When I was a little girl, one of my favorite Sunday afternoon outings was a visit to the Huntington Library and Gardens. Huntington Library and Gardens I was so enamored with this place that I even wrote an essay in the 6th grade, devoting many newly-discovered 3 syllable words to this magical place on earth. Even today, when I try to conjure up the perfect European destination I look for a combination of sculpture and paintings surrounded by great outdoor living space. One of the features of the Huntington Gardens is the Japanese bridge, complete with a pond and water lilies. I once thought that this bridge was very much the same design (if not an exact replica) of Monet’s famous bridge from his garden in Giverny. On our recent visit to Paris we decided this was the perfect time to find out.
Located just an hour’s drive from central Paris, the town of Giverny has been overcome with tourists all with one thing on their mind…impressionist painters. Monet’s house still sits among his rambling gardens but the streets that line the entryway are chock full of bus pull-outs, gelato vendors and high-priced herb shops. We arrived just after 4pm in the hope of missing the bus tours and for the most part we were rewarded with clear pathways and great views of Monet’s Japanese bridge. I was astounded at the money-making enterprise it’s all become. Monet, himself a professional gardener, began work on the gardens soon after he and his family purchased the home in 1883. His design included a large flower garden that would continuously feature blooms from spring through fall. We were not disappointed. Although we missed the tulips by a few weeks we were treated to fabulous irises in vivid colors like deep purple and bright white. A strolling path leads visitors from the home and travels underneath the main road to the other side of the property where a river was diverted to make the large water lily pond. And this is where the magic takes place. There is something indescribably wonderful about walking slowly around the pond, seeing the bridge come into view, smelling the wisteria hanging heavy from the trees and seeing the perfect water lilies up close. The bridge, painted a bright green, is smaller than I expected and is clearly a very different bridge than the one in Huntington Gardens. But, it is no less spectacular a setting. The combination of flowering trees and shrubs can be fully appreciated while sitting on one of the many benches surrounding the pond. I believe Monet designed a most perfect garden than continues to thrive more than 100 years later. It feels like stepping right into one of his famous paintings.
If you are thinking of going to the gardens, click here to visit the Giverny Gardens website. I recommend visitors go during late spring when the temperatures are relatively pleasant and the busy tourist season is still a month away. A visit after 4pm will yield a nice hazy afternoon sun that casts a warm glow on the pond. Although you could spend a full afternoon at the gardens, it is perfectly do-able in 1 1/2 hours. Be sure to take a stroll through Monet’s home as well (included with your ticket) The yellow dining room is quite a sight to behold!