Monet’s House & Gardens

May 12, 2015

Monet’s house and gardens are a must-see for any art or nature-loving tourists taking a trip to France. The impressionist master’s house is located in Giverny, a small, quiet village in a rural area of Normandy with approximately 500 inhabitants – it is just an hour’s drive from Dieppe or Paris.

What will strike you first and foremost about this place is the peaceful atmosphere, with early-morning birdsongs or friendly chatter – the only thing to be heard as you wander the grounds. The whole area is surrounded by nature, even the biggest car park in Giverny is lined with beautiful Japanese cherry blossom trees. Birdwatchers will also relish the chance to see beautiful robins and other birds.

Claude Monet Street is a quaint but lively street which contains a few shops and plenty of restaurants serving the kind of cuisine that has made France famous all over the world. One of the best places to eat on the street is a restaurant called Baudy, with its signature dish brochettes d’agneau (lamb skewers) with gratin dauphinois (potato, garlic and crème fraiche gratin). A more sophisticated offering is available at Le Jardin des Plumes, a gourmet restaurant located just a short distance from Claude Monet Street.

Monet’s amazing gardens include a huge range of flowers, including tulips and two-colour yellow and purple pansies which I have never seen anywhere else, as well as yellow and white daffodils and scented hyacinths. The gardens also feature a bamboo forest on a small island, surrounded by streams. Bamboo is an invasive plant, so it is grown on an island to prevent it from spreading elsewhere in the gardens.

If you have seen Les Nymphéas in the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris, then these gardens may seem familiar. It is where Claude Monet painted the famous canvas and immortalised the gardens’ pond and bridge.

The gardens are maintained by James Priest and his team. James, a gardener from Liverpool who studied at the Royal Botanic Gardens, brings a noticeable British touch despite sticking close to the layout of the original gardens.

Monet’s house has a collection of Japanese art, as well as paintings by Renoir and Cézanne – the studio still contains some of the impressionist master’s works too. The house was reconstructed based on publications and descriptions of books, as there were no pictures of the inside in existence. The rooms were originally painted by Monet himself.

As a major tourist attraction, it can get busy and crowded, so to fully enjoy the peaceful atmosphere of the gardens and house you should arrive before they open and avoid the queues and crowds.

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