What are the best things to do in Paris for first time visitors? What are the must-see attractions? If you’re looking for info on the best things to do in Paris, we can hook you up. You may also be wondering where to stay for your first time in Paris. We have our favorite magical neighborhoods, of course!
Because we’re all on such tight schedules, some people wonder how many days are absolutely necessary? Well, it’s Paris, stay as long as you can, but we explain why 4 nights is a minimum for people flying from North America.
And, Annie’s hobby horse: What do you need to prepare in advance and what can you leave to chance? You need to know these things to make your first trip to Paris a great experience so you’ll want to come back time and time again!
This episode is brought to you by Patreon supporters and Addicted to France, the Tour Company that specializes in small group and custom tours in France. And we’ve a great tour coming up in May, check it out here.
In today’s episode we take you into the beautiful world of Claude Monet and Giverny. You’ll need to put some effort into getting to Giverny from Paris, but it’s so worth it! And, as we explain in today’s episode, you have several options to get there and all are pretty simple. Giverny is a place of contemplation and that will blow you mind away with an array of colors and shapes that contributed so much to Monet’s art.
You can join us for a tour with Annie and Elyse and Addicted to France. If you can’t, please get your tickets in advance on-line so you can enjoy the day without the line! Whatever you do, do not miss the entrance for those who can skip the line, as we discuss in the episode, it’s too easily done. (See photo at the end of this article.)
Places Mentioned in this Episode
Giverny, Monet’s Gardens at Giverny, Gare Saint-Lazare , Orangerie Museum in Paris, Marmottan Museum in Paris, Vernon-Giverny Train Station
Episode Highlights with Time-Stamps
Giverny Tour with Addicted to France
[02:18] Next time Elyse and Annie will offer a tour of Giverny is going to be on May 26, 2018, you can read about it on Addicted to France and we’re only opening it to the first 6 people who book.
Claude Monet, Prolific and Long-Lived
[03:10] Claude Monet was both a prolific and long-lived painter. He didn’t paint the waterlilies exclusively, but he painted them a lot over his many years!
Giverny Is in Normandy
[04:12] Monet was born in 1840 and he bought the property that became known as Giverny at age 43. Giverny is technically in Normandy.
How Long Does it Take to Go to Giverny from Paris?
[04:56] By car, it takes an hour to an hour and a half from the center of Paris depending on traffi. By train you get on at Gare Saint Lazare to Vernon-Giverny and then you take a shuttle bus that runs every half hour. Or you could take a little tourist train between the Vernon-Giverny train station and Monet’s house. Some websites suggest you could walk it, and probably you could, but why? It’s neither short or pretty. When you take the train, you go along the Seine, which is pretty.
Why Monet Settled at Giverny
[08:33] Monet wanted to get out of the city, he was at an age where he was getting to be well-known, but he wasn’t super famous yet. He wanted to create a space that he designed (with a gardener) so that anywhere he looked he would have something to paint. Everything is organized by color combination.
Flowers Year-Round, Almost
[12:00] They have 12 or more gardeners these days, there are a LOT of flowers and unless you go in the dead of the winter, you will get a feast for the eyes. The part with the lily pads and the willows and the pond are amazing. It’s hard to get a photo of the little green bridge without anybody on it because there are always so many people. Don’t go on a Saturday or Sunday if you can. Monday has fewer visitors typically. Overcast days are even better for artists and photographers, so don’t worry too much about not having perfect weather on the day you visit.
Where to Go if You Bought Your Tickets Ahead of Time
[15:10] When you get to the parking area you have a 10 minute walk through the village (with nice houses, restaurants, etc.) there is a ticket office on your right. There is a sign off to the right for people who have already bought their tickets on-line, you need to turn to the right before you get to the ticket office.
Giverny Is a Full Day Trip from Paris
[17:50] You can spend a whole leisurely day at Giverny. If you rush, you could do it in 2 hours, 4 hours seems like an ideal amount of time to spend there. If you’re into botany, you’ll need more time because you’ll want to pay closer attention to specific plants.
