Paris: Side Trips
The product of a more individual obsession than the royal folly of Versailles but no less recognizable is Claude Monet's House and Gardens in Giverny. Monet toiled for more than a decade to create the gardens he wanted to paint, crafted after those portrayed in the Japanese prints he prized. The resulting scenery was the subject of so many of the artist's great late paintings that few who visit will fail to recognize the vivid water lilies and trailing willows.
After the artist's death in 1926, the property was unused and, after World War II, it was left ravaged by bombings and neglect three trees were found growing in Monet's studio. After 10 years of restorations, which included completely rehabilitating the house, re-digging the original pond, rebuilding the Japanese bridge and replanting original species of flowers, the gardens were opened to the public in 1980. Today, the house and gardens are open daily from April 1 to November 1. Beautiful in every season, the gardens' colors take on a distinct intensity in the fall.
Take a Rouen-bound train from Paris's Saint-Lazare station (another subject of Monet's) and alight at Vernon the fastest train takes less than 45 mins. From there, take the Giverny shuttle bus that runs from spring through autumn (a round trip is about $6). Otherwise, it's a fairly flat 5 km walk or cycle along a wide path that traces an old railroad bicycles can be rented from Cyclo News. If you go on a Saturday, get to Vernon before 1 pm to pick up the makings of a picnic at the market. The Monet gardens do not permit picnicking, unfortunately, but there are other good spots nearby.