Visiting Monet’s home and gardens in Giverny has been on my tourist to-do list ever since I arrived in France, and on Sunday my friend Mathilde and I finally made it happen! And, oh my goodness, it was incredible! I always thought I would like Giverny – it is, after all, the place that inspired Monet to paint his most dreamy works – but I was still caught off guard by the sheer beauty of the gardens, as well as the surrounding region and town.
I was also surprised by just how easy it was to be a tourist in Giverny, especially since Mathilde and I had done little-to-no planning beforehand. 😉 That morning we met at the St. Lazare train station in Paris at approximately 10:00am, and although the direct train we intended to take was already booked, we still managed to catch a 10:20am train with a connection to the Vernon-Giverny. 45 minutes later we reached Vernon, located about 80 km northwest of Paris, and followed the little footsteps on the ground labeled “Giverny” to a waiting shuttle bus. I don’t know how they could have made it easier for us haha! On the bus ride over we drove through the cute old town of Vernon, crossed the Seine, and passed by a wide assortment of animals – ranging from cows to llamas and ostriches – before arriving at our destination with 50 other excited tourists. 🙂
Knowing that we had a long day of frolicking in the garden ahead of us, we first got some snacks from an adorable cafe/gift shop in Giverny Village, sharing a very buttery cookie, a blueberry and violet muffin and a pain au chocolat between us. I also got a delicious ginger, pear and mint ice tea. It was not exactly a protein or nutrient-rich breakfast, but I am not complaining. 😛
After our snack, we went to buy our tickets and were greeted by a very, very long line (in hindsight, we should have bought our tickets online). Lucky for us however, a very official-looking Giverny employee in dark sunglasses took our half of the line over to the group entrance to purchase our tickets, so we only had to wait around 10-15 minutes in total. Plus, it cost only 5 euros with a student card! What a bargain! 😀
Once inside, I was completely taken aback; it was the most beautiful garden I have ever seen! The flowers weren’t just plopped down here and there. They were arranged in the most thoughtful way imaginable, with flowers of differing sizes, heights, colors and textures mixed artfully together, very often in a rainbow pattern. No wonder Monet was such a prolific artist, you can spend years painting all the flowers here and never become bored!
After spending a half hour (or was it more?) running from flower to flower, drooling over how beautiful and exotic they all were, and transforming into flower-obsessed grandmothers with each passing minute (I almost titled this blog post “Freaking Out over Flowers” haha!), we decided it was time to check out the home of the original gardener and somewhat famous artist, Claude Monet.
Monet lived in this house from 1883 until his death in 1926, during which time he renovated it using his most-loved colors from his paint palette – forest green, light pink, sky blue and bright yellow – and displayed an enormous collection of Japanese prints from the 18th and 19th centuries. The home was complete was wide windows so Monet could look over his expansive garden, which was home to thousands of plants and managed by seven full time gardeners.
The great thing about visiting Chez Monet (not the official title but I like it because it rhymes) was that it really did feel like the artist had just stepped outside and we (and 100 other random visitors) were taking a look around. Almost nothing was roped off and there were very few “Do Not Touch” signs to be seen!
After exploring Monet’s home – and the gift shop – we took another tour through the flowers before heading to the other side of the street to see the water lily pond!
Although the water lilies were not in season yet, the ponds were still beautiful and serene (so not a bad place to paint!) and the sun even came out for us towards the end!
All in all, it was a pretty perfect Easter Sunday; I’m not sure I could have dreamed up a more springtime appropriate trip! Everything was just so seamless and easy, and Mathilde was the perfect travel buddy, who willingly put up with hours of my obsessive photo-taking haha!
Monet envisaged his garden as a living plein air painting, and I would say he succeeded. From his time until today, the gardeners at Giverny have somehow managed to paint with seeds, water and sunshine, something I didn’t even know was possible! I can’t wait to come back and enjoy this dreamy garden again with friends, family, or anyone else I can convince to come along with me. 😛