Hair, air, heir

by Ariane ~ August 9, 2015

flower-hedge

A flower hedge at the edge of Monet’s garden

For a French tongue, pronouncing the English words starting with an h is not that easy. The French language doesn’t have this sound, thence it is a special effort to say these words right. I do my utmost. I apply myself. I concentrate. I don’t mix up edges and hedges, ear and hear.

Today however, at the end of my tour in Monet’s garden, a gentleman came to me. He told me that there is a word that comes several times in my commentary that I didn’t say right: heir. Monet’s heir, his son Michel. As a lawyer, he explained, it is a word he knows only too well. It is not like the hair, but like the air.

Wow.  Isn’t it disconcerting? I expected exactly the contrary, that I had forgotten the h. I was very grateful, because it was done with kindness. It felt like receiving a little gift.

My English has improved a lot since school, thanks to the native speakers I meet every day. But very few take the trouble to correct me. I suppose a certain quantity of mistakes is acceptable, just like for you when reading this blog. I’ve improved because I paid attention to the right phrases, grammar, or pronunciation of my interlocutors. But I never realized this very mistake, although lots of visitors have asked me about Monet’s heirs. Because it is not relevant in French, I didn’t notice that the h was missing.

Mirror

by Ariane ~ August 2, 2015

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When there is no wind at all, the water lilies painted by Monet at Giverny seem to be floating in the air.

The surface of the pond is such a perfect mirror that the water turns invisible.

The rafts of water lilies resemble flying carpets en route for a long trip to mysterious countries.

Water Lily’s Beauty

by Ariane ~ June 30, 2015

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Claude Monet was never tired of painting his water lilies, because they are ever changing. They open, they close, they float on a mirror that reflects the clouds passing, the sun getting higher and lower in the sky. Monet painted his water lilies relentlessly, almost 300 times.

It is a question that visitors I guide through the gardens ask regularly: “Do you ever get tired of it?”  No, never. How could one get tired of beauty?

The Fairies of the Garden

by Ariane ~ June 17, 2015

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As early as 7 o’clock in the morning, the fairies are at work in Monet’s gardens. Young volunteers carefully take away the wilted flowers to keep the garden full of beautiful blossoms. Climbing roses are reached thanks to secateurs with long handles that need some practice and a lot of attention. The volunteers also have many other tasks to do. Here is Hillary Bernhardt, who was kind enough to answer a few questions:

Do you like this work?

Yes, very much. It’s very special to be able to work in Monet’s garden for a month.  I have the opportunity to see how the flowers change in the garden as we take certain flowers out and put new ones in or as new ones pop out of the ground.  I feel lucky to be able to soak in the garden’s beauty each day.  Additionally, I love the opportunity to visit the garden after hours.  It is sometimes challenging to be working outside all day, but I am thankful for the opportunity.

What made you want to apply?

I knew previous students from Davidson College who had completed the internship and they had all loved the experience.  It’s a great way to practice speaking the French language, experience French culture, and explore the region on weekends.  It’s also an excellent way to reflect on one’s life and journey thus far.  As I’m working in the garden or going on bike rides in the area, I have the space to think about what has been meaningful in my life so far and what I would like to do in the future.

How is the atmosphere?

Working in the garden is fun!  I enjoy talking to the tourists, especially when I’m able to practice French with them.  Many of them ask me for the names of the flowers, but usually they know more of the names than I do!  Also it has been enjoyable getting to know the professional gardeners, who really make the magic happen in the garden.  I’ve enjoyed joking around with them as I have gotten to know them better.

The Rose Arches

by Ariane ~ June 13, 2015

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Over the main alley that crosses Monet’s garden, the climbing roses display their tender colors in June.

Their pink and red match the pretty colors of the annual poppies scattered everywhere in the flower beds.

(click to enlarge)

The Rose Garden

by Ariane ~ June 10, 2015

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I hope I will live long enough to experience the time when computers will manage to send fragrances. It would be so nice to be able to share the scents of Giverny. The roses are in full bloom, and their delicate perfume fills in the air. In the water garden, it mingles with the sweet scent of honey suckle, creating a very girly combination, the kind of fragrance I loved to wear as a teenager. I wonder if the teenagers of today still like it. But I see everyday how ladies love smelling flowers. To get most of a peony or an iris, the best is to put one’s nose in the petals. It is so good it gets addictive. Is this a feminine gesture, as a female visitor suggested it to me? I remember a photo of Georges Clemenceau smelling a rose. The Tiger himself! With such an example, gentlemen should feel free to indulge in this pleasure.

Paulownia

by Ariane ~ May 25, 2015

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In May, a big tree crowns Monet’s flower garden with a beautiful mauve blossom. It is a paulownia, also named princess tree or impress tree. Its color harmonizes with  the purples of the alliums in the Norman Enclosure. They combine with the yellows of isatis, their complementary color, for more vibrance.

There is even a more subtle combination. The paulownia is so big that it can be seen from the water garden. It reflects into the pond between the reflections of the wisterias on both sides of the pond. They have exactly the same color and flower the same two weeks, as if they would have organized their annual meeting. Thus they create a connection between the two gardens separate by the road.

Purple and Blue Harmonies

by Ariane ~ May 19, 2015

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Mid-May, in Monet’s gardens the last tulips that were so colorful are followed by blue and purple flowers: flouncy irises and ball shaped alliums.

Both exist in all sorts of tones from pale to intense.

