Gregory Mycek
| Credit: Gregory Mycek

"At a café in Paris, a woman overheard my eight-year-old daughter, Abby, and me discussing plans to go see the painter Claude Monet's garden in Giverny. 'I do not mean to disappoint,' she said, 'but I know the garden is closed today.' Then, eyeing Abby's sketchbook with its drawings of the Eiffel Tower, she brightened. Reaching into her purse, she removed a poodle, then a phone, and made a call. An hour or so later we were inside Monet's garden on a day closed to everyone—except artists.

"There were so few people around, we felt we were experiencing this dazzling landscape (pink stucco house, red-purple hollyhocks, bright-green Japanese bridge) as Monet himself must have. Abby got out her paints in front of the bridge. We both wished we lived there until, on the train back to Paris, we read the kids' book Linnea in Monet's Garden, and a detail set us straight: Monet's eight children reportedly loathed the garden because it was their job to water and weed it."Ê [La Fondation Claude Monet is an hour by car or train from Paris. It's open April through October; Mondays are for lucky artists with reservations. See or call 33-2/32-51-28-21.]—Shari Mycek

"P.S. We found a good place to stay in Paris—Hôtel de l'Abbaye [10 Rue Cassette, 17th Arr.; 33-1/45-44-38-11;; doubles from $180], in a former monastery. Great name, eh?"