The last time I visited France, I stayed in Paris for 9 days and didn’t take any day trips except to Versailles. What a mistake! I had somehow convinced myself that my mom (with whom I was traveling at that time) wouldn’t want to do any more day trips. So once I figured I’d be back in France, I knew Giverny HAD to be on my itinerary!
What’s in Giverny?
Only the house and gardens of the famous French Impressionist Claude Monet! I grew up learning about the French Impressionists from my 6th grade teacher Mr. Walker. It’s because of him that I have an appreciation for art, and knew I had to go to Paris’ Louvre and Musée d’Orsay. It’s also because of him that I had to go to Giverny to see Monet’s home. There are also a ton of other charming houses in Giverny, but the most famous is Monet’s.
Giverny is accessible from Paris Saint-Lazare station. The station you want to get off at is Vernon, which is a small town adjacent to Giverny. The trip should be no more than 45 minutes nonstop, for about $21 USD roundtrip. I bought my tickets ahead of time on Trainline just a few days before. I also bought tickets to visit the house and gardens online, to avoid waiting in line on site. You can use them for the day that you choose, but there’s no specific entry time.
Erik and I went to bed a bit later than we should have, and the next morning was when things went downhill.
Our train was in the early AM, and we had planned to take a couple Bird scooters (free courtesy of Erik’s workplace) to Saint-Lazare. There was a Bird nearby our Airbnb and it should have only take 25 minutes to get to the station. We quickly realized that this Bird was hidden away in a courtyard, likely taken in overnight by someone who hoped to use it the next morning because even before 7:30am, the scooter had 85% battery. The next Bird wasn’t for a long ways away and we were going to be LATE for our train!
So I called an Uber, and in the car I heard Erik say that our train is scheduled to leave at 8:23am. We got to Saint-Lazare at 8:19am, and we sprinted up the stairs to check the train schedule. There was a train leaving at 8:23am on platform 26, which turned out to be the very last platform and furthest from us. The destination on the schedule didn’t explicitly say “Giverny” but since I took a day trip to Monaco, I figured that the cities didn’t matter since most regional trains wouldn’t display every town they stopped at. So we ran like I’ve never run before (our punishment from above), and made it with less than 30 seconds before the doors closed on us. Even 10 minutes later, my heart was still pounding, but I was so proud that we made it and we were able to laugh at the situation.
40 minutes later…
I was starting to wonder why we hadn’t arrived yet, since I bought tickets for non-stop service and I only just realized that we made a couple stops but I was too high on adrenaline to notice before. I checked my Google Maps to see that we’re only halfway to Vernon station. BUT WHY? Erik and I got off at the next stop and to decide what to do. Turns out….we got on the wrong train back at Saint-Lazare! After checking with the train attendant at a cold and sleepy town in the middle of nowhere, we could hop on a connection at the last line and get to Vernon. What I was worried about was not buying another ticket. We already spent $42 for the both of us, and didn’t want to pay more. I knew that if we got caught, the fines would be pretty steep and the French are known not to be sympathetic to tourists.
4 hours later…
Well, we made it to Vernon! At the connection, we hopped onto the last train taking us to Vernon, and that’s when the conductor came to check our tickets. I explained in my poor intermediate French that we caught the wrong train and here are our tickets for proof and we’re just taking a roundabout route. He was actually pretty cool about it and scanned our tickets anyway. Both trains were operated by SNCF, which is why I think the whole situation was actually fine.
So now we were at Vernon station! Erik and I chose to rent these horrible cheap bikes instead of taking the trolley. The trolley has a couple specific times throughout the day to take you directly to and from Giverny for 8 Euros round trip. Since the next trolley would have departed in 20 minutes, we chose to rent bikes for 12 euros each. There were maybe 6 bikes to choose from, and almost all of them had something wrong. 2 had flat tires, 1 had faulty brakes, and another had a broken frame. Luckily, the last 2 were decent and we finally made our way to Giverny along the Seine River!
Giverny is quaint, to say the least. Most of the houses have that cottage vibe with the vines growing along the walls and it’s just so beautiful. There was a line into the gardens, so I’m glad I bought our tickets online. The garden itself is pretty huge, and is divided into 2 sections. The section in front of Monet’s house is just rows upon rows of vegetation and flowers.
When you cross underneath a green and pink tunnel to the other side of the main road, you’ll come to his ponds.
After seeing the bridges that Monet painted, as well as his famous water lilies, we went to tour his house. It’s your typical French cottage, but with tons of charm and bright walls. His drawing room is covered with his own works.
I really like this portrait below that Erik snapped of me just right outside Monet’s house. 95% of the shots he takes me of are of him telling me to turn around, so I’m frequently in the “look back at it” pose. But this one was a candid!
Touring Monet’s house and gardens took about an hour. There’s also his tombstone should anyone wish to visit at a nearby church, and a museum of Impressionism that you need to buy a separate ticket for. We stopped by a cafe to grab a bite to eat before making our way back to Vernon to explore that part of town before our train back to Paris for dinner.
Overall, I’m glad I got to check this off my bucket list, even though we got lost for 4 hours. It was just as well since we didn’t need that much time in Giverny anyway – I think you could do a half-day trip for Giverny rather than a full day!
This is my second to last post in the France travel series and I’m pretty stoked to be done. 9 cities is a lot to cover! Be sure to be on a lookout for the final recap post for Paris 🙂