Overloaded with such an intense visit I plotted my night time stop over and drove off into the evening. A cross country route towards one of the main arterial routes heading north towards Calais, there was one campsite within easy reach and with the thought of a hot shower and static facilities decided it was the place to go. The receptionist booked me in for the exorbitant fee of 7,50 euros and asked if I wanted a map of Giverny, the home of Monet, that was just down the road. House and gardens open, I was there by chance, so an opportunity not to be missed. So I ate, had a luxuriating, long, hot shower, an early night, having decided to hit the next spot early before the rush of tourists arrived. How wrong I was.
I parked up at 8:45 thinking that I could stroll round the village for a while before getting into the gardens when they opened at 9:30, all quiet and calm with no rush or bother, but the car parks were filling up, there were at least a dozen coaches spilling their passengers out onto the tarmac and a sea of campervans already parked up from the previous night. I had no idea how large a tourist attraction that this place was. The whole village was a show piece, galleries, coffee shops and restaurants, museums, artists in residence, there didn’t appear to be many houses or places for locals to live any more. It was all spotless and beautifully kept and it was obvious why, the thousands of tourists that arrive each and every day must bring an enormous wealth to the place.
I queued and paid just after 9:30, hoping to have beaten the rush. Prearranged groups, however, arrived by a separate entrance and had already flooded the gardens. Everywhere I looked there were people amongst the plantings, the hum of chatter and the constant clicking of camera shutters as millions of digital images attempted to capture the magic of the gardens. It took me a while to get, a mass of colours, a jumble of forms, formal pathways and flower borders crammed with more vibrancy than seemed possible. I didn’t know where to look or how to see what was going on, on top of that the people, it was all rather too much. Then it began to sink in. Monet, the impressionist painter, squint and blur the boundaries and his paintings come to life, so I did the same to the gardens and with some success. I had tried to see it all, too much, to bright, too bold, when in fact, a softening blur was needed to take away the crisp edges and definition of individual features, rendering the mass a whole.
The water lily gardens were completely different. Calm, composed and much gentler on the eye. The famous bridge, painted an almost luminous green, never free of people, patiently waiting for their chance to be photographed in such an iconic spot. It was impossible to take a photo without capturing at least part of someone in the frame, close ups were about the only exception, though even then there was a chance. One can only imagine how packed the place becomes in peak season, after a couple of hours I had to abort mission and head out into the village for a little calm. I managed a quick tour of the house on the way, “No photos, NO videos, No touching.” “One way only”..... , well I said it was quick, I didn’t dwell longer than necessary to get an overview of each room, just moved along with the throng, at slow plod. It was fascinating, but as most of the attractions are art, it’ll be easier to see them on line or in a book, at my leisure at some later date than stay with the crowds. I had had enough of the crowds and wanted to get some space. The contrast between two consecutive garden visits couldn’t have been greater. Both amazing but in very different ways.