I am usually not a fan of tours except for walking tours that help me get orientated in a new city. But I thought this tour to Monet’s Gardens 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.
Who knew that it would be me causing all the trouble?
Overall it was one of the best days we spent together and created treasured memories for us both.
We were staying in Paris, and I was looking for a day trip that would suit both of us.
We chose a Fat Tire Bike Tour from Paris. It was well run. Fat Tire Bike Tours was the same company we used in London. We were travelling with kids, and bike tours were a great way to keep them interested and occupied.
But this post is not about the tour company. I think whatever company you use it will be great and you can hire bikes yourself, so I would take that option next time. Or catch the bus.
For art enthusiasts and painters, this trip is a delight. From Monet’s Gardens themselves to the quaint village of Giverny, it is an inspirational day. It is the perfect day trip from Paris.
Starting Point for Monet’s Gardens
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 quickly make your way to Giverny, but I will cover that soon.
You can check the train timetable here.
The Minor Mishap
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 if you are travelling with a group, you would not be able to catch them up once you did. So he suggested that any bathroom breaks should be made early in the trip.
I don’t know what happened and am still perplexed by the whole thing. Maybe I cannot read the time. And as ashamed as I am to admit it, I did exactly what the tour guide said not to.
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, bolting out the door to find a crowd of anxious, and angry, faces standing on the platform telling me to jump. And jump I did, through the narrowing gap of closing doors.
I was left red-faced with embarrassment, and that was before I even saw my teenage daughter.
Let’s not even 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. It 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, choosing to cross my legs the entire time than go through that again!
The thought of being the centre of attention HORRIFIES me, AND I am a stickler for being organised. I still 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 some 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 fit, this wasn’t a problem. The ride itself takes about 20 minutes, and I loved every minute.
Bike hire is approx. €15
You can also walk to Giverny, taking you around an hour.
If bike tours and walking don’t suit and you would prefer a guide to show you around Giverny and Monet’s Gardens then this tour might suit you more.
After we arrived in Vernon and picked up our bikes, we went in search of picnic supplies. First stop was the supermarket where we bought cheese, olives and wine. Our guide then 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 caught our eye was the mouth-watering window displays of cakes, and pastries and other sweet, tasty delights that left us 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.
With our picnic purchases stuffed into our bags, we picked up the bikes and rode over the Seine to eat our lunch in a park with a view of the Old Mill of Vernon, Le Vieux Moulin de Vernon.
We spent a lovely hour getting to know other people on our tour, sipping wine, eating our picnic and then last but not least savouring those tasty morsels bought at the Patisserie.
Then it was time to head to Giverny.
Beware of drinking too much wine before getting back on your bike.
Once we arrived in Giverny, we went straight to Monet’s Gardens.
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. The Gardens did not disappoint.
Monet’s Gardens include The Clos Normand, The Water Garden, Monet’s House and you can 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 leisurely 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.
Touted as the Master of Impressionism, Claude Monet was not only an artist that used a paintbrush and palette but one that created his other masterpiece, his garden.
Monet discovered Giverny and fell in love with it. He loved it so much he moved his family there and lived there for 43 years. By combining his two talents, his 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.
The gardens are full of peonies, roses and tulips, climbing wisteria and brightly coloured lilies and anemones and 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
Check the website for more details and online ticket purchases.
Giverny is a delight to walk around. From lovely little boutique stores where you can find anything from Essential Oils and handmade soaps to homewares and antiques, gourmet produce and tearooms where you can take time and indulge a little before making your way back to Vernon.
Visit the cemetery in the Churchyard and see where Claude Monet and his family are laid to rest.
Visit The Old Hotel Baudy, once an artist’s gathering place and then onto the Musee des Impressionnismes, an Impressionist Art Museum.
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. Upon returning to Paris, I highly recommend a visit to the Musée de l’Orangerie where Monet’s Waterlilies are on display. We enjoyed a pleasant afternoon quietly reflecting on each of his paintings housed in stunning circular rooms, purpose-built for these masterpieces.
It is something you shouldn’t miss if you love Monet’s paintings and to put these paintings into context with his gardens is something I found very special.
The Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume Collection on display downstairs were one of my favourites as well. I much prefer smaller galleries to large ones.
You will find the Musée de l’Orangerie 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.
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Have you been to Monet’s Gardens? What did you love the most?