Color. Vibrant, natural, seasonal and beautiful, especially when it takes the shape of a thriving garden. Add to that a little sunshine, a babbling brook, a picturesque pond and a few chirping birds. Now place this Eden just in front of lovely chateau in the French countryside, and violà! You have arrived at the home of Claude Monet.
Famous for his paintings and synonymous with Impressionism, Monet crafted many a canvas with the serene scenes found in his own garden. A world traveler, he took inspiration from far-and-away places, but always came home to paint his own outdoor collection of flowers, trees and water features that happily came to life via his palette.
Approaching the entrance, I began to wonder: what was I looking forward to the most? Seeing his pond’s signature green bridge? Finding towering seasonal sunflowers? His paintings—up close—or the place he called home? I quickly came to realize I was looking forward to seeing anything Monet…
We started with the path to the pond. Bright green and Autumn colored plants marked several photo ops as we headed down to a passageway, then over to the water garden area. Our group split up, in part due to the flow of people, but also due to the many camera stops we each made.
Walking counterclockwise around the pond, we could see the green bridge from many angles. Beautiful and serene despite the slight overgrowth, it was a treat to see this Monet symbol up close.
Continuing on toward his home, we discovered a crisscross pattern of pathways between the pond and the chateau, creating garden sectionals.
Each section seemed to compete with the next for our cameras’ attention, and yet the gardens themselves waited patiently for their many admirers to take it all in. But the one area that impressed me the most was the large pathway (off limits to visitors) leading directly to Monet’s front door.
Blankets of ground cover and wildly colorful floral arrangements climbing their way up the green “walls” and wire arches met my eyes—and stopped me in my tracks. Taking it all in, I stayed there for as long as I dared, my eyes (and my camera) loving every second.
Breaking myself away from the beauty outside, it was time to discover the colors and styles inside…
Just as bright and colorful as his gardens, Monet’s chateau welcomed its visitors into each room, taking care to display many of his paintings and home furnishings in accessible fashion.
I especially loved the room featuring some of his works—canvases showcasing the very gardens we just enjoyed outside.
The foodies in our group really got a kick out of his kitchen: bright copper cookware lined the main wall of blue and white tiles; simply beautiful!
Although there is a well appointed and large gift shop at his house, I found a gorgeous scarf at one of the many delightful stores just behind Monet’s property.
Rustic, yet bright and well maintained, the country style homes and shops felt warm and welcoming. I could have easily spent hours wandering through these narrow, quiet streets. Ah, but it was time for lunch!
Breathtaking in its own right, this little corner of the Normandy region is a rolling display of hills, fields, Autumn trees and meandering streams. And, as we discovered, home to a restaurant that complements its surroundings perfectly: Le Moulin de Fourges.
Plated in a simple but elegant style, we enjoyed our salads, chicken, mashed potatoes and dessert (apple torte!) with four choices of the world famous French beverage: wine.
Bottled water and coffee helped round out our drink selection. And we couldn’t resist purchasing a few bottles of our table favorites to enjoy back in our room (or home, if they’d make it that far)…
There was even a local artist selling his paintings just outside the entrance. Travel sized, we picked up two.
The city nearby
Saint Joan of Arc, considered the heroine of France, met her demise in this region. A modern church now stands on the grounds where she was burned at the stake. It was here that we found ourselves surrounded by one of the quaintest towns we’d encountered all day: Rouen.
Our first official stop here—the cathedral. With construction spanning several centuries, the many styles of this mammoth structure (everything from medieval gothic to ornate renaissance) came together quietly to form a towering yet inviting place of worship for its community.
Both outside and in, the decisive lines and long-lean aisles purposefully placed into its walls, windows and flooring drew our eyes toward the alters and ornate ceilings, then back down to ourselves.
The Rouen Cathedral somewhat divides the more modern sectors of the town from the older structures and near our next stop: the calendar clock.
More than just the days of the week or the month, this time keeper also displays the phases of the moon. Beautiful and functional, and not too far from the ground, which made its face very easy to see.
Ready for a beverage, we stepped into J.M.’s Café. Freshly refueled by our caffeinated drinks, we were energized enough to round out our afternoon with a walk through the nearby square and its many shops.
Our time in the Normandy countryside was a most enjoyable one, full of color and flavor and the fresh crispness of Autumn. But my favorite discovery of the day (if I must narrow my choice down to only one) would be seeing the wild garden pathway to Monet’s front door. A very inspiring moment I will treasure for a very-very-very long time. J 🎨