In 1883, the legendary Claude Monet decided to set up camp in the enchanting world of Giverny. And let me tell you, he worked his magic. With relentless determination, he took this forgotten piece of land and turned it into a jaw-dropping floral wonderland that served as the very muse for many of his greatest masterpieces.
The dude was an artistic wizard not only in his backyard but all around the globe, sailing off to epic painting escapades.
Even though Monet wandered far and wide, he was never really too far from his beloved Giverny. Through his heartfelt letters, he kept an eagle eye on his family and his precious blooms, making sure they were thriving like champs. And as if that wasn’t enough, Giverny became the place to be, with friends and fans dropping by like paparazzi at a star-studded event.
It was the happening spot, alright!
Monet stated that his garden in Giverny was his most important masterpiece, one he spent years working on. To be fair, as you enter his garden, it’s impossible not to be struck by the sheer beauty of the place. Colourful flowers burst forth in a dazzling symphony of hues, while butterflies flit around like paintbrushes adding the final touches to Monet’s grand masterpiece. Needless to mention the delicious smell that exudes from the garden and graces your nose.
Can you tell I’m feeling poetic today?
Monet is the father of Impressionism. The movement was in fact named after his painting “Impression, Sunrise,” which you can see at the Musée Marmottan-Monet. (More about the Marmotta the end of the post).
He was passionate about Japanese art, as you will be able to observe when you visit his house in Giverny. He collected Japanese prints and incorporated elements of Japanese aesthetics, such as asymmetry and use of bright colors, into his paintings.
Damn, I wish I could paint like he did.
Giverny is located in Normandy, approximately 80 kilometers west of Paris. There are several ways to reach Giverny: you can go by car, train or bus. Trains depart from Gare Saint-Lazare in Paris to Vernon-Giverny train station. The journey takes around 45-50 minutes. From the station, you can take a taxi or rent a bike to reach Giverny (it’s about 5 kilometers away).
There are also many tour companies offering day trips from Paris to Giverny that provide transportation and guided tours of the gardens and other attractions. I’m not a big fan of tours personally but that’s just me. It’s advisable to purchase tickets in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons. You can buy tickets online through the official website of Fondation Claude Monet to skip the queues at the entrance, which I cannot recommend doing more.
The gardens are open from late March to early November. Opening hours are generally from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., but they may vary, so check the official website for specific dates and times. The ticket price includes access to both the house and the gardens, and varies between 7 euros and 11.50 euros.
All that artistic endeavoring works up quite an appetite. Fear not, for Giverny boasts several delightful restaurants that cater to both your taste buds and your love for art.
• Au coin du Pain’tre (73 B rue Claude Monet 27620 Giverny) is a charming bistro that serves up delicious French classics with an artistic twist. Don’t forget to snap a photo of your colorful plate before you dig in.
• Otherwise, if you feel like grabbing a coffee, try and walk a few minutes away from the Fondation Claude Monet to La Capucine (80 Rue Claude Monet, 27620 Giverny), a super sweet cafe with really cool chickens running around. The vibe is very relaxed there, and I didn’t see any tourists somehow; there were only a few locals.
All in all, Giverny is a great place to recharge. I think I’ve never seen so many beautiful flowers at once, and coming out of the Parisian pollution to breathe in the delightful smell of flowers is simply marvelous. It’s sincerely worth the trip.
Just remember to book your tickets in advance and try to dodge the tourists by picking the right time of the year.
PS: If you can’t be assed to go as far as Giverny (you lazy bones), checking out the Marmottan-Monet Museum in the 16th arrondissement of Paris. This mansion-turned-museum is a great place to start, home to the painting that gave its name to the Impressionist movement. Le Musée de l’Orangerie is also a must, and quite like the Marmotta-Monet, it has been designed for Monet’s paintings.
Terry approves of both these recommendations, and described the former as “a museum that only Parisians know about”, which made me feel special.
See more about France here in Dispatches’ archives.
Charlotte Laborie grew up in England, Belgium and Switzerland. Charlotte then moved to Paris and graduated from Sciences Po Paris. She is still based in Paris, where she works in marketing.