Day Two – Walking in Monet’s Footsteps in Giverny
Waking up to the sound of a rooster crowing nearby and the scent of warm just-out-of-the-oven baguette delivered to my cottage was a lovely way to start a day in the countryside. The picture-perfect surroundings and leisurely pace of the village helps one understand why Claude Monet chose to live and paint in Giverny the last four decades of his life.
Guests coming for the day arrive at Monet’s House & Gardens when the gates open, so it’s best to get there early. To make sure I had a reservation, and to skip the long line, I bought my ticket ahead from the official website and printed it out. [Note: the entrance for pre-purchased tickets is on a side street (sign says ‘Sente Leroy’) where tour groups enter, near the visitor parking lot.]
You’ll find good background information on that site, including this description, “Never before had a painter so shaped his subjects in nature before painting them. And so, he created his works twice. Monet would find his inspiration in this water garden for more than twenty years.” Fortunately, Monet was prolific, so his paintings from this period are in museums around the world. The large wall-size water lily (Nympheas) paintings are at Musee de l’Orangerie in Paris.
There is no cafe on the property, but there are a handful of casual restaurants in walking distance. My favorite place for lunch is on the outdoor terrace at the Giverny Impressionist Museum nearby, an elegant setting that overlooks colorful lavender gardens.
The church that Monet attended, Eglise Sainte-Radegonde, is at the other end of Rue Claude Monet, conveniently located next to where I was staying at Le Clos de l’Eglise. It is worth a visit to see his family gravesite (on the hill to the right as you’re facing the church), and to get a look at a country church that dates from the Middle Ages. A village cemetery is above the church, and there are two memorials to fighters who lost their lives during World War II.
Like many small churches in France, Eglise Sainte-Radegonde hosts weekend concerts. I was fortunate to catch a free performance by an a capella choir (after finding out about it from posted fliers). The intimacy of the setting combined with the amazing sound was spiritual and uplifting, a fitting finale to my day in the country. [Here is a brief video of that performance.]
Cautionary Note: If you need a ride to Vernon to catch an early morning train (as I did the next day, on a Monday), it is very difficult to find taxi service, especially reserving on a Sunday. The Giverny shuttle to Vernon doesn’t start running until after 9 AM, and I had an 8 AM train. I spent three hours searching websites for taxis and making calls. I even went to the Tourist Office and called the best hotel in town (no luck). In desperation, I walked into the nearby boulangerie and offered to pay 40 euros (for the 5-mile ride) to anyone who could drive me. They asked around and came up with…the Baker. He said 40 euros was too much, so we settled on 30 euros. The next morning, I had a frothy cappuccino and flaky croissant there before we took off at 7 AM. That’s one way to meet the locals!
Baudy Restaurant – http://www.restaurantbaudy.com/
Giverny Impressionism Museum, La Brasserie des Artistes – http://www.mdig.fr/en/useful-information/restaurant
Au Coin du Pain’tre Cafe – https://www.facebook.com/au.coin.du.paintre/
Claude Monet’s House & Gardens – http://giverny.org/gardens/fcm/visitgb.htm
CAROLINE O’CONNELL is the author of five guidebooks on Paris and southern California, and she has written numerous travel articles covering Ireland, the United Kingdom, France, and Italy, among others (website, www.CarolinesTravelTips.com).