Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Giverny—the perfect day trip from Paris

After going to Paris for the fourth time, it was time to start exploring a bit outside the city. Since I’ve been wanting to see Monet’s garden and the weather cooperated, my husband and I took the train from Paris St. Lazare to Vernon (about 45 minutes, 25 Euro round-trip) and then rented bikes (12 Euro) from the café across from the train station and rode over the Seine for an easy (read: flat and paved) 3-mile path to Giverny. (There is also a bus that meets the trains, 4 Euro round trip).

Despite the tourists, Monet’s garden (entrance 5,50 Euro, open April-October) was beautiful. There were rows and rows of flowers higher than our heads, even in late September. The sun was so bright that it was hard to take photos, but I will post some soon.

The water lilies weren’t in bloom, but the lake in the Japanese garden, with its famous green bridges, was something to see, even if you had to do it by fighting tourists over a free space on the bridge to have your photo taken.

Monet’s pink, green-shuttered house overlooked it all. Waking up with those views must have been able to convert even someone like me into a morning person. Most of his rooms were painted a bright, turquoise blue, but his dining room was yellow and kitchen had royal blue tiling. He had many Japanese prints; these must have been an inspiration in his work.

But it all made me wonder who kept up the garden and where he got all this money. Apparently by the time he moved to Giverny in 1883, his dealer was able to start selling his paintings and so his fortunes increased around 1890 (at age 50) and he was able to buy the house and gardens that we visited, which opened to the public in 1980.

Other highlights in Giverny include:

The gardens at the American Art Museum. Each one was a different color scheme. My favorite was the yellow garden, followed by the white. They also had the famous haystacks in the grassy backyard.

The Hôtel Baudy is a great spot for a lunch break (About 15 Euro a plate, very fresh food, with entrees like warm goat cheese salad and duck omelets). They have a shady garden with outdoor seating. It used to be a meeting place for artists and there is still an old garden studio in the back.

Monet’s grave. The church in Giverny is currently being restored and is closed.

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