There is so much to see and do in Paris, but one of my favourite experiences from my short time there was the day I spent outside of the city visiting Monet’s gardens in Giverny and The Palace of Versailles.
I had one dream when visiting France, and that was to walk among the gardens of Monet at his home in Giverny. It was the perfect thing to do on our honeymoon as we had got engaged in front of one of his famous water lily paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. It seemed perfect, not to mention romantic.
The only thing that stood in the way of this plan was that the gardens are only open in the summer months and I was sure our trip was going to get us there just as they shut down. I looked it up anyway and to my great excitement found that our arrival in mid September would be right at the end of the season, but we would still be able to visit even if everything was no longer in full bloom.
Excitedly, I started planning the best way to visit. We wouldn’t have a car and public transport seemed a little intimidating in a country where I could not understand the language. The best option it seemed for us was a day tour and I found one that also would take us to Versailles which I was told was an absolute must visit.
I am not generally a big fan of being in a tour group and this excursion solidified that to some extent, particularly when we were herded through the strict structured tour of Versailles. However, without this option I doubt we would have been able to see both places within our short stay. As an added bonus, the tour gave us the opportunity to enjoy lunch in an incredible setting which would not have happened otherwise. I loved this place so much I wrote a post about it which you can read here.
We began our tour in Paris, and after experiencing the truly terrifying traffic that is the roundabout of the Arch de Triumph, we left the city and began a journey through the French countryside. I tried to imagine what it would have been like in the Monet’s time. A hub for aspiring artists all gathering together, developing the movement that would become impressionism. Did they know how we would view and admire their work so many years later?
On arriving at Monet’s home in Giverny I was filled with anticipation. I was so excited to be here, about to step foot in the garden that he painted. When I was young my mum instilled in me a strong love of art and it was her who introduced me to this bright, vibrant and beautiful form of expression.
Monet’s house stands, surrounded by an abundance of flowers in as many colours as you can imagine. The flower garden made me again think of mum as it took me back to her garden with its wildness and I was overtaken with a desire to explore.
After walking around, understanding exactly why Monet would have chosen to paint outdoors, it was time to cross the road (now through the tunnel which was built to handle the volume of tourists who visit) into the waterlily garden. This was why I had come. And it felt exactly like walking into one of his paintings.
Due to the time of year, the wisteria and water lilies were no longer in bloom but that did not at all take away from the beauty. The lush, dense green foliage made you feel like this was a completely different world from the one next door. As we took a walk across that famous bridge and around the pond I felt as though I could easily settle down and spend hours here.
But of course we were on a tight tour schedule, so we made our way back to the house to have a look through the place in which Monet lived and died. The house was bright, with vibrant blues, greens, pinks and yellows bringing life to the walls. It was beautiful and in a rarity for me, I searched the gift shop on our way out for the perfect print of one of Monet’s paintings to take home with me as a reminder of the experience of this place.
After our lunch we were back on the bus on route to Versailles. The wine I had with lunch sedated me for the trip and I awoke just as we pulled into the designated tour bus parking.
As we arrived at the entrance to the palace we came to a standstill. Standing in the burning sun, pushed up against strangers being herded like cattle, slightly dehydrated from the wine, I began to think that maybe this wasn’t going to be worth it.
Our tour guide was proactive and I feel like she did everything in her power to get us through on time. There was a lot of shouting in French and a lot more push and shove, but finally we were allowed to enter.
The palace is incredible, and I could definitely see why so many people told me I should visit. The tour moved very slowly and I was hot and thirsty and mostly uninterested in the dense history of the rooms. I really just wanted to get outside into the gardens and find relief from the small drink vendor I could see through the large open windows.
On passing through the Hall of Mirrors I do not think anyone was watching where they were walking. All eyes were on the ceiling, the very definition of opulence.
When finally we got outside we realised just how large the gardens were and that realistically you would need a full day to explore them alone. We decided to spend the rest of our free time relaxing, admiring the grounds and enjoying a few cold drinks.
Our tour concluded back in Paris, our drop off location opposite The Louvre. As if we hadn’t had enough art, culture, opulence and fun for one day, we decided to go in, mainly to take the opportunity to visit in the evening while the crowds were less.
The following day we visited the Museum d’Orsay which has a large collection of original Monet paintings and became immersed, appreciating his work more after our experience in Giverny.
There is so much that I loved about Paris, but the day spent outside its limits was one of my favourites. I was so happy to have experienced Monet’s garden with my own eyes and I felt it gave me a greater appreciation when exploring the galleries. Versailles was everything it is expected to be. I am not sure I have a great desire to visit again if I ever found myself back in Paris, however I do think it is something that needs to be seen with your own eyes to truly understand its grandeur.