Our local train station is called Gare St. Lazare and you can walk there in 10 minutes. It even has a new restaurant, called Lazare, that was just awarded a Michelin star. At the station there are just over 20 lines coming in and out and trains leaving every few minutes. The first time we went we watched the screens in awe. You mean we can just jump on one of these trains for 11 Euros and in 45 minutes be in Versailles? Or Haute Normandy? Why, yes!
This week, we did just that, leaving after the school drop offs and our morning runs. By 11:05 we were in Vanves, amid fields of brown-and-white Normandy cows. The purpose of this little daytrip was to visit Claude Monet’s house and garden, in the neighbouring town of Giverny.
We followed a map outside the train station that pointed to the hiking and biking trail that takes you 7 k.m. along the river and through the countryside. All the better to see the bucolic rolling hillsides that are the signature of Impressionist paintings. Fun fact: the term Impressionism was coined by a snarky art critic who criticized the style for being a “mere impression.” It stuck.
We made it to Giverny in just under an hour at a leisurely pace along the footpath so as not to jostle the bottle of cold Crémant in our backpack (priorities). The town is unbelievably pretty with dozens of gites, or bed and breakfasts, roses at all the gates; much of it is pedestrian only. We headed into the gardens of the Impressionist Museum to eat our picnic by a pond, thus avoiding the touristy cafes. This being a weekday in May, there was no line to get into the Fondation Claude Monet, but if you pre-buy your ticket at a FNAC store in Paris you can skip the queue that would be inevitable in summer.
The highlight, of course, is the ponds of willows and waterlilies where Monet painted his famous Nymphéas series, which he gave to the city of Paris on November 12, 1918 (the day after Armistice Day) as a symbol of peace. They were installed in the circular galleries of the L’Orangerie and are still considered one of the greatest artistic achievements of the 20th century.
The pristine white water lilies in the garden looked like they had only just bloomed, and the white wisteria, for which Monet is also known, was at its prime, draped over arbors on the Japanese bridges. The house was fascinating too, with all of its artwork, including quite a few paintings by Monet’s friend and contemporary, Renoir, which were hung casually in hallways. The bright blue kitchen with all of its copper pots was a work of art unto itself.
We jumped on a 5 Euro shuttle back to the train station and were back in Paris by 4 p.m., ready to host a family dinner party. One more thing checked off this year’s bucket list.