Let’s face it: If you’ve been anywhere in Europe, particularly the smaller villages of France, the thought of spending even a few hours in these beautiful places with a bratty or wild kid in tow can be frightful. All the screaming, the whining, the “I’m bored” statements repeated again … and again … and again can be quiite — let’s just say it mildly — stressful.
I get the hesitation. My wife and I only have one child. He’s now 6 and finishing up kindergarten. But a year and a half ago we began entertaining the idea of making our first big trip with him before he started school. Our original idea was Ireland; I had heard about how friendly and welcoming the Irish are to children. Better yet, there would be no language barrier concerns.
But we didn’t want to go to Ireland. We wanted France. And we wanted France so we could visit places we had not yet been: for me, the Normandy D-Day beaches; for her, Giverny and Monet’s house and beautiful gardens and his awe-inspiring water lillies.
So off to France we headed, with our first overnight in the quaint artist village of Giverny. Romantic? Very much so. But with a child, well …
Giverny is a beautiful village about an hour or so away from Paris along a pleasant enough autoroute. There wasn’t any thinking twice about taking our then 5-year-old son to Giverny. If we were going to Europe as a family, spending an overnight in Giverny was happening. End of story.
My wife, whose favorite artist always has been Claude Monet, was not going to miss out. This would be our third visit to Europe, including second trip to France, and she was determined to not be this close to Monet’s cherished Giverny and not visit.
Visiting the Claude Monet Foundation with a child isn’t that big of a deal. Well, it’s not if the child in question is well-behaved. Our son, well, he can go either way. And on this day, the desire for attention in him settled in quickly.
In all honesty, Colby wasn’t too bad, especially considering we had gone to bed about 11 the night before in London only to wake up that day before 6 for an early-morning train to Paris. So other than a short nap in the car from Paris, he had slept about seven hours the night before. That’s OK for adults; not so much for a 5-year-old.
After checking into the beautiful Les Jardins d’Helene Bed and Breakfast (more on that later), we gathered our tickets for the Claude Monet Foundation, which are included in the charge at most B&Bs in Giverny and drove the short distance to my wife’s heaven on earth.
We arrived pretty late in the day, so the tour buses were beginning to board up for the daytrippers to head back to Paris. Smaller crowds are definitely a good thing when it comes to traveling with children. Stacey went on ahead of us while Colby and I took our time making it from the car park to the water lillies, the main attraction.
There were interesting things to see, like the beautiful flowers and water lillies that inspired Monet:
But what child wouldn’t prefer to just throw rocks in the stream?
He really wasn’t that bad — other than being told by his father to stop running through the gardens 30 times.
It was a struggle to keep him from kicking rocks as we walked back through the garden toward the house, though:
But the gardens were pretty manageable with a child. The house, well, there were a few tight spots in there. Best word of advice is to be in and out quickly.
But then it was off to dinner at the fabulous Hotel Baudy where a table outside is a solid option with kids.
The food here is amazing. The views are spectacular. The restaurant’s employees were so nice to our son. They even did their best to tolerate Colby when he started dancing around the table. He enjoyed cooking his own meal with pebbles, salt and pepper. We didn’t even have to pull out the coloring book we brought along to keep him entertained.
After dinner it was back to the B&B.
A quick word on the inn: It’s peaceful, quiet and I would assume quite romantic. It does bill itself as child-friendly; and I’d say for the most part it is. We had a room that is off the sitting room/parlor/living room that was really a large suite. It had a private room for mom and dad, with a bathroom in the middle and a children’s room with twin beds on the other end of the short hall. The stuffed bears were a nice treat and helped Colby feel at home.
But do be careful with children in a B&B. In many inns there are little decorative items here and there and if the child is really young, those reaching fingers can do some real damage to breakable items. It was a little unsettling at first as we watched the very kind innkeeper following our son around closely as we first arrived. But hey, I get it why anyone would want to follow my son around.
In general, though, we loved the Les Jardins d’Helene. The innkeeper was very friendly. It’s a beautiful spot. If traveling with children the family chamber with its separate bedrooms is perfect.
So is travel to Giverny, France, with children possible? My experience says yes, even with a rambunctious child like ours. Try not to let the little devils run wild. And do educate them a bit on Monet’s work before you go. We did, and that knowledge he had of impressionist work was priceless later in the trip when at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris Colby was able to recognize many of the paintings.