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    France | Giverny – Visiting Monet’s Garden: prepaid tour vs winging it

    Visiting Monet’s Garden: prepaid tour vs winging it.

    The world-famous garden and residence of renowned impressionist painter, Monsieur Claude Monet, rates amongst the top destinations on the ‘day trips from Paris’ list.  Although fortunate to have holidayed in Paris more than a handful of times over past decades, visiting Monet’s Garden has eluded us. Friends have said it’s as simple as jumping on the train to Vernon, Giverny. Post Covid spurred on the need to satiate this burning desire. The idea of simply hopping on a train was even more enticing. So simple. But was it?

    It’s easy when you’ve already been there, and everything goes to plan. It’s not as easy if you’ve never been there and things don’t go to plan.

    So, before you wing it, some tips for you….

    Trains: Paris to Vernon-Giverny is the train route. Take the RER (Réseau Express Régional train service) from Gare Saint-Lazare. RER is a hybrid commuter rail and rapid transit system serving Paris and its suburbs. The Metro is for quick travel short distances; the RER is faster for longer distances.

    Booking in advance online is advisable but if you’re not prepared to take the gamble because you’re concerned your plans may change then you can buy your train tickets at Saint-Lazare station.

    • Be mindful buying your train tickets. The train route is Paris to Rouen stopping at Vernon-Giverny en route. There’s the direct train (45 to 55 minutes) vs the train that stops off at several minor stations before reaching Rouen. Buy direct.
    • Don’t panic if your direct train makes one stop at Mantes-la-Jolie before Vernon-Giverny. It’s still the direct train.
    • Research the train schedule before going to the train station. We arrived early. Discovered the direct train wasn’t for another hour.

    Shuttle bus: When you arrive at Vernon-Giverny you then need to take a shuttle bus to Monet’s Garden in Giverny. Shuttle buses are a short walk from the Vernon-Giverny station. The shuttle bus schedule is based around the RER train schedule to ensure travellers have access to the shuttle bus to coincide with the time you disembark or board your RER train. After the shuttle bus has departed from the station you will drive through Vernon before arriving at the public carpark near Monet’s Garden in Giverny. From there you will find a well-signposted route that takes you along a path, then a gravel road leading you to the main entry of the site. (The gravel road to Monet’s Garden ticket ‘booth’ is peppered with small artisanal shops, cafes etc. If you forget to buy yourself a memento while visiting Monet’s Garden there’s plenty of opportunities to pick up something from the shops along the gravel road.)

    • The shuttles do NOT run as frequently as you may think. Do check out the schedule on the information board at the shuttle’s drop-off point (dedicated visitor car park near Monet’s Garden). Time your return to the shuttle passenger pick-up point to ensure you catch your train, or you could be up for one to two hour’s wait. (Learned from personal experience.)
    • The tickets for the train and the shuttle bus are flexible in time only. You must nominate your estimated return time when purchasing the train ticket; the ticket is only valid for the day nominated but you can take the return train later during that day at a time that better suits you. The same rule applies to the shuttle. Remember: Download the train schedule before leaving for Giverny.
    • Validate your train ticket by putting it into the “compost” machine before you board the train in Paris and Giverny. It will stamp your ticket to validate usage. If you, don’t you will incur a hefty fine.
    • Go as early as possible to avoid the crowds.
    • Take a tour of Monet’s home first then stroll around the gardens. The less people in the house, the more pleasant the experience will be.

    Monet’s Garden: Buying a ticket online vs stand in a queue. Depends on the time of year and day of the week. If it’s not a public holiday, special event day etc. the queue is not long and purchasing your ticket is quick.

    What to expect: It is exactly as it looks in the photos. There will be lots of people there, so consider visiting during off-peak season. You are free to roam around the garden and Monet’s home, no areas are off limit. Next to Monet’s home is the Atelier des Nympeas (his former art studio), the official souvenir and gift shop.

    Eat: Paris – if you arrive early at Gare Saint-Lazare across the road Café Marco Polo (121 Rue Saint-Lazare) serves up a reasonable Croque Monsieur and drinkable coffee.

    Eat: Monet’s Garden precinct – there are several places to eat and drink en route. Le Botanic Café is a good option and isn’t far from the main entrance. There are several other options to enjoy tea, pastries, or something more substantial if you want to take a wander.

    This is what we learned as independent travellers:

    • Be mindful buying your train tickets. The train route is Paris to Rouen stopping at Vernon-Giverny. The direct train (45 to 55 minutes) vs the train that stops off at several minor stations before reaching Rouen both stop at the Vernon-Giverny train station.
    • Research the train schedule before going to the train station. We arrived early. Discovered the direct train wasn’t for another hour.
    • Shuttle buses are a short walk from the Vernon-Giverny station. Their schedule is based around the RER train schedule to ensure travellers have access to the shuttle bus to coincide with the time you disembark or board your RER train.
    • The shuttles, although regular, do NOT run for a couple of hours around midday. Do check out the schedule on the information board at the shuttle’s passenger drop-off point (dedicated visitor car park near Monet’s Garden). Time your return to the shuttle to ensure catch your train or you could be up for a couple of hours wait.
    • The tickets for the train and the shuttle bus are flexible in time only. You must nominate your anticipated return time when purchasing the train ticket; use the ticket on the day of purchase you can take the return train based on which train time suits you. The same rule applies to the shuttle. Download the train schedule before leaving for Giverny.
    • Validate your train ticket in the ‘compost’ machine before you board the train to and from Giverny. If you don’t you will incur a hefty fine.
    • Take a tour of Monet’s home first then stroll around the gardens. The less people in the house the more pleasant the experience will be.
    • Buying your ticket online vs standing in the queue.: depends on the time of year and day of the week. If it’s not a public holiday, special event day etc. the queue is not long, and tickets sales are processed quickly. Buying on arrival is fine.

    The Costs

    Train Paris Gare Saint-Lazare 16 € per person one way

    Shuttle (return) 11€ per person

    Entry to Monet’s Maison and garden 11€ per person

    After thought:

    You can buy a half-day bus tour with tour companies (including audio guide) at around $103 AUD per person or 70€

    The trip (not including our lunch at Le Botanic Café) cost 54€ pp plus a lot of wasted time (hours in fact) hanging around the carpark near Monet’s Garden and at the Vernon train station. In hindsight, 16€pp extra is a small price to pay? No hassles. Pick up at a local meeting point. Drive to Monet’s Garden in a comfortable airconditioned coach. Tickets paid for. Audio guide. Time to stroll once at Monet’s Garden. No stress. Think the jury is in.

    https://giverny.org/gardens/fcm/visitgb.htm

    Vicki Montague is a freelance writer with a predilection for travel, European fashion, architecture that oozes history and charm, and objects that tell a story. She and her partner John are empty nesters - their three adult children have left the comforts of home to carve out their own paths in life. Vicki’s professional background is in marketing and public relations.

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