May 15, 2016
Today we took a road trip. Our itinerary was to go to Claude Monet’s home and outdoor studio at Giverny. Giverny (pronounce jiv-er-nee) is about an hour’s drive from Paris through France’s picturesque rural countryside and villages. On the return trip back to Paris, we took a detour to a town called Poissy to see a residence. Villa Savoye, that I visited over 35 years ago (before it was renovated) by Charles-Edouard Jenneret, aka Le Corbusier, aka Corbu. Corbu was Swiss-born but is considered a French architect. He lived from 1887 to 1965. Corbu is considered one of the early pioneers of modernism and the international style movement. And lastly, to round out an already full day, we made a very quick trip to Versailles. Although it was not the full blown experience it deserved, it was enough to check it off our bucket lists. With it being a holiday weekend, the crowds were very large which impacted our ability to do much more than race through the hallways photographing as much as we could to savor for later. (For Terry and Margee, it was their second visit. They were real troopers to do it again!)
Giverny is a very small ‘colony’ of 502 people who host over 600,000 visitors a year to Claude Monet’s home and studio. We just happened to be there on one of France’s many three day holidays and its apparent that when the holiday gong sounds, the French take full advantage of it. We were fortunate to get to the home early so the crowds hadn’t swelled to the numbers we saw entering as we were leaving. Travel hint: Hire a guide before you get there. It cuts down on the wait time and a guide will make the experience much more enjoyable–at least ours did. Our guide’s name is Veronique Le Dosseur. You can find her on-line. Monet bought the house and land in 1890 as an escape from the pressures of Paris life. The Colony of Giverny was also home to other French impressionists who took up residence in the area. Attracted to the area by the landscape and the quality of light for painting outdoors (plenair) many artists came for a summer but stayed permanently–just as Monet did. Monet had a long productive career painting images he derived from the gardens he created. Yes, he was also an avid gardener. There is much more to his story as a painter and gardener and I would encourage you to go find it. Here are a few images of the house and gardens to give you the flavor of what he saw everyday.
From Giverny, we traveled about 45 minutes back toward Paris to a town (or commune as the French refer to it) called Poissy to visit an historic piece of modernist architecture called Villa Savoy. Villa Savoye was designed for Pierre Savoye and his family and was constructed between 1928 and 1931. It is truly a masterpiece of 20th century architecture. Based on Corbu’s 5 principals of architectural design (look it up as it’s too complicated to go into here) and represents his philosophy that the home should be a “machine a habiter” (a machine for living). Take a look at the photos and then research the history of the house.
Finally, we made the pilgramage to the Palace of Versailles which was designed as a royal chateau by a cast of architects starting with Louis Le Vau over the years starting around 1682 for King Louis XIV. As I mentioned above, with this being a holiday weekend, the crowds were enormous. We arrived late in the afternoon (the museum closes at 6:30 PM on weekends) so only had a few hours to spend inside the palace but frankly it was plenty. To reiterate some of my same sentiments from our visit to Fontainbleu, I understand, now, why there was a revolution. Lots of gilding and opulence for a lifetime. But, it was still very interesting to see the place that was one of the inspirations for the French Revolution in 1789. Travel hint: Go early on a day that isn’t a holiday. Here are some images of the experience we had.