On a recent trip to Monet’s garden at Giverny, Luxury Travel Advisor met with the new head gardener, an Englishman named James Priest who studied at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew. He’s got his work cut out for him: maintaining Claude Monet’s garden as true to the artist’s original conception, while a constant stream of visitors (500,000 in 2010) marvel at the water lilies and Japanese footbridge that were immortalized on the artist’s canvases.
Monet planted the garden in a self-conscious way in order for it to be painted: diverting a stream to create the pond, cultivating flowers in blocks of color, experimenting with plant texture and color to catch the rays of light and setting sun. In fact, Monet gardened for 12 years in Giverny before the garden was mature enough to be painted.
Stroll through the house to see the artist’s studio, his collection of Japanese prints, bright yellow dining room, and original pots and pans in the blue kitchen.
Don’t miss the Musee des Impressionismes, just up the street, which complements a visit to Monet’s house and gardens. A fabulous new exhibit called "The Clark’s Collection, from Manet to Renoir" is running through October 31, 2011. Entrance to the museum is free on the first Sunday of every month.
Practical information: Monet’s house and gardens are open daily from April 1- November 1 from 9:30 am- 6 pm. Tickets cost 8 euros for adults, and tickets for groups can be purchased in advance. Tip: Early morning is a great time to visit, as is early evening when the crowds have dissipated. Trains run from Paris to the Vernon station, where you can rent bikes to pedal to the village of Giverny. Alternatively, the drive from Paris is 87 kilometers and parking is free.
To learn more about the new head gardener, check out the recent New York Times article, “Keeping Abloom the Inspiration for Masterpieces.”