The village of Giverny is located in France's Normandy region, approximately 70 miles west of Paris, and is very easily reached by train. Take the train from Gare St. Lazare to the small town of Vernon. The easy train ride on SNCF's Paris-Rouen-Le Havre line takes about an hour. For those who like an early start, there is usually an 8:15 am train leaving Paris, which arrives in Vernon with some time for you to have a quaint local breakfast. Round trip train fare for two persons costs approximately 45 euros. From Vernon station, the village of Giverny is about 10 minutes away, roughly three and a half miles. A taxi (12 euros) or friendly local bus (3 euros) can take you directly there. If you are careful about budgeting time, you can leisurely tour all of the gardens in just a few short hours. Then, catch the 1:00 or 2:00 p.m. return train and be back in Paris by mid-afternoon. Check a current train schedule carefully. For those who prefer to drive from Paris you will need to take highway A13 in the direction of Rouen. For those less adventurous, Paris Visions and Cityrama provide pleasant afternoon bus tours for about 65 euros per person.
Monet's home and gardens are open for tours from April 1st through November1st. The gates open at 9:30 am daily Tuesday through Sunday (closed on Monday). There is no advance sale of tickets nor reservations possible. Giverny receives over 500,000 visitors annually during the seven months it is open. During summer, Giverny can be VERY crowded. However, if you time your visit right, there may be no crowds or lines at all. Try to avoid Monet's Gardens during summer weekends and choose a pleasant weekday if at all possible. The spring and fall is much less crowded than the very hectic peak summer vacation season. The price of admission is 5.5 euros and is actually considered a donation to the Claude Monet Society for upkeep of the grounds.
The best time to visit Monet's Gardens for its beauty is anytime of the year. Of course, the peak season for the annual flowers and celebrated nympheas is summertime. However, Monet's gardens are beautifully maintained from spring to fall. There are flower varieties blooming one after another so that the garden transforms itself slowly with the seasons while its colors and brightness remain extraordinary. You will enjoy the explosion of early fall colors just as much as the floral intensity of the spring and summer time.
Hope for a sunny or overcast day, wear comfortable shoes, and bring extra film or memory for your camera. (Picture taking is permitted from all walking paths). The floral colors and overall artistic beauty will marvel you. It is one of most beautiful places you can ever imagine. You will quickly understand why Monet lived and painted there!
For more information on Monet's Gardens and Giverny see www.giverney.org You can also find a train schedule to print out and take with you, at www.sncf.fr
Finally, complete your trip by visiting the Musee del'Orangerie in Paris. Closed for years, completely renovated and reopened in 2006, this museum is set in Tuileries Gardens. Monet's panoramic cycle of paintings, the NymphŽas (Water Lilies) are its monumental centerpiece and should not be missed if you've visited Giverny. For more information see www.musee-orangerie.fr.
(ed. note - Complete your day by going to the Musee Marmottan in Paris and seeing Monet's paintings of the very scenes you visited).
Ernest Cerino is a frequent traveler to Paris and many other major European cities. He credits reading early versions of Fred's Guide to Paris with taking the fear out of traveling to Europe, many years ago.