Travel Diary: Gardens, giggles and gander

Written by Sinead and Tom

Our grand adventure to Giverny started a little earlier than we were perhaps prepared for. We had had a lovely evening the night before, with our Couchsurfing host, although she had an early start at work, so subsequently, we ended up on a local bus to the Rouen town centre just after 8 in the morning. A short walk around the block gave way to Tom losing his patience with the half-asleep Sinead, strongly requesting she have a coffee before progressing further in the day. 

Once fed and much more awake, we made our way to the town of Vernon, the starting point to the trek to Giverny. I had the grand idea to stop and acquire our lunchtime picnic, before boarding the (extortionately priced) shuttle bus to “Monet’s Garden”. Great in theory, not so great in that the shuttle bus ran in sync with the arrivals to Vernon station, and therefore we had a 2+ hour wait until the next one. Begrudgingly, we ‘googled’ the walking directions to get to Giverny and the gardens of Monet, sighing when the journey was suggested at more than an hour by foot. Refusing to lose our positivity, I pointed out that the town of Vernon is really cute, so we hit the road, learning more than anything else, the value of attitude, especially through the blisters.

The (long, hot) walk lead us down through the town (so cute!), across the river (how picturesque!) and into the countryside (how serene!). We had a fair few epic conversations about life, discussing adventures amist giggling about our newly apparent lack of footpath. Yes, that’s right. There was a good section of the walk where I gave up on the miniscule track through the nature strip and just started trudging on the road. We passed cows, and horses, construction zones, and then construction workers picnicing by the Seine. I know that I’m carrying on about this walk, but it was during this time that I exercised a new level of patience and was rewarded with the beautiful sights of the countryside and the town of Giverny. Even though I had visited the garden before, I had not ventured into the town of Giverny, mostly due to time restraints. This gorgeous little town, while relatively touristic, maintained an artistic charm, partially due to every second building being an art gallery.

And then… we hit the line…

Much like my last visit to the gardens of Monet, we got lucky in line. Well, not before waiting in line for the better part of a half hour.. Firstly, they accepted my student card (Swinburne, you are not convincing anyone with that card!). Secondly, Tom acquired a ticket from somebody who was on their way out and a combination of cannot speak enough French vs cranky lady who had sold way too many tickets that day, well, Tom got in for free! Yay! We walked into the gardens and instantly I lost Tom. He was away in another world, living a day dream and a beautiful reality. It was his first time to the gardens, a request from his mum, and a dream he had honoured, and now he was living it. I’ll let him describe how he felt.

What can I say. As we entered, the butterflies started, this dream was finally happening. We strolled into the garden and I couldn’t move, the first sight (minus the droves of tourists) was exactly as you can imagine it. A French garden with the perfect backdrop, supplimented by the sun shining across, making the place glow as if golden. Walking through the paths, I was transported to flashes of Monet, working away in the weeds, patiently planting the seeds of his new art work. The garden is made as a piece of perfection, a piece designed to be painted, and did he capture them as it should be? The answer is whole heartedly yes. 

To say that the experience was beautiful is an understatement, there’s a reason people, tourists, expats and locals alike, make the journey to this sight. The colours and vibrancy of the garden is astonishing, complete with relatively friendly insects, happily surrounded by the forest of beauty. Sure, it is a popular destination, and there are a lot of people also visiting the gardens (Tom will go into this a bit more in another post) but like most things, it is what you make of it. With the gardens as my canvas, and the camera my brush, I sought a way to capture this, to make an image that can be shared with others as we relive our memories. 

Having some extra time before our train back to Rouen, we relished the opportunity to further explore the town of Vernon. We found ourselves lost in the small streets near the town hall and a beautiful little cathedral, which, for the size of the town is quite an achievement! We took the time to visit the cathedral, having a moment of panic as we heard the door shut and lock. All was well though, and we ventured back into the sunshine to stroll along the Seine.

For anyone travelling to Monet’s Garden, my advice is to be broad. So much will be missed if the destination is the only site in focus. Definitely spend some time in Vernon, an hour or two is a good guide. Definitely wander around the town of Giverny and visit some of the free galleries. Finally, be prepared for the other visitors, en mass! Look beyond the sea of bystanders, ignore the sound of camera clicks in the wind, and instead listen for the hum of the bees and the flutter of dragonflies. 

Stay Safe and Travel Far…

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