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Giverny is best seen in the early morning, when the sun begins to highlight the flowers in Monet’s gardens and, shimmering over the ponds, awakens our senses to light and colour. This little village on the very edge of Normandy is famous around the world for being a living canvas and inspiration to painters and artists.
Get lost in the moment
Along the hillside, try following a series of panels that highlights the history of the village that inspired Monet and so many others, including the American artist Theodore Butler and the Czech artist Radimsky. Many impressionist paintings were sourced in this magic place and now is the time to challenge them with your own appreciations.The Musée des Impressionnismes presents just such an opportunity to examine artworks in greater depth through a series of temporary exhibitions of high quality. That could lead you to prolong your trip through the art world by catching up on some of the major artworks created at Giverny by Monet in the Orsay Museum, the Orangerie and the Marmottan-Monet in Paris.
As you walk down the rue Claude Monet, you’ll come to what used to be the Hôtel Baudy. Now a restaurant, here the scene was set for many a convivial evening’s entertainment animated by the likes of Robinson, Renoir or Cézanne. You can sit down to lunch in the company of the great and the good in the world of impressionism – or at least in your imagination! Afterwards you can work it off by paying homage to Monet’s grave (which is always bedecked with flowers) or taking off towards Vernon for a bucolic walk along the banks of the River Seine, as they used to do. Don’t miss the splendid old mill (Vieux Moulin) overlooking the river!
On the banks of the River Seine
The River Seine winds and twists its way through the rich Normandy landscape, cutting into chalky cliffs, and is lined with a wealth of timber-framed buildings and old mills, perhaps best appreciated by bicycle. At Vernon, on the left bank, you will find its charming museum which holds a fine collection of impressionist works, including paintings by Butler, by his wife Blanche Hoschedé-Monet, Claude Monet’s step-daughter, and the pointillist Pierre Bonnard. It also has a tondo (a circular painting) by Monet (the Nymphéas) – of which there are only 3 other examples in the world.
Another visite champêtre in the locality is at Les Andelys, immortalised by Signac, or you could take to the ‘painters’ road’ at La Roche-Guyon, to discover perspectives painted by Monet, Renoir or Pissarro.
The Hôtel-Dieu Museum at Mantes-la-Jolie exhibits the largest collection in France devoted to the neo-impressionist anarchist painter Maximilien Luce, who managed to calm down when he got to the quiet backwater of Rolleboise.
A moment of pleasure
Lean over the rail of the Japanese bridge which straddles the water-lily pond and look down. The combined effect of the reflections upon the water, the suspended lily pads, the weeping willows, the rippling sky, the soft hints of colour, all combine to create both a void and a vision. You find yourself almost toppling into one of Monet’s paintings!