Mom and Monet: A Day at Giverny
A Special Trip
When I graduated from college my gift from my Mom was a trip to Europe. This was purely a selfish gift given by her, she wanted to go and who was I to argue with her? Although some young daughters would not have welcomed this trip, I was looking forward to this time to spend with my Mom. My mother and I have always had a good relationship. Oh don't get me wrong, we have had our share of arguments and disagreements. I did not have the gentlest tongue as a teenager, poor Mom. But through it all our relationship has not only remained, but has grown stronger. So as the gift was revealed, the planning began. Now this hub could be about the crazy adventures and stupid situations that we found ourselves in. Like starting the trip by almost missing our plane. (Don't worry Mom, I won't mention the reason for almost missing the plane, ahem...) or making a point to take the Chunnel to France because it would be really cool only to be so tired from the plane ride that we slept the whole time. But this is not a hub about that, this is a hub about the beautiful day that I spent with my mother.
I had studied French throughout my years in high school and was a Monet enthusiast. So visiting the home of Claude Monet was a must for our trip. Of course Mom had her own wishes to visit Spain and so as we continued to plan we knew that our travels would take us through France to Italy and then over to Spain. Two weeks of nonstop, see all you can see, and do all you can do. Now this was not a trip for the elite, this was a trip on a budget.
We were excited about our trip to Europe. This was a first for my Mom but I had gone to England in high school when I visited my best friend who was an exchange student. The only part of our trip that was planned would be our first night. We would get into Paris and stay at the Holiday Inn, after that, the world was ours on a whim. We would take the train where we wanted and stay in inexpensive hotels and youth hostels. After all, we weren't there for the luxury hotels, we were there for the adventure! Oh what an adventure! Now remember, this isn’t about the sticky situations that we got into. After all, do you really want to hear about two American spectacles leaving the train station in Paris trying to board a city bus in the middle of rush hour with luggage in tow trying to find their way to their hotel? Oh and did I mention that Mom doesn’t speak any French and I speak, well a little more than none. Needless to say I can only imagine what those classy French people thought as they watched these crazy Americans. So as we finally arrived at the hotel, checked in, rested and ate, we examined our long to do list and made a general plan for the next week.
We knew that we would be spending the first few days touring Paris and the surrounding areas. After checking out of our hotel we immediately headed over to check into our youth hostel. So as we left our bags behind, we hit the streets of Paris and began our self guided tour. From the cafes with those much talked about croque monsieurs to the Eiffel Tower and of course the Louvre, we squeezed in as much as our legs would allow us. But the highlight for me was yet to come, our trip to Giverny. We had made a very calculated decision to spend our first Sunday at Giverny. Why? It was Mother's Day in the United States. I thought that it would be a wonderful memory to spend the day in such a beautiful place with my Mom, thankfully she agreed.
So after our first night in the youth hostel proved to be a little on the scary side, we decided to check into a "budget" hotel and head out for Giverny in the morning. When we checked in I took note of the "vintage" decor and reminded myself that this is Europe after all. It has a much longer history than the United States and old does not mean that this is unsafe. However secretly I had begun to wonder about this trip on a budget. As we headed out to catch some dinner, we stopped at the front desk to ask the clerk if he had any information that he could share with us about visiting Monet's home. Well we caught him a little off guard, or maybe it just got lost in translation but he was a little surprised by our question. "Do I know anything about 'mo-nay'?" he asked. "What do you mean? Like this?" and he proceeded to hold up a handful of money. Stifling our laughter we shook our heads and explained that we meant Claude Monet and his home in Giverny. Of course embarrassment covered his face followed by Oh, now I know. But truly I don't think he did. He really couldn't give us any information so we thanked him and set out on our way. This interaction served as entertainment not only throughout our trip but still to this day. That night I slept quite restlessly. I'd love to tell you that it was because of my built up excitement for the next day but alas that is not so. I was terrified. I never thought of myself as having an overly active imagination but apparently I proved myself wrong. You see the window in the room was merely two wooden shades that opened and closed. There was no glass or screen. The entire night I waited for Lestat from Interview with a Vampire to come flying in and perch himself on the balcony. I still wondered about this Europe on a budget thing we were doing.
Mother's Day at Giverny, France
What can I say. Who can picture a more perfect Mother's Day than one spent with your mother surrounded by beautiful, breath taking flowers, gardens, and waterscapes. It blew our minds. From the moment that we set foot on the property, we knew that we had made the right choice to spend the day this way. We took a tour through the amazing home of Claude Monet and were of course inundated with the history of his life. We marveled at the beauty that he saw each time he looked out his window and thought that is was no wonder that he painted such incredible paintings. Together we strolled through the gardens and crossed the famed Japanese bridge. We took countless pictures and lost ourselves in the beauty. We watched others as they breathed in the look, feel, and and smells of the land. One of my favorite pictures of my mom is of her at Giverny standing next to a huge pot of daisies, her favorite flower. Unfortunately this was before the age of digital cameras and so it's not so easy to access those pictures but they are tucked safely away in my scrapbook to admire.
So how do you get to Giverny?
Vernon is 75 km from Paris. Leave Paris by the Pont de Saint-Cloud and take the highway A13 (towards Rouen) for 55 km until you reach exit 14 (Bonnières) or exit 16 (Douains). The A13 is free until Mantes-la-Jolie. The charge is 1.80 euros to go further. After the exit follow Vernon or Giverny signs.
You may also leave the highway before the tollgate (follow green Vernon road signs) and go on the N15 past Rosny, Rolleboise and Bonnières. The road follows the River Seine for a while.
The Vernon station is situated on the main line Paris / Rouen / Le Havre. It starts from the Saint-Lazare Paris station (which has not changed much since Monet painted it). The fastest trains complete the journey in less than 45 min.
In the Metro, take the 'SNCF - Grandes Lignes' exit. Buy a ticket to Vernon. The Rouen line departs from the right side of the platform, in the 'Grandes Lignes' section. From the station there are bus shuttles or you can take a taxi to Claude Monet's home.
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The Rest of the Trip
I'd love to tell you that this trip continued on smoothly and without further complications, but alas that would not be aligned with the way our family works! We continued on to take the train to Switzerland and visited the United Nations and Lake Geneva. From there we ventured over to Italy and toured beautiful museums in Italy, ate countless plates of spaghetti, and consumed an ungodly amount of Italian ice cream. We even got reprimanded by a young man in his bed and breakfast type of lodging for giggling too loud. Who would have thunk it? The statues, fountains, and beautiful buildings left us awe struck. Our great plans to go to Spain were derailed, quite literally. An annoying little strike in France during that time led us to the southern border of Italy and France where the train literally stopped when we were told to get off. Get off? And go where? Of course that was not their concern. So we decided when in Italy, do as the Italians so we checked our luggage into lockers and spent the day on the beach. We became full fledged beach bums at that moment. So although the strike took us on an unscheduled trip to Monaco, it kept us from getting to Spain. Next time Mom! Thankfully the strike ended in time for us to get back to France and catch our plane back to the states.
I will always remember that time spent with my mother. We had an amazing adventure together, once in a lifetime. I will hold the day we spent and Giverny in my heart forever as one of my best Mother's Days ever. The memories that we created together are priceless. In spite of all the crazy moments (some even scary at times) I hope that I will one day share that kind of experience with my own children. I am grateful to this day for the wonderful gift that I was given by my mother. It was a joyous experience and one that I treasure still today. Thank you Mom, I love you.