France – Monet’s Garden

It seems a long time ago since my old friend Rosie suggested that I accompany her on a voyage of discovery around the British Isles. A chance to see new places and to re-discover my penchant for travel. We were to embark on an eight night cruise starting from Tilbury in Essex (London International Cruise Terminal)

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Leaving Tilbury

travelling in an anti-clockwise direction around the British Isles and stopping in Northern Scotland, the Isle of Lewis, the Isle of Mull, Ireland, the Scilly Isles and across the English Channel to Honfleur in France. The circle would be complete on our return to Tilbury. It was to be my first holiday for a long time and my very first cruise.

You need a ship to cruise and I was very pleased to find that this one met my perception of a traditional cruise ship. Small by modern standards but perfectly formed. This view was taken from the tender on our return from a day trip to the Scilly Isles.

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Astoria

From there, we crossed the Channel overnight to France  and docked, on the last day of April, in the small port of Honfleur which is on the southern bank of the River Seine in Normandy. The large commercial port of Le Havre is across the estuary on the north bank of the river.

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Honfleur

We boarded a coach at the dockside for our journey to Monet’s Garden but the route did not take us past the old picturesque 16th- to 18th-century townhouses which feature in some artists work, including Monet, so the above was the best view I could get.

It is about 85 miles, and took less than 2 hours to get to Giverny, where Claude Monet and his family settled in 1883. He set about creating a walled garden in front of his house which would be full of perspectives, symmetries and colours and became Clos Normand. He became a bit of a botanist, spending a lot of money collecting plants and after 10 years set about acquiring more land adjacent to his, but across a road and railway and which, importantly,  contained a brook. He used this to create a pond and water garden full of asymmetries and curves. It is inspired by the Japanese gardens that Monet knew from the prints he collected avidly. So, that’s the background and now my attempt to show you what there is to see.

From the coach park we entered through the water garden following the brook meandearing through bamboo and clumps of pastel hued plants.

You are required to keep to the paths and as you make your way through the aspect opens up and you get first sight of the placid, still, pool.

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Finding reflections

The biggest problem with trying to get some of these photos is the number of visitors in the garden (getting in the way 😉 ) and deciding how much time you can spend in any spot as there is so much to see and at this point you don’t really know the extent of the gardens.

Then you just know that you have come across the famous Japanese bridge covered with wisterias, which you cannot see as it is too early in the year.

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That bridge

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Reflection of the Japanese bridge

I did my best to capture the view but have not really done it justice.

From here you have to cross road and rail to get to the walled garden using an underpass. Emerging out into the open you get your first glimpse. The house can just be seen at the top of the photos.

We are now in the original garden which is laid out more formally than the water garden and has a number of avenues enclosing beds with clumps of flowers with co-ordinating colours. Fruit trees and climbing plants add height and structure.

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A riot of colour – tulips and wallflowers

It was spring time so flowering bulbs were everywhere.

I was very impressed to see these Crown Imperials standing high above the tulips and wallflowers and will have a go at growing some for next spring.

The main alley below, closed to public access, is covered by arches for climbing roses and provides a perspective to and from the main house.

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Avenue de la Maison

I made up that title by the way, but would love to see it when the roses are in flower.

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Tulips and tulips

A view across the garden, which I hope shows the extent of planting. I haven’t really shown any of the flowering trees, but this one caught my eye also while looking  across

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View through fruit tree blossom

Moving rapidly on we went into the house to have a look around and see how the master painter turned gardener lived, in some style.

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Monet’s house

The house and garden fell into disrepair after the Second World War and it was only about 1970 that work began on restoration.

“Almost ten years were necessary to restore the garden and the house to their former magnificence. Not much was left. The greenhouse panes and the windows in the house were reduced to shards after the bombings. Floors and ceiling beams had rotted away,  a staircase had collapsed. Three trees were even growing in the big studio.

The pond had to be dug again. In the Clos normand soil was removed to find the original ground level. Then the same flower species as those discovered by Monet in his time were planted.

Thanks to generous donors, mostly from the USA ,the house was given a facelift. The ancient furniture and the Japanese prints were restored. Then the visitor areas were fitted out.

The property has been open to the public since September 1980.”  – courtesy of http://giverny.org/gardens/fcm/visitgb.htm 

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Interior of Monet’s House

The view from upstairs.

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A wider perspective

and the view down the central alley from the house

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Reverse Avenue de la Maison

I will finish with my personal favourite, a view through the window across the flower bed

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View from inside

which I think, looks great full screen.

I hope there were not too many photos for one post, that i have given you an idea of the marvel of Monet’s vision and that you have enjoyed your visit almost as much as the half a million visitors who pass through the garden each year.

Thanks for your time.

 

New Year Fresh Resolve

New Year Fresh Resolve

I did sort of decide some time ago that I wasn’t a blogger and couldn’t get my photos right,so rather gave up on posting my thoughts. It was taking me so long to write that I kept losing my way and would give up in frustration. I got a number of posts to the draft stage and then decided they were no longer relevant and they reside in waiting. However, this blog is still open and I thought – New Year – do that resolve thing. Make a statement.

So, I decided that it might be a good idea to review the photos I took last year and try to pick a couple, that I like, from each month  and post on here so that I have a record. Simple enough eh? Shouldn’t take too long.

January was a bleak month and the garden birds keep me busy filling the feeders so I have plenty of  bird pictures to choose from. Nothing much grows in the garden except for the first bulbs poking their green shoots tentatively up for inspection.

