Start Honfleur. Known as the city of the painters and the home of Impressionism, Honfleur is not only a very pretty harbour town, it is also an important cultural centre. Honfleur was the home of Eugene Boudin who is widely considered the forefather of Impressionism and mentor of Claude Monet. There is a museum dedicated to him in the town which is worth visiting. This will be the opening chapter of the story of Impressionism that we will discover on this trip.
Our first ride is a gentle introduction to the week. The route will guide you along a small coastal road to Trouville. This is another fishing harbour and, like Honfleur, was a favoured meeting place of painters and writers all through the 19th Century. Trouville makes the perfect place for a day trip, a delightful seaside resort it is famous for its many restaurants and cafes where you can feast on delicious seafood. It also has a beautiful beach so you can enjoy a bit of time relaxing and even take a dip. If you don't fancy the ride then you can spend a full day exploring Honfleur.
Today we will leave the coast and follow the Risle valley to the stunning village of Le Bec-Hellouin. The cycling is through idyllic countryside, pretty villages and thatched cottages. Le Bec-Hellouin owes its fame to its religious history. The Abbey there was founded in 1034 by Herluin, who was a knight at the court of Brionne and a Benedictine. The Abbey has had a turbulent history and you will be able to explore this when you arrive, it is close to the hotel and is considered one of the finest Abbey's in Normandy.
The route leaves Le Bec-Hellouin and heads east through a mixture of woodland, open fields and pasture. You will cycle past numerous traditional villages deep in the Normandy countryside, ideal for experiencing a real French lunch. You should arrive at the Seine river in the early afternoon with plenty of time to visit the old Abbey of Bonport. This is another spectacular Abbey founded in 1190 by Richard the Lion Heart. It is said that he nearly drowned in the Siene and vowed that if he made it to 'Bon Port' safely he would build a monastery there.
Today your navigation should be easier as you follow the banks of the river Seine for most of day. You will follow the river up-stream as it weaves its way through the landscape. You will cross the river several times before finally arriving in Vernon, where you will spend the next two nights. The symbol of Vernon is the Old Mill which straddles two piers of the ancient bridge over the Seine. Unfortunately, it is a private property but can easily be seen from the Clemenceau bridge. Vernon is a fascinating and ancient town, with its old streets showing off fine architecture. There is plenty to explore.
Today is free to visit one of the highlights of the trip, Claud Monet's house and gardens in Giverny. It is best to arrive as early as you can to avoid the crowds. Some of Monet's most famous painting feature the gardens that he created for his inspiration and then immortalised on canvas. The house is a museum itself, but in Giverny there is also the Museum of Impressionism which will tie up the story of this artistic movement which we started in Honfleur. Once you have had enough time to explore Giverny you can choose your route back to Vernon taking in some of the most picturesque sights of the Seine environment.