The house where Claude Monet lived from 1883 until his death in 1926 remains much as he left it – complete with water-lily pond – at Giverny, 20km south of Les Andelys near the Seine’s north bank. While the gardens that Monet laid out are still lovingly tended, none of his original paintings are on display, so art-lovers who make the pilgrimage here tend to be outnumbered by garden enthusiasts.
Visits start in the huge studio, built in 1915, where Monet painted the last and largest of his many depictions of water lilies (nymphéas). It now serves as a well-stocked book- and giftshop. The house itself is a long two-storey structure, painted pastel pink with green shutters. Almost all the main rooms are crammed floor-to-ceiling with Monet’s collection of Japanese prints. Most of the furnishings are gone, but you get a real sense of how the dining room used to be, with its walls and fittings painted a glorious bright yellow. The flower-filled gardens stretch down towards the river, though the footpath that drops to the water-lily pond now burrows beneath the road. Once there, paths around the pond, as well as arching Japanese footbridges, offer differing views of the water lilies, cherished by gardeners in rowing boats. May and June, when the rhododendrons flower and the wisteria is in bloom, are the best times to visit.