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Roger: Monet's Garden & World Cup Rugby
Monet’s Gardens and
World Cup Rugby:

What A Romantic Day
Story and photos by Roger Fallihee

he worst day in Paris is better than the best day anywhere else on the planet. The larger-than-life French capital always offers the promise of exciting adventure, amazing art and architecture, incredible food, and incomparable romance. If you’re bored in Paris you’re in big trouble.

It was a warm October morning when we wandered out of our hotel to catch the morning train to Giverny and the home and gardens of Claude Monet, one of the fathers of French Impressionism. Both my wife and I had been inspired and moved by the iconic work of Monet, so to see the gardens, the water lilies, and the Japanese Bridge, the objects of so much of his art, would certainly be an exciting and romantic day.

Little did we know that missing our train back to Paris would lead to a late afternoon of wine, cheese, fruit, bread, and World Cup Rugby, that would prove to be equally exciting and romantic. We arrived in Giverny at 11:00 am and immediately hopped onto a waiting shuttle bus that would take us the two miles to Monet’s home and gardens.

location of Monet's Gardens: the village of Giverny, France
The charming village of Giverny, France.

Once we dispensed with the 21st century ritual of slapping down the Visa card to buy tickets, we went through the gates and entered a world that was at once as magical, beautiful, and captivating as the collected works of Monet.

Claude Monet (1840-1926) was the rarest of all artists: he was financially successful. Today his work has been reproduced into countless posters, calendars, and reproductions, making Monet one of the most famous, recognizable, and posthumously wealthy artists in history.

One day in 1883, while riding through the village of Giverny, Monet gazed out the window and instantly fell in love with the light and the colors of this corner of his beloved French countryside. Monet and his companion Alice Hoschede, along with their combined eight children, rented a large house on three acres. Over the next few years they planted thousands of flowers and plants. In 1890 he had gained enough wealth to purchase the property. An inspired Monet hired workers to dig a large hole in the ground and divert a branch of the Epte River into the hole. The resulting pond and Japanese Bridge would forever change the course of art history.

the lily pond and Japanese Bridge at Monet's Garden, Giverny
Monet’s meticulous attention to detail created one of art’s most enduring settings.

Monet had a practical and businesslike approach to painting. After years of watching himself and his peers struggle to find the correct light and landscape to create art, Monet decided that the best way to resolve the problem would be to build and maintain his own environment. Monet, a practitioner of the “en plein air” (in the open air) style of painting, directed his staff of gardeners and laborers to create the world that he would paint for the next forty-three years. In addition to the Japanese Bridge and the water lily pond, Monet had in excess of 200,000 flowers planted. Half of these were perennials but the other half had to be replaced each spring.

Monet's Garden showing flowers with his house in the background, Giverny
Monet’s beloved garden with his farm house in the background.

Wandering around the grounds with my wife of two weeks (I knew her for thirty-three years, but these things take time) we were transported back to Monet’s wonderful world of light and color. It was amazing to sit where he sat, look at what he looked at, and imagine him painting some of the world’s finest and most works of art.

one of Monet's paintings of his garden showing the Japanese Bridge and lily pond
One of the many beautiful “Water Lily” paintings that Monet created over 43 years. Photo courtesy of
After several leisurely hours wandering through his house, studio, and gardens, we realized that we needed to get back to the train station in time to make our dinner reservation in Paris. We arrived at the station just as our train pulled away. A quick look at the schedule indicated that the next train wouldn’t arrive for two hours. Oh well, there goes our dinner in Paris. We walked up and down the picturesque roads of Giverny eventually stumbling onto a quaint looking establishment called “Le Havre,” a pub that looked like a great place to unwind, grab a bite to eat, and wait for the next train.

We walked in expecting a low-key, quiet restaurant, which I’m sure is normally the case. However, on this day, France was playing England in the semi-finals of the 2007 Rugby World Cup. The place was packed with boisterous, loudly cheering and booing, smoking and drinking, laughing and eventually crying locals. (Final score: England 14 – France 9).

the Le Havre pub in Vernon
The food was fantastic. The rugby was sublime.
Photo courtesy of

Unlike American sports bars, with fifteen big screen TV’s, chili dogs, pizza, and pitchers of Budweiser, Le Havre had platters of local artisan cheese, slices of pears and apples, Duck Foie Gras, skate wing fish with green beans, small baguettes, and a single 13” portable TV.
We found a tiny table near the window, with a view of the train station, and sat down for a pleasurable afternoon of wonderful food (how can their bread be so good?), fantastic wine, and a lively and rowdy crowd going crazy over a game that we knew nothing about.

The French didn’t need a 60” Plasma TV and plates filled with hot wings and potato skins. They had their camaraderie, their bread, cheese, and wine, a fierce love for their team, an equally fierce hatred for Team England, and in the end a strong spirit of “attendre jusqu'à la prochaine fois” (wait until next year).

Romance can be found in the most expected and unexpected places. The beauty and history of Monet’s gardens and the unexpected thrill of watching Rugby World Cup and eating gourmet food with a room full of emotionally charged French people, made us both realize that, in the end, it’s not necessarily the events, but the time that we spend together that creates the romance. And we did make it back to Paris in time for the perfect ending to the perfect day. Love is better the second time around.

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Let Roger know what you think about his traveling adventure.

* * * * *

As you may (or may not!) know from reading my stuff on TBoy, I'm a WW2 aficionado, and several years ago on one of my many trips to Normandy, I stopped by Monet's home. I was transfixed from the second I walked into his garden, and felt as if I was part of one of his paintings. Your marvelous story captures the essence and magic of an equally marvleous and captivating house and garden, and it made me feel as if I were back there myslef. The hallmarks of any really great travel journalist is to be able to transport the reader to whatever he or she is reading, and make them feel as if THEY are seeing and doing what you, as the travel journalist, are describing. YOU have that talent in spades, and let me give you a British Hi Five and Super Bravo for a super story on this mesmerizing French destination. I hope it encourages many TBoy readers to go there. Again, congratulations!

-- John, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA

Loved this article! You have such a strong, true voice -- reading you is like having a chat with you -- always a pleasure!

-- Jamie, Edmonds, WA

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