Fleurs Fleurs Fleurs

I promised Top Cat that I WOULD NOT DIGRESS this week (he says my posts are getting waaaay toooo loooooong) while I take you to Monet’s famous garden in Giverny (Normandy, France).


I promise to Keep It Short since my previous reports (last week and the week before) on my recent visit to France have been rather wordy and some readers [Top Cat] say I make it toooooo looooong toooo reeeeeeed. So I’m cutting my three-day exploration of All Things Monet in Giverny down to this one post, probably. But pardon me while I set the scene:


For my first two nights I stayed at a marvelous B&B called Le Coin des Artists, which used to be a cafe/grocery in Monet’s day:


The Breakfast part of the B&B was quite wonderful (see: below… those are the same chairs that you’ll find in Monet’s dining room at Giverny and there was always Katie Melua on the CD player. I highly recommend starting your Giverny days hearing Katie Melua sing “Closest Thing to Crazy”   and eavesdropping on the Belgian couple talking about the high price of French toll roads compared to the ones in Belgium but I’m not telling you that story because I Will Not Digress).


And ahhhhhh!! The Bed part of this B&B was heavenly! I really missed my Top Cat when I saw my room because nothing is more romantic than a fauteuil, n’est-ce pas?


Fauteuil only means “armchair” even tho it sounds kind of dirty.

The windows of my room looked out into the courtyard:


In the evening in this same courtyard the delightful hostess at Le Coin des Artistes, Madame Laurence Pain, serves chilled Loire Valley wine with the resident chow (see below: those orange protuberances at the end of the table are chow ears):


I could tell stories about the dogs of Giverny, who seem unable to contain their curiosity and excitement  to be in the company of such world travelers as  moi...


…or the cats of Giverny ,who don’t


…except for this little girl (below) who must be part Siamese for all the talking she did here in Giverny’s “Medieval Quarter”, which consists of one rue…called Rue aux Juifs (Street of Jews) if you can believe it…


…but I will not digress!!!  Neither can I tell you about the many stone walls I had to climb to snoop  into courtyards that are hidden from the street, such as this one (below) where they hide Monet’s so-called “Blue House” where he used to grow his vegetables…


…but Non! Non! I will not digress! We are here today to visit the Monet’s garden at Giverny, so let’s get to it:


This is the map (above) at the entrance to the garden — they do not sell or give away maps of the garden when you pay your 9 euro ($12.50) to get into the garden, which I was telling the young Canadian couple on line with me, who were on the second day of their 6-week driving tour of France  (so they took an iPad photo of this wall map to take with them) and then the guy, whose hobby is geology, wondered what kind of rocks this was in the wall because to a rock hound the world is one big rock puzzle, to whom I said well, if you like rocks and you have a car you  should go see one of the Wonders of the World (rock-wise) at Mont St-Michel close by here in Normandy and they said “Mont What?” etc. but I Will Not Digress


…although you see the guy with the dog (above) on the typically looooooong line to buy entrance tickets: Yeah, me too, I asked myself, “What kind of nincompoop brings a dog to Monet’s garden???” but I saw him later  outside the garden sitting with the dog and I offered to watch the pup while he went inside but he said no thank you, it’s his wife who wanted to see the garden — they have been here before as they often sail their boat from England and moor it on the Seine in Vernon (closest town to Giverny on the Seine ) which goes to show you that people have the most surprising stories if you take the time to chat… but I Will Not Digress… Let’s get to the GARDEN!!!

This is what you see after you enter the garden through the gift shop and pass the lavatories:


Those are espalier’d apple trees IN BLOSSOM!!! and the sign that points to “House” is of course pointing to Monet’s famous pink house:


I timed my visit to the garden so that I’d get there at 3 o’clock in the afternoon and yes, it was still plenty crowded.


But I like crowds. In case you haven’t guessed, I like talking to people when I travel because, well, I’m a professional travel writer and in order to write about travel I need stories. What better way to get them than to get people to tell me theirs? Like this mother/daughter pair (below) I helped because they didn’t speak French and the ladies working in the gift shop are, excuse me for saying, kind of snotty, but I Will Not Digress:

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And I LOVE Chinese tourists because they wear the best hats:

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And for the most part, even tho it’s crowded,  people are aware of other people trying to get a Monet Garden picture and do not walk right into your shot…

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…but not always. And then, if you’re me, you hope that someone with an outrageously fab Monet-Garden-Visiting-Outfit steps into view…


How the gardeners work amidst such teeming humanity I don’t know…


…although I trailed two women gardeners who were pulling off the dead tulip heads with such a delicate manouvre that I was entranced by their gentle touch but I Will Not Digress


But let us rejoice that some people, even in the madding crowd, are able find their private moments…


…which I, as your typical Nosey Parker…


…am only too happy to butt in on. But here’s my redeeming feature: I am the person who, when I see young couples taking “selflies” in places like Monet’s garden, I walk up and I ask “Would you like me to take your picture?” and then I art-direct them so that I get great shots of them in situ (I’m great at setting a scene and getting informative background) and I even tell them “Go on, kiss!” and they DO because I have that kind of trustful face and all.


