Although Monet’s house and garden are the biggest and brightest stars in the Giverny sky, when you stroll the street you’ll find other glittering orbs in Monet’s firmament. One spot you could walk by without noticing is Baudy’s Hotel. Notice it! Go inside. Sit down. Practice your French to the accompanying music of hysterical laughter, and eat like a king, or at least a well-fed duke. You won’t be the first.
The Baudy story begins in 1886, when a group of American artists visited Giverny and stumbled into the small grocery-café run by Angelina and Gaston Baudy. True entrepreneurs never miss an opportunity. The Baudys not only put up the artists (whom they described as speaking gibberish), but later added rooms, a back garden, and enclosed studios where artists could paint in bad weather, and when painting nudes. Certainly wish my wife were that understanding. “Honey, I’ve been thinking about converting the garage…you know, a quiet place where I could take some selfies…”
Hotel Baudy added a garden and two more studios. The hotel soon became a popular hangout, center of art, and the go-to place for Monet’s guests. Monet was particular about his schedule and had a keen eye for punctuality. The story goes that he would send his car to pick up his guests (the hotel is 5 minutes away) and take them back, just to make sure they arrived and left on time.
And who were some of the names of note who slept under Madame Baudy’s roof. Only the who’s who of the Impressionist era. Paul Cézanne. The sculptor Auguste Rodin (The Thinker). Alfred Sisley (landscapes). Pierre-Auguste Renoir. The American, Mary Cassatt.
|Renoir's Winter Landscape at Giverny, 1894|
We often think of artists as working singularly, every canvas a product of only their own imagination. Not so. Many of the Impressionists were friends, and shared a profusion of ideas. Looking from one artist’s works to another’s, you often find a symbiosis of color, technique, style and design, filtered through their own eyes. The very best originality does not form in a vacuum.
|Alfred Sisley, Hill Path|
By the way, when was the Impressionist era? “Please, or please tell me,” you cry! Ok. To paint with broad strokes, which most of the Impressionists did, I offer these slipshod dates: Born in the 1840s, died mostly around the turn of the century, except for a few, like Monet who died in 1926.
Skip forward a few years to the spring of 2015. We were hungry and stepped smartly into the Hotel Baudy. Immediately we were transported into Impressionism's glory days, before the turn of the century. You would swear nothing has changed. Rustic. Atmospheric. A mixture of French and gibberish floating through the air. Well, a few things have. Originally there were only two tables, now there are many more. Also, don’t count on getting a room. The place is now called the L’ancien Hotel Baudy Restaurant-Museum.
After lunch, do not forget to stroll out back (where the toilettes are located). You’ll find an ambrosial garden, the original studio, and a path that leads through beautiful and bountiful trees to the studio where Cézanne painted.
|The first studio|
I will not describe the lunch because the menu changes with the seasons. But, Stevie Wonder could make your choices and you’d sing his praises between bites. The French can teach anyone how to eat, and how to linger just a while longer for coffee, brandy, and conversation. For now, be content to look at the photos and salivate…and maybe consider grabbing a palate and a few tubes of paint. As for nude models…on the advice of counsel, you’re on your own. I swear I did not paint that woman!