I have been kind of obsessed with Impressionism since, well, since I learned what Impressionism was. Monet, Degas, Renoir… I was hooked. Something about the colors and blurred perspectives and, I’m sure, the French aesthetic just drew me in in a way no other genre or period of art ever had.
I was lucky Boston’s Museum of Fine Art has a nice collection, but the very first time I went to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and walked into the dedicated Impressionist gallery, I nearly cried. It was overwhelming to be surrounded by the magnificent paintings I had only ever seen in books, and to see them up close, down to every brush stroke. To this day, the d’Orsay holds the title as my favorite museum in Paris.
However, this is not about the Musée d’Orsay. All this is just to set the scene for how excited I was for a visit to Monet’s home and gardens – including the infamous waterlily pond, in Giverny, France.
Visiting Monet in Giverny
As we explored Normandy with my parents and in-laws, the idea surfaced to try to stop in Giverny on our way back to Paris. As soon as the seed was planted, I was resolved that we had to go, whether my parents liked it or not! We had no plans other than the drive that day, so we had plenty of time to stop and stretch our legs with a stroll across the Japanese bridge over the waterlilies, so why not go for it?
Just 45 minutes or so outside of Paris, Monet’s home sits just off a busy road, but is nicely secluded by pedestrian walkways, quaint buildings housing small shops, and plenty of trees and gardens. For just 10€, you gain access to explore his beautiful home (so brightly colored!) including his studio with replicas of all the paintings that hung there when he was working. You can also wander among Monet’s extensive gardens which apparently are true to how he kept them himself, as he was a prolific gardener. (Who knew?)
And of course, the pièce de resistance, you can take a stroll around le bassin aux nymphéas, the waterlily pond that inspired so many of Monet’s most famous works.
It was like stepping into another world, turning the corner of the pathway to suddenly see the pond, waterlilies, and green arched bridge. Like Mary Poppins jumping into a sidewalk drawing, suddenly there I was, leaving the real world and stepping into Monet’s paintings. It was incredible.
Maybe I’m overselling it, but it was so surreal to stand in the middle of art that has inspired the world. And it made it feel so real and so much more impactful when, a few days later, we visited the d’Orsay and the Musée de l’Orangerie, which together house some of Monet’s most impressive works, including giant waterlily panoramas.
We didn’t have enough time, but just down the road in Giverny, there is also an Impressionist museum dedicated to Monet, of course, plus the history of the movement, that I would like to check out one day. There are also a few impressive chateaux in the area, if you want to make a whole weekend of it! As always, so much to see, so little time.