On Sunday, after the conference ended, some of us took a group tour to Giverny, a village on the Seine about an hour and a half drive northwest of Paris. Monet lived and painted there for 43 years, and his restored house and gardens are now a tourist attraction. The gardens are glorious, with wild explosions of brilliant color everywhere. This close-up shot of some beautiful orange lillies is another one of my favorite pictures.
Monet's gardens were natural, not at all formal. As you can see, the vegetation spills out onto the little gravel path where the tourists walk.
A pretty building that I shot over the wall of the garden. I don't know what this building is - a house, a barn, or some other kind of structure.
Another section of the garden at Monet's house.
It was a summer Sunday afternoon, prime tourist season, and it was much too crowded at Monet's house. I decided to escape the crowds and wander down the road towards the village proper. I came upon another public garden where there were only a few people. This garden was arranged formally, in rectangular plots separated by hedges and gravel pathways. In this picture you see one of the plots, and in the background a bit of the lush vegetation and rolling hills of this part of France.
Further down the road, I came across this lovely country home. It seemed to me that it was as if someone had plucked it from an impressionist painting and placed it down in the countryside. Then I realized that it is the converse that is probably the case, and that these very houses are likely the ones that the impressionists painted! After taking this picture, I continued down the road and enjoyed a glass of wine at a delightful garden restaurant outside the Ancien Hôtel Baudy. I managed to order "un verre beaujolais" in French and make myself understood to the waiter, a minor triumph. There was a very friendly cat who was evidently the owner of the place and felt it was his duty to greet and entertain the guests and get petted by everyone. He kept getting under the feet of the waiters, who kept saying "allez, chat, allez - shoo, shoo." It was very cute. I later read in my tourist guide that during Monet's life this hotel was home to an American artists colony, and that Cézanne once lived and painted there in a studio shed. I wish I had taken a picture of the hotel, but for some reason I didn't.
After my glass of wine, I found my way back to the picnic area by the car park and rejoined some of the other people from the conference. We ate our wonderful box lunches of smoked salmon on a bed of wild rice with raisons, little sandwiches, tomatoes and cheese, and a delicious plum pastry. I got several envious looks from other tourists who weren't part of our group - they were certainly wondering where we had scored such a great lunch! We still had half an hour before the coaches left to return to Paris, so two other people and I decided to take a stroll. We made our way through a large rhubarb patch and back into the woods and found this idyllic little stream, with pretty butterflies and dragonflies flying around. I think that this is almost certainly the same stream where a few hundred yards further along Monet built the water garden with the water lilies, Japanese bridge, and rhododendron that is featured in many of his paintings.