Before heading to Paris, Kaila and I knew we wanted to take a day trip outside of the city, further away than Versailles. There were many options to choose from just an hour outside of Paris, but we settled with Giverny, Claude Monet’s home and the inspiration for many of his famous paintings, including the water lilies and the Japanese bridge. I was particularly excited about this, since it was winter and bitter cold the last time I was in Paris. This time, we had a lovely summer day to visit and the gardens were in full bloom.
We visited Giverny on our last full day in Paris, and I have to say it was my favorite day trip we took while there. Not to mention later that night we did our tour of the Eiffel Tower (coming soon)!
Getting There: Getting to Giverny proved to be a bit tricky – so tricky in fact, we tried to go on Monday and had to reschedule to Tuesday. For our trip, we had to reach Saint-Lazare metro station at the end of line 14. This is a huge terminal, with metro below ground, a train station above ground, and a mall separating the two. Exiting the metro, we made our way to the ticket station for the trains, which required walking through the entire mall.
Giverny is actually located about 2 miles outside the larger town of Vernon, which lies alone the Paris/Rouen/Le Havre line. That train left roughly every hour when we were visiting, so it was imperative to check the time tables and plan ahead (hence the Monday visit failing). Unlike the metro, we had to purchase our train tickets for specific departure and return times.
The easy way to purchase train tickets is at one of the yellow ticket machines scattered around the train terminal. However, this requires a EU credit card. On Tuesday we began to panic about not making it to Giverny, until we met a lovely Australian woman who offered to purchase our tickets for us in exchange for cash.
With ten minutes to spare, we ran to the departures board to locate our platform, only to find that it hadn’t been posted yet. The Australians cracked a joke about that being typical of European train stations, to post track numbers five minutes before the train departs. We ended up having time to buy breakfast and use the restroom before leaving.
The train was absolutely packed, and we almost didn’t locate seats together. About halfway into the hour-long journey, we realized that we hadn’t given our tickets to a machine, had them stamped, or had an employee come by to check them. Maybe you had to insert your ticket to leave the station at Vernon? Nope, once we arrived at Vernon we walked under the train tracks and strolled out of the station without our wasted $20.
Most people take a bus ride from Vernon to Giverny, for less than 10 euros. When we arrived there were 2-3 buses just waiting for our train, and they were all full by the time they departed. Instead of hopping on a bus, we rented bikes from one of the several cafes around the station. I believe we paid 14 euros and left our drivers licenses with the staff, in exchange for a cruiser and lock. It turns out, riding to Giverny was one of the best parts of the trip! We had perfect weather for it.
Getting to Giverny was a bit confusing. I would suggest studying the route ahead of time or printing a map to take with you. We should have taken the bike path, but missed it on the way there. The path keeps you off of the roads for the majority of the journey. Even though the ~2-mile route was slightly confusing, it was pretty level and required little effort. Once we arrived to Giverny (after a popped bike chain mishap), it was easy to lock our bikes and head into the small village.
At Giverny: We went to the first building we saw in the village, which turned out to be a mini-museum with gift shop and restrooms. There were also lockers there, which could be rented for 1 euro. After returning the key, the euro was returned, so it was essentially free.
After getting settled and washing off bike chain grease, we headed toward the home of Monet. Here we met an excruciatingly long line of people waiting to enter, and although we had purchased our tickets ahead of time, there were no signs indicating what to do if you already had tickets. So we waited in the line of people purchasing tickets, and it took two seconds to scan ours once we reached the front. I suppose we could have gone to the front and seen if they would let us through, but I don’t think either of us had any desire to be turned away and do the walk of shame back to the end of the line if that didn’t work out.
Once we were inside Monet’s gardens, we could finally relax. Although it was crowded we were still able to breathe, unlike some of the tourist sites within Paris. The gardens are separated into two parts, the Clos Normand flower garden and the Japanese water garden. Famous paintings were inspired by both.
Strolling around the gardens was great, and for the most part, other tourists were respectful and quiet. We even got to walk across the bridge in the paintings! I stated this before in the Versailles post, but I loved the disorder of Monet’s gardens compared to the palace gardens.
After walking around the gardens we had a bit of time left before we needed to head back on the bikes. We entered Monet’s house, which has been beautifully maintained. The first room has replicas of his famous paintings, and information on where each of them are displayed. Going upstairs, we walked through multiple bedrooms and sitting areas. Standing there, you could imagine sitting next to an open window and painting the landscape before you. No pictures were allowed inside the house, but the guards didn’t seem to mind if you took pictures out of the window.
Monet’s kitchen was probably my favorite part of the house. It was so colorful and cheery, even on the overcast day when we visited. Apparently he did a lot of entertaining here for other impressionist artists living in the area.
With about an hour to spare before our train departed for Paris, we began the bike ride back to Vernon. This time we found the bike path and had a much more leisurely ride into town. We even had time for a quick beer at one of the cafes before leaving!
Later that night we took our tour of the Eiffel Tower. That warrants its own post though, so more on that later! As mentioned above, Giverny was my favorite day trip during our time in Paris. Nice weather, a pleasant bike ride, and smaller crowds all contributed to this. Our tickets STILL weren’t checked on the train back though, so we essentially wasted $40 getting there. Other than that snafu, I highly recommend this day trip outside of the city!