Roughly 15km south of the ancient fortifications of Les Andelys, on the north bank of the river, you come to Monet's house and gardens complete with water-lily pond at GIVERNY (AprilOct TuesSun 10am6pm; last ticket sold 5.30pm, no advance sales; house and gardens €5.50, gardens only €4). Monet lived here from 1883 till his death in 1926, and the gardens that he laid out were considered by many of his friends to be his masterpiece. In fact art lovers who make the pilgrimage here tend to be outnumbered by garden enthusiasts. None of Monet's original paintings is on display most are in the Orangerie and Musée d'Orsay in Paris whereas the gardens are still lovingly tended in all their glory.
You enter the house through the huge studio, built in 1915, where Monet painted the last and largest of his canvases depicting water lilies (in French, nymphéas). It now serves as a well-stocked book and gift shop. A gravel footpath leads to the actual house, a long two-storey structure facing down to the river. Monet's bedroom is bedecked with family photos and paintings by friends and family, while his salon holds further washed-out reproductions. All other main rooms are crammed floor-to-ceiling with his collection of Japanese prints, especially works by Hokusai and Hiroshige. Most of the original furnishings are gone, but you do get a real sense of how the dining room used to be, with all its walls and fittings painted a glorious bright yellow; Monet designed his own yellow crockery to harmonize with the surroundings. By contrast, the stairs and upstairs rooms are a pale blue.
Colourful flower gardens, with trellised walkways and shady bowers, stretch down from the house. At the bottom, a dank underpass beneath the road leads to the jardin d'eau, focused around the narrow water-lily pond. Footpaths around the perimeter, as well of course as arching Japanese footbridges, offer differing views of the water lilies themselves, cherished by gardeners in rowing boats. May and June, when the rhododendrons flower around the pond, and the wisteria that winds over the Japanese bridge is in bloom, are the best times to visit. Whenever you come, however, you'll have to contend with camera-happy crowds jostling to capture their own impressions of the water lilies.
A few minutes' walk up Giverny's village street, the Musée d'Art Américain is an unattractive edifice that hides a spacious and well-lit gallery devoted to American artists resident in France between 1865 and 1915 (AprilOct TuesSun 10am6pm; Nov ThursSun 10am6pm; €5). Some took their admiration of Monet to a point that now seems embarrassing, painting many of the same scenes, but there are some interesting works by John Singer Sargent, Winslow Homer and, especially, Mary Cassatt.
Giverny's one hotel, the Musardière, stands not far beyond Monet's house at 123 rue Claude-Monet (tel 02.32.21.03.18; €4055); dinner menus in its restaurant start at €22.11. There's also a pleasant little tearoom and restaurant, Les Nymphéas (tel 02.32.21.20.31), opposite the house itself. The nearest inexpensive accommodation is the Hôtel d'Évreux, 11 place d'Évreux (tel 02.32.21.16.12; €3040), in the heart of VERNON, across the river, a fine seventeenth-century town house offering good food and comfortable accommodation. Connecting buses from Vernon's gare SNCF run to the gardens in Giverny.