February brought the usual cold and snow showers, my favourite bird the robin and the delightful long tailed tit which usually arrives in a horde like Genghis Khan’s marauders flitting everywhere and rarely stopping in one place long enough to catch with the camera.

March was wet, still cold and brought me the common cold and an upset stomach. (There was no forecast for a cheerful post!) I did manage to get out on a visit to the North York Moors and caught a glimpse of the newly refurbished Flying Scotsman leaving Grosmont station under full steam. The garden usually gets several visits from blue tits always searching nooks and crannies for insect morsels.

April brings the first real signs of Spring and with it delight at the lengthening days. A very significant event was arranged for the last week of this month – my very first cruise and first holiday for 5 or 6 years. A long standing friend persuaded me to take this trip around the British Isles, which included a Channel crossing, and I was very pleased that I went. It is very difficult to pick just two photos from the 6 ports of call but I decided that my favourite stops were Tobermory on the Isle of Mull in the Scottish Inner Hebrides and Monet’s garden at Giverny in France. (I did draft a post on the trip and should consider completing it.)

May is a great month with colour flooding back into the garden and local streets where the trees fill out with blossom and leaf. Boro Garden saw a very unusual visitor and I was very lucky to catch him with the camera through the window which of course had reflections. he was back again the next day but didn’t stay long enough to catch on camera.

June heralds daylight, lots of it. Too early to be very warm but often lots of lovely sunshine and long days. Good light should mean good photos and I thought that these two shots were a good try. A jackdaw looking very ominous before clinging precariously on a fat feeder and a chaffinch in spring colour on his favourite food.

July and summer is in full swing so a visit to the seaside was enjoyed by many. Saltburn-on-Sea has kept it’s Victorian roots including it’s pier and inclined cliff lift, whilst Middlesbrough’s riverside continues to attract development resulting in an interesting blend of structures. The £2.7m structure ‘Temenos’ by Anish Kapoor was completed Spring 2010.The steel structure consists of a pole, a circular ring and an oval ring, all held together by steel wire and  contrasts with our iconic Transporter Bridge completed 100 years earlier.

August continued the summer ambience and brought a multitude of choice with days out and the garden competing for the camera. I picked an attempt at a close-up and a landscape. The Schlumbergera cactus was not actually growing in the garden but had spent all summer outdoors and I thought no post would be complete without a gate! The view is from the North York Moors towards Roseberry Topping.

September also had a a good share of blue skies which draw one inevitably to the sea and at the same time the garden is full. The ever popular ‘pot mum’ brings glorious autumn colour. The landscape with Saltburn beach tractors against the backdrop of Huntcliff was my photo for my  BBC Weatherwatchers report that day and achieved an Editors Pick! I was chuffed, to say the least.

October and the days are shortening again. The lesser spotted woodpecker pops into Boro Garden for his nuts and a penstemon is still flowering strongly.

At the end of October I was invited to Stratford upon Avon for a birthday celebration and as this was a rare event, I could not miss including a couple of extra photos.

Shakespeare’s birthplace is just one of the remarkably old buildings in the town and you may think that the bridge is quite unremarkable, but, i discovered after the event, that I had captured my first flying bird! Progress.

November days are shortening but the weather picture still has to be found and the birds continue to visit Boro Garden.

Good old Saltburn produces another Editor’s pick! It’s not me, they just seem to love pictures that include the sea and the sky.  The bullfinch is a rare visitor to Boro Garden. I might see one a couple of times a year.

December brings the year to an end so just two more photos to pick. Short days and poor light mean a limited choice, but the garden is usually busy at some time during the day.

Blackbirds are regular visitors and spend hours chasing each other while trying to keep a feeding station to them self. Squirrel has been visiting all year, usually for breakfast and then a late snack. He loves the sunflower hearts and as long as he doesn’t destroy the feeders, he can continue. As it is December, it seems fitting to finish with a seasonal bird and also,  I have to include one of my favourites, which is also one of the smallest to visit.

Finally, here is my gallery summarising the year 2016. It has only taken me a week to put this post together and has reminded me why my posts are so infrequent.

I am still not happy with a lot of the photos I take which lack the sharpness I see in others. I tried to follow the advice of my favourite nature photographer from Michigan and all these photos were taken with last years Christmas present to myself, a compact Canon PowerShot SX700 HS. It has full manual control as well as auto but I kept struggling to balance shutter speed with exposure and to get a sharp photo. The camera would keep adjusting the speed or aperture I set in order to get the correct exposure so the subject, usually moving, was blurred. The light in my small garden is poor anyway with some large trees nearby. The compact camera is great for carrying around and performs very well in general, but I couldn’t get good photos of moving birds. The camera has a large 30x optical zoom which brings the subject close enough to fill the frame but this reduces the amount of light available to the small sensor.

So this year I thought I would take the plunge and go for a DSLR. I have stuck with Canon and decided my budget would run to a 700D. It made sense to stick with the kit lens offered, an 18-55mm IS STM lens, because Canon are offering cashback on this but not body only purchases.

It is great, I have started practising and can see the advantages already. The range of controls is so much greater and I can see the difference the larger APS-C sensor makes. The 18-55mm lens at least gives me the chance to get started but I am already looking for an upgrade. I need to get closer! Of course one downside is that there is no slipping this bit of kit in my pocket! and even less when I get an additional lens, which is the other downside, these lenses are expensive, aren’t they? But hey-ho, I’m retired, it’s what I’ve worked for isnt it?

I will make more effort to post more often, after all, I have now set a standard and must see if I really can learn anything and demonstrate some progress.

I put this up for my own record, really, so if anyone has got this far, I thank you very much for your time and visit.