On an unusually warm April Friday, I jumped on a train to head northwest of Paris to Giverny, Claude Monet’s home and storied gardens. Over the years, it is a spot I have often thought about visiting, but lack of time or poor weather kept me away. Fortunately, I had time, sunny weather and a non-striking transit day all working in my favor.
The train leaves from promptly from Gare St. Lazare in the center of Paris. (This makes me laugh because nothing is prompt or efficient in Paris, but the train literally pulls away from the station at the time printed on the ticket.) In roughly 50 minutes, the train arrives at the small suburban station of Vernon-Giverny. It’s a 5k walk to Monet’s homestead, however, there are buses which will take visitors to the location as well. I believe the bus was €5 each way. It’s possible to buy a roundtrip ticket as well. The bus coordinates with the train schedule making it easy to get back to the station in plenty of time for the train to Paris.
I arrived in Giverny with loads of tourists making the Monet pilgrimage. I could have planned much better – especially anticipating crowds. Tickets are available online for purchase which would have saved about 40 minutes of waiting in line to purchase an admission ticket. Once inside, it was easy to forget these frustrations.
The gardens were in full bloom with Spring flowers. Long beds of tulips, lilies, bluebells, irises extended from the classic washed-pink farmhouse. Each bed offered unique varieties – tulips were most prominent. The plants lacked uniformity in height which to add depth and dimension to the garden. You cannot help but think each garden bed was it’s own little painting.
Following the walkway to the back of the garden, an underpass leads visitors to the water garden. This piece of land was purchased about 10 years after the house and Monet actually diverted a nearby waterway to create the pond. The water garden is shaded and while it feels much different than the gardens close to the house it is no less curated.
Monet enjoyed collecting rare plants and trees, but also opted to have common flowers like daisies and poppies mixed in his gardens. I read a quote where he mentioned in conversation, “All my money goes into my garden.” I think any gardener would agree with this!
As impressive as the gardens were, I headed into the house to poke around. I hadn’t really thought about the house and only expected to have access to a room or two. It was not the case. The house was open and visitors were permitted throughout the first floor and the upstairs rooms. I loved each room of this house, but his studio was very special. The picture featured in the link is one wall of his studio. The house brought great perspective to Monet’s life and art.
The house is unpretentious and showcases a simple rural life of an artist. He painted the rooms with vibrant colors. The windows of the home were large and maximized the views of the garden as well as providing exceptional light. The home had been passed along in Monet’s family until it was given to Académie des beaux-arts. In 1980, the Fondation Claude Monet was created to run and preserve the home and gardens.