Traveling has always been one of my passions. The world is full of fascinating places and cultures and I hope to see as much of it as I can.
While there is certainly much to see in Paris itself there are a number of wonderful day trips that you can take if you need a break from the hustle and bustle of the City of Lights. We decided to take a day trip out to the small village of Giverny to see the home and gardens of French impressionist painter Claude Monet. Giverny is located just fifty miles to the west of Paris and is actually a very easy day trip that you can do on your own without paying big bucks for a tour.
Monet's Water Garden
For our journey, we chose to take the train from the Gare Saint Lazare station in Paris to Vernon, which is the closest train station to Giverny. Giverny is located about 5 kilometers from Vernon and is an easy fifteen-minute bus ride away.
Our day started with a short walk from our Paris accommodations at the New Orient Hotel to the train station. There is an early train that leaves for Vernon at 8:20 am but we decided on the 10:20 am departure as there was rain in the morning with clearing expected in the afternoon. The trip takes approximately 50 minutes and is quite painless. We did not purchase advance tickets but simply walked up to the ticket booth and purchased a roundtrip ticket.
If you have visited Paris but not yet ventured outside of the city this is a good opportunity and a great way to see the French countryside. The trains in France are comfortable and very punctual. We quickly found our train car and seats and were on our way to see the home and gardens of Claude Monet.
Vernon Train Station
Upon arriving in Vernon you will have a few choices in getting from the train station to Giverny. You can take a taxi, the shuttle bus, walk, or you can rent a bicycle and pedal the five kilometers. A taxi will run you around 15 euros and the shuttle bus is 8 euros for a round trip ticket, which is a pretty good deal. The walk or bike ride, while tempting would take too long so we opted for the shuttle bus. They do a great job in timing the shuttle bus departures to about 15 minutes after the trains arrive so this helped to make the transition very easy and stress-free. We hopped off the train, walked out the front of the station, and hopped onto the waiting bus. Fifteen minutes later we were walking the ancient streets of Giverny on our way to Monet’s home and garden.
For those of you who are not familiar with Giverny it is a very small and quaint village located in the province of Normandy. It dates back to the 1st century AD and with a population of just 500 residents it really has not changed much since the days when Monet first moved here in 1883. The village church dates back to the middle-ages and the newest building here may just be the Museum of Impressionism, which opened in 1992 as the Museum of American Art and was later renamed. But, make no mistake about it the main attraction here is the home and gardens of Claude Monet and you don’t need to be an art major to appreciate what Monet created here.
Village of Giverny
Once you enter the Monet Compound you are free to explore the grounds at your leisure and this includes the extensive gardens, lilly pond and the house. Monet lived here in Giverny in this house for a significant portion of his life, from 1883 until his death in 1926. Initially the house was much smaller than what you see today and Monet extended it on both sides with two new wings to accommodate his large family and his need for space in which to paint.
Monet lived here with his second wife, Alice Hoschede, and his two children from his marriage to first wife Camille along with Alice’s six children. It certainly must have been a very busy place with eight kids running around while Monet went about his work creating masterpieces and tending to his gardens.
You can take a self-guided tour of the home and gardens although guided tours are available, by appointment only. We opted to guide ourselves and there are curators inside the house to answer any questions, which was helpful and informative. The property opened to the public in 1980 after an extensive renovation to both the house and gardens to restore them to their former glory.
The first thing you will notice about the home is that it is very long and narrow and also very pink (Monet’s choice). The bedrooms are located upstairs while the first floor contains the sitting room, pantry, dining room, kitchen and Monet’s studio. The studio contains a number of replicas of Monet’s work and the original furnishings in the house give it an authentic feel so visitors can experience the home just as Monet did over one hundred years ago.
Replica Model of Monet's Studio
Probably the most impressive rooms in the house other than Monet’s studio are the dining room and the kitchen. The dining room is very large, which had to be in order to accommodate Monet’s family of ten and the bright yellow walls with blue dishes will remind visitors of the gardens just outside. Just off of the dining room is the very blue kitchen, which was done by design by Monet to compliment the yellow of the dining room. The kitchen itself is a work of art with its large wood fired stove, blue tiled walls and shiny hanging copper pots and pans.
Model Replica of Monet's Dining Room
While touring the home be advised that no photos are allowed inside the house. The only place where photos are allowed is out the windows in Monet’s bedroom, which overlooks his beautiful gardens. Otherwise they are strictly prohibited.
The View from Monet's Bedroom
Although I am no expert on Claude Monet and his works I think it’s a fair assumption to say that many of his greatest works were inspired by the gardens that he created here in Giverny. If there is any doubt in your mind about whether a trip out to Giverny is worth your time let me tell you unequivocally that the answer is yes. The gardens are an incredible explosion of color that carpets the landscape in a multicolored display of pansy’s, daffodils, irises, marigolds, hydrangea, and countless other beautiful species. Words and pictures can do no justice to the gardens.
