In the province of Normandy, France, lies the quiet, picturesque town of Giverny. Here the impressionist painter, Monet, lavished love and care on his garden for over 40 years. The lush garden with its profusion of flowering shrubs and brilliantly coloured flowerbeds still conjures up images of Monet’s paintings of water lilies, the Japanese footbridge and the wonderfully colourful garden paintings. In all of art history there is, to my knowledge, not a more a complete record of an artist’s inspiration, than the gardens of Monet at Giverny. These gardens are an extension of his art. Some people even say that the gardens itself is Monets greatest creative legacy to the world.
On the fringe of the Knysna woods is a facility for orphaned African elephants. This project was started with 2 abandoned elephant calves in 1994. Today the matriarchal herd is led by the first calf, now a fully grown elephant, Sally. The herd numbers eleven at the moment. There are also a smaller herd of males on the premises. They live in a protected area, but move about freely.
On the end of the island behind the Notre Dame cathedral in the small garden is a memorial to the 200 000 people, mostly Jews, that was deported by Nazi’s to concentration camps in the second world war. Most of these people never returned.
From the walkway behind the cathedral the memorial is not visible. You need to descend the steep concrete steps to enter the memorial. A stark triangular space confront you with a view of the river trough a barbed wire sculpture.
Between the tons of Paarl and Franschoek in the Western Cape Wine region is the beautifully restored historic farm of Babylonstoren ( Towers of Babylon). What better place to recreate historic gardens than on a farm with this name ( referring to the biblical ‘Hanging gardens of Babylon.)
On a hillside in Nice, surrounded by a lush mediterranean garden lies the museum dedicated to the painter Marc Chagall. This is the first museum built in France to permanently display art of a living artist. The museum was built with the cooperation and involvement of the artist.
The permanent art works on display depicts images from the bible. The twentieth century art as a rule is overshadowed by a lack of religion and spirituality. Therefore this museum is like a breath of fresh air as it is permeated by Chagall’s childlike faith and spirituality.
Twelve huge paintings from Genesis and Exodus form the major part of the gallery, beautifully exhibited in a well laid out gallery where every wall was designed to display a specific painting. The artists vibrant use of colour in his paintings come to life in the good lighting of the museum.