Picture Perfect

Monet’s gardens leave a lasting impression

By: Jim Calio

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Monet’s famous water lilies.
There are several ways to get to Giverny, the last home of Claude Monet, one of the founders of French Impressionism. Clients can take a private car, but it’s very expensive, and tour buses or minivans are provided by several companies in Paris. Or, if clients are truly adventurous, they can take the train from Paris to a small town called Vernon and then either walk or rent a bicycle for the last few miles to Giverny itself. But no matter how they go, one thing is for certain: The trip is well worth it, and the gardens in Giverny, all designed by Monet himself, will knock their socks off.

Monet lived in Giverny, about 47 miles north of Paris, from 1883 until his death in 1926. After he died, the place fell in to disrepair, and only through painstaking restoration work that lasted 10 years did the gardens regain their former glory.

The gardens are a perfect reflection of Monet the painter they are lush, colorful and beautifully laid out, influenced by both traditional English plans and more formal Japanese gardens, which are represented in the Japanese bridge that pops up repeatedly in many of Monet’s water lily paintings. It’s not hard to see where Monet got his ideas about color and light.

There are two sections to the grounds. The first, which includes Monet’s pink and apple-green house, is more formal and rectangular in shape. The archways in front of the house seem overgrown with flowers, a riot of color in every direction. Further away are the famous water gardens where Monet painted his exquisite water lilies series. To get there, you must take a passageway under some railroad tracks.

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The artist’s pink and apple-
green house.
July is the best month to visit Giverny, but it’s also the busiest. An estimated half a million people make their way to the painter’s final retreat, which is open to the public seven months a year, from April 1 until Oct. 31. The price of admission is $5 for adults, $4 for those under 12 and children under 7 are free.

Most hotels in Paris will provide private cars for half- or full-day trips, but the cost is prohibitive, running about $870 per day (not including a guide, which must be arranged separately). A better bet are the tour buses and minivans run by Cityrama and Paris Visions, which begin at about $87 for a half-day trip (with guides). The concierge at any hotel can arrange these excursions.

The least expensive way to get to Giverny and the most fun is by train from Paris’ St. Lazare station to Vernon, a small village near Giverny. The trip takes 45 minutes if you catch the express, longer by local train. The price: $30. Buses wait at the train station in Vernon to take visitors the last few miles to Giverny and back.

In Vernon, several cafes and bicycle shops will rent bikes for as little as $20 a day, plus deposit. The trip to Giverny takes just a few minutes, and there are several good restaurants and cafes along the way. Accommodations can also be arranged at several small hotels and bed and breakfasts in Vernon and Giverny itself.

For those who simply don’t have time to make the trip to Giverny, there is an alternative. The Orangerie Museum in Paris houses a collection of Monet’s famous water lily paintings, all arranged in two oval rooms at the southwestern corner of the Tuileries Gardens. Monet donated these paintings to the French government to celebrate the end of World War I, and they are arranged so as to envelop the visitor at eye level, an experience second only to actually seeing the lilies in Giverny itself.


The best online source of information about Giverny is www.Giverny.org

www.Frommers.com also provides comprehensive information about travel to Giverny, accommodations and restaurants.

For bus and minivan tours, go to www.cityrama.fr and www.parisvision.com.

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