Put yourself in the picture: Holidaying in Monet's backyard

The water lilies, the famous bridge... Natalie Holmes took the family to France to see the places caught on canvas by Monet

It started with a book. Some years ago my daughter was given the tale of Linnea in Monet's Garden, by Cristina Bjork, about a girl who visits art galleries in Paris and Claude Monet's home in Giverny, the latter providing the inspiration for so many of his paintings. Ruby, now 10, wanted to make the same trip. Paris, art, gardening: such an adult weekend away, and yet requested by a child. What parent could resist?

August is when the water lilies are at their best, so we timed our visit for then. August is also when Parisians leave town, and we soon understood why. It was hot, sticky and the traffic fumes went straight to the back of the throat. Waiting for a Metro with my son James, aged seven, whining to announcements of line closures, security alerts and alternative bus services (all a bit reminiscent of London), I was wondering if I had made mistake. "It's just TOO French," said James.

Averting our gaze from the posters for Disneyland Paris, we headed for the Musée d'Orsay, home to the cream of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art, intended as a scene-setter. The d'Orsay opened in 1986 in a former mainline railway station. The building is a work of art in itself with its five-storey atrium, magnificent clock, and terrace with glorious views over the Seine. Some of Monet's best-known paintings are here - Wild Poppies, Water Lilies, Rouen Cathedral - as well as those of his friends Renoir, Pissarro and Sisley.The children were delighted to see so many familiar images. Their enjoyment was boosted by a craze new to me: the fine-art version of happy slapping, whereby you get someone to take your photo in front of a famous picture, then run on to avoid being ticked off in French.

The pleasures of the digital camera featured large at Giverny the following day. The home of Claude Monet in the later, successful part of his lifehas been lovingly restored. The garden was packed with the yellows, oranges and reds of sunflowers, nasturtiums, hollyhocks, dahlias and snapdragons. There is no lawn to speak of; the garden is made up of beds with aisles between. The number of visitors meant that we were shuffling around, while the children squabbled over the camera.

The day was saved by the water garden. The magical beauty of the floating water lilies still manages to surprise. The scene was luminescent, like the pictures. It called out to be captured, as if the garden were a film star perfectly made-up, ready for her close-up. The crowds and the squabbling and the queues no longer mattered. We were struck by the feeling of having been here before. Monet's boat was moored at the side as though he had just stepped out of it, exactly as it is in the famous painting, and the water lilies, the bridge and the pond were familiar from every angle. Ruby was in heaven: "I feel as if a fantasy I have had all my life has come true."

The studio where Monet painted is now a gift shop, and those familiar flowers grace a thousand fridge magnets. The great visionary himself gazed seriously from a 100-year-old photo in his gardening clothes - lookalike hats and aprons for sale nearby. But what really took me aback was that, amid the prints, posters, pencil cases and wash bags, Linnea had become a brand too: a doll in two sizes with her own stationery set. I may not know much about marketing, I thought, but I know what I don't like.

Yet there was something about being in that water garden - the colours, the calm, the beauty of the lilies - that, despite the expense, left us feeling richer for it.

Natalie Holmes travelled to Paris with Eurostar (08705 186186; eurostar.com), return fares from London start at £59. She stayed at the three-star Hotel Relais de Paris Lafayette (00 331 4246 3300; lesrelaisdeparis.fr), where a double costs €150 (£107) without breakfast. Musée d'Orsay (00 33 1 4049 4814; musee-orsay.fr). Admission €7.50, free for under-18s. A trip to Giverny with France Tourisme (00 33 1 4502 8850; francetourisme. fr) costs €45 per adult, €22.50 per child, admission included.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
people
News
20. Larry Page: Net worth: $23 billion; Country: U.S; Source of wealth: Google
business
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
A collection of 30 Banksy prints at Bonhams auction house in London
art
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - Franchised Main Dealer

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

    Recruitment Genius: Group Sales Manager - Field Based

    £21000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...

    Guru Careers: Email Marketing Specialist

    £26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Email Marketing Specialist is needed to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Tour Drivers - UK & European

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
    World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

    Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

    The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
    Why the league system no longer measures up

    League system no longer measures up

    Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
    Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

    Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

    Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
    Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness