Vernon is the city close to Giverny, the home of the Impressionist artist Monet. This is where Monet lived, worked, and invited many of his artist friends to stay. He created his gardens with the eye of a visual artist with swaths of plantings in beautiful colour palettes, great trees to provide dappled sunlight, and his incredible Japanese-inspired water lily garden so he could play with the water reflections and light.
The gardens are spectacular but so is Monet's house. Again, it is clear that this was a painter's home, with spectacular details in paint, tile, and decor, not to mention the hundreds of pieces of (reproduced) paintings and artworks from Monet and the friends who inspired him. Giverny is good for the soul. It is truly gorgeous and felt like we had stepped into an impressionist painting.
It's an easy train ride to Vernon from Paris (17€). Once at the station in Vernon, you can choose to take a shuttle, Le Petit Train, (4€), walk, or grab a bus (2€). We were glad that we chose the train and enjoyed the tour and history as it wound through Vernon before arriving in Giverny. There is a proposal to make this area a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Entry to Monet's House and Garden is 12€ for adults.
After getting off the shuttle, there is a brief walk through the village before arriving at the site. Giverny is a charming little village where every home has a lovely garden. I guess if you live close to Maison de Monet, it's kind of required.
The Clos Normand
Upon arrival, visitors walk through a treed area before walking into the garden area in front of the house known as Clos Normand. The gardens are huge with a gentle slope. There is great variety of species, and a visual delightwith it's features, planting beds, and trees.
Each section had its own colour palette. I delighted in seeing and hearing so many birds who had made the garden their home.
The central alley is covered by iron arches which will be covered by climbing roses by the end of the season. Although the garden is designed with clearly defined planting beds and the colours are carefully curated, the flowers within are planted more freely, mixing and reseeding as nature intends. Gardening became a great passion for Monet.
Maison de Monet
Monet's house was not grand but it was the house of man with a large family who liked to host guests. The rooms are lavishly painted but modestly furnished. There are many bedrooms, all quite small. The largest rooms, with large glass windows facing the gardens, were the rooms where Monet, his family, and guests would gather for meals and/or lively conversations.
The house is long and narrow with a long gallery porch. Monet added on to the original house on each side, adding larger windows to each side. The blue little sitting room, was used mainly by Monet's wife, Alice, and the children. Monet chose all the colours in the house. The blues here were chosen to complement his collection of Japanese woodblocks.
The pantry was Monet's entrance before he connected the studio apartment to the rest of the house.
Monet's chickens were very productive and many eggs were eaten by the Monet family. There were two of these cabinets. Each of these cabinets could hold 59 eggs!
From the pantry, visitors walk through Monet's first studio which he later turned into his smoking/sitting room where he and his friends would gather before and after the evening meal. There are 62 paintings on the walls of the room, staged to look as it would have during Monet's time. The walls would have been covered by completed and incomplete works. Monet often returned to a painting many times over long periods of time before he was satisfied.
Monet's bedroom is up a very steep flight of stairs. This is where he died in 1926. It has a beautiful view of the garden from the large windows. Today the walls are covered with works by Giverny artists but in Monet's time, this is where he hung the works of his friends: Pissaro, Sisley, Renoir, Morisot, Boudin, Signac, Renoir, Cézanne and many others.
Alice's bedroom next door was one of the few that had a street view, rather than a garden view. Her room was decorated with more Japanese woodblocks from her husband's collection.
Going back downstairs, the next room is the intense yellow dining room lined by yellow cabinets filled with blue dishes. Again, the walls are covered with Japanese woodblock prints.
My favourite room is the last, the kitchen. Monet chose the blue colour scheme so that guests would see a harmonious colour when the kitchen door was open. The gleaming copper pans, the gorgeous blue tiling and the shiny lacquered ceiling reflected the light and made this a very cheery room.
After checking out the house and browsing through the gift shop we headed to the area I was most eager to see: The water lily pond... May is too early in the year for the water lilies but even without lilies, it was stunning.
The Japanese gardens and lily pond are on the other side of the railway line and are accessed via a walkway. This land was purchased about ten years after Monet purchased his home. He built two ponds and chose plants and trees that would dapple the light and provide reflections.
A nice touch in the first pond is a couple of boats that Monet fans will recognize from his painting The Row Boat.
The Japanese bridge across the large pond is covered with fragrant wisteria and provides a lovely spot to stand and look out. The bridge was rebuilt but the wisteria is the same that was planted by Monet.
After we had wandered every path, garden, nook & cranny, we walked into the village to explore and get some lunch (not going to talk about that... ick). Near the restaurant was a beautiful flower shop. If I wasn't travelling, I would have left with armloads of gorgeous blooms.
We decided to explore a bit more of the village to find the museum and the churchyard with Monet's tomb.
Continuing our meandering we found the Musée Giverny and wandered the gardens there. They were nowhere near Monet's but very attractive, none the less.
At the end of the main street is the village church where Monet is entombed. We weren't able to go in but we did walk around and visit Monet's family tomb and the village cemetery.
and then it was time to make our way back to the shuttle and return to Vernon to return to Paris.
What a fabulous day that will be a highlight in my memories for years to come.
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