Claude Monet lived in the village of Giverny from May, 1883 until his death on Dec. 5, 1926. My first memory of seeing one of Monet’s paintings was when I visited Musee D’Orsay in Paris in the early 1990’s. Before that I’d been introduced to his work via my mom, who loves many of the artists known as ‘the impressionists’. When the L’Orangerie museum was reopened in Paris in 2006 I got my first glimpse of the series of Water Lilies paintings that Monet painted from the inspiration of his own garden. Since then I have wanted to go to Giverny and wander these gardens and see for myself what Monet created and the landscape that inspired so much of his work. What I haven’t wanted to do in previous visits to Paris is carve out the time to leave the city and explore Giverny. There are so many places and things I love seeing and visiting in Paris, but this time I decided it was time to venture out and venture in. You can take the train out to Vernon and then take the bus to Giverny and visit Monet’s house and garden on your own; however, I decided that Fat Tire Bike Tours description of how they led the tour to this spot sounded like a right fit for me. Our family participated in a Versailles Fat Tire Bike Tour in 2008 and we’d had a wonderful time so I had high expectations for this tour – I was not disappointed 🙂
I had received clear instructions, details and communication from Fat Tire about where to meet, what to expect, timing of the day, etc. We met at platform #22 at Gare St. Lazare at 10 am and were introduced to our guide for the day. There were 25 of us. My husband and daughters had left Paris the previous day for a continuation of their travels and I was fortunate to have 2 friends from Seattle who happened to be in Paris for the first time. It was so much fun to greet them at the train station and spend the day together. We boarded the train – destination, Rouen – and after a 40 minute ride through the countryside, got off at the village of Vernon. We had entered Normandy. It was a short walk to the sheds where Fat Tire keep their bikes and we were given bike baskets (that attached on the sides of the bike off the back rack trap) to take with us so that we could then walk through the market at Vernon and buy what we wanted for our picnic lunch. After 35 minutes in the market, where I collected delicious cheeses, a bottle of red wine, bread, fresh figs and 2 types of pate, we met back at a central meeting point and then were lead by our guide back to the sheds where we were outfitted with our bikes. The bikes are basic cruisers with 3 gears, adjustable comfy seats and are easy to ride. I hooked my picnic basket on the side at the back and followed the leader as we then rode through the village of Vernon, across a bridge over the Seine, and then settled in on tarps that were provided to enjoy our picnic lunch. It was delicious and fun to hang out together and chat and enjoy our food. Our guide was very passionate about Monet and art history and talked quite a bit during our picnic time, but you could opt to not listen and simply enjoy each others company.
After about a half hour lunch break we got back on the bikes and rode along a fairly level pathway for a few miles until we reached the village of Giverny. We left our bikes in a field and walked for about 10 minutes to Monet’s Home and Garden where we then had an hour and a half on our own to explore. It was lovely. Even though it was grey and overcast the beauty of the garden was evident in its foliage, walkways and structure. It was really wonderful to see the landscape and wander about the gardens that has so inspired Monet. Even though there were a fair number of visitors it wasn’t too crowded and I got a sense of the solitude, quiet and peaceful atmosphere which seemed to inhabit the garden space, as well as the grounds surrounding Monet’s home.
We met back at the field at the appointed time and rode our bikes to the small church and cemetery where Monet and his family are buried. After that we rode back along the pathway, across the bridge over the Seine, and back to the Fat Tire sheds where we helped store the bikes and walked back to the Vernon train station and boarded the train back to Paris. The return trip was 40 minutes and we were back in Paris by about 7 pm. It was a lovely day trip and my heart and soul are ‘humming themselves’ a little tune as I reflect, remember and revisit my time there via photos. If you get the opportunity to go I would recommend it. May you enjoy your traveling, wherever it takes you, and take your ‘soul for a stroll’ in whatever means present themselves.