Monet Garden at Giverny Travel Tip No. 1: If you hang around past 5 o’clock, all the day trippers leave and the place becomes very empty and even the guards are so happy that the day is almost over that they relax their eagle eyes and go MIA so there is no one to yell at you for taking pictures of the rooms…


…so you can stand in Monet’s bed chamber and snap away all you want (photos of furniture are forbidden!)…


…and there isn’t the usual looong line to get the permitted photo out of Monet’s window…


…so you can take in the view that Monet himself woke up to. I usually try to get people in my photos of landscape so you can gauge the scale so…Merci, straggler tourists who are in my picture of the overcast skies of Giverny at 5:30 May 10, 2013:



I want to live like Alice Monet and see a garden like this when I walk out of my kitchen.

This (below) is Monet’s other bedroom window seen from the ground (the house is very narrow) , part of a series of pictures that I took of all the edges all around his garden property because you never see that part of his garden but I Will Not Digress:


I like this picture because it catches the wind that blew in from the depths of Normandy all through Giverny, fluttering the tulips and the tourists:


So. Here I am, the next day, enjoying a lunch of hard boiled egg and baguette sandwich (which I made from breakfast items at the B&B) after trudging to the top of the hill that looms high above Giverny…


…when through the telephoto lens of my camera I peer unto the Jardin de Monet in the valley below…


…and I see that the D5 (a local highway that in this bend in the road is grandly called Chemin du Roy — King’s Way ) runs right past Monet’s garden. This road is built on the old railway line that bi-sects Monet’s property — his famous Water Garden is on the far side of the D5 there. And I think to myself  This I gotta see  but I have nine hours of DIGRESSION to achieve before I check out this Chemin du Roy from ground level:


It’s 8 o’clock in the evening and I am the only soul walking along this stretch of highway…


…where you can  see the paradise that is Monet’s garden, big as you please!  Without paying 9 euro!



The only barrier here is a spike fence and some scraggly shrubs:


All you have to do is walk up to the fence and stick your camera between the fence railings and you get the most beautiful scenes of an empty garden…


…and vistas that are just not available to you when you are actually IN the garden with the hoards of tourists :


I loved being here, in this silent and lonely twilight…


…taking photos of the landscape that really makes much more sense from this perspective:


These are the famous “paintbox” beds of flowers that oh! Made me tremble with pleasure seeing them like this (as compared to seeing them from inside):


You can not get a better shot of the alley than this, from outside the garden walls:


It helps that Normandy is so far north…


…that you still get the gentle evening twilight…


…that best illuminates the spritely colors of flowers…


…so much better than daytime sunlight:


Amazing, right?


Monet Garden at Giverny Travel Tip No. 2: Walk along the D5 after closing hours in Giverny and have this impossibly beautiful garden all to yourself. I did not see another soul the whole time I lurked here. This last picture, you can see, is blurry, which told me that I was losing the light…


…so I walked back into town,  to Rue Claude Monet, the main drag of Giverny…


…and I wished I weren’t so far from home…

P1160915…and went to bed with sweet dreams of my Top Cat and the pictures I would paint of “my” Giverny.

The next day I paid my last visit to Monet’s garden. (I also moved to the town’s only hotel which I did not like so I Will Not Digress further.) It was sunny, which is not so great for photographing flowers so I will only show you this picture (below), which shows the hill on which I sat when I got my bird’s eye view of dear Giverny (that white boxy thing in the background is a pumping station that you will pass half-way on your climb to the top):


This is the last photo that I took of the garden…Farewell, Giverny:


I know that we did not get to the famous lily pond in Monet’s famous Water Garden in this post so I’ll have to show that to you next week when I’ll have a Giverny Triscuit for you, which I did not paint this week because  I’ve been very busy making sure that the backyard cats aren’t dead :


That’s only Bibs, who looks dead but he’s just snoozing under Oscar’s watch.

And keeping an eye out so that the indoor cats don’t kill each other :


That’s Cindy, glaring up at Taffy who is hogging her chair.

But we still have the Paris Triscuit to give away!


And the Triscuit goes to…Jen A.!!!  Congratulations to a long time reader of this blog who recently sent me hummingbird feathers to add to my collection — you have never seen feathers soooooo small and so sparkly as hummingbird feathers but I Will Not Digress, no sir, not meThat’s for next week!


See you next time under the wisteria!






