Though Paris attracts millions of visitors every year, the tourist attractions are not limited by the city borders. To expand your cultural horizons and take a rest from the city hustle, consider taking a Giverny and Honfleur private tour. While being immensely picturesque, these places offer a different impression of France and house several prominent places of interest.
Private tours to Honfleur: waterfront elegance
Our skilled driver will take you on a two-hour-long drive to Honfleur, and the guide will tell you about this half-a-millenium-old harbor which protects the town. This place is a true feast for your eyes when the lights of the waterfront sparkle off the waves of the sea. It is not by chance that many famous artists ― especially, the impressionists ― valued the captivating view as a source of unbound inspiration. Apart from calm ambiance and general aesthetic delight, Honfleur offers numerous restaurants and many gift shops to choose from. Local ice-cream is a delicacy you won’t find anywhere else, so don’t hesitate to try it.
The guide will tell you the history of St. Catherine’s church ― a unique wooden masterpiece erected 6 centuries ago. The church draws attention of architecture enthusiasts because it resembles a ship resting on the harbor waters. The explanation for the odd look of the church is logical yet quite unexpected: it were the local shipmasters who built this structure in the 15th century to show their enthusiasm and demonstrate their skills. The largest and oldest wooden church in France, it actually borrows many elements from ships: the roof is nothing but a ship keel, and inside you can find numerous features common for vessels of those days.
More cultural heritage of Honfleur is on display in the art galleries, and after visiting the most prominent of them, you’ll be invited for lunch at a local restaurant. The menu includes a fair amount of the most savory fish dishes you can think of (not included in the price) and the interior of is cozy and welcoming.
After the short respite your trip will proceed to its second part ― Giverny private tour.
The place where artists wished to live
The small village of Giverny may seem quite unsophisticated in its rural simplicity, but does harbor several secrets you wouldn’t want to miss. The French consider Giverny to be “one of the most spectacular villages in France”. Rightfully so! It will literally fascinate you with its atmosphere upon the very arrival. Famous Claude Monet chose this place to serve as his home for more than forty years and we can surely understand why. The sincerity and soothing charm drove him here. He spent his most fruitful years in this village and returned the favor by immortalizing the whole area.
The first waypoint is going to be an ancient 11th century church with its stunning frescoes. Near the church there is a village cemetery ― a final resting place of Claude Monet and his family members. This is a perfect chance to spend a minute and pay homage to the great artist if you appreciate his work. Following that, you will be invited to the café Baudy where a plethora of Monet’s contemporary artists (Willard Metcald, John Sargent, James Whistler, William Bruce, Theodore Robinson and others) used to reside. French painters also couldn’t resist its inspiring serenity: Cezanne, Rhodin and Renoir frequented this place. The guide will show you the building of the bar that served as the painters’ workshop during the wintertime. On your way to the Monet’s house, you will pass the Museum of Impressionism in which short-term exhibitions are always available.
Do you know Monet’s Water Lilies series of about 250 paintings? Have you ever wondered how can an artist keep painting the same pond hundreds of times? Well, now you can simply enjoy the place in its full glory. All Monet’s property is now a large open air museum. The water garden is very popular, but you’ll skip the line with your guide and explore the result of the artist’s efforts. It’s hard to believe, but it took Monet ten years to design this garden to the utmost perfection ― he had been doing it ever since he moved to Giverny. A quicksilvery motion of small creek running through the property inspired Monet’s highly apprised Japanese Gardens. The artist created them from scratch as he had came across the idea in printed books. And yes, the bridge known to every connoisseur of impressionism as it presents on many of Monet’s paintings, is still here. Although it is partly shrouded with osiers, bamboo, and pond lilies, you can spot it with ease. The painter used to arrange elements of the scenery before depicting then on canvas. For roughly twenty years he would draw the very same spot from different angles in various weather conditions.
Once you are finished observing the pond, don’t forget about the flower garden. True pleasure for an artistic nature, this garden is remarkably symmetric, vivid and full of shapes. The abundant shrubberies and garden beds are strangely volumetric. The effect is accomplished by gradually changing the height of the plants. Claude Monet was not fond of painstakingly thorough garden-keeping, so he just chose the colors for the flowers and let the patterns of petals evolve by themselves. As the exterior is fully surveyed, enter Monet’s house. Situated in the far end of the garden, it consists of a dining room, kitchen, bedrooms, living room, and many other curious nooks.
Your Giverny private tour continues to Monet’s studio dedicated to the sole purpose of creating his full-scale flower paintings. Needless to say, there is also a souvenir shop with a wide range of gifts and keepsakes.
The return trip includes a ride along the Route des Cretes with a breathtaking view of the Seine Valley. On your way back you’ll also have a chance to see a tower erected 1000 years ago to ward off the Vikings. Your last attractions on the rout will be the Roche Guyon Castle where General Rommel’s command unit was located, and Vetheuil, the village where Monet stayed until he moved to Giverny.
This tour is seasonal: April through October.
Tickets to the garden and the house of Monet are included.