Francoise took the baby girl and I for a drive to Giverny to see the house where Claude Monet lived and created his gardens that served as his inspiration for much of his work throughout the rest of his years. I had always thought that Monet had painted his landscapes more towards the south west of France, I was happily surprised to learn that Monet’ home in Giverny was only 45 minutes away from Rouen. The reason that I was surprised was because the region of Normandy isn’t known for its sunny climes and the bounty that made up the gardens was amazing. Monet in all of his paintings at Giverny showcased the abundance of sunflowers, lavender beds, upright phlox, butterfly bushes and a myriad of other varieties of flowers that I know by sight but not by name. The house and gardens open in the spring and stay open into the fall. I would love to do a seasonal tour of the gardens to see the transformation from the early spring awakening through until the fall starts its descent into hibernation mode for the coming year. My baby girl took her canon and I could hear her camera shuttering away so that when we get home I’ll be able to put together a photo montage for you. the house itself was large, two stories, with the upstairs comprised of two open bedrooms, showing us Claude’s bedroom and the other was the bedroom of his second wife’s. The other closed doors, I assume we’re the bedrooms for the children, eight altogether, two from Claude’s first marriage and six from his second wife’s first marriage. The dining room was an immense room with a huge table, obviously someone enjoyed entertaining his many friends and fellow painters. Francoise told me that the light, that which is the lifeline for most painters and photographers, is very special in Normandy, it has to do with the overcast skies and the ephemeral presence of fog at dawn and dusk. I can imagine there can’t be anything better than having wonderful meals, great wine and conversation and then spending time in a magnificent garden painting nature at her best.
What was so interesting about the dining room was the color of its walls and ceiling; the richest, brightest yellow that I have seen used for interior paint. Francoise and I were commenting on the color scheme and we overheard a Frenchman say that given Normandy’s propensity for rainy days and cloudy skies, the color yellow was necessary to brighten the room and the spirits. Next door obviously there was the kitchen, an homage to blue and white detailed tile, it housed a huge stove top and oven, fueled by wood. Right next to it on the other side of the doorway was a stone-lined very wide sink. There was ample working space for the kitchen work, in short it was one of the nicest kitchens from the nineteenth century that I had ever seen, did I mention all the copper pots hanging against the wall? I love copper, it has warmth and personality as far as metals go, in my opinion. Seeing where all cooking and the preparation was done made me very happy to have my modern appliance; some have difficulty with roasting in a oven of today, imagine roasting in an oven fired up with wood, much more difficult.
After we were done with the house and the gardens, we headed back home with a detour to Carrefour, the super huge supermarket, we needed fruit, sparkling water and vegetables. I have to say that French supermarkets are just as nice to visit as other real tourist attractions. It is aisle after aisle of culinary delights coupled with an extensive array of fresh fish, an impressive range of different meats at the butcher’s corner. The baby girl’s favorite aisle is the yogurt aisle with the cookie aisle a close second.
Today, another great day of discovery and just being with my cousin who is very much like an older sister for me.