A Lasting Impression (ist)…

28/08/2011

Photo taken by The ClientOverindulgence is somewhat difficult to avoid in France. Foie gras, smoked duck, and delicious cheeses were to be enjoyed in abundance on my last visit when I was treated to a few nights away in Normandy. We stayed at the charming Chateau Villeray; a large house which had clearly enjoyed many a heyday some decades past. The welcome was warm and genuine and it felt very much like staying at the home of a distant relative. We were left almost entirely to our own devices and the rich velvet upholstery of the sofas in the salon enveloped us as we read, caught up on email and idled away an afternoon. There is a nice pool and sun terrace at the sister property, a mill house at the bottom of the steep hill atop which the chateau sits, and the weather afforded us a couple of late afternoon hours sunning, swimming and drinking very generously proportioned G&Ts.

Apart from the sheer joy of being away for a few days R&R, the highlight of our trip was an afternoon at the Fondation Claude Monet in Giverny. Monet’s house and pretty gardens are open to the public and for €14 your ticket also permits access to the Impressionist museum nearby.

The gardens close to the house (despite being formally laid out) are a riot of chaotic planting. Blurry borders spill over with multicoloured flowers and foliage. An ancient gnarled apple tree espaliered at waist height along the edge of a border was particularly memorable. Further into the gardens a tunnel leads the visitor under the road and up into the famous water lily gardens for which Monet is probably best known. He painted some 250 works on this theme alone. There is a strong Japanese aesthetic which I personally find very beautiful and there are several places along the winding lakeside path when one feels one has been transported to a Japanese temple garden. It goes without saying that the water lilies themselves are a major feature and their delicate pink and white petals floating on the still surface of the water cast mesmerising reflections which captivate the visitor as entirely as they did the artist.

Photo by The ClientThe house itself was very busy partly because of intermittent heavy rain showers causing great scrums for shelter inside. I could happily have not ventured in and avoided the slightly voyeuristic sensation of snooping around someone else’s gaff. Aside from the extensive collection of Japanese prints, there was nothing particularly remarkable about the interior and following the other visitors around felt slightly obligatory.

The jewel of this place is without doubt the water lily garden with its towering bamboo forest, Japanese maples, still waters and everywhere dazzling dancing light.Photo by The Client

Chateau Villeray
61110 Condeau au Perche
France
www.domainedevilleray.com

Fondation Claude Monet
Rue Claude Monet
27620 Giverny, France
www.fondation-monet.fr

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