When planting them, the gardeners pay great attention to their variety, trying not to have two same flowers side by side.

Although they are so numerous, they never produce a mass effect but keep a very natural look, that makes all the charm of Giverny.

The Frog: Time Sure is Fun When You’re Having Flies

by Ariane ~ May 18, 2015

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Claude Monet’s water lily pond in May, when frogs croak and sit on pads…

The first Nympheas have opened! They will flower until September.

I’m grateful to the kind visitor that quoted the above title, and then patiently explained to me the related colloquialism and thus the joke. In French we don’t have the same image. We say that time passes in a lightning, le temps passe en un éclair. The way each language expresses reality and experiences its own way is an endless source of amazement and amusement to me.

An Invisible Pattern

by Ariane ~ April 25, 2015

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Seen on a map or from the windows of his home, Monet’s flower garden aligns straight lines that ressemble almost a grid. But because Monet raised the flower beds, an oblique look through the garden doesn’t reveal the walkways. Instead, it gives the feeling of an endless flowered meadow full of of striking colors. Blues are made by forget-me-not, while tulips, fritillaries and pansies provide all the colors of the painters palette. (Click on picture to enlarge)

This Extraordinary Spring Glow

by Ariane ~ April 11, 2015

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In April, as soon as the sun shines, Monet’s garden radiates. The colors are brighter than ever. Greens are vibrant. Red tulips flame in their complementary color. All the upside down bells of the bulb flowers resemble shiny laterns that have just been switched on.

What is the reason therefore? A freshly washed air, cool enough not to contain any haze? Or is it due to the height of the sun? I don’t know. But it is properly amazing and special to early spring. The glow of April makes you want to come out in the garden, to paint and to photograph.

A Degas Exhibition in Giverny

by Ariane ~ March 29, 2015

degas-mdig.jpgA beautiful exhibition has just started at the Museum of Impressionisms Giverny. Through 80 works signed Edgar Degas, (oil on canvas, pastel, brass, etc) it questions the painter’s membership in the group of the impressionists. His daring compositions, his motifs taking in the present day life, his free brushwork, last but not least his involvement in the organization of the impressionist exhibitions of the times make him an impressionist.

But Degas rejected open air painting, had a classical training, and hated the word impressionist itself. So was he, or not, an impressionist painter? Make your own opinion exploring this outstanding exhibition that displays many famous masterpieces, as well as less known works uncluding rarely seen Degas landscapes.

MDIG, 27 March-19 July 2015  More information 

Opening: 28 March 2015

by Ariane ~ March 22, 2015

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Monet’s house and gardens at Giverny will open next week on Saturday, the 28th of March 2015. If you plan to explore Monet’s place that early  in the season, this is more or less what you can expect. The above pic was taken last year on the 2nd of April.

It is an effect I like and that doesn’t last for a long time, daffodils making bouquets on the fresh green lawn. Their planting recalls the way the water lilies float on the surface of the pond in Monet’s water garden.

In April it is still possible to look over the rose bushes planted all around this patch of lawn. Very soon leaves pop out, the border thickens and hides the lawn behind. In the meanwhile, the daffodils will have faded, so we will be only too happy not to see them anymore…

 

Eranthis or Winter Aconite

by Ariane ~ March 11, 2015

eranthis.jpgThe first sunny days are warming up the soil of Giverny. In Monet’s gardens, the bravest flowers are popping out, most of them discreetly. Their bright petals make little dots of colors on the still bare ground. Pansies, snowdrops, crocuses, dwarf tulips and the first jonquils are a joy to look at. Among all these planted flowers, the eranthis impress by the carpets they make. Winter aconites are able to cover a curve of the pond bank, a nice place that will soon be shaded by tall trees.

The eranthis is in a hurry because it needs to bloom, go to seeds and renew its food storage in its bulb in no time, that is to say before the leaves of the trees over it become too big. When the sun can’t shine through anymore, the leaves of the eranthis dry up and die. But not the plant itself! Life is stored underground, waiting patiently for three seasons to pass. Then, in February, the new shoots of eranthis appear, followed by the lovely yellow flowers in March, like miniature suns emerging from an interesting foliage. But with this plant the motto is ‘love it… and leave it alone’ because it is poisonous, just like the common aconite.

Lace Curtains

by Ariane ~ February 26, 2015

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This picture was taken in one of the bedrooms of Monet’s home at Giverny. The house dates back to the mid-1800’s and most of the fixtures are still original, so I suppose this window handle is too. It is a very common model that can be seen in lots of houses of that time. Here it is painted the same pale blue as the window.

What is certainly much more recent are the curtains, although they look ancient and charming. But it is rare to find old curtains in good condition because the light and heat behind the window damage them rapidly. I suppose those were replaced at the restoration of the house in the 1970’s. They are machine made with sort of a floral pattern that resembles lace.

When I was a child I wondered. How can a curtain let us see through, but not enable people standing outside to peep in? Now I don’t any more. I take them for granted. A new surprise awaited me: I’ve realised since I work as a guide and chat with foreigners that curtains, especially lace curtains look french. Do you agree?

They also look country, in my opinion. I must confess that I am a big fan of the Country Living magazine, both the US and UK issues. It is very exciting to explore the country spirit overseas. To learn what people answer to the question ‘What makes my home country?’. Here the curtains would belong to these features. Monet’s house is at the same time a painter’s house, a house of the 19th century, the home of an upper-middle class family, and, being located in the country side, it is definitely a country house.