Contrasts. (September 2012)

We left grey, damp England and arrived in dark, stormy France.

Our first stop was the WWI cemetery at Armentières, where we visited the grave of Patrick O’Farrell, Thea’s third cousin, who died on February 24th, 1917.

Then to the Somme and the other historic battlefields of the Great War.

The weather suited the location of this somber place.

Names such as Villers-Bretonneux, Pozières and Le Hamel conjure up images that have been etched in our consciousness.

The Australian Memorial Park at Le Hamel, opened in 2008, commemorates General Monash’s brilliant victory on July 4th, 1918.

The site has panoramic displays that explain Monash’s strategy and the significance of particular areas of the battlefield.

There is even a panel dedicated to Manfred Von Richthofen, the Red Baron. He was shot down over this area on April 21st, 1918.

Who actually shot him down is a subject of some conjecture.

From the darkness of the Somme we journeyed to Chaufour Les Bonnières, which is only a few kilometers from Giverny, the home and garden of Claude Monet.

In total contrast, the day was bright and sunny. It even managed to warm up in the afternoon.

Monet, the founder of the French Impressionist movement, was an avid gardener and transformed the old farmyard into an Impressionist wonderland.

It’s Autumn, yet the variety and colour of the blooms were as fresh and vibrant as if it was a balmy day in early Spring.

It’s no wonder that he painted some of his most memorable pieces, en plein air, in this idyllic location.

As well as gardening, Monet’s other passion was for things Japanese, especially their woodcuts.

The house is full of these delicate impressions of Japanese 19th Century life. You can certainly understand how Monet’s love of Japan influenced his art and featured in many of the paintings from Giverny.

Even the famous bridge over the lily pond is a replica, taken from a Japanese photograph, that can be seen in the house.

The village of Giverny has been home to many artists but it’s Monet who draws the crowds.

Apart from his art it could be his influence on the weather that has something to do with it, as the next day it was back to dark and stormy skies for our return to Barcelona.

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