It was rare for Ivy and I to venture beyond the boulevards of Paris, but occasionally we escaped the city in favour of the countryside and sometimes headed north to Normandy.
At one point in our Parisian adventure, Ivy had grand designs about living in this part of France, but I personally never saw the appeal. I guess I’m more a French Riviera kind of dandy, at home on a yacht in Monaco, rather than hanging out in the rain by some old castle ruin, in this largely agricultural landscape. Call me shallow, but I’m always down for a bit of promenading and posing with an apero in paw. Not up to my knees in grass, sniffing around.
But Ivy was drawn to this northern terrain, because it was home to some the most beautiful gardens in France. Perhaps the most famous being that of Claude Monet, the painter and founder of French Impressionism. To give him his due, Monet’s work is incredible. Ivy and I have visited a lot of his exhibitions over the years, and I am always mesmerised by how a series of coloured dots on a canvas can be turned into the most exquisite scenes of French life.
We visited his home in Giverny to admire the flowers and the waterways a few times. My favourite time of year is late summer, when you get a lot hot beds. A hot bed – dear reader – is garden speak for the colours that adorn the flower borders during August and September. The flame red, dark pinks and orangey rich hues of dahlias, asters and sedums, are normally contained within a hot bed. Ivy says that she normally considers a hot bed to contain Aidan Turner (that chap who plays Poldark), but that’s another story. Her bed normally contains me, which I think makes it pretty hot already and there really is no room for anyone else. But I digress…
A visit to Monet’s garden is always a treat in the horticultural calendar and on a fine day, not only are the flowers exceptional, the peace and tranquillity of the surrounding area is worth the train journey alone. Don’t get me wrong, the hustle and bustle of Paris is fabulous, but it’s lovely to breathe in the fresh Normandy air and admire the beautifully curated gardens of this truly great artist.
Us creatives draw inspiration from our surroundings, so it was no wonder that I named one of our floral arrangements after the great Impressionist movement. Taken from the Bichon Frise Collection, The Impressionist’s Palette, represents all those little glorious markings found on a Monet canvas, capturing the light and beauty of the Normandy fields.
Now under normal circumstances, canine chums aren’t generally allowed into Monet’s pad, but as I’m sure you’ve gathered by now, I’m not your average canine and since we all know that I’m destined for floral greatness, the garden team made an exception, recognising my creative genius and inevitable future floral prominence.
The French generally hold us dogs in high esteem and are far more relaxed about these things than the Brits. My dear friend Ron, a Labradoodle, was allowed into the internationally acclaimed garden festival at Chaumont, a few years back. Just goes to show the French are pretty savvy when it comes to understanding canines.
Proceedings at Giverny usually end with a hearty lunch in the sun-drenched garden of a rather chic but shabby hotel and eatery. The view from the front of the hostelry of gentle green hills and blue skies were particularly magnificent and I usually sat patiently drinking it all in. Ivy – on the other hand – tended to drink in more of the Chablis than the view – but then she is a borderline alcoholic, as is evidenced by the picture I took below.
On this particular occasion, we were meant to be decorating Sleeping Beauty’s bed, but Ivy saw fit to crack open a bottle of Côtes du Rhône – claiming some feeble excuse about it being Friday. Sometimes, I wonder where I found her. But I guess you can’t have it all.
I suspect Monet was fond of the odd verre du vin and I like to think he chose to sit by his lily pond and sip a glass or two, admiring his efforts. After a bottle (or two), I would firmly guide Ivy and her regular drinking companion – Helga – along the walk back to the train station. Navigating our way with my exceptional nose and avoiding any alcohol infused mishaps on en route.
Recognising my embarrassment at being out with these two drunks, the train conductor ordinarily gave me plenty of attention, which I enthusiastically lapped up. In my experience the French are partial to bit of Yorkshire and in fairness, you can’t fault them for that! Viva la France! Viva le chien!