On Monet and Monarchs

Artist or Monarch?  Which would you rather be?

I asked this of Jackie and her friend, Sofia, on our recent weekend trip to Paris.  We broke up our city sightseeing with day trips to Giverny and Versailles.  I asked the girls to imagine themselves as Claude Monet in the 1800s or King Louis XIV in the 1700s.

In Giverny, Monet lovingly created an enchanted land of beauty.  He spent years building ponds filled with lilies and covered bridges dripping in wisteria that have become iconic scenes in his masterpieces.  He was a talented gardener and planted various species of exotic plants and abundant flowers to keep his property always in bloom.

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It was tulip season when we arrived, and tall stalks of color lined every pebbled walkway.  The cherry trees were bursting with pink pom pom blossoms hanging above the carpet of color on the ground.

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Monet’s playful pink stucco cottage doubled as a home for entertaining and a retreat for painting.  He painted the interiors in bold fanciful french blues, aqua greens, and sunflower yellows.  He even painted the furniture within the rooms to blend with the decor, his walls essentially becoming another canvas.  Monet’s love of beauty extended to food, and his dining room table was made extra long to accommodate intimate parties that he frequently hosted.

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In Versailles, Louis XVI inherited an ornate palace and vast lands that had been developed during his predecessor’s lavish reign. Parties here raged for days and took place in venues such as the gilded and glittery Hall of Mirrors, where thousands could gorge and dance with wild abandon.

Unlike Monet’s home in quaint Giverny, Versailles Palace is surrounded by acres of manicured gardens filled with sculptures, fountains, and trimmed hedges.  In retrospect, Monet’s loose and flowing gardens seem impressionistic vs. the hyper-realism of Versailles.

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We spent the day on bicycles pedaling around the palace grounds.  It was so warm and beautiful, that we never even bothered to tour the buildings.  Instead, we shopped for treats in the local outdoor market and stuffed my backpack with ripe brie, fresh fruit, sweet madeleines, and warm baguettes.

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Later, we picnicked at the far end of the massive lake in front of the palace known as the Grand Canal.  It look 11 years to dig out, and Louis XIV liked to have his minions row him across it with great fanfare as if he were on an extended trip from one end of his property to the other.  He would dress up and make quite a spectacle.  By contrast, Monet would sit alone in his rustic rowboat and sketch lilies reflecting on his pond.

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Marie Antoinette had her own “getaway” on the grounds, a rustic cottage made to look like a commoner’s home.  She would dress down in local garb, and escape to her hamlet with friends to spend the afternoon in pastoral peace surrounded by sheep and livestock.  Jackie and Sofia created their own “getaway” of sorts within our hotel room.  After I went to bed, they escaped from me and extended their evening by creating a hamlet of sorts in the bathroom!

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So what life would you choose, king or artist?  Jackie decided it was good to be king because “then everyone did everything for you, and you were in charge”.  Hmmm.  I beg to differ.

Louis certainly lived like a king, eating all that proverbial cake….but we know where that led him and his darling Marie Antoinette!

I think Monet knew how to live the “good life”:

surrounded by beauty, inspired by creativity, enriched by friendships and family, and nourished by great cuisine.

Besides, he got to keep his head!

 

 

 

 

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