Art historians consider Impressionism to be the first distinctly modern movement in painting. It started in the 1860’s in Paris and the ideas of the movement spread throughout Europe. Instead of the photo-quality realism of a highly blended finish with invisible brush strokes that was the accepted manner of painting at the time, Impressionists aimed to capture the momentary, fleeting effect of a scene on the eye, especially the effects of light.
Because they were interested in light these artists left the studio and began painting in the open air. And because they painted outside, they had less time to mix colour and had to paint quickly to keep up with the ever-changing daylight. This resulted in work with loose brushwork that looked unfinished or messy compared to the accepted work of the time.
After leaving the Loire we are now making our way to Calais and the Eurotunnel. However we thought we would break the journey with a visit to Claude Monet’s house & garden at Giverny near Vernon, north west of Paris. Where he lived and painted, amongst many others, the now famous water lily painting.
We arrived at Giverny late in the afternoon and found the free motorhome parking where we planned to stay overnight. After the usual cuppa on arrival, Lesley went in to pick up the tickets we’d ordered online hoping to avoid queueing the next day. Following a wander through the colourful museum gardens, Lesley found the house but was too late to pick up the tickets. The village was crowded with people. In a nearby cafe a man was playing smooth jazz on a piano in the courtyard, so although busy this gave the place a nice relaxed ambiance.
Next morning bright and early we were off to beat the crowds and being some of the first people there, I was hoping to get the iconic image of the bridge before it was crammed with with day trippers like us.
It wasn’t long before coach parties started to arrived and the place was buzzing. As one of the first to be let in we started to look round the garden but I soon realised that we’d missed the sign at the entrance directing visitors straight to the ‘Lily pond’. So I back tracked and headed for the water garden to beat the coach parties whilst Lesley lingered in the flower gardens and Monet’s rather eccentric house.
As Lesley took the chance to beat the queues for the house, I found a bench overlooking the Lily pond and sat there soaking up the beauty of the place and watching all the various coach-sized slugs of Japanese, American, French and British groups come by to snap ‘the picture’ of the pond and the bridge…
Occasionally there would be a quiet spell for maybe half a minute before the next batch were processed though by their guide with a flag and microphone.
After spending a couple of very pleasant hours we headed off to Lyons-la-Forêt. Stopping there for lunch, we were about to call in at the boulangerie when we spotted a restaurant with pizza on the menu, well, it would have been rude not to go in!
We nearly blew our daily supplies and eating out budget on lunch (I had fresh mozzarella vegetarian pizza) in a upmarket cafe attached to Michelin* starred restaurant.
Previously we had been thinking we might stay in this area, but about this time – a bit like Moley calling out after Ratty in Wind in the Willows – the magnetic call of home started to get stronger. So we went online and changed our booking to bring the tunnel crossing forward by a day.
“The call was clear, the summons was plain. He must obey it instantly, and go. ‘Ratty!’ he called, full of joyful excitement, ‘hold on! Come back! I want you, quick!’
‘Oh, come along, Mole, do!’ replied the Rat cheerfully, still plodding along.
‘Please stop, Ratty!’ pleaded the poor Mole, in anguish of heart. ‘You don’t understand! It’s my home, my old home! I’ve just come across the smell of it, and it’s close by here, really quite close. And I must go to it, I must, I must! Oh, come back, Ratty! Please, please come back!’
The Rat was by this time very far ahead, too far to hear clearly what the Mole was calling, too far to catch the sharp note of painful appeal in his voice. And he was much taken up with the weather, for he too could smell something— something suspiciously like approaching snow.
‘Mole, we mustn’t stop now, really!’ he called back. ‘We’ll come for it to-morrow, whatever it is you’ve found. But I daren’t stop now— it’s late, and the snow’s coming on again, and I’m not sure of the way! And I want your nose, Mole, so come on quick, there’s a good fellow!’ And the Rat pressed forward on his way without waiting for an answer.
Poor Mole stood alone in the road, his heart torn asunder, and a big sob gathering, gathering, somewhere low down inside him, to leap up to the surface presently, he knew, in passionate escape. But even under such a test as this his loyalty to his friend stood firm. Never for a moment did he dream of abandoning him. Meanwhile, the wafts from his old home pleaded, whispered, conjured, and finally claimed him imperiously. He dared not tarry longer within their magic circle. With a wrench that tore his very heartstrings he set his face down the road and followed submissively in the track of the Rat, while faint, thin little smells, still dogging his retreating nose, reproached him for his new friendship and his callous forgetfulness.
With an effort he caught up to the unsuspecting Rat, who began chattering cheerfully about what they would do when they got back, and how jolly a fire of logs in the parlour would be, and what a supper he meant to eat; never noticing his companion’s silence and distressful state of mind. At last, however, when they had gone some considerable way further, and were passing some tree-stumps at the edge of a copse that bordered the road, he stopped and said kindly, ‘Look here, Mole old chap, you seem dead tired. No talk left in you, and your feet dragging like lead. We’ll sit down here for a minute and rest. The snow has held off so far, and the best part of our journey is over.’
The Mole subsided forlornly on a tree-stump and tried to control himself, for he felt it surely coming. The sob he had fought with so long refused to be beaten. Up and up, it forced its way to the air, and then another, and another, and others thick and fast; till poor Mole at last gave up the struggle, and cried freely and helplessly and openly, now that he knew it was all over and he had lost what he could hardly be said to have found…”Excerpt from chapter five of Wind-in-the-Willows by Kenneth Graham
Properly stuffed we headed back to Charlie and set off again, this time for the coast. A couple of hours through some lovely countryside took us to an aire at Stella Plage with a gigabyte size beach.
We have driven the best part of 6,000 miles around France and Spain. So it came at as a bit of a shock yesterday whilst driving on a straight road though Stella Plage, a car approaching from our right came screeching to a halt at our side blasting his horn. “What was all that about?” I said to Lesley? It was only later I realised that car on my right had intended to drive straight out because HE had right of way (= la priorité)…
I can image the conversation that would have ensued had we crashed. “Qui Mousier, Don’t you no ze rules when driving in a small, obscure backwater en France, it is priorité à droite…” My response is probably unprintable, but would have included comments about how un-impressed I was with the French road regulations lack of ******** consistency!!!!
Arriving back in the UK after 95 days on the road, our first and overriding impression was just how much traffic there is on the UK’s roads. In spite of the recent work to widen or make our motorways ‘Smart’ the shear volume of cars, lorries, buses (and motorhomes) the road network is coping with is staggering. I know France and Spain are twice as Big as the UK by area and have similar population numbers to ours, but even so, it really is absolute madness here!! At some point I’ll right up a summary of our tour with some reflections, observations and statistics (including how many beau villages we visited) But for now I’ll sign off my thoughts with this.
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line, Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.Omar Khayyám
Happy Easter to everyone and Toodle Pip till next time…
Dave & Lesley