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GIVERNY, France (Reuters Life!) - Although it is only an hour from Paris, Giverny, the village where Impressionist artist Claude Monet lived and worked, is a world away from the French capital.
With its tranquil country lanes, ivy-covered stone houses, rolling hills and the lush gardens Monet created next to the house where he lived for 43 years, the village offers a calm respite from the busy streets of Paris.
Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most out of a 48-hour visit to the French village that was at the center of the Impressionist movement.
6:00 p.m. - Giverny is a small hamlet but there are a variety of places to stay including a two-star hotel La Musardiere (www.lamusardiere.fr/giverny), chambre d'hote, or bed and breakfast accommodation, and holiday homes known as gites, which can be rented by the week or for shorter stays.
7:00 - After unpacking and relaxing, take a walk through the lanes to get a feel of village life after the busloads of tourists and day-trippers from Paris have left.
For antique lovers L'Echoppe, a tiny shop on the Rue Blanche Hoschede-Monet is open until 7:30 p.m. during the summer season (email@example.com).
Stroll down Rue du Colombier to No. 7 to see the Maison Rose, which was the home of the dancer Isadora Duncan and the artists Vaclav Radminsky and William Howard Hunt. Further up at No. 5 is where Theodore Butler, an American Impressionist painter who married two of Monet's stepdaughters, lived.
9:00 p.m. - Depending on your budget and appetite, Giverny offers different options for dinner. Try local specialties such as crepes, at La Musardiere, which serves dinner under a red and white striped awning on a terrace overlooking a garden. The family-run restaurant and hotel was built in 1880.
11:00 p.m. - Have an early night to be rested and refreshed to beat the crowds during a morning visit to Monet's house and gardens.
8:30 a.m. - Wake up early and enjoy a typical French breakfast of juice, coffee or tea and croissants and French bread before heading to Monet's house and gardens to see them at their best in the morning light.
9:30 a.m. - The house and gardens on 84 Rue Claude Monet in the center of the village is run by the Fondation Claude Monet (www.fondation-monet.com). It is open from April 1 to October 31 from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. A combined entry fee also allows visitors into the Impressionist museum down the street.
Morning is a good time to get a first glimpse of the lush gardens. Amble through the walled Norman Garden, which is tended by nine gardeners and looks much as it did during Monet's time. Cross the Japanese bridge spanning the water lily pond. Visit the studio where Monet painted giant canvasses of water lilies "Nympheas," which he donated to France and are now on display in the Musee de l'Orangerie in Paris.
Walk through Monet's house and see the bedroom where he died in December 1926.
1:00 p.m. - After leaving the gardens, head down the street to the Musee des Impressionnismes (www.mdig.fr) and have lunch at the Terra Cafe, the museum restaurant. It serves salad, quiche, hot and cold dishes of the day, desserts and wines, both indoors and on an outdoor terrace.
2:00 p.m. - After lunch admire the paintings in the museum which is open daily from April 1 to October 31 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and till 10 p.m. on the first Saturday of June, July, August and September. It features changing exhibits on two floors focusing on French and American artists.
4:00 p.m. - Giverny is still the home of painters. Many have studios along the Rue Claude Monet and welcome visitors into their studios to view and buy their work.
8:00 p.m. - As it was in Monet's Day, the Ancien Hotel Baudy (tel/fax 02.32.21.10.03) seems to be the center of village life. Although it is no longer a hotel, its restaurant, where artists Paul Cezanne, Alfred Sisley and Camille Pissarro and others once dined, still serves a set and a la carte menu of local dishes including steak, fish, fowl and cured ham.
Make sure to have a look at the restaurant bar, which hasn't changed since Monet and his contemporaries drank there, and visit the studio and rose gardens behind the building where artists still paint.
10:00 p.m. - The Musee des Impressionnismes features evening jazz and classical concerts. Check out the schedule to see what is playing (www.musicagiverny.com).
9:00 a.m. - After breakfast head to the western end of the village to explore the stone Church of Saint Radegonde. Monet is buried in a grave marked by a large white cross in the graveyard on the side of the church.
10 a.m.- A bit further on from the church, turn down the Rue aux Juifs to see the medieval part of Giverny with its ancient stone houses with wooden beams.
Back on Rue Claude Monet heading into the village, stop by the Atelier Galerie Letoliacha (tel. 06 13 01 17 09) which features paintings by nine local artists and the Galerie F. Desessard (tel. 06 17 54 34 06) which has framed art miniatures of scenes mainly from the 1940s and 1950s.
Admire the sand sculptures in the front garden next to the l'Equisse Gourmande restaurant at 73bis Rue Claude Monet. Artists Christian Avril and Jean-Pierre Porcher sculpted life-size seated figures of Christ and the Apostles at the Last Supper. There are also seated sculptures of artists including Monet, Sisley and Vincent Van Gogh, among others.
Depending on the weather, the sculptures last about two months, according to the artists. The sand, which contains some clay, is compacted and cut before being sculpted.
12:00 - Stop for a sandwich or snack at one of the cafes and tea rooms that are dotted throughout the village.
13:00 - If you still have some energy, explore the countryside which inspired so many Impressionist painters. There are marked footpaths, including the two of about 5 km (3 miles), that begin near the town hall. The Tourist Information Office opposite the museum can provide information on walking trails.
(Editing by Steve Addison)
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