Lately I’ve been itching to get back on a bike. For me summer bike rides are associated with a certain sense of freedom- legs pumping, wheels turning, feeling the wind whip through your hair and steering and manoeuvring small paths that a car can never access.
So when I found out that the train from Paris doesn’t go directly to Giverny, the town where Monet resided, but only to Vernon, which was about 6 km away, this was the perfect opportunity to get to a destination via bike. I proposed to my friends Annika, Christin and Hawaiki who unanimously agreed that we should leisurely pedal our way through the French countryside instead of taking a crowded shuttle bus.
Getting a hold of bicycles was easy when there’s a café across from the train station that rents them. Unfortunately “Les Amis de Monet”, the other friendly sounding café that rents bikes was shutdown, so this place has a monopoly.
I’m not sure about bicycle regulations in France, but in Canada some of our rented bikes would definitely fall short of legal requirements. Most were lacking bells and reflectors and my bike had uneven mismatching foot pedals. With three friends in tow and many tourists in the street, biking didn’t start off so easily. Somehow Annika and Hawaiki managed to already get split up from Christin and I on the short ride through the town! But with a couple phone calls, we were able to find each other again at the tourism office to buy the Monet house entrance tickets.
Once across the bridge, we picnicked by the old water mill that can be seen in a Monet painting and has become a symbol of the town.
The rest of the ride went smoothly, travelling on the pedestrian/cyclist trail passing behind farms and residential areas.
My friends and I had hoped that going in the late afternoons would mean less people, however when we reached Monet’s home in Giverny there was still a long line winding up along the side of the home. Luckily for us though, the tickets bought from the tourism office allowed us to enter through the (nearly vacant) group entrance on the side, score!
And finally, Monet’s residence. It was such as treat to view the place where he lived for 34 years, transforming land into a garden which in itself is a work of art; inspiring many of his masterpieces. To be able to walk through his colourful home with the yellow dining room, blue kitchen, and lounge filled with paintings. To marvel at his flower garden which he passionately cultivated and the water lily pond with the famous Japanese bridges. Though there were many visitors who understandably also wanted to admire this little haven, we made sure to take our time and sit down on the benches to just imagine what it would be like to live there. The end of the visit was in the boutique like most attractions, but my friends and I prolonged it by lounging on the comfy couches and taking turns reading aloud in French from a lovely children’s book learning more about the famous Impressionism artist.
Afterwards in the surrounding area, we explored the poppy field behind the Museum of Impressionism, and even spotted a newly wedded couple in the town.
During the bike ride back, I think I understood what Monet meant when he said, “I’m enjoying the most perfect tranquillity, free from all worries, and in consequence would like to stay this way forever, in a peaceful corner of the countryside like this.”