xo, Lena Lim
In the French summer of 2023, I visited Monet’s house and garden after dreaming of that moment for the longest time. It was precisely a decade since I had first taken in the beauty of his masterpieces with my own eyes at the National Gallery of Victoria with my then boyfriend (now husband), Sam. Being immersed in Monet’s romantic impressionist paintings gave us both butterflies in our stomachs, which contributed greatly to us falling all the more deeply in love with each other!
As an ode to our mutual love and admiration for Monet’s paintings, Sam and I celebrated our wedding on the 26th of March 2017 in a magnificent garden, with our ceremony set against the prettiest waterlily pond. So, to say that seeing Monet’s garden in person was a dream come true, is truly an understatement.
On the 16th of June, I set off for a three day trip to visit Monet’s hometown. I rode the train from Paris to Vernon and stayed at a cute Airbnb. Vernon was a quaint little town with an old world village feel to it. I discovered a vintage book store that was filled to the brim with beautiful old books and picked up a copy of Jane Eyre. I wandered the streets and perused the boulangeries for delicious baked delights.
In the evening I took a stroll along the Seine River, and was delighted to see ducks and geese happily swimming among the waterlilies.
The next day I set off for Monet’s former residence. The moment I arrived in Giverny, I felt like I had stepped into an enchanting fairytale. The cute cottages with adorable French windows sat snuggly together, surrounded by rolling farmland and flocks of sheep grazing lazily in the green pastures.
I had prebooked my ticket three months in advance to ensure I had the earliest time slot and could enjoy the glittering waterlily pond uninterrupted before the crowds arrived. Upon entering, it felt like I had stumbled upon a secret garden. There was a surprising descent down a staircase, a left turn into a small dim tunnel, and another ascent, which opened up into the garden.
I could hardly contain my excitement as I hopped and skipped all the way to the waterlily pond. When I caught a glimpse of the familiar green arched bridge, my heart skipped a beat. It was exactly like the bridge in Monet’s paintings only in real life!
I wandered around the pond with delight, admiring the waterlilies floating peacefully on the water, reflecting the serenity of the blue sky above.
All along the pathway surrounding the pond was abundant foliage dotted with colourful flowers. Dahlias, poppies, tulips, roses and anemones, just to name a few of the iridescent beauties.
As I gazed on adoringly, I felt such joy that I couldn’t help but erupt into a ridiculously big grin from ear to ear. In that moment, it seemed as though the flowers were smiling back at me. Monet’s voice came to my mind, “I must have flowers, always, and always.” I nodded to myself in agreement.
That day I truly understood what Monet was painting was not just the physical, but also the spiritual.
“For me, a landscape does not exist in its own right, since its appearance changes at every moment; but the surrounding atmosphere brings it to life – the light and the air which vary continually. For me, it is only the surrounding atmosphere which gives subjects their true value.”
There is an undeniable deep sense of peace, joy and harmony within Monet’s gardens. A true labour of love. A partnership with God, co-creating a beautiful landscape using the paints in God’s own artistic palette – the earth, water, plants and flowers.
Monet’s house was as mesmerising as his gardens. It was just as I had imagined it to be; full of colour and life, yet simple with modest furnishings.
It felt like a magical cottage set inside a wonderous fairytale, bathed in pastel pink, yellow and blue.
After leaving Monet’s former residence, I visited the nearby church where he and his family were buried together. There was a cross nestled amongst a small garden above his family grave. It felt like a sacred place so I didn’t pull out my big camera, but captured a quick snap on my phone instead.
Monet once said, “Light is the most important person in the picture.” As an artist and photographer this has held true for me time and time again. I have known deep within my soul that the light, the person is Jesus.