Claude Monet is my favorite artists or is at least tied with van Gogh. After visiting the Musee Marmottan in Paris, where you will find the largest collection of works by Claude Monet, including some of his water lilies, and seeing his wonderful water lilies at the Musee de l’Orangerie, it was time to venture to Giverny to see his home and studio and the lily pond that inspired his work. To me it is one of the highlights of a trip to France and should not be missed! It is 75 km west of Paris.
You can of course drive but it is easy to take the SCNF train (45 minutes) from Gare St.-Lazare in Paris to the town of Vernon. You can take a taxi, a local bus or walk the 4 km along the river. I took a cab out and walked back to the train station. You will pass many of the sites that Monet painted. You can also take a guided tour from Paris but I love exploring on my own and don’t like being on a set schedule. I particularly liked seeing his studio and the lily pond. I even had my picture taken on the famous Japanese footbridge. You could definitely see what he saw when he painted by looking at the water, the flowers and the reflections. Make sure to buy your tickets online before going.
Located on the right bank of the Seine, Giverny rose to fame in 1883 when Monet discovered the village while looking out of the train window. Monet was enthusiastic about the spot and found a large house to rent, “the Press House”. By the end of April he had moved in with Alice Hoschedé, his two sons and her six children. The house was a farmhouse with a vegetable garden and an orchard of over one hectare. At the time there were about 300 inhabitants in Giverny, most of them farmers, and a few middle-class families.
In 1890, he became the owner of the house and gardens and transformed them completely. In front of the house lies the Clos Normand, a huge perennial garden he established and on the other side of the road he had the waterlily pond dug. To fill it they actually had to divert a branch of the Epte River.
At the beginning of his stay in Giverny, Monet found inspiration in the surrounding countryside. For example his series paintings like the grainstacks were painted in the nearby fields in different seasons and in different light. But he gradually limited himself to his water garden and depicted tirelessly the Japanese foot bridge and the water lilies. He remained there until his death in 1926.
From 1887 onwards Giverny also became a subject of foreign painters, mainly Americans living there. The painters Sargent, Metcalf, Ritter, Taylor, Wendel, Robinson, Bruce and Breck came first.
In addition to his home and gardens you should visit the Musee des Impressionnismes Giverny or Giverny Museum of Impressionism. It started as the Museum of American Impressionism by the Terra Foundation of Chicago, but after the Foundation’s withdrawal in 2006, the Musee des Impressionnismes Giverny was taken over by a partnership of the Musée d’Orsay, Fondation Claude Monet and Musée Marmottan.
The New York Times just reported about a new restaurant and hotel that opened a ten minute walk from the gardens. Check out Le Jardin des Plumes. They also recommended two restaurants, L’auberge du Prieuré Normand in Gasny and Bistro des Fleurs in Vernon.