Monet’s Garden by Night – Nuits des Musées May 2011

Having only ever visited Monet’s Giverny garden in the morning or midday, I have often wondered what walking through the garden must be like around dusk or even during night. Beautiful gardens are every bit as interesting during the night as they are in bright sunlight – long shadows and even darkness add all sorts of other qualities and experiences. As last night was the the now annual Nuits des Musées, and Monet’s garden was staying open until 9 pm – yesterday afternoon I could not resist a visit to Giverny.

The Night of Museums is a European-wide initiative in which museums and other heritage sites keep their public spaces and exhibitions open later than usual on the Saturday night of the weekend before International Museum Day (18 May). Many of the larger institutions organise other events as well, including special lectures and guided tours, children’s activities and even ‘sleepovers’. In France entry to museums on this evening is free, usually after a certain time. At Monet’s house and gardens and the Musée des Impressionismes in Giverny, free entry was granted after 6 pm until 9 pm for the gardens and 10 pm for the museum.

I thought there would be crowds of people – what with the promise of free entry and a chance to see the gardens at dusk. But, there was hardly anyone else there. After a wonderfully sunny day it was a glorious spring evening with a bright blue sky. The colours of the flowers are now mostly purples, blues and whites – and in the early evening as the shadows lengthened across the gardens it really did look quite magical. Some of the flowers seemed as if they were radiating their own light. And, something I had never thought of or particularly noticed on any previous visit to Monet’s Garden was the birdsong. But last night the birdsong was a wonderful accompaniment to the colours in the warm light of dusk. The idea of a sleepover in Monet’s garden (his bed looks a bit lumpy – I would give that a miss) is very appealing.

(Click on the thumbnail to see a larger image.)

For anyone thinking of a May visit to Giverny, and I would strongly recommend a visit then, if you can be there for the Nuits des Musées weekend do consider planning your visit to the gardens then – you will not be disappointed. There is always an excellent temporary exhibition on at the Musée des Impressionismes, so go there first and then head along the road to Monet’s house and gardens before it shuts. The museum also has a very good restaurant, as do a number of the hotels in Giverny.

And of course, I offer B&B and self catering accommodation at Basse Copette.

Monet's water lily pond at dusk

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Welcome to my guide to Normandy's Impressionist heritage - 'In Monet's Footsteps. Besides the inspiring gardens in Giverny, there really is so much more for lovers of French Impressionism to explore in Normandy. Continue reading ...
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