Why is it when you live so close to something truly amazing and touristy, you avoid it? Antoine and I lived in rue Bosquet for 5 years, just a few minutes walk from the Eiffel Tower and yet we went up only after we moved out of Paris. Then last weekend – after 19 years of living here – we finally drove 45 minutes up the A13 to a summery Giverny, Claude Monet’s haven near the river Seine in Normandy.
The secret is to leave early and get there for opening time at 9.30am so that there’s not much of a bouchon (traffic jam) on Monet’s Japanese bridge. Last year there were 611,000 visitors so believe me, this is important. The house and gardens have been open to the public since 1980. It needed 10 years of renovation (with major donations from the USA) after the house and garden’s neglect after the Second World War.
Such a wet summer to date has been good for the lush greens of the gardens. Most of the flowers are seen in the Clos Normand, in front of the house. What a lovely idea to have an avenue of nasturtiums up to the front door. Imagine how many summer salads you could decorate with these (and eat)?
Just a few snapshots of the hundreds of flowers and plants on show. Claude Monet set to planting and sowing seeds as soon as he arrived in 1883 and his house is filled with volume upon volume of plant encyclopaedias and Japanese prints. Giverny’s talented gardeners continue to succeed in showing different varieties all through the year, as the seasons change.
You can see why the master of the Impressionists lived in this idyllic spot for nearly 46 years (1883-1926.) Seeing the water garden live for the first time, it was just as he had portrayed them in his works of art. Do you recognise them?
Unlike Japanese bridges painted in red, Monet painted his bridge in bright green. Everyone around the garden’s visitor route was transfixed on the lily pads and nymphéas, made so famous by his paintings of them started in 1897. My girls loved watching an cute ugly duckling hobbling from lily pad to the next.
There wasn’t much to visit in the house, to be honest, and there is a lack of information as to what you’re seeing. Unfortunately photos were prohibited inside. His living room was impressive and although it’s filled with replicas, it’s still incredible to think he would lie on his chaise longue, puffing on his pipe while looking up at his masterpieces. Photos of Monet are around the house.
Standing outside Monet’s kitchen window: somehow with lace curtains around the house or that check and shutters you can tell we’re in France. Just up the road, the Hotel Baudy welcomed guests – particularly many American painters who came to Giverny for inspiration and to meet Monet.
Where to Eat in Giverny?
The Ancien Hôtel Baudy is a great address to eat at their restaurant-brasserie. Step back in time, imagining Renoir, Rodin and Sisley dining in this legendary establishment.
For a special treat, head to chef Eric Guerin’s Michelin starred restaurant of at Le Jardin des Plumes.
Best Lilypond Paintings of Monet
To see Monet’s lilypond paintings, visit L’Orangerie Museum in Paris. For more of his paintings – including the original painting, Impression Sunrise, which gave Impressionism its name – visit the Marmottan Museum in the 16th Arrondissement.
For the perfect gourmet afternoon, follow with a visit to Pascal Caffet Chocolaterie & Patisserie (the best pralines in Paris!) in the 16th.
Giverny Picnic Spots
A short drive further up the Seine, there are many perfect picnic spots underneath a weeping willow tree where you can dangle your toes in the River Seine.
Alternatively, further up the road in Vernon, is the perfect, romantic picnic spot amongst the geese and ducks!