Monet was born in Paris and moved with his parents in Normandy when he was 8 years old. He became the student of Eugene Boudin that convinced him to paint outside. He was totally in confrontation with the style of the school of fine arts and rejected le Salon de Paris where art dealers and their galleries used to go every year for that unmissable exhibition.
In 1863, Monet and his friends Renoir, Bazille, Sisley decided to create le Salon des Refusés where they developed new pictorial themes and inspirations by painted in the open air, in the vinicity of Paris or on the Normandy coast where they experienced the optical phenomena of the light and colour.
A few years later, Monet married his model Camille Doncieux, who had given him two sons. Desperately poor, he constantly looked for places where life was cheaper and lived in Argenteuil, in Vétheuil, in Poissy in 1882 and in Giverny from 1883 until his death. In 1879, Monet lost his wife, Camille, that he painted ("Camille Monet on his deathbed", 1879).
Alone with his two sons, Monet lived in Giverny in 1883 sharing a house with Alice Hoschedé, the wife of a store owner and collector of Impressionist paintings and their six children. This period for Monet starts to attract public and critical attention. Mr Hoschedé went bankrupt and lef the house and his family. Monet took the opportunity to buy it and married Alice.
If Monet spent half of his life outdoor in many different places, he spent half of his other life of Giverny closed to the Seine river about one hour from Paris from where he never left. That quiet place turned into a place of artistic pilgrimage where many French and also American Impressionist painters (Cezanne, Metcalf, Cassat, Butler, Robinson …) stayed for most of them in the Inn Baudy. The owner Angelina set up a painting workshop placed in the middle of the garden still in place that the visitor can see freely if the place is opened.
Through the small streets of the village, you will see some painting and craft workshops and nice places for a short break
At the end of the main street, the 12th century church dedicated to Sainte-Radegonde Where Claude Monet was buried on December 8, 1926 in the cemetery just nearby the keeper and his American wife who restored Giverny after the second world war.
Then the tour will continue to the Monet's house and the gardens. Monet had a passion for gardening as well as for colours. Thus, he conceived both his flower garden and water garden as true works of art.
He created the Water garden because he had a fascination for the play of light and reflections of clouds in water. He also constructed a Japanese bridge inspired by one of his Estampes and he selected some plants such as bamboos, ginkgos biloba, maple trees, Japanese peonies, white lilies, the weeping willows and later nympheas» to recreate an oriental atmosphere.
In 1897, he started to paint the « Nymphéas and will become one of his greatest masterpieces pushing
Rouen city, capital of Normandy with its medieval heritage, its half-timbered houses, Joan of Arc's memory and the land of the Impressionists on the paths of Monet.
Rouen has a nicknamed of the city of 100 bell towers situated on the Seine River less than two hours from Paris. It offers a typical and medieval architecture with cobblestones and pedestrianised streets interspersed with 2000 timber frame houses. The Clock « Gros Horloge » from the 16th century connecting the Old Market to the Cathedral was the busiest commercial street from the 13th to the 18th century. And despite heavy bombing in 1944, many districts are still decorated with half-timbered houses. The tour also includes when it is open from Monday to Friday the visit of the unique cemetery in Europe from the middle-ages still in place, dating back to the Great Plague of 1348 which killed three quarters of the neighbourhood's inhabitants. The building is decorated with motifs that evoke death and a black cat had been buried alive inside the wall at the entrance of the site. The site is in restoration until the end of january 2020 but closed during week-ends and bank holidays.
The medieval period will end with the cathedral wich has been been the epitome of the development of Gothic art, since the start of its construction in the 12th century on the foundations of a 4th century basilica. The cathedral is also the only one in France to possess an adjoining archiepiscopal palace still occupied by an archbishop today.
The choir of the cathedral contains the graves of the Dukes of Normandy, including that of Rollon, a danish Viking and founder of the duchy in 911, the heart of Richard the Lionheart, King of England and also Duke of Normandy. The cathedral has also inspired Monet but not only when he painted 40 versions of the monument at different times of the day and seasons. A list of some masters of Impressionism that the Rouen area has fascinated like Turner, Gauguin, Pissarro, Sisley…
The tour will finish with the visit of the Old market with plenty of restaurants and even with the option to eat in the oldest inn in France stamped 1345. The owner was able to see throught the windows, the torture of Jeanne d'Arc. Of course, Joan of Arc is one of the town's symbols of medieval and spiritual heritage with the old market square where she was burned at the stake here on 30 May 1431 at the point marked today by a large cross. Her ashes were then scattered in the Seine to avoid making her a martyr. Nearby are the remains of a former church and a contemporary one was built in 1979 with the original 16th century stained-glass windows saved from the former church of Saint-Vincent.
