Would you take a bus, a train, walk for half an hour and then pay 300 bob to stare at a bunch of flowers and an old house?
No, neither would I. I’d much rather buy a bottle of questionable quality wine and make idle chatter (or sit with a man of even more questionable intelligence in a dimly lit pub and pretend to be interested in his conversation as he feeds me large quantities of beer…).
But I’m fighting a war, and like in every war, I need strategy.
In my war to get acquainted with more than just my laptop and reruns of 30 Rock, its all about being a YES (wo)man. And off we went to Giverny.
Because nothing encourages bonding more than getting lost in a town far away from home with a group of people who’s names you are still trying to memorize.
Its all about the honeymoon.
If you ever had a first day at school, then you must know the honey moon-a time when everyone is on their best behavior. Alliances are weak and cliques are still in the embryonic stages.
It comes before you discover that the really cool guy you like to party with is actually a pathological liar, and that the girl who is always out for a bargain is really an annoying skinflint who’s passion is running a constant monologue on every cent she has spent.
No, the honey moon period is a time for pleasant conversation and people falling over themselves to be as nice as possible to everyone else. It’s sort of screen saver mode. Or an airbrushed version of the real you.
Mais, c’est tres important. Like Jesus said, you must separate the sheep from the goats. But first you must get acquainted with the herd.
Giverny, Claude Monet’s final residence, is a ‘village’ of 520 people with tarmac-ed roads and uniform French people cuddling their little dogs. (Am I wrong in thinking that, if you want to invest so much in an animal, might as well have a child? Why take a dog to a museum anyways?) On a somewhat related note, dogs in Paris shit about 16 tonnes daily. Daycare, anyone?
To the untrained eye, Monet’s work looks a lot like multicolored, smudged scribbles . You can make out a couple of flowers or two, after reading the name of the painting, maybe.
‘Everyone discusses my art and pretends to understand. As if it were necessary to understand…'(the rest of the quote is gay, so I’m doing Monet a favor here.)
He said it himself.
He must be like sushi, beer and cheese- an acquired taste. But saying that I was not impressed by his work and meticulous gardens would be a major faux pas– one of his paintings recently sold for USD 80 million.
Yet another source of pride and joy for France’s already overinflated national ego.
He hated school (shock horror, ditching school only works if you are a genius) obviously preferring to be outdoors, where he became fascinated with natural light and subjects, painting lots of flowers and ponds at different times of the day. Critics condemned his work as ‘impressionism’, and to their chagrin, the name was embraced by all his adoring copycats.
Yes, he was that good.
Add the French’s rock solid belief in the superiority of their culture above all others and their ability to transform even the most mundane wooden shack into a fee-charging museum, and Monet’s house lives on, providing W with a strategic opportunity for a reconnaissance mission.
Some took pictures of flowers. Others complained about the heat. All were out on their own mission too. Lewd jokes, plans for future nights in dark places and the odd confession dripping with suggestions of future adventures.
Soggy sandwiches, melting chocolate, lukewarm water and a dead French painter. The glue that bonds friendships, or at the very least, drinking buddies.