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Sunday 12 January 2014

Claude Monet

The estate of Claude Monet

Situated in Giverny, near Paris lies the Claude Monet house and garden. A large property beautifully landscaped with the famous lily pond and an abundance of flowers. It is a wonderful experience to walk the garden paths and take in the beauty and aroma of the many varieties of plants in bloom.

The large house is open to the public and wonderfully decorated. Each room has its own colour scheme. The kitchen is tiled in blue and white and the dining room is yellow. The living room is a calming light blue. Photography is not permitted in the house, but you may take pictures from Monet's bedroom window which offers great views of the garden. Everything inside the house was owned by Monet and is considered part of the museum. Touching or handling things is not permitted. There is a large gift shop where you can by prints of the many pantings by the artist as well as calendars and touristy memorabilia.

Claude Monet had his own personal bedroom but it is connected via the bathrooms to the bedroom of his wife Alice. The artists bedroom has a collection of paintings by other painters of his time, including Manet, C├ęsanne and Renoir. There is also a large collection of Japanese woodblock prints displayed in various areas if the house. Monet drew inspiration from them. Monet was one if the few artists who became famous and wealthy in his own time.

Strolling through the garden is a photographers dream, the pond with its Japanese bridge and lilies is probably the most photographed. And all the flowers scream for close-ups.

The best times to visit Monet's house in Giverny is spring and autumn. But anytime from May to September is good. The plants all bloom at different times, so there is always something to see and smell.

A holiday to France should definitely include a visit to this beautiful estate.

Friday 10 January 2014

Domme and Bergerac

The last two towns we visited were Domme and Bergerac. Domme lies atop a cliffside along the Dordogne river and offers wonderful views over the valley. There is also a large cave to see, however we did not go in. Called the grotto of Domme, it stretches under the village and has tunnels connecting to other caves.

When we visited, the town was very quiet and serene. We wandered through the flower-lined streets and admired the buildings that have stood the test of time. The town was built in 1280 by the French king Philippe the Bold as a stronghold for the regions wealthy.

The grid shaped fortified town had four large gates of which three still remain. In the largest of the four, the Porte thes Tours, the Knights Templar were imprisoned during their trial, and there is plenty of evidence in the form of wall scrapings, or medieval graffiti.

At the edge of town you'll find a large viewing area showing the Dordogne river and the lush valley. Later that day we wondered down to the river's edge and had a lovely picnic in the French shade.

the View is amazing

Then on to Bergerac and a visit to a vineyard.

This town was once the local wine and tobacco shipping capital of the Dordogne region. There is a museum dedicated to each of these pleasures. The town centre has been painstakingly restored to its former glory and is now a popular place for foodies, wine lovers and people who simply love to walk along the flower fields and river banks. Gastronomy is a big magnet here and people from all over come to sample the restaurant's fares.

The centre of town, known as the "Place de la Myrpe" hosts the market, where anything from fresh produce, flowers and fresh meats are sold. It's neat to see a perfectly plucked duck on display, head still attached to identify the breed, the same goes for chickens.

This town lies on the St. Jacques de Compostelle pilgrimage road, and pilgrims would take a rest stop at St. Jacques church. The old cloister nearby is now a popular wine showroom.

Blue shutters; Shelagh's favorite

Mailman's visit

Just after lunch we went looking for a local vineyard offering wine tastings. Guy had researched a Chateau with large vineyards and we were off to give it a try. Chateau de Monbazillac is located just outside Bergerac and has lovely grounds to walk and huge vineyards. Off to the side is a modern building where the wine tasting goes on, of course there is also a well stocked store with bottles of wine for sale.

The chateau is open to the public and upon walking through the castle it seemed much smaller than the way it looks from the outside. The steep roof is built so that archers can be under the roof, but still fire at the enemy. We tasted two white wines and four reds, and decided to buy six bottles of a type of red wine that was on special production to the Dutch royal family. We aged it for three years minimum and it tasted just alright. Too bad.

the view from the chateau

We would live in this province of France anytime, the scenery, history and daily goings on are a joy to experience. If you ever get the opportunity to visit this area go for it. Aquitaine is a wonderful scenic place and not to be missed.