Giverny Was “Une Ferme de Paysan”
[20:00] When Monet rented Giverny, it was 20 hectares and it was a “ferme de paysan” so a farm. Monet quickly started to transform the farm into a flower garden. Giverny became his life’s work, he worked there along with the gardners his whole life.
What You Will Inside the House at Giverny
[21:19] When you go into the house, at first you see the studio room that he used when he was older because he could see into the garden. You see the original furniture in the house, and on the walls you see reproductions of Monet’s work by amateur painters. They don’t look near as good as the original and anybody can tell! Then you see the bedroom, the blue and white kitchen and the very yellow dining room.
Monet Lived a Charmed Life
[23:34] Monet lived a charmed life other than a couple of tragedies (the untimely death of his first wife and the death of one of his children). When he wasn’t painting he entertained his friends. He was a well-centered person. He was very close to all the impressionist painters, close to Alfred Sisley, Camille Pissarro, Berthe Morisot who he took under his wing. He was also very close to French Prime Minister Georges Clémenceau.
Giverny as a Place of Pilgrimage
[25:09] Giverny has now become a place of pilgrimage. In part because Monet’s art is so well represented all over the world, but also because he personifies that time period. His legacy has been preserved in part thanks to a lot of American money.
Claude Monet and Georges Clémenceau
[26:29] Claude Monet had the privilege of being best friends with Georges Clémenceau (Président du Conseil) and that’s how he was given the space at the Orangerie to do the lily pads. That’s also how he got a State Funeral. Sadly, Money died before the Orangerie opened with the lily pads. In many ways Monet was an “official” French artist.
Claude Monet, the Conventional Artist
[28:33] Claude Monet was also a conventional Frenchman. He was grounded, not a thrill seeker. He had his wife and his kids and his work and that fulfilled him. Walking through the gardens and sitting on a bench near the ponds at Giverny can be a meditative experience. It became important for other artists to come visit him and he made people come to him at Giverny.
Also Consider Visiting the Marmottan
[31:00] The Marmottan Monet Museum in Paris has a lot of wonderful pieces by Monet, and also well-worth a visit. But Giverny continues to be the place of pilgrimage where people flock to in order to get a feel for his work and legacy.
Should You Stop at the Musée des Impressionismes at Giverny?
[32:00] The Musée des impressionismes in Giverny is located near the gardens is now open and features impressionist and post-impressionist artists. The space itself is lovely, not very big, it is dedicated to other artists who worked at the same time as Monet or were influenced by him. It will take an hour or so to visit and is recommended if you have the time.
How to Schedule Your Day at Giverny
[33:50] Elyse and her sisters took the 8:30 AM train out of Gare Saint-Lazare and took the 5:30 PM train back to Paris. This means they got to Giverny by 10 AM which is about when it opens. There are nice places where you can get some breakfast and lunch as you walk to the entrance.
The Gift Shop at Giverny
[35:40] The gift show at Giverny is pretty big, they have a little of everything, but also garden books and seeds. It’s a great place to bring little souvenirs.
Giverny as a Photographer’s Paradise
[38:00] Giverny is not a place that needs a lot of talking or explaining. It is a place of contemplation. If you want more details on the plants there are books and their website is also very good at giving the names of the plants. It’s a photographer’s paradise and a place that appeals to the senses.
Addicted to France Tour to Giverny
[39:38] The Addicted to France May Tour is going to be happening May 27th thru June 3rd. Before the tour there are two add-ons you can purchase:
On May 25th we’ll go to Versailles and will visit the King’s Private Apartments. Then Elyse will guide through the rest of the Château.
May 27th thru June 3rd is going to be the full Paris Tour that we’ve talked about on the show before.
