It was this region which gave the movement its name (after Monet's celebrated painting in Le Havre). It was within easy reach of Paris and its magnificent views over the sea and enchanting villages and small ports attracted most of the Impressionists who went there and worked ( Boudin, Seurat, Monet, Corot, Jongkind, Sisley, Courbet, Bazille, Daubigny, Renoir, Morisot, Degas, Millet, Pissarro, Dufy )
One can readily recognise nowadays most of the places where the Impressionists set up their easels and understand how they translated the light and scenery to their canvases which became famous all over the world and which have changed our own way of looking at the world. Now and again you will catch a glimpse of the evolution of that late 19th century new industrial world which they loved to paint, giving it a spellbinding beauty, but which can also invite us from time to time to meditate on the 21st century.
We recommend you set aside a couple of days to explore this region. A sample four day itinerary is set out below, which combines Giverny and Normandy.
From Paris drive through the Seine Valley and the villages where Monet lived before settling in Giverny. On arrival in Giverny, you could have a light lunch at the Auberge Baudy, dating from the 19th century and closely linked to the artistic life of Giverny (Monet, Renoir, Rodin, Sisley, Pissaro - and where the gardens are worth a visit as well as the 19th century painter's workshop).
In the afternoon visit of Monet's garden and his home at Giverny before driving to Honfleur, a centre most favoured by painters from the Romantics to the Impressionists, and subsequently the Pointillists and Fauvists.
Evening in Honfleur.
Walk around Honfleur where you will understand why there is a popular saying: "If you come to Honfleur, you'll catch the local illness and feel the need to paint!"
Visit of Musee Eugene Boudin (one of the most important Impressionist precursors).
Lunch at the Ferme Saint-Simeon, between 1825 and 1865 the meeting place of Courbet (the artist who gave birth to L'ecole de Honfleur, the direct origin of Impressionism), Bazille, Monet and many others. Ferme Saint-Simeon is now a Relais-Chateau Hotel restaurant overlooking the estuary.
After lunch a short drive to the coast to stroll around Deauville and Trouville, two resorts much favored and painted by the Impressionists.
Back to Honfleur for the evening.
Drive across the Pont de Normandie and into Le Havre (the town site and port were declared World Heritage in 2006), where Monet, who lived here from the age of five, painted the view overlooking the port, giving the work a simple title - "Sunrise Impression". The name was subsequently given to the whole movement. After a visiting Musee Andre Malraux, drive along the coast to Etretat and Fecamp.
Evening in Rouen.
Between June and September there is a magnificent laser-light show at 10 pm, bringing Monet's paintings of the cathedral to life.
IMPRESSIONISM: GIVERNY AND NORMANDY
FOUR DAY ITINERARY
In the morning walk through Rouen finishing at the Musee des Beaux Arts - arguably claims the finest collection of Impressionist paintings outside Paris.
For lunch try La Couronne, one of Rouen's most celebrated restaurants situated in a 14th century building. Authentic Normandy cuisine in a remarkable setting. (Past customers include Sophia Loren, John Wayne, Salvador Dali, Maurice Chevalier, Jean-Paul Sartre - and Princess Grace of Monaco!)
After lunch you can drive or take the fast train back to Paris.