|Subject: Re: Giverny vs Versailles|
I missed your original post but saw Sally's. I've been to both (late May 2001) and while I wouldn't like to tell you which one to miss out on, I can tell you my favourite and why :)
I *loved* Giverny :) But I have loved Monet's painted works since whenever it was I first saw that painted bridge! So Giverny was part of a greater pilgrimage for me.
I researched the train times before leaving for Paris (Deutsche Rail web site) so I caught a nice early one and hooked up with the cheap bus that takes you to the gardens. And there's a great web site which gives you an idea of which flowers are flowering when and which days to avoid due to school group traffic http://giverny.org/monet/welcome.htm And another page in that web site gives you transportation information http://giverny.org/transpor/index.htm
If you get there early you beat the crowds (in Summer) and the school groups. Be warned - entry for one person could not be purchased on a credit card so I was lucky I had the cash.
I went straight through the house gardens and under the road through to the water lily and bridge garden. I steadfastly refused to peek around looking for the bridge, and meandered along the path that takes you through the gardens before circling the lake and arriving at the bridge. There were lots of people there even then, all vying for a shot of or with the wisteria on the bridge. Just absorbing the beauty was amazing. The lilies, the irises, ...
Then I headed back to the house gardens as I called them. Beautiful peonies when I was there. The cue to visit inside his home was growing so I jumped on the end. For me the house was a let down although I did know beforehand that none of his painted works were on display - instead his personal collection of others art. I left the house and ate in the garden outside the parking lot :) but wish I'd known then of advice I read later on to walk back to the American Museum (will have to find the reference) for a lovely lunch there. I caught the bus back to the train and trained back to Paris and then headed straight via Metro to the Musee Marmottan (no backpacks allowed but you can store them there; no Visa again), where I went downstairs to marvel at Monet's painted works in the flesh so to speak. Housed in a wonderful round room with comfy chairs to just sit and admire the paintings. Then to the amusement of the guard I went up and bought postcards of almost all of them and came back downstairs to sit and compare all over again. They even have one of his art palettes!
Then a day or two later I went to the Musee d'Orsay to see more Monet! Can you tell I loved it?
Versailles however. I have a friend who would spend a day in Versailles and go back and do it all over again a year later, who wouldn't give Giverny a backwards glance - I think however that my Mum being an avid gardener too means I have a genetic bias towards flowers!
Versailles was easy to get to via the Metro and RER. But I certainly found the palace room touring options confusing - and of course I forgot my Rick Steves self guided tour and advice tips that day. Coupled with walking boots that weren't up to the cobblestones and weary legs after 5 days of non-stop walking Paris in very hot June temperatures I probably didn't give Versailles my best chance.
That being said! I wish I had been there on a Sunday when the fountains are running - it may cost extra but I bet it is worth it. I walked around the gardens first as I had remembered that it was advised to tour the rooms in the afternoon when it is hotter outside, the crowds are usually less, and the sunlight reaching the Hall of Mirrors room makes it even more magical. I walked to the Triannon but that was when my feet were giving up on me so I didn't hire a boat or a bike or tour the Triannon. Instead I came back to the main palace and toured the rooms - I can't recall which combination of A B C or D I bought. The Hall of Mirrors was my favourite - I was trying to speak with one of the attendants there to confirm if they had indeed suffered extensive damage in the grounds with fierce storms leading up to the Millennium celebrations, and if it was indeed the room that had hosted a costume ball Millennium party but no one knew... I suspect that if I had known more before about French aristocratic history (aside from The Scarlet Pimpernel!!!) I might have enjoyed it even more. I think I'd basically been palaced out after touring the Loire too...
So that's my 2c worth - but my friend with an extensive library of books and photos of Versailles would no doubt paint a better picture :) :) Megan Brisbane, Australia - a wonderful 24°C as we almost reach the start of Winter.