Giverny: Monet’s Garden Retreat

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Giverny, day trip from the Paris Untour

The gardens of impressionist painter Claude Monet are a must see for art lovers and gardeners alike. Monet fans will recognize many of its features and settings: the water garden with its lilies, the wisteria-covered Japanese bridge, and the tulip garden. Indeed, art enthusiasts may have an odd feeling of déjà vu here even on their first visit, the scenery is so deeply etched into our cultural awareness.

Monet and his family settled here in 1883. Among the lily pads that would become iconic, Monet entertained his artist friends, including Cézanne, Degas, Renoir, and Rodin, in his bucolic country home.

Giverny is a very popular day trip for our guests on the Paris Untour, and it is easy to see why. Like Monet himself, visitors are drawn to the natural beauty and tranquility of this green setting outside of busy Paris. The estate is made up of two parts that guests can see and explore. Both were cultivated and painted by Monet.

The Clos Normand is the garden area that slopes down from the house to the roadway. The Monet family carefully planted it with bright patches of flowers, creating complex groupings of color, texture, and height that would translate well to canvas. Flower beds include common and rare flowers, with ornamental and fruit trees in the mix.

Monet was an avid gardener, trading plants and tending to the land. He eschewed the traditions of formal gardens and preferred something more free flowing and free growing, his gardening an outgrowth of artistic expression that changed over the course of the seasons. Gardeners may wish to consult the bloom schedule on the Giverny website ahead of visiting.

The Water Garden is the other part of the property, across the road, purchased by Monet a decade after he settled here. The meandering ponds and bridges were all built by Monet, shaped to resemble the Asian gardens he admired in Eastern art.

He actually created the water gardens as his first act of art, carving out curved banks and planting the weeping willows, wisteria, bamboo, and water lilies we would come to know in art museums. Then he painted them, finding inspiration in the changing light, shadows, and reflections. The Japanese bridge you see today is a recreation of the original. It is a marvelous garden to explore.

Giverny is extremely popular with visitors and draws heavy crowds, especially in summer. We recommend you go early in the day to get a jump on the tour groups and buses.

To get there, take the train from Gare St.-Lazare in Paris to the village of Vernon. Bus service from Vernon to Monet’s home is infrequent, so you may wish to use a taxi or rent a bicycle in Vernon and pedal to Giverny. It’s about four miles out. Alternatively, you can book a day tour from Paris and go by bus.

The home and gardens are open in season, late March through October and closed on Mondays. This trip could take up to a full day depending on your connections, so check them ahead of time, and allot the proper time you will need to do these incredible gardens justice.

 

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