The typical Norman countryside/Pays d'Auge
Founded more than one thousand years ago, but still preserving its architecture and history, Honfleur continues to exercise its fascination.
Round a little lane, you will discover St. Catherine church, this amazing and unique 15th and 16 th centuries half timbered church separated from its bell tower.
Your guide will take you to the Greniers à Sel (walt warehouses) where you’ll appreciate its impressive roof carpentry built by local shipwrights in the 17 th century.
Inside L’Enclos (the former fortified area), through picturesque little lanes, your steps will then take you in front of the Vieux Bassin (old harbour) where the reflection of houses of yore vibrate in the water.
And of course, many famous painters and other artists have succumbed to the charms of Honfleur: romantic painters such as Turner and Bonington, Isabey, landscape painters from the School of Nature such as Boudin born in Honfleur, Jongkind, Monet, Courbet, Daubigny.
Deauville was a small farming village. The hundred or so inhabitants of Dosville whose houses were clustered around the church of Saint-Laurent, lived mainly from agriculture and livestock farming.
The marshes and the dunes, down from the village, where the future Deauville was to be built, were pastureland where cattle and sheep grazed. It was during the summer of 1858 that the Duke of Morny, Napoleon III's half-brother, who had been invited to Trouville by his physician, Doctor Olliffe, became inspired by the idea of building a kingdom of elegance close to Paris on this stretch of sand and marsh : the seaside resort of Deauville.
Morny, in partnership with Doctor Olliffe created a town in four years, whose casino, Grand Hotel, beach and race course were soon to attract a clientele from the Parisian and international aristocracies... In 1975, the resort’s international reputation grew due to the American Film Festival, inaugurated in 1975 that began drawing stars and fans each September.
Your tour will start with the visit of the Bayeux Tapestry. This exceptionally ambitious piece of craftsmanship was most likely ordered by William the Conqueror’s half-brother, the warring Bishop Odon of Bayeux. It presents a fascinating, detailed, Norman interpretation of Duke William of Normandy’s conquest of England.
The scale of the work is staggering; it- measures just over 70 metres (or 230 ft) in length. The piece is in fact an embroidery, stitched on linen, rather than a tapestry, which would have been woven. It was probably made in southern England, but for display in Bayeux Cathedral. It is now on show in the imposing buildings of the town’s former Grand Seminary for training priests.
Then, you will go towards The Notre-Dame Cathedral Crowned by a magnificent copper-clad tower, full of exceptional details.
The lower parts are Romanesque, dating from around Bishop Odon’s
time. The decorations in the crypt and the arches along the nave are full of invention and delight. The upper parts were built in soaring Gothic style and are full of grace. Consecrated on the 14th of July 1077 in the presence of William the Conqueror, King of England and Duke of Normandy, this veritable treasure of medieval Norman architecture was fur ther embellished and added to during the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries.
Jumieges is closed to Rouen city situated in a meander of the Seine River. In the 19th century, the place was called the most beauftiful ruin in France. The abbey of Jumieges is one of the oldest and most important Benedictine monasteries in Normandy founded in 654 by Saint-Philibert. As early in 841, it was devastated by the Vikings, whose raids forced the monks to abandon the site for almost 10 years. William Longue Epée, second duke of Normandy, will promote its rebirth.
Attacked many times by the Vikings, its white 50 meters towers are still in place. Although there are no apparent remains from the time of its foundations in the 7th century, the journey will take you through its architecture from the 9th to the 17th century to see for example the abbey church of Notre-Dame, a pure Norman Romanesque architecture.
The reconstruction of the buildings really started under the reign of William the Conqueror in the 11thcentury, the Abbey of Notre-Dame inaugurated by William the Conqueror in 1067. Later, Charles VII helped by Joan of Arch to become King of France in 1429 stayed there with her mistress and beautiful Agnès Sorel who died in Jumièges. Then a congregation of French Benedictine monks called The Maurists with a high level of erudition undertook significant work in the 17th and 18th centuries.
