Aromatic Lavender Fields, Tall Sunflowers & Lily Pads: The Impressionists Come Alive!

The first impressionist exhibition didn’t get any likes from the critics. They thought the paintings looked unfinished and lacked serious themes.

But a little like scrolling through Instagram, Impressionist paintings are enjoyable and easy to appreciate. Take some extra time and you marvel at how they created such amazing scenes with such simple strokes. Van Gogh even painted selfies.

This visit to France turned out to have an impressionist art theme, although that wasn’t the original idea.

First Stop: Giverny & Claude Monet’s Garden

Monet’s house and famous garden are about 45 minutes outside of Paris, an easy and comfortable train ride from Gare St. Lazare. When you arrive, don’t stop at the store in the train station to buy anything because like we did. A linked train of cars waits to take arriving passengers to Monet’s house for 8€ per person round trip. We missed it.

Our mobile plan in the U.S. gives us free texts and data (although at slow speeds) when we’re traveling around the world and inexpensive phone calls. The station has a list of taxis to call but since we were using our U.S. phone numbers, we had to figure out how to make an international call to Spain. It was frustrating, time-consuming and the taxis cost us 30€ round trip.

Claude Monet’s house and garden was one of the motivations for this vacation. You’ll see the garden’s wide variety of flowers and the pond filled with lily pads, and experience the same views Monet painted!

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The highlight of this blog post is the photo below! I stepped into a prohibited area for a quick photo. I was worried about a guard catching me but it wasn’t necessary. The bird above gave me a subtle message to get out!

Hahaha I made it out with just a warning!

The restaurants in the area surrounding Monet’s house are expensive and have a limited menu, so we returned to Giverny, which has a lot of nice restaurants. We bought lunch at a bakery and at a supermarket and enjoyed it in a park.

Aix-en-Provence: Cezanne, Renoir and Van Gogh

Aix-en-Provence is one of the recommended places to base yourself for a visit to this stunning region.

Cézanne’s house and studio was just a 10-minute drive from our hotel in the middle of town. This wasn’t on the original agenda but my Insta-friend Mai (www.instagram.com/lotus_jazz) told us not to miss it. She was right!

Here you can walk the unsculptured terrain around his home but the highlight is his studio on the second floor. You don’t have to worry about crowds here. We bought the tickets and were able to go up 15 minutes later, since they limited the number of people in the studio. His studio is just one room, with this wall-sized window to light his still life subjects. There’s also an emotional letter he wrote to his friend and mentor, Claude Monet, about his return from Paris to Provence to care for his ailing mother. There’s an English translation right next to the original.

Unfortunately our stay in Aix-en-Provence wasn’t long enough for a visit to Renoir’s home or to Arles, a town that has easels in the exact spot where Van Gogh painted! I mention them here in case you’re planning a similar trip.

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We also visited the lavender fields (read my post to learn the truth!) and sunflower fields of Valensole. These fields were the inspiration for so many impressionist paintings.

A post shared by Aixa (@muchospanish) on There are many other places in France to get the impressionist experience but my other motivations for the trip were to see the lavender field I mentioned above and to visit the L’Occitane company store and museum.

Museum D’ORSAY In Paris

If you begin or end your visit in Paris, your impressionist vacation requires a visit to the famous Museè D’Orsay. We came here first because our vacation was going to end in Barcelona, but to see this at the end would have been better.

Did You Read My Post About The Lavender Fields?

Aixa-en-Provence: Instagram Myth Breakers In The Lavender Fields! Goodbye FOMO

Aixa-en-Provence: Instagram Myth Breakers In The Lavender Fields! Goodbye FOMO

Warning: this is an Instagram myth breaker post. If you love your feelings of FOMO, then do not read any further.

Two years ago driving to Nice in the south of France, I saw signs for Aix-en-Provence and thought, I have to visit this town named after me! Two years later, here I am. It’s also near the home of my favorite store, L’Occitane (the full store name is L’Occitane en Provence).

The factory is here, the official company store and even a museum dedicated to the history of this company that so many women love!

Provence is such a beautiful region, full of flowers and herbs and some of the most picturesque towns you will find anywhere on earth. If you know where to drive, you will pass rolling lavender fields!

The best time to visit the lavender fields is from the last week in June to the first or second week of July. Harvest is a little earlier because of the heat.

Hundreds of people go to the fields every day to take their Instagram photos. Some go with organized day tours and others go on their own… but remember, this is private property. Even the organized day tour companies don’t get permission from the owners, although the guides make sure you don’t damage any of the lavender.

Instagram Myth Breaker No. 1

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Instagram is full of photos like mine, rolling purple hills of lavender fields and women with a bunch of fresh-picked lavender in one hand. They buy these lavender bunches and bring them to the fields for the photo. I didn’t think that far ahead, though, and when I saw someone else get off the bus with hers, I knew I should have put more thought into this.

I walked into a row of lavender ready to be harvested, the bees buzzing all around me, and I started to pose, I saw a bunch of lavender that someone else left behind. Look at the color in the photo: it doesn’t even match! And there’s a rubber band around the stems.

Instagram Myth Breaker No. 2

If I did try to pick this lavender, I would have gotten dozens of bee stings. The lavender at the point that it’s ready to be harvested, is full of bees. None of these women there in the fields is so infatuated with the beautiful flower in the moment the photo is being taken.

Other fields have blotches of yellowish wheat mixed in and this is to make the fields less attractive to Instagrammers, like this field below.

My photo below in this mixed field is interesting because of the snails climbing on the lavender. They come after it rains.

Instagram Myth Breaker No. 3

There are two types: Lavender and lavandine. Lavender is lighter in color and has less of an aroma. Lavandine is a hybrid, has a much deeper purple color and a much stronger aroma. They serve different purposes but the point here is that those deep purple colors in your favorite Instagrammer’s photo are saturated with an app. Even lavendine isn’t hat deep a shade of purple.

So why do such a fake stunt?

Instagram has millions of photos like mine. I met a Brazilian woman named Mariani in the fields. She’s a doctor and was in Provence for a conference. She didn’t think of bringing a bunch of lavender either, so I lent her mine when I was done with my photos. We both love lavender and we’re part of the L’Occitane cult. We both wanted the chance to see some lavender fields and go home with some photos.

Photo licensed for free use

Anyway, the impressionist painters like Van Gogh and Cezanne thought the fields were worth paining.