If you’re going to be in Paris more than a few days, take advantage of the great public transportation system and venture out to see some of the glorious sights nearby. I’ll be highlighting 3 of my favorite day trips from Paris in this article. You can do all 3 of these excursions via organized tour companies… but if you like scheduling your own day, and saving money, don’t be afraid to venture out on your own.
Monet’s Gardens at Giverny
Let’s start with Claude Monet’s glorious gardens and home at Giverny. Monet’s gardens are one of the most visited attractions, and no wonder why. This famous leader of the Impressionist movement retired to Giverny and made his home here from 1883 until the time of his death in 1926. He spent many years planning and planting his famous gardens. You have seen pictures of them many times… even if you have never been there. Monet created his beloved water lily paintings here… dredging the pond, building the Japanese footbridge, framed by weeping willows and wisteria, and planting a riot of colorful blooms, designed to flower all through the growing season. Rose arbors, delphiniums, spring bulbs. But Monet was captivated by the water lilies, capturing them in different lights and changing seasons, from many perspectives… close up to far away.
Entrance fee to Monet’s house and gardens is 6 euros for adults, discounts for children and seniors. Open April 1 – Oct. 31. Flowering calendar shows what’s in bloom throughout the year.
Take an early train from Paris Gare St. Lazare to Vernon. Cost is approx 24 Euro and direct trains make the trip in about 45 minutes. Here is the English website for France SNCF train schedules.
Buses depart Vernon train station about 15 minutes after the train arrives. The short bus ride from Vernon to Giverny is about 2.5 miles, and costs about 3 Euros round trip.
Try to arrive early, before the hoards of buses disgorge their day-trippers.
Organized bus or mini-van tours are available from Paris through Paris Visions, ranging from 70-89 Euros.
For something delightfully different, try Fat Tire Bike Tours. For 65 Euros, you receive round trip train transportation Paris to Vernon, a guided bike tour from Vernon to Giverny, picnic lunch along the Seine, entrance to Monet’s house and gardens, and a visit to his gravesite. It’s an easy 6.5 mile round trip bike ride.
Be sure your camera is fully charged and has plenty of storage memory, as you’ll need the space to capture the beautiful surroundings.
Reims: The City of Champagne
Another great day trip from Paris, head off to explore the magnificent champagne region of France. With France’s highly efficient TGV fast trains, you can visit Reims (rhymes with sconce) in a comfortable day trip from Paris. With a population of 200,000, Reims is known as the City of Champagne, for the 155 miles of underground chalky caves criss-crossing the beneath the city, which provide the perfect temperature and humidity for storage of the golden bubbly.
And while most of the world’s leading Champagne houses are based here, there is more to see than just champagne. From the train station, it’s about a 15 minute walk to the famous Cathedral de Notre Dame, where 26 kings of France were coronated. Admire the amazing Gothic architecture. Built in the 13th century, it was badly damaged in WWI, rebuilt in 1938, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The cathedral also displays amazing stained glass windows by famous Russian post-impressionist Marc Chagall.