32 Comments, RSS

  1. Cheryl Carr

    I can’t wait to hear the stories that were left out because of your desire not to digress. May I be so bold as to point out my favorite picture, and the one I think you should definitely include in your book? It is the one with the terre verte (not sure if this is correct) steps leading down to the tulips. What a great shot. The “favorite” green of France leading down to the lovely bed of flowers, framed on the left by the dark trees. I love this picture! Lovely post.

  2. Laura

    Another magnificent post taking me back to Giverny. Merci. I SEE Monet’s “paintboxes” so clearly in your photos. The stories you don’t digress to tell are very entertaining. How difficult for you to be in romatnic Giverny without your Top Cat.
    In your panorama of NOLA garden work, which is spectacular BTW, I am particularly interested in the close-up botanical cut-outs. They are elegant and rich and unique. The cut contour lines framing each, and photographed in a perfect little stack suggest a pop-up of some kind. I am excited to see how you will use those in your book.

  3. Saving this post for future travel reference! Thank you, for the beautiful photos, interesting stories, and lovely art. I look forward to the next installment!

  4. jain

    Oh how I enjoyed this, my only complaint is that topcat does not allow you to digress … on cell must abort but yearn to get back on BIG screen!

  5. Jen A.

    Woohoo! I’m a wiener, I’m a wiener! This is so exciting! Thanks, Vivian. I can’t wait to place it in just the right spot in my writing/cello room.

    Nice work not digressing and yet still working in all the hints of digression. There is a fancy word for this sort of thing, the “and I’m not even going to mention how rude your mother always is during dinner” kind of thing. By not mentioning it, you have mentioned it. I can’t remember the word. I think it’s written down on the refrigerator white board of important words and ideas. I’ll look when I get home from work.

    The photos from inside Monet’s garden had me thinking, “hm, not so thrilling, just a lot of crazy color, blooming flowers, it’s not that great, I don’t get it, must be better in person”. And then you showed us the photos from outside and my heart palpitated a little and my eyeballs felt dizzy with pleasure!

    Love seeing little hints of the damn garden book.

    Thank you for the Paris Triscuit. What a treat!

  6. Patricia

    loved our virtual visit to Jardin de Monet with you … especially the photos sneaked after the jardin closed for the day. We day-tripped from Paris and took a taxi from town. After a long visit and leisurely lunch (is there any other kind in France?) we walked back to the jardin entrance to look for transport back to town. Nothing! After about 40 minutes wait, we walked back to town (but didn’t realize we could spy on the jardin, alas!). Thanks for the memories!
    Congrats to Jen A. on the triscuit.

  7. Carly

    Wow! Just, Wow! What a wonderful tour of Giverny! I wish I’d read your travel tips before I went there last year because I would have known to take that walk on the D5 to really “see” Monet’s garden — it’s amazing how much more of it you can appreciate from the other side of the fence. But shhhhhhh….let’s keep this secret because the last thing we need is for everyone to find this out and then for sure they will plant thorny bushes five feet thick on the Chemin du Roy.

    I really want to go back now and really SEE Giverny. Vivian, you are an amazing traveler, the way you settle into a place and dig up the best stories and the best tips and share it all. Merci, merci.

  8. Linda Ashmore

    Oh, my goodness–another wonderful, beautiful blog. Can’t wait for Fridays to roll around so I can read them. Keep on digressing–I love it when you do!

  9. Susie

    Absolutely wonderful…but I don’t like being teased, not getting ALL the information (digressing) gives my brain too much to try to figure out (like, what happened?).
    “Mont What?” soooo funny.
    Thank you for the twilight (crepuscular -a word I learned from reading Edward Gorey) evening garden-through-the-fence photos and cats.
    I can’t wait to see how you paint some of these garden scenes, they’ll be lovely.

  10. Jeannie

    Digress away, PLEASE! The gardens are so beautiful, but my favorite shots are those you took from outside. I think it is the perspective thingie. I am also glad to see that you also make friends with the animals in foreign lands. When we travel, we see who can pet the most neighborhood cats, extra points for coaxing an aloof cat to allow pets. 🙂 I love the paintings of NOLA. The botanical print like one is intriguing and I love the little house. Looking forward to next week and I hope you find your digressing mojo. Congrats to Jen A! Enjoy your triscuit.

  11. Woo hoo! A grand recounting with wonderful images to show for it. I’m kicking myself that I didn’t spend more time by the spiky fence. Nice to be there later in the day at the time when no one is around. And the twilight — so lovely. And now I know where to stay next time, for there must be a next time!

    Loving every bit of this, from friendly dogs to elusive cats, young lovers and old guys who will wait for his wife to savor the garden. And of course, I don’t mind digressions!

    Congratulations to Jen A., and can’t wait to see all you paint from this!

  12. Mindy

    Such terrific photos and, as always, a refreshing commentary on your travels.