As you make your way around the grounds be aware that there are actually two sections to Monet’s Garden. The area just in front of the house is known as the Clos Normand and contains most of the flowering plants along with ornamental trees and climbing roses. There are designated pathways that will take you through and around the gardens and the central alley is identified with iron arches that span a path of blooming nasturtiums in the late summer. The iron arches are adorned with climbing roses and this main alley extends from just in front of the house all the way to the back of the garden.
To get to the second section of the garden you have to follow the path that takes you under the road to the Water Garden. Monet purchased this land ten years after arriving in Giverny and he turned the small brook that was there at the time into a small pond, which would be expanded over the years to its present form. This area of Monet’s garden is much different than the Clos Normand. You will immediately notice the Japanese Garden theme here and this was something that was of particular interest to Monet. You can see this influence even inside his home with numerous Japanese prints hanging on the walls, especially in the dining room.
The Water Garden certainly was the inspiration for many of Monet’s greatest works and the Japanese Bridge and the famous rowboat are still here. The Water Garden has towering weeping willows, wisteria covered bridges, the famous nympheas (water lilies) and a bamboo grove that were all planted by Monet. It really can be said that Monet created some of his masterpieces twice, once through the cultivation of his garden and then again on canvas. As I looked at some of Monet’s works after visiting the gardens it is clear that he shaped his gardens so that he could paint them. His two passions in life provided a perfect balance and harmony that went hand in hand with each other.
Wisteria covered Japanese bridge
Monet's Row Boat in the Water Garden
Monet House and Garden Visitor Information
- Open daily 9:30 am – 6:00 pm
- April 1st to November 1st
- Normal Fee: 13 euro
- Students: 8.5 euro
- Disabled: 7.5 euro
- Kids under age 7: Free
- You can order advance e-tickets for an additional 1.45 euro
- By Appointment Only
- Tours given in French, German and English
- Tours are 1 hour 30 minutes
- 1 to 20 persons: 200 euro plus admission fee
If you are not comfortable venturing out to Giverny on your own you can certainly enlist the services of a tour company. I can suggest PARISCityVISION, a very experienced operator that has been offering guided tours and excursions since 1929. You can check out their website here:
They offer a great selection of half day and full day tours from Paris to make your visit worry free. To check out their Giverny/Monet tours please visit the link here.
Monet's Water Lilies
I wasn’t really sure what to expect of our visit to Giverny but I definitely came away with a profound appreciation and respect for Mr. Claude Monet. The fact that visitors can come here and tour the grounds is certainly a fitting legacy of Monet and we can thank his son, Michel Monet, who donated the property to the Académie des Beaux-Arts in 1966. After a ten year restoration the museum opened to the public in 1980 and approximately 500,000 visitors come here every year. After touring the house and garden you can also visit the grave of Monet, which is located in the village church cemetery. It’s just a ten minute walk from Monet’s home and you will pass the Impressionism Museum along the way.
If you are looking for an easy daytrip to escape the hustle and bustle of Paris consider a visit to Monet’s home and gardens. The trip by train is under an hour and you can be back in Paris by mid-afternoon. We thoroughly enjoyed our day and I think you will too.
Claude Monet Grave
Questions & Answers
Question: How is it to go on your own to visit Monet’s Home and Gardens if you only speak English?
Answer: You’ll be fine. We don’t speak French and we had no problems. Most tourist sights will have English translation for visitor’s, and many have employee’s who speak English. I would not be overly concerned about it. Certainly if this is a site you want to see I would not let your lack of speaking French stop you.
Question: What else would you combine with Giverny to make a full day tour in Paris?
Answer: There is the Museum of Impressionism, which is located right up the street from Monet’s Home. We also visited the Church of Giverny where Monet was married and where he and his family are buried. I suppose between visiting his home and gardens, the museum, and the church you could make a day of it. The gardens are quite extensive, and you can easily spend hours roaming through them. The train from Paris actually takes you to Vernon so I suppose you could spend some time there also.
Question: What is the best time of year to visit Monet's home?
Answer: Spring and fall are considered the best time of the year to visit, but there are plenty of flowers blooming even during the summer months. The gardens are designed to be full of color and blooming from spring through fall before closing for the winter. When to visit will depend on your tolerance for crowds and your particular floral preferences.
Question: Do you have any idea if would it be easy to take a train to Versailles from Paris?
Answer: Absolutely! Versailles is just 13 miles outside of Paris and can easily be reached by train. You will want to take the RER C train, and the trip will take about 45 minutes. The walk from the train station in Versailles to the palace should take 10 to 15 minutes.
Question: Did you return from Vernon the same day? What time do the trains run until?
Answer: We did return the same day. I just checked the train schedule and I see trains running until 9:56 pm. It looks like 1 train every hour, so you will have flexibility in planning your return. Enjoy Giverny, Monet's Home and Gardens and wonderful.
© 2014 Bill De Giulio