June 4th thru June 7th we’ll be going to Normandy, including the commemoration of D-Day, Mont Saint-Michel and Bayeux
The Extra this Week
[45:54] The Extra this week is the Circular Paris Metro Map
French Tip of the Week
[47:00] French Tip of the Week: “Quel temps de merde !”
Giverny is conducive to reflection and introspection even when it is filled with visitors. We recommend you take your time and make a it a day. You don’t need to be a botanist or a photographer to enjoy it, but if you are, you will totally fall in love with the gorgeous colors and beautiful setting.
First Time in Paris and Running the Paris Marathon
On today’s show you’ll hear from Mike Sheppard, his Paris Marathon experience and what it’s like to be in Paris for the first time. Mike is a seasoned runner, but this was his first time in Paris, so he noticed some important details that can help you make your own Paris Marathon experience a success!
Annie also goes on a mini rant about how some travel bloggers send unsuspecting visitors on silly wild goose chases, and she gives so me suggestions about what you can do for the Journées du Patrimoine happening Sept 16 and 17, 2017 all over France.
Recommended in this Episode
JeFile App, the App you need to reserve a spot to walk up the Towers of Notre Dame.
What You Will Learn About in this Episode with Time-Stamps
[05:00] This was Mike Sheppard’s 10th Marathon, but he’s been involved in 150+ races. This was his first Marathon outside of the US.
[06:53] How much time did you spend in planning for this Marathon? About 1 year. It was Mike’s first time in France.
[07:44] Anything surprised you about the Marathon that you wish you knew before? It is a great race for first-time marathon runners because it is a great course. It is a first Marathon for 37% of the Paris Marathon runners.
[09:30] It’s a great 42+ kilometers tour of Paris. You see all the major sights and attractions of Paris: Eiffel Towers, you start on the Champs Elysées and Arc de Triomphe.
[10:45] When you first sign-up to do the race they ask you how long you think it’ll take you to complete the race and based on that they put you in different starting times, in different corrals. In Paris, the first starters get going at 8 AM whereas in the US it’s typically 6 AM.
[13:28] When do you start your race if you announce you’ll finish in 8 hours or something? You start in the way way back!
[13:59] The Paris Marathon also includes people who need adaptive technology, for instance a blind runner with a human guide or wheelchairs, etc. They start before the elite start.
[14:35] How the Paris Marathon Expo works. The Expo takes place at Porte de Versailles, Parc des Expositions. The RATP buses drop you off right in front of the expo. There are a lot of companies there selling clothing and nutrition items. There are a lot of Paris Marathon merchandise there. In Paris you don’t get the “free” Paris Marathon finisher shirt that you can only get after you pass the finish line.
[16:20] You MUST have the medical certificate filled out by your physician. If you don’t have it, you’re going to be out. Your doctor in the US will probably give you a whole physical. They will also ask for your passport. Bring as much photo ID as you can so you can get your bib to start the race. The Expo opens 3 days before race day.
[18:15] The porter-potty situation at the Paris Marathon. In the US, there are lots of porter-potties before you get into the corral. In Paris they put the porter potties inside the corral. This is great because there are fewer people inside the corral than outside.
[19:05] Everybody’s bib has their name and country. 70% of the runners are French, 3% from the USA. You will see more bibs from Germany and UK, etc. The ambiance is great, it’s a happy and fun time.
[21:20] How was security? Security seemed tight, but not so much that Mike felt worried. This happens at most big races.
[22:10] How was it as far as grabbing water or treats for sugar? There were things, but at a Marathon you don’t want to try something you’ve not tried before. There were sugar cubes, fruit, Vitel water. Drink the water before the marathon because it’s good to not be surprised. You may want to bring the stuff you’re used to. There are a lot of food and water stops.
[24:44] There are a lot of spectators for this race, 250,000 people come out to cheer you on. There are organizations along the sides in support of various causes and countries. They had one American section, people from Chicago. There is music everywhere. Drum groups, jazz groups, rock groups. There is music all along the course.
