Join Odyssey Traveller as we follow French Impressionist master Claude Monet (1840-1926) through his beloved places in France on this 20-day tour. This programme will include visits to Monet's hometown Le Havre, his favourite resort retreats in the historic Normandy region, the museums that hold his famous water lily and wisteria paintings in Paris, and a stroll through his garden in Giverny, a beloved sanctuary that Monet himself has proclaimed his “most beautiful masterpiece".
This fully escorted tour features an Odyssey Program Leader and a handful of local guides who will discuss Impressionism, Monet's life and relationships, and how his unique techniques and art philosophy ushered in a major art movement in Europe.
The Birth of Impressionism
A seminal work in the history of Impressionism is Monet's Impression, Sunrise (French: Impression, soleillevant, 1872) which depicts a harbour in his hometown, Le Havre. As it is an impression, the painting does not have clear silhouettes. Monet instead chose to focus on the sunrise’s reflection on the water, adding vague forms in the background.
This is a radical break from French conventional art practices, at a time when painters adhered to the tastes of the Paris-based Académie des Beaux-Arts (Academy of Fine Arts) which favoured realistic styles and historical, mythological, or allegorical subject matters. They also emphasised painting in the studio, away from the outside world, and curated the annual Salon, a major exhibition for French and foreign painters.
A band of artists, which included Monet, got tired of the rigid rules of academic painting and decided to break from tradition by painting outdoors (en plein air) to capture nature, depicting common scenes, and focusing on light, movement, and fleeting impressions instead of static, realistic portrayals. His Impression, Sunrise appeared in the group's first exhibition.
Journalist and critic Louis Leroy derisively called the group the “Impressionists” after Monet’s painting. He wrote, “Wallpaper in its embryonic state is more finished than that seascape.” Despite the harsh criticism, the group used the name for themselves.
The critics--and perhaps even Monet himself--would not have foreseen that it was the start of the artist's incredibly long and successful career, and that the same Academy that first shunned his paintings would establish Fondation Claude Monet in his honour.
Indicative Tour Highlights
Among the proposed tour highlights are:
- Le Havre - where we will see the exact spot where Monet sat to paint the canvas that would become Impression, Sunrise
- Musée Marmottan Monet - which houses the single largest collection of Monet's paintings, displaying more than 60 of his masterpieces, as well as numerous works by Impressionist painters.
- Musée de l’Orangerie - which holds the famous Water Lilies series, forming a 91-metre long installation
- Musée D'Orsay - which houses a large collection of Impressionist paintings and French art
- Monet's Garden in Giverny - carpeted with thousands of flowers planted in rows and grouped according to colour, not unlike an artist’s palette, with the ethereal water lily garden across the road, this is the garden that preoccupied Monet for the final 33 years of his life. The explosion of colours in the Clos Normand (Norman Enclosure) and the play of light and reflections in the water lily garden inspired him to create 250 paintings depicting various aspects of his beloved sanctuary, including the famous Water Lilies series.
This tour is designed to loop back to Giverny and Paris, allowing us to return to the Giverny Garden and the museums a second time, now armed with more knowledge and able to see Monet's garden and paintings with a new perspective.
For more details, click the ‘Top 5’ or ‘Itinerary’ buttons above! If you’re keen to experience this tour, please call or send an email. Or, to book, simply fill in the form on the right-hand side of this page.
Odyssey Traveller organises small-group tours that include a stop at Monet’s colourful house and garden in Giverny: the Western Europe Treasures and Gardens tour and French History by Rail tour. Click here for all other tours to France.
All of these tours are especially designed for the active senior traveller. Just click through to see the itinerary and sign up!
We also regularly publish articles on history and travel. The following articles will help you get ready for your Monet tour:
Overview: Upon arrival in Paris, we make our own way to our hotel. The Odyssey Program Leader will greet the group and the rest of the day is free until we meet again in the evening for our welcome dinner.
Overview: We will be staying in a centrally located Paris apartment, with easy access to the metro. We will take the metro to the Musée Marmottan Monet, which houses the single largest collection of Monet’s paintings. We will be treated to a discussion that will introduce Claude Monet and his family to us, as well as his early years as an artist.
Overview: Today we will have discussions on Monet and Impressionism, and his decades-long friendship with the French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau (1841-1929), supported by our visits to Musée D’Orsay and Musée de l’Orangerie. These two museums have become part of the same publicly administered establishment since June 2010.
Monet’s friendship with the former Prime Minister, nicknamed the ‘Tiger’ of French politics, was in many ways an unlikely one, given that Monet had never had much interest in politics and apparently had never voted. But Clemenceau and Monet had known each other since they were young men in Paris in the 1860s, shared a passion for gardens and cars, and Clemenceau had been a supporter of the Impressionists when their art had been controversial. Monet donated the Water Lilies panels to France through Clemenceau, but decided not to part with the paintings until after his death. The Water Lilies installation is housed in Musée de l’Orangerie, and other Impressionist paintings can be found in Musée D’Orsay.
Overview: Today we will be travelling from Paris to Giverny to view Monet’s beloved garden and water lily pond that inspired his famous paintings.
Monet’s garden in Giverny spans more than two acres, divided by a road that used to be railroad tracks connecting Vernon and Gisors. On one side of the road in front of the artist’s restored pink stucco house with green shutters is the Clos Normand (the Norman Enclosure) with flowers planted in rows and grouped according to colour, not unlike an artist’s palette. Across the road is the ethereal water lily garden, a pond with a bridge painted green instead of the traditional red colour used in the Japanese bridges that inspired it, framed by wisteria, bamboos, maple trees, and Japanese peonies, with nymphéas (water lilies) dotting the pond.
