I’ve just started writing a monthy newsletter about Paris for Welcome2France, a company that provides rental apartments in France (I love staying in apartments when I’m there). Here are a few of the items featured in the July newsletter.
Monet’s Gardens at Giverny
This is a perfect time to take a day trip up to the house of Impressionist artist Claude Monet at Giverny. Monet planned the garden himself so that he could paint it. “If it had not been for flowers,” he once wrote, “I would not have become a painter.”
In July, the gardens are exploding with brilliant roses, zinnias, dahlias, verbena, sunflowers, and hollyhocks, and the famous pink and white water lilies are beginning to bloom. You can take pictures from the arched Japanese footbridge Monet painted over and over. But you might have to wait your turn; lots of people are attracted to Giverny.
Don’t let the gardens distract you from going into Monet’s pink house with dark green shutters. He was fascinated by Japanese prints, and you can see the originals he purchased still hanging on the walls. My favorite room is the kitchen: the walls are yellow, the cabinets are yellow, even the table and chairs have been painted yellow. Too much? No, it just reminds me of morning sunshine. It’ll make you want to go home and rethink your kitchen.
You can catch a morning train to Vernon, the town where Giverny is located, from the Gare St. Lazare. While you’re there, look up at the iron and glass roof that covers the tracks, and you may already be reminded of Monet; he painted this station eleven times.
Train schedules vary by day, but on weekdays there’s usually an early morning train around 8:20am, and a mid-morning train around 10:20am. I suggest taking the first train on a weekday so you can enjoy the gardens before too many other people show up. The trip takes about 45 minutes, and there are late afternoon returns. Round trip second class train tickets run less than €13, and admittance to the house and gardens is €6.
Giverny is about three miles from the Vernon train station. Taxis show up for every train, and there are also shuttle buses (€4). If it’s a particularly nice day and you’re in the need of exercise, there’s a paved foot and bike path all the way. You can rent bikes from several cafés right at the station or from bike shops in Vernon. Good news: the path is flat.
Monet’s Water Lilies at the Orangerie
If a day trip to Vernon won’t fit your plans, immerse yourself in Monet’s pictures. The museum housing his enormous water lily paintings was closed for several years, but now has been restored. The Nymphéas, as the paintings are known, are ranged around the walls of an oval room designed expressly for them. Here you can simply lose yourself in the water lilies.
As he aged, Monet had cataracts; they caused him to see the world with distorted colors. He liked the way the world looked with his blurred vision and refused to have corrective surgery, so you can decide for yourself whether you love the deep blues and greens of most of the pictures, or some of his later ones in tones of orange and red.
The Orangerie sits in the Tuileries Gardens near the Place de la Concorde. It was built in 1852, in the time of Napoleon III, to house orange trees grown in giant pots. A graceful building of stone and glass, it also houses works by Cézanne, Picasso, Renoir, Matisse and Modigliani, plus special exhibits. Admission is €7.50, and there are currently English language tours on Mondays and Thursdays at 2:30pm. Metro: Concorde.
The Flowers of Giverny to Take Home
Gien Faienceries, one of France’s leading producers of tableware, has created a new pattern of their faience this year; it’s called De Paris a Giverny. Each of the dessert plates and serving platters show a scene from Monet’s gardens rendered in soft watercolor-like washes. They’d make beautiful gifts for someone special, or just a lovely way to remember your time in Paris.
Faience is a kind of earthenware fired with a porcelain-like white glaze. The Gien works were founded in 1821 by an Englishman, Thomas Hall, who brought English firing methods to France. Gien is now known for their brilliant colors and high quality products. They have two stores in Paris: at 18, rue de l’Arcade near the Madeleine, and at 13, rue Jacob on the Left Bank.