After the departure of the last monks in 1790, the buildings were sold as national property and were used as a stone quarry from 1796 to 1824. The ruins will then be maintained thanks to the purchase in 1853 by the Lepel-Cointet family, then by the State in 1946. The Abbey of Jumièges became the property of the Department of Seine-Maritime in 2007.
This place was perfect for the inspiration of the Romantic movement whose leader was Victor Hugo or for painters like William Turner. It met the standards of the romantic painting and literature expressed in all kind of states of mind : mystery, fantasy, the morbid and the sublime, exoticism and the past, the renewal of the landscape, the ideal, the passionate and melancholic sensibility, feeling againt reason.
Of course, the legend “Les Enervés de Jumièges” adds an aditionnal mystical side to the place with the crual destiny given by their own parents the King of France Clovis II and the Queen Bathilde.
Let yourself be seduced by one of the most beautiful villages in Normandy which combines, the charms of the sea and the countryside. Listen to the water singing in the wheels of the mills, stroll in the paths bordering the Veules river, discover the watercress harvested every day and sold on site to prepare a local soup, choose your seafood when the fishermen return.
Wander through the streets to observe the thatched cottages to the seaside-style villas from the turn of the century, including the fishermen's houses, as well as the landscapes, undergrowth, small or large secret gardens filled with flowers and especially roses.
The village is established since the 10th century and had to face a few episodes of epidemics of black plague, the Hundred Year’s war and the wars of religion in the 16th century that divided the population provoking the ruin of the agriculture and trade, many inhabitants leaving the town with their know-how amplified by the revocation of Edict of Nantes.
The 18th century brought new opportunities to the inhabitants who became weavers of cotton fabrics for Rouen and converted their mills to the manufacture of rapeseed oil.
Immerse yourself in Normandy's typical landscapes, superb historical and culinary heritage. You will enjoy the colourful lanscapes of green and humid meadows where cows graze to produce the best Norman cream, butter and cheeses. In spring, the vast apple orchards must be seen when their flowers bloom and the countryside is dotted with half-timbered and thatched-roof houses and farms, and secret stud farms, often hidden by a curtain of trees raise their yearlings for horse-racings.
You will have the choice to stroll through some villages with half-timbered houses and thatched roofs nestled in the valleys with many churches, cemeteries, wash-houses, natural and medical springs. You will taste the local food in some typical norman houses or cottages offering homemade norman specialities: duck and apple rillette, chicken Pays d’Auge or scallops with brandy, cream and mushroom, salty or sweet pancakes « crepes », marinated pork ribs with pear brandy and honey, artisanal sausages, the whole stuffed pig with crunchy ears, honey apple dessert, apple pie, rice pudding, homemade caramel cream and of course as a local drink, a glass of farm cider or an apple juice and the famous trou normand (« the norman hole » eaten after the main dish and before the cheese plate consisting of a mix of brandy and apple or lemon sorbet), delicious when it is very hot.
You will visit Beuvron-en-Auge classified as one of the most beautiful village in France with its concentration of local producers, craft worshops and antiques dealers. You will admire the 16th century manor and the 17th and 18th century half-timbered-houses. This district was given by William the Conqueror to his fellowman « Sire d’Harcourt » in the 11th century to thank him for his involvment for the conquest of England. The coat of arm of the family is still present everywhere in the city.
This tour can be completed with either a visit of a museum dedicated to the norman cheese, the most famous one being Camembert or the visit of a brandy factory "Calvados".
For family, the Calvados Experience place is a new complex offering an immersive visit, rich in video and interactive elements. The visitor crosses several rooms to discover the different stages of the production of calvados through the history of Normandy with a cocktail lounge for different tastings of local brandy or apple juice. Another suitable place for family is the Canon Castle Gardens, awarded the prestigious Jardin Remarquable (“Remarkable Garden”) label or the Cambremer gardens.
Or just experience a typical market on Monday in Saint-Pierre-sur-Dives. Famous throughout the region for its ancient abbey and medieval market hall, the town is also known for the bustling market held there every Monday. Basket in hand, set off early in the morning to discover authentic Normandy produce.
Etretat is famous all over the world for its white chalk cliffs and its three natural rock arches all accessbile as is the white pebble beach. The seaside resort is the best-known sights in Normandy.