We will explore the area and learn more about the artist and his home life. On our way back to our hotel, we will take a stop at Argenteuil on the banks of the Seine before returning to our hotel. Monet lived and painted in Argenteuil with his family from 1871 to 1878, where he had a rented house with a garden.
Overview: Today is our free day to spend in Paris. Use this time to relax or explore the city!
Overview: Today we will travel from Paris through the French countryside to reach Monet’s hometown, Le Havre. Le Havre has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list since 2005. We will have a tour of the town and see the harbour that Monet painted in his famous Impression, Sunrise.
Located on the Normandy coast, Le Havre was bombed heavily during World War II and was subsequently rebuilt by Belgian architect Auguste Perret.
One site that somehow survived the bombing is the 16th century Cathédrale Notre-Dame, the oldest building in the town centre, which we will visit today. We will also visit Le Havre’s cultural centre and famous 20th century architectural landmark, Le Volcan.
Overview: We continue our exploration of Le Havre. Among our stops are the André Malraux Museum of Modern Art or MuMa Le Havre, the postwar church Église St-Joseph, and the hilltop Jardins Suspendus (Hanging Gardens).
Overview: From Le Havre we travel four kilometres for a stop at Sainte-Adresse, where a young Monet stayed in 1867 in the home of his aunt, Sophie Lecadre. Here Monet continued painting seascapes: Sainte-Adresse, The Beach at Sainte-Adresse, and Regatta at Sainte-Adresse. Its Chapelle Notre-Dame des Flots is dedicated to those lost at sea.
We push on to Etretat, a fashionable French resort town developed in the 19th century. It was a favourite holiday destination by the Parisians, and continues to be popular among tourists today. The picturesque resort, framed by incredible white cliffs, drew Monet and other Impressionists to its shoreline. Monet lived here in 1868 and returned to it several times in subsequent years. We will settle in our accommodation and enjoy a dramatic view of the sunset by the beach.
Overview: Today we will see the main sights of Etretat, which include the Etretat Gardens; Le Clos Lupin, home of author Maurice LeBlanc who created the literary gentleman burglar, Arsène Lupin; and Château des Aygues, the former summer residence of the Queen of Spain. Of course, we will continue to enjoy a view of Etretat’s white cliffs.
Overview: Today we take a trip to another coastal town, Dieppe, where Monet painted its cliffs. Dieppe was an important French port in the 16th century and was fought over by the English and the French in the Hundred Years’ War. It became a popular beach resort among English and French artists, including Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Gauguin, Oscar Wilde, and Virginia Woolf.
In Dieppe, we will have a tour of Château-Musée, a clifftop medieval castle turned museum. Offering panoramic views of the town, Château-Musée was largely built after the English had been pushed out by the French at the end of the Hundred Years’ War. The castle now holds collections of Impressionist paintings, as well as exhibitions that speak to the town’s long involvement in maritime trade, including one of the largest collection of ivory carvings in France.
We will enjoy dinner at a seafood restaurant at the Dieppe harbour before heading back.
Overview: Today is a free day to spend in Etretat.
Overview: From Etretat, we will transfer to Honfleur, where Monet lived in 1864 and painted Rue de la Bavolle, Honfleur. England and France took turns occupying this strategic trade port throughout the Hundred Years’ War in the 14th to 15th centuries. Its picturesque harbour (Vieux Bassin, “old dock”) dates back to the 17th century and has inspired many artists.
Honfleur-born painter Eugène Boudin persuaded Monet, then only 18, to try his hand at painting landscapes, and might have also influenced him to make Honfleur his temporary home. Today, we will be visiting the Boudin Museum and Sainte-Catherine church, the largest wooden church in France, and take a walk around the harbour and the town centre.
Overview: From Honfleur, we will travel to Rouen, whose Gothic cathedral inspired Monet’s 31-canvas Rouen Cathedral series. Painted between 1892 to 1894, Monet painted the cathedral’s facade over and over, using smaller strokes and focusing on composition, colour, and the effects of light. Painting in a room across the square from the cathedral, Monet later reworked these canvases in his studio in Giverny.
Today, we will visit the cathedral that inspired Monet. The Rouen Cathedral has the tallest church spire in France and is an impressive example of Gothic architecture.
Overview: Rouen is as vibrant as the cathedral and Monet’s series of paintings. Its history is entwined with that of medieval English history. Invaded by the Normans in the 9th century, Rouen fell under the English crown following the Norman Conquest of England. It was captured by France in the early 13th century, and suffered through the Hundred Years’ War (it is here where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake) and the Wars of Religion. Today, we will spend time to explore its historic quarter and main sights. We will also be visiting Rouen’s Musée des Beaux-Arts, which holds the second-largest collection of Impressionist works in France.
Overview: Today is a free day in Rouen.
Overview: Having seen and learned the histories of the places that inspired Monet, we begin our loop back to the start of our tour.
We will travel from Rouen to Giverny, and enjoy a second visit to Monet’s home and garden. We will stop at Argenteuil, and return to Paris for the night.
Overview: Today we will return to the Musée de l’Orangerie and Musée D’Orsay to gaze once again at Monet’s paintings.
Overview: Today we return to the Musée Marmottan Monet.
Overview: Today we have the day to spend at our leisure. In the evening we meet again as a group for our farewell dinner.
Overview: The end of breakfast marks the end of the tour and our services.
What’s included in our Tour
- 20 nights hotel accommodation.
- 20 breakfasts, 2 lunches, and 10 dinners.
- Touring by comfortable modern coach
- Transport and field trips as indicated.
- Applicable entry fees and services of local guides.
- Services of a Tour Leader.
- Gratuities and necessary tips.
- Detailed tour information booklet.
What’s not included in our Tour
- Return international airfares and departure taxes.
- Comprehensive travel insurance.
- Items of a personal nature such as telephone calls and laundry.