Giverney isn’t really a museum, but it may as well be. It is actually a pretty Norman town in which Monet chose to build his estate, and his now famous garden. We’ve seem the paintings that Monet painted of Giverney and have seen pictures of his beautiful garden, but we wanted to see it for ourselves. It’s easy to make this trip on your own and is easy to do in 1/2 day.
The Town of Vernon
This is an easy day trip from Paris. The train from Paris goes to Vernon, about 7.5 km from Giverney. From the Vernon train station, an open-air shuttle bus will take you to and from Giverney for 6 euros. On the way to Giverney, the shuttle takes you through Vernon, and provides a commentary of some the more historic parts. Although we didn’t have (or actually take) the time required to see or experience many of the city’s sights, we did spend a little exploring its historic downtown area, with its narrow, and few remaining cobbled streets, its 15th-century half-timber houses, 11th-century (although not completed until the 17th) church and its 19th-century town hall.
And then we got to our destination, Giverney. After presenting our tickets (you can buy then online and avoid the crowds), we went through the large gift shop that contained everything Monet from umbrellas, napkins, reproductions and anything else they could put Monet’s pictures on (the gift shop was the only point of entrance and exit from Monet’s home) we got into his estate which consists of two primary components: the house/studio and the gardens.
Monet’s House and Studio
Monet lived in a pink and green house that has been restored and furnished similarly to the way he had left it, along with some additional furniture. The walls are filled with many Japanese prints (which Monet collected and served as such an important inspiration for his work) and reproductions of some of Monet’s and other Impressionist artists’ work. Other than seeing how he lived and the art he collected, his studio with a large window to let in light, was the best part of the house for us. It was filled with his work, the way it might have been when he lived there.
The highlight, however, isn’t the house: It is the gardens, especially the lily pond that he had built and made famous in his paintings. Even before you reach the pond, the gardens are extraordinary. Although they are supposed to be most beautiful in spring and summer, you couldn’t prove it by us. They were also amazing in mid-September, when we visited. Row upon row of all types of seasonable flowers, mixed in a veritable menagerie of color. Neither we, nor the hundreds of other visitors (compared, from what we understand, with thousands in peak spring and summer months) could stop taking pictures. One could only imagine how many gardeners it takes to keep the massive gardens looking so beautiful.
But the piece de resistance waited further down the path to the pond the artist had built at huge expense, to create the nature of his dreams. Although his famous water lilies were not in bloom, everything else (other than the hordes of people crowding every bridge and viewpoint) was as you could imagine it from Monet’s paintings: the lovely pond framed by huge, weeping willow trees, the Japanese-style bridges, the lily pads that dotted the surface, the splashes of color from a few seasonal plants. Almost perfect, and far, far, more beautiful than we had anticipated.
And all filled with tourists (including us), attempting to capture lasting images of the incredible serenity that Monet had created for himself, and for the millions who continue to revel in his images, not to speak of those of his many protégées and followers.
Giverney = Monet = Tourists
The town of Giverney has been largely transformed from one in which Monet’s estate is located, to an extension of the estate. You can, for example, visit Monet’s church, Monet’s gravesite and a bust of Monet. Many of the buildings have been transformed into museum gift shops (selling mementos of Monet and works by current artists selling their own interpretations of the gardens of other Impressionist themes) and a series of museum restaurants. The town also has an actual small museum which houses photos of Monet’s garden plus about a dozen works by Monet and other Impressionists.
It is well worth taking the trip to see the lovely area and Monet’s gardens. And maybe going in the fall and on a rainy day was a plus. Monet’s gardens were crowded but we can’t imagine how crowded it must be on a lovely summer day.