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Day-Trips Out Of Paris

 


Here are some interesting day-trips you can take out of Paris. All of them may be reached on public transportation by using a combination of the Metro, RER, train, or bus. Most are also available as guided coach tours out of Paris.

Brittany
Burgundy
Chateau-Thierry and Compiegne
Chantilly
Dijon
Fontainebleau
Loire Valley
St-Germain-en-Laye
Vaux-le-Vicomte
Versailles

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Burgundy

Burgundy is located in the heart of France and is crisscrossed by more than 600 miles of waterways. Take a barge cruise through the region’s lush vineyards or a land excursion through picturesque villages and countryside.

Start in the capital of Burgundy, Dijon. To sample the town’s most famous product, head to the Mustard Museum at the Amora Plant. Dijon is also the historical center for the province; you’ll find an abundance of classic renaissance architecture dotting the town.

 


Versailles...


Quite close to Paris is Versailles, the magnificent palace of Louis XIV. Plan to arrive early in the morning to avoid the worst of the crowds. Pick up an orientation guide and venture into the courtyard and then just wonder around and explore this great place. You can also purchase a guided tour and this is a good way to do it if you would like excellent explanations of the palace and the individual rooms. I actually prefer to visit places such as Versailles on my own after doing some research on the location I am visiting. But sometimes it is enjoyable to hear the interesting stories the guides have to tell. Guided tour or on your own you will enjoy the wonderful architecture, furnishings, and art found throughout the palace. Especially memorable will be the Hall of Mirrors, the Chapel, and Marie Antoinette’s Bed Chamber.

After touring the palace you will want to walk through the wonderful gardens. (By-the-way, you can get a great picture of the gardens from one of the open windows in the Hall of Mirrors.) This interesting garden is just a little different than most you might find as many of the plants are in large pots that can be moved into greenhouses during the winter. Along with the formal gardens you will find woodlands and even a rather large lake. During the summer there are concerts held in the garden area. Check at the information desk for times, prices, and other information.

If you take a coach tour to get there you should be warned that the drivers often drop you off at the side entrance and then go park in the coach park that is located at the front of the Palace. Many of the tours drop you off at the side if it is near lunch time as there is a restaurant located there. However, it is more expensive than the restaurants located around on the other side of the block. So, don’t eat here even though it is where almost everyone eats. The food is not that good and the service terrible. If the driver does drop you off here, just walk down the street between where the restaurant is located and the walls of the palace (around the restaurant to your right) and then turn right where you will find several small cafes. If the driver takes you right into the coach park, look to your right as walk towards the entrance and you will see a small tree-lined street. As mentioned above, this is the best place to get something to eat. There are several little cafes that serve you on tables under the trees. This makes a nice and relaxing place to enjoy lunch or a snack.

If you want a guided tour, enter at Entrance D. However, I believe you can almost best “do” Versailles on your own. I would not take a bus tour to get there or do the guided tour. I would just take the RER Line to the Versailles Rive Gauche station from one of the downtown Paris stations (about every 20 minutes). NOTE: Be sure to purchase your RER ticket before going through the turnstile to the platform, despite the fact that your metro ticket will get you through. Your Metro ticket won’t get you through the turnstiles to exit at Versailles. From the Invalides Metro stop, take trains whose four-letter label begins with V.

Brittany

Brittany is a rocky peninsula that separates the Atlantic Ocean from the English Channel. Until recently, Brittany was quite isolated; its long distance from Paris led to neglect by the rest of the country. The region’s traditional isolation is reflected in the fact that the Breton language is still used extensively.

 

Chateau-Thierry and Compiegne...
To get out into the French countryside you might want to visit Chateau-Thierry which is located on the train line from Paris to Strasbourg. You can visit le Vieux Chateau a fort that is almost better knows as “Thierry’s Castle.” It is filled with archaeological sites (labeled in French so get a guide if you are interested and do not speak the language) and there is a lab at the Hotel-Dieu that has an exhibit about the dig. You would also want to visit the Musee La Fontaine and the Eglise Saint-Crepin. Trains leave from Gare de l’Est.

Another “countryside site” would be Compiegne. Here you would want to visit the Palais National, the Musee de la Voiture, and the Foret de Compiegne where you can find the Clairiere de l’Armistice where the armistice was signed. The Musee de la Figurine Historique, located in the Hotel de Ville, is also worth a visit. Trains run from Gare du Nord.

Loire Valley

Once the stomping grounds of kings and queens, the valley is renowned the world over for its magnificent châteaux. Traverse the spacious grounds of Château de Chambord or marvel at  Château de Chenonceau, which spans an entire river. Visit the charming cities of Blois and Tours, and relive the Hundred Years' War in Orléans. Explore abundant vineyards and savor their sumptuous wines. 

 

Vaux-le-Vicomte...
Although not nearly as large as Versailles, Vaux-le-Vicomte makes an interesting day-trip out of Paris – and, there will be a lot fewer tourists there. The Chateau is sorta’ a combination of French and Roman architecture. Be sure not to miss the dome in the Oval Room. After visiting the house head out to the gardens. Stop a minute for a photo of the impressive panorama from the steps behind the chateau. The gardens, in my point of view, are worth seeing even if you skip the house. Take the train to Melun, a pretty big center on the SNCF (from the banlieue level, Gare de Lyon) The train station is about 6 km from the chateau. You can walk or take a taxi.

Fontainebleau...
Always a favorite composite of decorative and architectural styles. Of course you will visit the Grands Appartements and all of the associated rooms. Here you will be able to really get a feel for French architecture. The same ticket to the Grands Appartements will get you into the Musee Napoleon where you can see everything from Napoleons tent to his toothbrush. If you want to visit the Petits Appartements, the private rooms of Napoleon and the Empress Josephine, you will have to take a guided tour. The Foret de Fontainebleau, although not too well preserved, also make for an interesting afternoon walk. You may also want to visit the Musee Napoleonien d’Art et d’Historie Militaire while you are in the area – for even more of Napoleon.. Hourly trains run to the town from Gare de Lyon, banlieue level. You can walk the short 2km from the station.

St-Germain-en-Laye...
The castle of St-Germain-en-Laye is another interesting place to visit with the interesting Musee des Antiquites Nationals that is located there. Be sure to wander along the garden terrace and enjoy the gardens. You should also visit the Eglise St-Germain which stands across from the chateau. One of my favorite places is the nearby Maison Claude Debussy as is the Musee Departemental du Prieure. If you get a little hungry, try Le Collignon on rue Collignon for some good, tasty, and traditional French food.

Chantilly...
This is one of my favorite “out-of-Paris” destinations. Set in magnificent gardens the Chateau de Chantilly just has to be seen. The place seems to almost grow out of the surrounding forest, lakes, and canals to become a part of the gardens as a carefully-tended part of the landscape rather than a building. Not even Disney could recreate this faux-Renaissance castle! Inside you will find the interesting Musee Conde and the Salle de Gardes. However it is the gardens here that are the real attraction. Get a map and just spend the afternoon wandering. Other places you might want to visit while you are here would be the Grandes Ecuries, an enormous stables, and see the Musee Vivant du Chaval which is located there. While you are in the area, take the bus to the little village of Senlis which is a picture-perfect little place and one of the quaintest and best-preserved villages in the Ile-de-France. You will love walking the cobblestone streets and soaking up the intimate atmosphere. This place is almost like a storybook picture of France. Hourly trains run to Chantilly from Paris’s Gare du Nord.

I hope this gives you a few ideas for things to do when you tire of Paris - If it is possible to do that!

Date this page was last edited: Tuesday, November 18, 2008 14:27:42

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