Giverny: Monet at the Heart of Impressionism
By Carolina Noir
If there’s one thing I’m absolutely sure about, is that no one ever imagined that being inside a painting was possible. But after visiting Giverny I take that as a false statement.
Even though it’s a small town, it holds one of the most famous gems of the impressionism: Le Fondation Claude Monet, best known as the house and gardens of Claude Monet. Yes, the same nenuphars and lake that he painted so many times can be visited and I assure you, it takes your breath away.
How do I get there?
Giverny is just 65 km away from Paris, which makes it a perfect place to spend a day. Depending on the route you take if you decide to go by car, it can be 1 hour and 15 minutes’ drive, give or take; but as a 24-year-old normal budget traveler, I decided to go by train.
In 48 minutes from Gare Paris Saint Lazare, you can get to Vernon, the closest train station leading to Giverny, which is actually pretty as well and you can also appreciate some of Monet’s inspirations, like the Vieux-Moulin.
It’s just three kilometers to the Monet’s house and gardens and you can choose to go with a pretty old train (16 euro), an electric bus (10 euro) or by foot (90 calories).
There’s one main street which is “Rue du Claude Monet”; not only is it beautiful to walk and discover the little cafes and shops on it, but it also takes you to the main attractions in Giverny.
The ticket to Monet’s Gardens and the Museum of the Impressionists can be bought together and it will be cheaper if you are eager to see a lot of paintings.
Some Giverny Tips
The House and Gardens of Monet are open from March 22 to November 1, during winter it remains closed but that doesn’t mean they stop working on it: they do it nonstop to get it ready for the next season.
As usual in Europe, if you are a student, you will get a generous reduction. So thanks ISIC, I could use your help. Merci beaucoup. Tickets can be also bought online, but they cannot be refunded nor changed.
Before you enter the House of Monet, you can choose to buy a combo of tickets which also includes the Museum of the Impressionists for just 17 euros for the general public; if you want to visit the museum as well, this is the best option.
No Baggage Allowed
The only thing that I didn’t see coming, was that no baggage is allowed into the house. This means no carry on and no big suitcases, but of course, I didn’t know that so I almost got an existential crisis… because I had my carry on bag with me!
Luckily, a polite woman from the store that’s just in front kept my luggage completely free.
The House and Gardens of Claude Monet
So you first get into the gift shop of the house, which is awkward considering that it would usually come at the end of the tour.
But this place hides a little secret: it was once the big atelier of the nenuphars, (water lilies) where he made and displayed the enormous nenuphars paintings.
In it, you can find all types of souvenirs from the artist and the impressionist movement as well.
Once you start following the path leading to the gardens, you can’t really stop being amazed!
Different types of flowers find their place depending on the season you visit. If you are lucky enough to go in summer, you will encounter an explosion of colors and smells thanks to the dahlias, gladiolus, carnations, and sages, among many others.
Hundreds of different types of flowers divided into two gardens, The Clos Normand and The Water Garden, get together in flowerbeds to create a unique and mixed landscape where Monet created his most famous paintings, representing the sunlight and the present moment more than a 100 years ago. If you’re an artist, you will surely find inspiration here.
The Water Garden: Home of the Nepuphars
The Water Garden, home of the Nenuphars, turned out to be one of my favorite places in the entire world, and I’m not exaggerating, not a bit. The scene is outstanding, you have the feeling of being inside a painting. There’s always a gardener on a boat, taking care of the pond, as in Claude’s time: he cuts the leaves and the algae to let the sun reach the Nenuphars.
The path makes you walk around it and it’s not as big as one may think, but there’s a need of looking at it just one more time as if it was going to disappear the next second because it’s so unreal.
Monet’s House in Giverny
Next to the Clos Normand Garden, you find Monet’s house, which is as beautiful and amazing as the gardens. Before the porch, you are welcomed by more carnations, cosmos, begonias and hundreds of red and pink roses. We can see that he loved his house and believed in keeping it as nice as he could, for he spent a lot of time in it.
Moreover, he was so meticulous that each room has a predominant color: blue for the Reading Room which is also called “le petit salón bleu,” connecting to the epicery where the teas, spices, eggs, and olive oil were kept in the suspended furniture; yellow for the modern-for-the-time kitchen, where several Japanese engravings from the seventeen and eighteen century, which are real masterpieces from Hokusai, Hiroshige and Utamaro.
And, of course, the missing-but-now-found porcelain cat of Monet, which was made in Japan, as a gift; and Brown for his bedroom, which by the way has an incredible view of his gardens and keeps faithful copies of his friend’s paintings, like Cézanne, Renoir, Signac, and Caillebotte.
Similar to his private room is the bedroom of Blanche-Hoschedé Monet, step-daughter and at the same time, daughter-in-law of the painter, which was open to the public for the first time in 2014. This two rooms had an intensive work of rebuilding to make it look just like it was before she died in 1947. The colors are so vivid that it’s almost like there’s a certain feeling in each room.
What to do next?
After the House and Gardens of Claude Monet, there are some nice things to do to make your day even better. The Rue of Claude Monet, as we said before, will take you to the Museum of the Impressionists. As it is small, it has 2 rooms with ongoing expositions and of course, it’s not the Louvre, meaning is not essential but a cool place to go if you are keen on impressionism or art in general.
Five blocks away lies the Church of Sainte-Radegonde, where Monet himself is buried with his family. Moreover, you will always have the french cafés where you can have a “café au lait” with “croissants” or “pain au chocolat” and many other delicacies while you enjoy the sun, wind and the little mountains surrounding you.
When going back to Vernon to take the train, you can also spend some time going around and discovering its most famous places.
As I mentioned before, Monet had also painted in this pretty but small town and immortalized places like the “Vieux Moulin” and the “Château de Bizy”.
Even after the bombardment during the second world war in 1940, the streets seem out of the Middle Ages. Lots of half-timbered houses with ancient doors, cafés and restaurants fill with joy and cuteness every spot.
The “Collégiale Notre-Dame”, built between XI and XVI century is declared a national monument and it’s built in the Romanic and Gothic styles.
The Seine river goes through Vernon, and like every other place where the Seine goes, the walking along its beautiful banks gives us a nice view of the Vieux moulin and the chateau. What a beautiful part of France!
Is it worth the visit? Not even a question.
As a fan of Monet, being there is more here than just a simple visit to make a post on Instagram and make stories; I had an overwhelming feeling when I stepped into that place because exactly 129 years ago, Monet was in the same spot that I was, making history.
I could understand how he made such beautiful pieces of art, as the place is surrounded with peace, calm, beauty and inspiration wherever you go; you want to discover every little flower, tree, bud, and bug that goes around; it’s almost as if you need to embrace this piece of paradise.
Of course, this does not mean that the Foundation of Monet is the only thing that worth it, I am very interested in all types of art so the visit to the Museum of the Impressionists was rewarding as well.
Vernon has a lot of history behind but seriously, who wouldn’t love to have a picnic next to the Seine with fromage, vin and baguettes in a nice French town like this?
Find out more about visiting the gardens at this Giverny website.
Caroline Noir is a 24-year-old photographer and audiovisual designer who has been traveling and living in different countries for the past three years. She is currently living in Melun, France as a photographer and traveling as much as she can taking unique pictures of the places I go. I travel alone and as a woman, that can be as travelling as it can be rewarding.