Escape to Normandy with the Impressionists

Normandy, its beaches, its terroir... and its Impressionist culture. The namesake artistic movement flourished in this region, led by Claude Monet of Giverny, Eugène Boudin, born in Honfleur, and Paul-Émile Pissarro, resident of Lyons-la-Forêt. Explore these hidden landscapes and the places that have inspired many of the paintings on display today at Paris' Musée d'Orsay. A beautiful getaway less than two hours from the French capital.

Climb the heights to La Roche-Guyon

Push open the gates of the Chateau de La Roche-Guyon in the Val-d'Oise, and climb to the top of the keep. As Monet was, you'll be struck by the beauty of the landscape in front of you. On your right, the Seine reflects the greens and golds of the neighbouring forests and fields and traces its furrow towards Normandy. On your left, the white limestone cliff to which the chateau clings curves along the calm river. This is why La Roche-Guyon is one of the most beautiful villages in France! Here, the chateau walls are home to a piece of French history and time seems to have stopped at this auspicious period. And in the cobbled village square or on the banks of the Seine, we can imagine Claude Monet, who lived a few kilometres away, setting down his easel to capture the moment on canvas.

Visit Chateau de La Roche-Guyon (External link) (French only)

Bask in the first sunlight rays at Giverny

The balloon rises slowly in the sky. The surrounding fields are gilded in the morning light, the forests rustle in the breeze. At the bend of a loop of the Seine, your stroll in the footsteps of the Impressionists can take on a new dimension. From Giverny, take a seat in the wicker basket and fly up to admire Monet's house and gardens, the Normandy landscapes that inspired it and the royal chateau of Villarceaux from the air. Once back on land, stroll through the main street of Giverny and take a look in the windows of the art galleries. And why not have lunch at the Jardin des Plumes (External link) ? This charming Anglo-Saxon building combines old-world charm from the beginning of the 20th century with chic contemporary decor.

Fondation Monet, Giverny (External link)

Experience the mystery of Les Andelys

The mist rises over the ruins of Château-Gaillard, a stronghold built in Les Andelys by Richard the Lionheart, a few kilometres from Giverny. Perched on its rocky promontory, the chateau played a major role in the struggle between the French and the English for the conquest of Normandy. At its feet extend the Seine and the charming village of Les Andelys. It was this atmosphere, so mysterious and steeped in history, that inspired painter Paul Signac and prompted him to paint on the banks of the Seine at Les Andelys for a few months in 1886. There, he notably produced 'La Berge', which now hangs in the Musée d'Orsay. This is the perfect place to bridge your Paris visits and your getaway in the footsteps of the Impressionists.

Visit Les Andelys (External link)

Go to market at Lyons-la-Forêt

A beech forest stretching for miles, the heart of a village organised around a medieval hall with solid wood, storefronts of restaurants and shops straight out of the 19th century. Here you are in Lyons-la-Forêt, inland, 40 kilometres from Rouen. It's another of the most beautiful villages in France. Paul-Émile Pissarro, son of painter Camille Pissarro, took up residence here, and it was his famous godfather Claude Monet who designed the garden of his property. This episode in his life inspired him to paint several canvases, acting as snapshots of his life in the Normandy countryside: here, the village church, there, the Mare aux Biches. Such paintings can be found for sale today at the local art market. In the evening, refuel with a meal in the main square before making the last few steps to return to your room at the elegant, half-timbered Hotel La Licorne (External link) .

Visit Lyons-la-Forêt (External link)

Admire the sailing boats on the quaysides in Rouen

White sails flap in the wind along the quay. Every five years, the Armada is the pride of Rouen, a port city that was already renowned in the days of the Impressionists. These painters found an infinite source of inspiration here: sailboats, and the call of the open sea. It's an ideal stopover between Paris and the first Norman beaches, accessed by road or via the Seine. Every summer, the quays come alive with deckchairs and families picnicking on the lawns by the water. Take a tour of the Rouen Fine Arts Museum (External link) .

Visit Rouen (External link)

Tickle your tastebuds in Honfleur

Its port inspired almost all the Impressionist painters. Above the town, at the half-timbered Auberge Saint-Siméon, Eugène Boudin liked to bring them together. From the terrace of [La Ferme Saint-Siméon], now a Relais & Châteaux establishment, you can admire the view of the Seine flowing out towards the Channel, watch the boats and enjoy food with the flavours of yesteryear. Another option is the bistro La Boucane within the same establishment. Then walk the cobbled streets of Honfleur and around its small port. The colourful old houses, huddled together, inspired Boudin, Monet and John Jongkind on numerous occasions.

Visit Honfleur (External link)

End your trip on the beaches of Le Havre

Watch the smoke billowing from the factories in port and the the boats coming and going... in fact, the Le Havre of 2020 isn't all that different from the one Monet, Manet, Pissarro, Sisley and Boudin knew. This is where the founders of Impressionism set up their easels to immortalise the strikes, the Norman houses facing the sea, the boats and the developing factories. It's also one of Le Havre's landscapes that inspired the painting 'Impression, soleil levant' by Monet.

Visit Le Havre (External link)