Monet's Garden, Giverny
Earlier this fall, I visited a place that had been on my travel wishlist for years: Claude Monet's home and garden in Giverny, France. This countryside town is a perfect day trip from Paris, and I was so glad to see it in its beautiful fall colors. Spring is the most popular time of year to visit the gardens but as the weather turns cooler, the crowds thin out and the cloudier skies give an appropriately impressionistic blur to the scenery. It's more than worth your while to make the trip if you're visiting Paris in autumn.
As with most popular tourist spots, you'll have to wake up early. Grab coffee and a croissant before catching the hour-long train from Gare Saint Lazare to the town of Vernon, which sits just across the river from Giverny.
From the train station, renting a bicycle at L'Arrivée de Giverny is probably the best mode of transportation - spend half an hour cycling along the easy countryside path to The Claude Monet Foundation. Hop into a taxi or take the shuttle bus for the quickest trip, or ride the Petit Train that will give you a short tour of Vernon before heading to Giverny.
See the travel map at the bottom of this post for more transportation details!
Make your way through the charming town of Giverny toward Monet's pink-and-green house, and head out into the gardens as soon as you arrive (save the gift shop for later). Take a few photos of the house and the Grande Allée, then find the underpass to the Water Garden - this is where you'll find the famous lily pond and the Japanese bridge.
Certainly take plenty of photos while the place is still quiet, but don't forget to stop for a while on one of the bridges or benches. Monet spent years designing his gardens and painting them, so you've essentially walked through the canvas and into the real-life Les Nymphéas - take the time to take it in, just like you would a painting.
When things start getting busier, walk back through the underpass and into the Clos Normand garden. Spend as much time as you can winding through the rows of flowers and admiring their colors, and visit the chickens that are hidden away in a corner coop.
Finally, explore the house itself: home to Monet's studio, his personal art collection, and an impressive array of patterned wallpapers. Make a point to see the amazing windows and views out over the gardens. The whole place is completely charming, right down to the blue-and-white kitchen tiles.
Then walk back out through Giverny and settle in for lunch at the lovely Restaurant Baudy, which was once a hotel that hosted artists like Cézanne, Renoir, and Rodin. When you've had your fill of french onion soup and impossibly pretty houses, catch a train back to Paris and end the afternoon with a visit to the Musée de l'Orangerie to see Monet's Les Nymphéas in person.
'Star' the map below to access it from the google maps app on your phone.