France: Normandy – part I : the gardens

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water garden with lily pond
Garden of Monet at Giverny

Last week we went to Normandy. We only went for 5 days which means we will have to go back one fine day as there are so many things to see and do in this part of France… cozy villages and harbor towns, beautiful gardens, grand chateaus, cities full of history and culture, D-day beaches, rugged coastline and so much more ! In the next few tips ‘n trips posts, you can read more about what we visited on our trip to La Douce France.

Today I will tell you a bit more about 2 gardens we visited : Giverny and Les Jardins du Pays d’Auge.

Giverny itself is a pretty little village close to the river Seine. It is mainly known for the house and gardens of Claude Monet, the French impressionist who lived here from 1883 until his death in 1926. Monet fell in love with this country farmhouse immediately. He enlarged it and also helped design the gardens.

Monet's country farmhouse in Giverny.
Monet’s country farmhouse in Giverny.

When visiting the house and gardens, try to get there as early as possible and preferably in the week, as hordes of tourists line up at the house. There is only 1 cash register which makes the line grow rapidly, but which also means that the crowds in the house are dosed.

The house is stuffed with goods and art from Monet and other artists. There is also a large selection of Japanese prints of which Monet was very proud. The dining room and kitchen are a vision in respectively yellow and blue.

the kitchen
the kitchen
the kitchen
the kitchen
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the dining room with Japanese prints on the wall
the drawing room studio
the drawing room studio

After the house, take your time to visit the gardens. Walking through them is like walking through one of Monet’s paintings. Everywhere you look, there are plenty of things to be seen. Beautiful borders full of what looks like randomly seeded flowers, a hidden path here, a bow of roses there. And then of course you’ve got the water garden and lily pond. To see the waterlilies in full bloom you should get there early July, but any time of year will do for a visit to this lovely place ! I can imagine people coming back in different parts of the year to see the garden change throughout the year.  Whether a garden lover or an art lover, you will certainly love a stroll around the house and garden.

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With my denim jacket from this post !

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After a visit to the house and garden of Monet, it is time for a glass of wine, a coffee or a steak-frites in Hôtel Baudy a bit further down the road. This restaurant/bar was frequented by Monet, but also by other artists like Manet and Cézanne. The restaurant has a magnificent garden of its own, which is well worth a stroll in and the interior of the restaurant is like a flashback in time…

Hôtel Baudy, restaurant and bar in Giverny.
Hôtel Baudy, restaurant and bar in Giverny.
Interior of Hôtel Baudy
Interior of Hôtel Baudy

You can easily spend half a day in Giverny. Try not to be disturbed by the many tourists from around the globe, but take your time and do everything à l’aise !

The second garden we visited on our trip to Normandy was much more quiet. Les Jardins du Pays d’Auge are situated in Cambremer, a little village near Caen. They are extensive gardens and a work in progress for the last 20 years or so. The proprietor transports abandoned, ruined buildings from around Normandy to his garden where they are renovated. They are put in the garden in such a way that they really blend in. It makes the gardens even more interesting and beautiful to walk around in ! The gardens consist of many garden chambers and you stroll around from one to another to see beautiful sight after beautiful sight. Every plant, tree, pond, building is integrated meticulously. From the lane of linden trees to the barn with the donkey, from the labyrinth with sights to the nearby fields and pastures to the wishing well, from the renovated washing house to the water garden,… everything is so well maintained. You just don’t know where to look first in these gardens…

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Wearing my strapless LBD seen in this post…

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After spending time in the garden (which you won’t get bored with easily !), it is time for a drink or bite to eat. The creperie of the gardens has a fantastic outdoor terrace where it is really nice to relax and enjoy a sweet or savoury pancake, an ice cream, a glass of cider from the neighbor’s apple trees  or a coffee.

The creperie of the gardens, with a cozy outdoor terrace.
The creperie of the gardens, with a cozy outdoor terrace.

Whether you are a true garden connoisseur or like me just an admirer of all things nice and beautiful, these two gardens are both a lust for the senses. So when in Normandy, it’s sure worth spending a bit of time to visit one or both gardens !

Love, Kathleen

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