    I do have to quibble with you on your definition of “true blue readers.” Reading your blog is one of the highlights of my week, but I don’t very often comment – my family taught me to stay quiet if I didn’t have something to add to the discussion. Just because you don’t hear from me every week doesn’t mean I am enjoying your exploits (and the exploits of your cats :->) any the less.

    Cheers, Mindy

  13. Bunny

    Great photos. Now I want to go there and see it for my self.
    Love your sneakers!
    Why would anyone pay 9 euros, when the can just read your blog? or stay out on the periphery like you did!!!
    Thanks for the views.

  14. Gardens..Monet’s ..be still my heart.. a soft bed..a courtyard and wine.
    My camera and husband along.. I can think of no nicer excursion for the day.
    I hear the kitchen is a dream.. I have 2 friends who have been..many time travelers to Paris..and in fact they both lived there..
    That pink screen door is awfully cute as it the green door.
    I am anxious to see different things and take photos.. here the neighbors already think my camera is attached to my neck in a permanent fashion..
    Something new would be fun.
    I am not great at painting flowers..
    Practice..practice ..practice.
    Bravo Jen A..Bet your spot is picked:)
    I always ask to help take people’s pics too..so nice that they can have memories..I find it always brings on a smile:)

  15. Jenn Emily

    Vivian, I’ve just discovered your books and now your blog. Can’t wait to read all the posts, over a nice cup of chai. I was at Monet’s garden in 2001 and although I definately will go back to France I do not plan to visit the garden again, so it’s nice to take a trip there with you, here!

  16. Deb mattin

    Digress away! it is what makes your posts so dang funny and why I thought as I sat down with my morning coffee, “it’s Friday – a Vivian Swift day”!

  17. This was a wonderful post. Love how you went outside and looked in. It gave a much better perspective of the place. I was wondering where the bridge with the waterlilies was. Love your NO paintings too.

  18. Judy Jennings

    Digress! Digress! You tell too good a story NOT to give us all the juicy details. (Sorry but!) Pooh on Topcat and anyone else too lazy to read all the fabulous “stuff” you have to say.

  19. Judy Jennings

    Oh, dear. By saying “Pooh on Topcat” did I just ruin my chances of ever being a winner, since Topcat is the “chooser?” I’m humbly sorry, Sir!”

  20. Jen A.

    Update: I found the fancy word I was referring to in my previous post.

    Preterition, n. 1. Rhetroical usage – it means drawing attention to something by professing to omit it, saying you won’t say something and thereby saying it; 2.In Calvinist theology it means the omission from god’s elect; non-election to salvation.

  21. Carly

    I save my Saturday mornings for reading this blog. I make a cup of tea and and english muffin and I turn on my computer and voyage wherever Vivian takes me, whether it’s into the creation of a painting or a journey farther away, like to Giverny. This is the BEST outing yet! I am right there with you, meandering in the back streets of Giverny, peeking into its hidden corners, really getting the feel for the place. This is the best way to travel: with a cup of tea and a guide who knows how to find the secrets!

  22. TinyDancer

    Oh! Vivian! How do I love thee digressions? Let me count the ways…

    I don’t often comment because your beautiful posts leave me speechless but I had to tell you that this visit to Giverny leaves me AMAZED. Thank you!

  23. Lorrine

    I am planing a trip to France in August and I just found this wonderful blog. Please tell me when you went to Giverny? It looks like you were there in spring and I’ll be there in late summer, I wonder if the garden will be past its blooming stage? But I’ve read that the gardeners stage it so that there is something blooming all the time. Have you been there in August?

    This is such a great blog, I will go back and read all that I’ve missed. I might want to stay overnight in Giverny, if I can climb that hill and then go around the outside walls like you did. Thank you for these tips!

  24. Megan Hyatt

    Thanks for the tip of going down the road in the evening and getting such great shots. I only went once to Giverny and I had the most difficult time getting a shot without someone in it, they didn’t care about someone with a camera, then I waited for a lady to take her photo of the ‘bridge’ and she said no you first and we both missed out! Thank you for the cat photos sounds like life with my two, one ginger one black who are NOT friends, and hog the best television watching chairs so we sit on the floor.

  25. SandraK

    This is the third time I’ve come back to re-read this post. Sigh. Giverny all to myself. That’s a dream you made come true with your wonderful photos and story.

  26. janet bellusci

    what a treat!!! thanks for the great travel tips for my NEXT trip to giverny. and i must say, TOP CAT is just wrong!! i LOVE your digressions. part of the process, and part of the fun that is vivian.

  27. Sherry


    I’ve been to Giverny twice but I didn’t really “see” it, not like this. Thank you for this expert view.

  28. Pippa

    I’ve been reading about Giverny to plan my visit later this summer, blogs, tour guides, websites…nothing has given me the kind of inside info I need about the garden like this. I have so many more questions that i know you’ll have the perfect answers for — but mostly I just want to go there with YOU to show me everything!!!!

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