It's sometimes hard to know the right balance between taking advantage of every moment and just having time to chill out. There's the temptation to be on the go all the time. Who wants to have regrets about the shouldas and couldas when it's time to leave Paris to go back home? But a constant schedule of researching destinations, packing up, and touring can take its toll.
After 10 days in Denmark (with 7 different hotels and a new place for dinner every night), we all badly needed time to do nothing. But this morning it was time to get up off the couch. A train from Paris's St. Lazare station took us in 40 minutes to Vernon, a sleepy town in Upper Normandy. From there we took a shuttle bus 5 kilometers to the even tinier town of Giverny.
There are two reasons to go to Giverny. One is to see Claude Monet's home and garden, including his pond, the site of his many paintings of water lilies and his Japanese bridge. The other is a smallish art museum dedicated to the work of American artists who flocked to Giverny in the late 19th century to paint en plein air with Monet and other impressionists. Monet's gardens were gorgeous, messy and full of color and more English than French. His home is colorful as well although only reproductions of his works can be found there. The Musée d'Art Américain had its own lovely modern gardens (including a meadow full of haystacks) and a small collection of oils and lithographs, plus an interesting special exhibit on the use of works of art in American films. (Did you remember that Grant Wood's American Gothic is prominently displayed in The Rocky Horror Picture Show during the opening bars of "The Time Warp"?)
Our otherwise lovely afternoon took a bad turn when we missed the shuttle back to Vernon with only 25 minutes until our train departed for Paris. What to do?! Well, don't let anyone tell you the French aren't friendly or generous. The fellow at tourist information bundled us all into his own car and quickly drove us to Vernon so we got to the station with a few moments to spare. Saying merci didn't seem nearly enough.
Note: My kids never read Linnea in Monet's Garden when they were little. But I was glad to have checked Charlotte in Giverny by Joan MacPhail Knight out of the library a couple of weeks ago. It made a huge difference for my younger child.