Paris Day 68: Making an Impression

I love music. So much that I almost always have over-sized headphones with me and have been known to walk around singing loudly, lost in beats and lyrics – especially when drafting a new book. Music has a way of guiding me to the right emotional tone and helping me work through tricky scenes. Plus, I can’t listen to a great song without dancing around, and who doesn’t love dancing???

At times, it does make me wonder if I could write without the constant soundtrack running through my brain. Then I tell myself all artists – whether they write, draw, paint, sing, sculpt, dance – search for their elusive muse. Divine inspiration.

For Impressionist painter Cluade Monet, it was the gardens of his home at Giverny, a beautiful, tiny town situated on the Seine about 80 miles west of Paris. I have never seen anything quite like them before and I’m a garden dork. The color, texture, depth…arghhhh…I seriously just wanted to hide in a corner, lie on my back, watch the clouds and bees, and soak it all in. Gorgeous.

Garden at Giverny

We took the train from Paris to Vernon, and, instead of taking the shuttle bus, we decided to walk the 5km to Giverny along the old train route. It’s now a lovely path that meanders along the river, past a strange little farm, and through trees and fields. The only other people we came across where locals out running, but I’d encourage anyone who visits to try the walk.

Since we read the lines for Monet’s house and gardens are ridiculously long on weekends and in the summer, we had arranged our day so that we’d arrive close to opening time. Luckily, neither the house nor garden were cramped and we were able to enjoy everything without hordes of people.

Dahlia’s are my favorite flower in my own garden and they play a special role in Nightingale.

The boys ran around smelling and touching, and enjoying being released from the concrete jungle of Paris. From the gift shop, each boy chose a small Monet print and I picked up a book about Impressionist art for home school. Of the three boys, my youngest is my art lover and he immediately began discussing his plans to copy the water lily picture he selected. He also launched into a critique of the work, noting that “Monet doesn’t use enough green. Where are the pads? All I see are flowers.”

At least one of my kids seems engaged….

View out of Monet’s bedroom window.

The Fox begged us to “Please, please, please have a picnic.” While picnicking at Monet’s house isn’t allowed, a few of the places in town do sell “baskets” of food. However, when we left Monet’s, the sky looked threatening and we convinced our son to eat at a quaint cafe with an outdoor courtyard. Good thing we did – twenty minutes later it began pouring, and since The Fox’s arm is covered in plaster we had to hustle him inside. Luckily, it was a quick shower and the cast was saved.

Bug and Me in Monet’s garden

The Colonel is OBSESSED with lily pads, so Monet’s water garden made his day.

After lunch, we walked across the street to the Impressionist Museum. It’s small and completely manageable for young kids. I walked the boys through the exhibits, using my Art History major (I knew it would come in handy some day!). Just outside the museum is a grassy area with haystack recreations and apple trees. Bug and I decided to let the boys play before hiking them back to Vernon. They scooped up a bunch of apples, found a stick, and began a game of “baseball.”

The boys playing “baseball.”

Since we still had four hours before our train home, we grabbed a taxi at the Vernon train station for the 2km ride to Chateau Bizy. It’s a gorgeous chateau nestled among extensive gardens. The only way to view the inside of the house is with a tour…that’s only in French. They do have a print out for English speakers, but I ended up translating into Pudge’s ear during most of the tour while Bug helped the other two boys find hidden horses for a treasure hunt. I will say, I felt pretty good about my French skills because the guide spoke FAST 😀

After the half-an-hour tour, we let the boys run loose in the gardens. Mazes, hills, trees, stick, fountains…it was a kid’s paradise.

Upper Garden at Chateau Bizy – perfect for rolling and running down.

Since we used our last few dollars to pay for the Bizy tour (FYI – cash only if you decide to visit), we had to walk back to the train station. Since we still had an hour before our departure, we stopped into the brasserie across the street. Unfortunately, they weren’t serving food. They did however, serve The Fox hard cider. The look on his face, when he took a huge swig was priceless.

After the long day (we left our house at 7am for two metro rides and a connection to the train), everyone was exhausted in the happy, deeply satisfied way.

The best part for me? When Pudge, my 10-year-old, grabbed my hand at the train station and told me how much he loved the day, and thanked me for sharing it with him.

Life doesn’t get much better than that.

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