Time to talk about one of my favorite places on earth…
Do you like flowers?
Of course you do. They’re beautiful and fragrant. Do you like Monet?
How could you not? His paintings are beautiful. So I suggest you head to the place that feels like you’ve just stepped into one of his paintings: Giverny, in Normandy France.
This tiny town is only about an hour from Paris, and is one of my absolute favorite places in the world. You should go there. Why?
The aforementioned abundance of flowers literally everywhere you turn:
Monet’s amazing house and gardens. You can take a tour of the gardens and the house where he actually lived and painted during the later years of his life. It feels like you’ve actually stepped into his paintings, it’s so beautiful there.
The absolute beauty the French countryside:
And there are other reasons, too.
1. It’s easy to get to. Just take the train from Paris (Gare Saint Lazarre) to Vernon, a 45 minute ride. From Vernon there’s a little shuttle bus that will take you straight to Giverny. You can also rent bikes near the train station, which I’ve never done as I’ve always had luggage with me, but supposedly it’s a beautiful ride through the countryside.
2. The people are incredibly friendly When we arrived in Giverny for the first time, we discovered there were no ATMs anywhere in the town. And the B&B we were staying at was cash-only. Oh no! But without batting an eye, the man who ran our B&B drove us back to Vernon in his car, no charge, no worry, to get what we needed.
3. It can get touristy and crowded… but only during the day I’ve read travel guides and sites that advise you that a day trip is sufficient for Giverny. To which I say: not true! It is a tiny town and you can see everything there in one day, but the town really reveals its beauty after the tourist buses leave, and you’re left to wander the quiet country street (there really only is one street, and it’s not paved), enjoy a lovely dinner outside as the sun sets and total quiet blankets the countryside, then retire to your adorable B&B.
The quiet of the country is like no other
Lodging: Stay at Le Coin des Artistes. I’ve stayed there twice, once in one of the beautiful bedrooms in the main house, once in the little cottage in the back. Both times were amazing. The first time we were the only people there, so had the whole place to ourselves and our own private breakfast, the second time there was only one other couple. The prices are pretty low, too. Only caveat: the last time I was there, no one working there spoke English, so attempt to bring a francophone. The people are so nice though, it probably won’t matter.
Timing: The gardens are only open March 28–November 30, because that’s when the flowers bloom. All three times I’ve been there, it’s been April, and it’s been perfect. I imagine what’s blooming changes on the seasons, but I can’t imagine it not being beautiful regardless.
While Monet’s gardens are the main attraction, there’s also a really cool American art museum in Giverny. Definitely stop by!
Also, just wander. You’ll find everything from an interesting old cemetery, to surprise horses popping out to say hi, to even more flowers.
One warning: Don’t stay over on Sunday night! Since the Claude Monet Foundation is closed on Mondays, the entire town shuts down Sunday afternoon–including the few restaurants. We didn’t know this, and ended up begging a bakery to let us buy whatever they had left as they were closing so we wouldn’t go hungry. We ended up eating cold apple pie in bed for dinner (which was actually pretty awesome, but still).
In conclusion: go here.
All images taken by me, April 2007