Day 3 – CroisiEurope’s Botticelli: Vernon & The Art Of Claude Monet
After departing Paris last night at 2 a.m., CroisiEurope’s Botticelli sailed the serpentine Seine in the direction of Vernon. With our arrival scheduled at 1 p.m., we enjoyed a morning of scenic cruising, certainly one of the highlights of any river cruise through Europe and something you just can’t get on a motorcoach tour.
Imagine sitting in the lounge, with a cafe au lait in hand, or on the top deck, with the summer sunlight warming your face, as you cruise through the French countryside. Minute by minute, as Botticelli made its way downriver, the oversized windows in the main lounge framed scenes that would have inspired the great impressionists who found this region so beautiful.
Today, we would visit the home and gardens of one such impressionist, the artist Claude Monet, who lived in a small village along the banks of the Seine, only three miles from Vernon. Monet was one of the founders of French Impressionism. The term, in fact, is derived from his paining, Impression, soleil levant (Impression, Sunrise). His ambition of documenting the French countryside led him to adopt a method of painting the same scene repeatedly to capture the changing light and passing of seasons, and in Monet’s mind, there was no place better to do that than in Giverny.
At a cost of €26, the 4.5-hour excursion to Giverny included the €9.50 entrance fee to Monet’s home and gardens. If you were up for a good stroll, you could walk from Vernon to Giverny on a dedicated footpath. Plan on nearly an hour for the 5-kilometer (3 mile) walk.
Giverny certainly becomes more charming when intoned in French than when pronounced phonetically in English. “Give Er Knee” becomes “Jeev Er Nay,” and thus the magic of Monet begins in this exotic-sounding place.
Monet purchased his home and property in Giverny in 1883 and began a landscaping project that included the flower gardens that we came to visit — as well as the lily ponds that became the subject of his best-known works.
Upon entering the complex, we proceeded through a tunnel underneath the road, to the lily ponds. Monet began painting the water lilies in 1899, first with a Japanese bridge as the central feature. Today, during our tour, nearly everyone wanted to stand on that bridge to snap photos. In fact, during our entire tour, the narrow pathways through the gardens were packed with tourists eager to capture on camera the landscape that Monet captured on canvas.
Monet continued painting the lilies in a series of large-scale painting that would occupy him continuously for the next two decades of his life. The series of 250 oil paintings are in museums throughout the world, with eight Water Lilies murals at their permanent home at Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris.
Back through the tunnel, we emerged in Monet’s gardens, where a variety of flowers were in full bloom. At the upper end sat Monet’s home. The sprawling, and utterly charming, pink house with green shutters has been lovingly restored by the Claude Monet Foundation. We stood in line for about 15 minutes for a stroll through the interior that hinted at the vestiges of the artist’s daily life.
The home and gardens were bathed in the sunlight that Monet so admired. His home was bright and cheery, with a yellow dining room, blue living room and large windows on the upper floor that opened onto the beautiful flower garden below.
The artist began to develop cataracts and in 1923 had two surgeries to remove them. He continued to paint afterward but with different perceptions of colors than before the surgeries. We learned that he repainted some of his water lilies scenes, with bluer water lilies than when he suffered from cataracts.
We returned to Botticelli in the late afternoon, had dinner, and then spent a few hours sitting on the top deck, admiring a gorgeous sunset and landscapes of changing impressions that inspired some of the world’s greatest art. Tomorrow, Caudebec-en-Caux & The Abbey Trail, another adventure as we continue our cruise along the Seine.
I’m cruising on CroisiEurope’s Botticelli from the heart of Paris to the heart of Honfleur.
CroisiEurope, Botticelli, Paris-Honfleur & Return
|Friday, June 20, 2014||Paris, France||Boarding between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. in Paris. Time to settle comfortably in your cabins before meeting the crew during a welcome cocktail reception. Dinner on board before departing on a cruise by night to tour the sights of the French capital.|
|Saturday, June 21, 2014||Paris, France||Breakfast on board. The day will be dedicated to the discovery of Paris. Morning optional guided tour of Paris, which will begin with famous landmarks as the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame cathedral, the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysées. Lunch on the ship followed by a free afternoon to stroll round Paris. Dinner and a free evening or go on to a cabaret (optional).|
|Sunday, June 22. 2014||Vernon, France||Buffet breakfast on board before cruising to reach Vernon around 12.30 p.m. Lunch on board. In the afternoon, take the opportunity to visit the Claude Monet Foundation in Giverny, a charming pink house with green shutters which has been patiently restored and reveals the painter’s daily life. As you wander round the house, visit Monet’s huge workshop, bathed in the light that he cherished so much, the blue living room, the yellow dining room and the famous garden full of flowers and finally the Japanese style water garden. Return to the ship for dinner before cruising off towards Caudebec-en-Caux.|
|Monday, June 23. 2014||Caudebec-en-Caux, France||Buffet breakfast on board while cruising along through magnificent scenery and steep cliffs at the foot of which nestle charming little villages. Lunch on board before arriving in Caudebec-en-Caux around 1 p.m. In the afternoon, leave on a guided tour (optional) to discover the abbeys trail beginning with the abbey of Saint-Wandrille, then on to Jumièges, and the ruins of one of the most beautiful abbeys in France, not forgetting the church of St Pierre, one of the finest examples of 10th century Norman architecture. Return to the ship for around 6 p.m. for dinner before sailing on towards Honfleur (subject to the tides).|
|Tuesday, June 24, 2014||Honfleur, France||After breakfast depart on an excursion (optional) to the “Côte Fleurie” (flowered coast) and the towns of Trouville and Deauville including a stop on the way to visit a Calvados distillery and tasting. Return to the ship for lunch. The afternoon will be spent on a guided visit of Honfleur (optional). Lying at the foot of the Côte de Grace, the town will enchant you with its old port, the church of St Catherine entirely made out of wood, its picturesque streets and outer harbour dotted with little fishing boats. Or full day guided tour (lunch included) to the beaches of the Normandy landings (only as a pre-booked tour and a minimum of 30 participants). Departure by coach to reach Pointe du Hoc passing the towns of Omaha Beach, Coleville sur Mer and its American cemetery. We stop in Arromanches after lunch to watch the film “The Price of Liberty.” Return to the ship for dinner and a free evening.|
|Wednesday, June 25, 2014||Rouen, France||Early morning start and breakfast while cruising along a superb valley whose light variations inspired not only the impressionist painters but also many poets, before passing under the splendid Normandy Bridge. Lunch on board before arriving in Rouen around 2 p.m. Depart on a guided tour of the town (optional) to discover the cathedral, its historic quarters and the “Place du Vieux Marché” where Joan of Arc was burnt alive at the stake. Return to the ship for dinner and an entertaining evening.|
|Thursday, June 26, 2014||Les Andelys, France||After breakfast, cruise off toward les Andelys, through the lock in Amfreville, arriving around midday. Lunch on board. The afternoon will be spent visiting the Martainville castle (optional). Discover this rich house, the holiday home that belonged to a wealthy banker of the XVth century. Today it has become the museum of Norman arts and traditions. In the castle you will find a unique collection of objects made and used in Normandy between the XVth and the XIXth century. Return on board. Gala dinner and evening while cruising.|
|Friday, June 27, 1014||Paris, France||Breakfast on board before arriving in Paris around 8 a.m. before disembarking. End of our journey.|