[26:20] Be aware that toilets are not as easy to find at the Paris Marathon as they are at other marathons. When you do see a toilet, use it because you may not see another one for a lot of miles. In some parts of the course there is forest and there were a lot of people, both men and women, relieving themselves in the forest.
[27:60] During the course there are photographers, sometimes there is a sign saying there is a photographer up ahead, remember to look up, pose, do whatever you want to do. Careful not to miss too many of them and put a little distance between you and other runners especially at the finish line.
[30:26] The shirts were a good deal at the Expo, around 25-30€ and if you got 2 you got one free.
[31:14] Tell us about the Finish Line! Going through the finish line is always wonderful. You get the Paris Marathon finisher medal. You’ll see various signs with different shirt sizes, you go to the size you want and you get the shirt. The drinks and food are after the shirts. This area was really congested. You finish at the Arc de Triomphe also, not far from where you started.
[33:20] The metro and buses in Paris are the best he’s ever seen. Efficient, clean (they’re not all like that!) It’s easy to use the Metro.
[34:00] What are some differences between this marathon and others you’ve run? The lack of toilets along the route was a negative, but having so many people from so many countries was great. You may not get your best marathon time because you won’t have a lot of space where you can take-off because there are so many people. It’s a crowded marathon.
[36:00] Tell us about some favorite things you enjoyed in Paris. Mike and his wife didn’t want to leave. The podcast helped (glad to hear that!) It’s important to get tickets that let you skip the line, the lines can be super long otherwise!
[38:50] Get your tickets before you come to France. It’s sometimes intimidating needing to decide what day and what time you want to go do something, but it’ll save you so much time once you’re there! Schedule 2 things for the day, the rest will fill up with coffee breaks and meals and shopping here and there.
[40:40] Bloggers and websites will make all sorts of recommendations for specific bakeries and restaurants, etc. Annie cautions against going a long distance just to go to a specific bakery. Guess what? In Paris there are fantastic bakeries everywhere! You don’t need to go to that one café where somebody famous was spotted! As you walk around Paris you will find good food everywhere! Asking where you can get the best yogurt in Paris is asking the wrong question because there is good yogurt in France period!
[45:35] Was it difficult for you to find food suitable to an athlete’s diet in Paris? No, it’s easy to find an Italian place and go have some pasta. Mike recommends the dinner cruise on Bâteaux Parisiens because the food was great there. Sometimes there weren’t sure what they were ordering, but it always worked out.
[48:30] Everybody was really friendly even though Mike and his wife don’t speak French. Saying “bonjour” goes a long way! Bonjour is the magic word in France. We say “bonjour” to bus drivers and everyone.
[49:41] If you say “hello” in the US the same way you do in France, people will wonder what you’re up to! In America you don’t say hello when you enter into an elevator, but in France you do!
[50:56] Hiring a private photographer in Paris was really nice. The photographer follows you around for 3 hours and they give you the SD card. The photographer does no editing, which saves them a lot of time. This was between 200 € and 300 € for the whole time.
[53:09] In Paris, it’s fun just looking at the cars that are going around. You see a lot of Smart cars and Citroën and Peugeot.
[54:35] The Paris Marathon a great for first-tme marathon runners. The average age is 41. Don’t be intimidated by the size of it. French people enjoy the ambiance at sports events. It’s fun to see everybody getting along.
[60:50] JeFile, the App you need to install to get a spot to walk up the Notre Dame Towers.
The residence of the Mexican Ambassador in Paris as well as the Mexican Embassy
The Movie Studio called Porte des Lilas Cinema
As Mike points out so well in the episode, the Paris Marathon attracts a lot of runners, but it is a great choice for first-time marathon runners because the scenery is so beautiful, the ambiance is great, and it is appropriate for both competitive and “laid-back” marathon runners. Mike also says some really nice things both about the show and Paris in general, so it was a pleasure talking to him!