Claude Monet went to Etretat to visit his friend, an actress who bought that villa at the beginning of the twentih century. The house was to the top of the Amont cliffs facing that famous chapel Notre-Dame de la Garde overlooking the Channel. Monet realized a few paintings from the villa. The place was restored in 2015 by a russian company. The gardens are amazing and wearing different names like the Emotion gardens representing a former oysters farm situated at the foot of the cliffs and founded by the Queen Marie-Antoinette. Every day, some oysters where delivered to the Versailles palace. Thus, this part of the garden represents some shells or waves. In front of the villa, a monument is dedicated to two French pilots who attempted to join New-York in 1927 but probably crashed in the Channel.
To the other side of the Amont cliffs, you will scale the Amont cliffs that you can join the 77-m high Aiguille needle rock. According to various stories and legends, including an Arsène Lupin story (“The Hollow Needle” / “L’Aiguille Creuse”), a treasure was hidden here. A secret passage should have led into the needle.
Etretat has an interesting town cente with many restaurants, shops and old buildings : the Église Notre Dame, a 12th-century Romanesque church. Another high place is the Manoir de la Salamandre “the most photographed after the Aiguille Creuse”. It is an ancient medieval building from the 14th century. Originally built in Lisieux, it was moved and rebuilt in Etretat. This half-timbered construction consists of a large overflowing far, bricks cooked in a wood fire and glass-stained windows. Some mysterious exterior wooden sculptures refer to alchemy : a warrior riding the griffon, a monkey on the apple tree, an angel in the shield, an alchemist and especially a salamander who has the power to survive the fire.
Etretat was also a place that inspired not only the Impressionists like Boudin, Courbet, Jongkind ...but also French renamed writers and musician. An Arsène Lupin story was based here while Guy du Maupassant spent most of this childhood in the town. And a German musician Offenbach was famous thanks to Napoleon III. He is considered to be the creator of the French comic opera, his major works is Orpheus in the Underworld. When the second empire collapsed following Prussia's victory in 1870, Offenbach's music was in disgrace. France was crossed by anti-German sentiments, and despite his French citizenship and the Legion of Honour, his birth and education in Cologne made him suspicious.
Explore this island with its medieval village and famous abbey overlooking the bay, whose foundations were laid in 708 by Bishop Aubert in honour of the Archangel St Michael.
In the 10th century, the Benedictines settled there and the place became both a major place of pilgrimage in the West and a centre of medieval culture with the writing of manuscripts by the monks.
The building of the abbey will be done over a period of 1300 years from the simple construction of a sanctuary through the periods of Romanesque and Gothic architecture punctuated by destruction and reconstruction following fires, collapses, military and political conflicts. The greatest technical feat of the period was the construction of the Marvel, a three-storey Gothic tower representing the three states: the third state, the clergy and the nobility.
From the 14th century onwards, successive conflicts during the Hundred Years' War between France and England made it necessary to build new powerful fortifications. The Mount was defended by knights sent by the King of France, who managed to resist the assaults of the English army for almost 30 years.
In the 17th century, the abbey tried to revive monastic life and pilgrimages. At the same time, the monks had to welcome prisoners sent by order of the king. The abbey was nicknamed the "Bastille of the Seas".
The Revolution will chase the monks off the island and the abbey will house refractory priests, common law or and political prisoners.
Closed in 1863, the prison closes but the monument is severely deteriorated. Under Napoleon III, tourism development involved the construction of a road dike and a tramway line at the dawn of the twentieth century.
In 1969, monks returned from the French Revolution. 10 years later, Mont-Saint-Michel and its bay are classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In the village, you can stroll through the narrow, cobbled streets to visit the church of St Pierre, see half-timbered houses, the oldest of which dates back to the 15th century, or the house of one of the most famous knights, Bertrand Du Guesclin.
Early in the 19th century, Veules quickly became a very popular resort for men of letters and artists flocked there: Mélingue, Meurice, Victor Hugo, the Goncourt brothers, the Russian itinerant painters Répine, Polenov and Bogoliubov… who attracted a wealthy Parisian society to the village. In 1940, despite the absence of a port, Veules saw 3000 British and French soldiers who had resisted the German invasion of France embark. Many only lasted their salvation by going down the cliffs upstream with makeshift means
On June 12, 1940, Veules suffered a bloody battle, its waterfront was destroyed as well as its casino and villas (35 houses were destroyed that same day). The "Kommandantur" settled in Veules for four years, pillaging and ransacking other houses.