The first impressionist exhibition didn’t get any likes from the critics. They thought the paintings looked unfinished and lacked serious themes.
But a little like scrolling through Instagram, Impressionist paintings are enjoyable and easy to appreciate. Take some extra time and you marvel at how they created such amazing scenes with such simple strokes. Van Gogh even painted selfies.
This visit to France turned out to have an impressionist art theme, although that wasn’t the original idea.
First Stop: Giverny & Claude Monet’s Garden
Monet’s house and famous garden are about 45 minutes outside of Paris, an easy and comfortable train ride from Gare St. Lazare. When you arrive, don’t stop at the store in the train station to buy anything because like we did. A linked train of cars waits to take arriving passengers to Monet’s house for 8€ per person round trip. We missed it.
Our mobile plan in the U.S. gives us free texts and data (although at slow speeds) when we’re traveling around the world and inexpensive phone calls. The station has a list of taxis to call but since we were using our U.S. phone numbers, we had to figure out how to make an international call to Spain. It was frustrating, time-consuming and the taxis cost us 30€ round trip.
Claude Monet’s house and garden was one of the motivations for this vacation. You’ll see the garden’s wide variety of flowers and the pond filled with lily pads, and experience the same views Monet painted!
The highlight of this blog post is the photo below! I stepped into a prohibited area for a quick photo. I was worried about a guard catching me but it wasn’t necessary. The bird above gave me a subtle message to get out!
Hahaha I made it out with just a warning!
The restaurants in the area surrounding Monet’s house are expensive and have a limited menu, so we returned to Giverny, which has a lot of nice restaurants. We bought lunch at a bakery and at a supermarket and enjoyed it in a park.
Aix-en-Provence: Cezanne, Renoir and Van Gogh
Aix-en-Provence is one of the recommended places to base yourself for a visit to this stunning region.
Cézanne’s house and studio was just a 10-minute drive from our hotel in the middle of town. This wasn’t on the original agenda but my Insta-friend Mai (www.instagram.com/lotus_jazz) told us not to miss it. She was right!
Here you can walk the unsculptured terrain around his home but the highlight is his studio on the second floor. You don’t have to worry about crowds here. We bought the tickets and were able to go up 15 minutes later, since they limited the number of people in the studio. His studio is just one room, with this wall-sized window to light his still life subjects. There’s also an emotional letter he wrote to his friend and mentor, Claude Monet, about his return from Paris to Provence to care for his ailing mother. There’s an English translation right next to the original.
Unfortunately our stay in Aix-en-Provence wasn’t long enough for a visit to Renoir’s home or to Arles, a town that has easels in the exact spot where Van Gogh painted! I mention them here in case you’re planning a similar trip.
We also visited the lavender fields (read my post to learn the truth!) and sunflower fields of Valensole. These fields were the inspiration for so many impressionist paintings.
Museum D’ORSAY In Paris
If you begin or end your visit in Paris, your impressionist vacation requires a visit to the famous Museè D’Orsay. We came here first because our vacation was going to end in Barcelona, but to see this at the end would have been better.