Let me get this out of the way first. I am not big on tours except for walking tours that help me get orientated in a new city. But I thought this tour would be the best way for my daughter and me to see Monet’s Gardens because we were on limited time. And let’s face it I was travelling with a 14 (almost 15 going on 50!) year old, and I wanted things to be as stress-free and streamlined as possible with no room for angst.
As it turned out it was one of the best days we have spent together and created some wonderful memories for us.
The tour I chose was a Fat Tire Bike Tour from Paris. I liked this tour, and it was well run. I have used this company a couple of times, this time and also in London. We were travelling with kids, and the bike tours were a great way to keep them interested and occupied.
But this post is not about this tour company. I think whatever company you use it will be great and you can hire bikes yourself, so I think I would take that option next time.
The format of the trip is what I liked, so that is what this article will be covering.
For art enthusiasts and painters this trip is such a delight. From Monet’s Gardens themselves to the quaint village of Giverny it is such a beautiful day. Not only will you like what you are seeing but you will be filled with inspiration everywhere you look. Make sure you work that camera so that you will have subject matter to paint for years to come.
The day started at Gare Saint-Lazare one of Paris' large train terminals. It is worthwhile taking some time here to admire the architecture. Monet himself captured its beauty in his paintings.
The train to Vernon runs every hour or two and only takes 45 minutes. From Vernon, you can easily make your way to Giverny, but I will cover that soon.
We were warned by our tour leader to keep a close eye on the time. He told us that if you missed the stop in Vernon it is tough to return and particularly if you are travelling with a group, you would not be able to find them once you did. So he suggested that any bathroom breaks should be made early in the trip.
Apparently, I cannot read the time. And as ashamed as I am to admit it, I did exactly what he said not to do. Needless to say, as I was going about my business in the bathroom I felt the train slow, and stop. And so did my heart. I have never been to the bathroom so quickly and never before or since have I had to fling myself out of closing doors onto a platform to be confronted with a sea of angry faces glaring at me.
A call to the conductor that I had been located left me red faced with embarrassment, and that was before I even saw my teenage daughter.
I don’t even want to describe the look on her face, or the disdain in her voice as she flung my handbag at me. I am glad the wrath of a mortified teenager is behind me. That wasn’t pretty I can tell you!
And the tour leader was not happy with me either. I think I gave the poor man a heart attack.
I still feel a burning sensation creep into my cheeks when I think about that experience. Now I either go to the bathroom at the beginning of a trip or not at all. I would rather cross my legs the entire time than go through that again! I am a stickler for being organised and cannot believe I did that!
So unlike me, you should reach Vernon without incident. Once there, I would suggest you take a look around before heading to Giverny.
There are a number of ways you can get to Giverny from Vernon.
Shuttle buses depart every 15 minutes directly from the train station. A round trip will cost €8 per person.
You don’t need to do a Bike Tour. You can hire your bikes from outside the train station.
Giverny is approx. 5 km from Vernon so even for a person like me who is not particularly fit, this wasn’t a problem. The ride itself takes about 20 minutes, and I loved every minute.
Bike hire is approximately €15
You can also walk to Giverny, taking you around an hour.
After we arrived in Vernon and picked up our bikes we went in search of picnic supplies. We headed to the supermarket where we bought cheese, olives and wine and then our guide directed us to Patisserie Rose to buy bread for our picnic. He suggested we buy a traditional type of French bread which is "country bread", pain de campagne, similar to a baguette. It was an excellent choice.
But what really caught our eye was the mouth-watering window displays of cakes, and pastries and other sweet, tasty delights that left you drooling. Seriously, this is not the time to be on a diet, and if you have dietary restrictions, it will be difficult because these were amazing. And they tasted equally amazing.
With our picnic purchases stuffed into our bags, we picked up the bikes and rode over the Seine to eat our lunch with a view of the Old Mill of Vernon, Le Vieux Moulin de Vernon. We spent a lovely hour getting to know others on our tour, sipping wine, eating our picnic and then last but least savouring those tasty morsels bought at the Patisserie.
Then it was time to head to Giverny.
Beware drinking too much wine before getting back on your bike. Best to take it easy.
Once we arrived in Giverny, we headed straight for Monet’s Gardens. I couldn’t wait! I love Monet’s paintings, and I was so interested to see the gardens where he painted his water lilies and to see the surroundings, the light, the colours. It certainly didn’t disappoint.
Making your way around Monet’s Gardens, you will have the chance to explore The Clos Normand, The Water Garden, Monet’s House, see his collection of Japanese Prints and the Waterlily Studio.
Explore the water gardens with the iconic Japanese Bridge. (It’s hard to get a good photo though with all the people milling around). We spent a lot of time in the gardens wandering around. It can get crowded, so I would suggest going early rather than later, or at least give yourself plenty of time to see everything.
Claude Monet is touted as the Master of Impressionism. Not only was he an artist that used a paint brush and palette, but he also used his skills as a gardener to create his other masterpiece, his garden.
Monet discovered Giverny and fell in love with it. He loved it so much he moved his family and went on to live there for 43 years. Combining his two talents, these delightful gardens were a great source of inspiration to him. Everything was a palette for Monet from the colour in the garden to the pink and green of the house.
Once you have taken your time wandering around the water gardens, make your way to The Clos Normand opposite the house. Set in orderly rows and filled with blossoming colour it is such a contrast to the water gardens.
Filled with peonies, roses and tulips, with climbing wisteria and brightly coloured lilies and anemones and so much more. Each season showcases something different providing bursts of colour throughout the year.
Opening Hours: Open every day from 24 March – 1 November from 9.30 am to 6 pm (last admission 5.30 pm).
Entry Fee - €9.50
A walk around Giverny is an absolute delight. From lovely little boutique stores where you will find anything from Essential Oils and handmade soaps to homewares and antiques, and gourmet produce and tearooms where you can take time out and indulge a little before making your way back to Vernon.
You can visit the cemetery at the Giverny Church and see where Claude Monet is laid to rest.
You can also visit The Old Hotel Baudy, once a place for artists to gather and the Musee des Impressionnismes, an Impressionist Art Museum worth a visit.
Back in Paris
Musée de l'Orangerie
The end of this trip to Giverny doesn’t have to mean the end of your experience of Monet’s Gardens. Upon your return to Paris, I highly recommend that you visit The Musée de l'Orangerie where Monet’s Waterlilies are on display. We enjoyed a pleasant afternoon here sitting quietly in each of the round rooms absorbing these incredible paintings.
It is something you shouldn’t miss if you love Monet’s paintings. To be able to put these paintings into context with his gardens and imagine what it was like for him to paint there is something I found very special.
The Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume Collection on display downstairs was one of my favourites as well. I much prefer smaller galleries to large ones.
The Musée de l'Orangerie is located in the west corner of the Jardin Tuileries.
Find more information on The Musée de l'Orangerie here.
Opening Hours: 9 am to 6 pm except Tuesdays with the last admission at 5.15 pm.
Entry Fee: €9 per person.
Have you been to Monet’s Gardens? What did you love the most? I would like to share any suggestions you have with our community, so just pop in your comments below. Thanks.
Cindy Reid is the founder of Travel Charm. Cindy has travelled extensively both personally and with her groups. She has now combined her love of art, food and travel and hosts Painting Trips to Europe and continues to explore and roam in Australia.