Giverny: Monet and More

HALF DAY VISIT: 5 hours from your hotel in Paris back in Paris.

Visit the house and gardens – Clos Normand and pond with waterlilies and Japanese bridge – where Claude Monet spent the 2nd half of his life. There, he was able to live according to his two passions: painting and gardening.

FULL DAY VISIT: 8 hours from your hotel in Paris back to Paris.

We visit the house and gardens as described above. After that, we take time to pay our respects on Monet’s grave in the village cemetery. And we have a well-deserved rest at one of the historical inns. That is real quality time at Giverny. En route, we drive through the beautiful Natural Park of the Vexin. Along the “Road of the Crests”, we discover spectacular vantage points above the river Seine, that inspired so many painters. Photo stop in Vétheuil, where Monet lived and painted (1878-1881) before he settled in Giverny and La Roche Guyon.

Practical information: open every day. Located about 70kms/42 mi northwest of Paris. Before or after your half day visit of Giverny, to make the most of your time, you might like to discover: AUVERS-sur-OISE (62kms:38mi away; it is the best combination); VERSAILLES (65kms/40mi away); MALMAISON (70kms/43mi away).

Malmaison: Josephine and Napoleon

When Josephine was a young girl, living on the island of Martinique, a fortune teller announced that she was going to become “more than a queen“. She became Empress. During the Revolution, her path crossed that of an ambitious young General named Bonaparte, who fell madly in love with her … and the rest is history. But what a fascinating history, the rise and fall, for both of them. More glamourous than Rhett and Scarlett? Josephine purchased Malmaison in 1799 … and died here 15 years later. The visit allows us to evoke this particularly dense period of French history, to have a glimpse of the everyday life in the chateau and to enjoy the parc.

Practical information: closed Tuesdays. Located 13kms/8 miles west of Paris. Before or after your half-day visit of Malmaison, to make the most of your time, you might like to discover: VERSAILLES (only 12kms/7mi away); AUVERS-SUR-OISE (36kms/22mi away); GIVERNY (61kms/38mi away).

Auvers-sur-Oise: footsteps of Van Gogh

Vincent Van Gogh spent the last 70 days of his tumultuous life in Auvers-sur-Oise. There, for him, it was another period of intense work: he produced about one painting every day! There, we explore in his footsteps: the room where he lived at auberge Ravoux, the church he so vibrantly painted, the cornfields and the cemetery where he is buried, with his brother Theo he loved so much. We talk about his life, his quest, the genius, the myth … sunflowers galore!

Practical information: if/when the “auberge Ravoux” is not open (on Mondays, Tuesdays and in winter), we can still do a wonderful visit because there is so much to talk about. Located 26kms/16mi north west of Paris. Before or after your half-day visit of Auvers-sur-Oise, to make the most of your day, you might like to discover: GIVERNY (62kms/38mi away); VERSAILLES (45kms/27mi away); MALMAISON (36kms/22mi away).

Chartres: Our Lady Cathedral

Mostly built between 1194 and 1220, Our Lady of Chartres is a magnificent Gothic cathedral, one of the best preserved in France. With its striking architecture and flying buttresses, its hundreds of sculptures, its remarkable ensemble of stain glass windows – including “Notre Dame de la Belle Verrière”, world famous for its unique blue – its intriguing labyrinth, it is considered as “the high point of French Gothic art” and a “masterpiece”.

It has been attracting numerous pilgrims since the 12th century, pilgrims who still come to venerate its relic, the tunic of the Virgin. It has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979. Now that the restoration works are over, the stone is completely while!

Practical information: open every day. Located about 50 miles south-west of Paris. We can drive but we can also catch a train from Montparnasse train station. The ride takes 1 hour.

Palace of Versailles

HALF DAY VISIT: 5 hours from your hotel in Paris back to Paris.

Visit the State Apartments, the gem of which is the Hall of Mirrors. Going through the palace, we travel back in time to make acquaintances with the Sun King, Louis 15, Louis 16, Marie Antoinette…

FULL DAY VISIT: 8 hours from your hotel in Paris back to Paris.

We start with the visit of the State Apartments, including the Hall of Mirrors. Going through the palace, we travel back in time to make acquaintances with the Sun King, Louis 15, Louis 16, Marie Antoinette… Then, we stroll through the gardens. Around noon, we have lunch near the Grand Canal. After lunch, we walk to the Grand Trianon, the Petit Trianon and we finish with Marie Antoinette’s Hamlet.

If you have the time, it is by far the best option. The palace is spectacular and must be seen, of course. But spending a whole day gives you such a good feel for the place. You will be delighted by the peace you find in the gardens where every statue, every fountain, every grove has a story to tell. And when the Musical Fountain Shows are on, there is magic in the air.

Practical information: closed Mondays. Located 17 kms/10 miles west of Paris. Before or after your half day visit of Versailles, you could decide to discover: MALMAISON (only 12 km/7 mi away); AUVERS-SUR-OISE (45 km/27 mi away); GIVERNY (65km/40 mi away).

There are so many wonderful places to discover near Paris! By public transport or private car, depending on your time and budget, different possibilities exist. Why not take ½ a day, or a day, away from the excitement of the Capital to explore some more and immerse yourselves in art, or gardens, or history? Every day is a new adventure. Let’s discover “la belle France” together!

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