride to Vernon, which proved to be completely satisfying as 1) the train was a double decker and we got to sit up top and 2) it was only 45 minutes to get there–enough time to feel like a real train trip, not enough time to ask “when will we get there?” even once.
Another reason this was so highly anticipated is that we looked at many of Monet’s paintings together and also have often read Linnea in Monet’s Garden by Cristina Bjork and Lena Andserson, a lovely children’s book about a girl who gets to visit Paris and Giverny in the company of her elderly friend, Mr. Bloom. In fact, we read the book on the train this morning, once we could get Tommy to peel his eyes away from the window where he informed us every time the train switched from one line to another.
It was a beautiful day, not hot at all, and as clear and bright as many of Monet’s paintings. Everything looked like it had been scrubbed. The garden is as beautiful as I remembered from my visit here in college. We admired the overflowing beds full of lavander and phlox and delphiniums and even a few roses left over from what must have been a very cool June. Then we made our way to the lily pond, a delicious place surrounded by paths with many nooks designed for contemplation. Tommy decided that he would do a sketch. I had brought his drawing book and colored pencils and we managed even with the crowds of people to find a perfect vantage from which to see the pond, with the weeping willows draped elegantly around the edge.
If I had a euro for every adult who beamed to see him working so intently, I would be a rich woman. One man actually sat down next to him to watch him work. I served as the artist’s assistant, handing Tommy the correct colors so that he could create the desired effect. He was completely focused and unaware of all the attention he attracted. This is what he was looking at:
You can compare the drawing to its subject. He was especially proud of the water lilies (“just like Monet’s!”) and his use of blue and purple.
After we toured the house, we walked up the road to the lovely Musée d’Art Américain which houses a collection of work by American artists with connections to France. There is another gorgous garden there, designed to look like a series of rooms, with monocrhomatic groupings of flowers separated by boxwood hedges. There is also a lovely little café where one can dine alfresco, which we did. And I’ll confess it, the boys were excited to see that there was a children’s menu and that they could order a hamburger and fries, so we let them.
“Ees not a ‘amburger,” the waiter warned darkly, but it turned out that they each got a lovely plate with a big piece of chopped steak and a pile of crispy frites. Obviously he has served many disappointed American children before, but our two dug right in, Teddy delighted also with his chocolat froid and Tommy with this diablo menthe (fizzy lemonade mixed with mint syrup) which turned his lips shamrock green.
It was so relaxing there under the linden trees. I think that our family looks like they could have been painted by the Impressionists, no?
Please see Paris in its proper order if you’re interested in a chronological list of posts from my family’s July 2008 trip to Paris.