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Day Trips and Excursions from Paris
Versailles

Many tours are available for ½ day. It is much cheaper and more interesting to "do it by yourself". Take the RER Train C5 to Versailles Rive Gauche station, from which there's a shuttle to the chateau.

Versailles is about 15 miles from Paris and the palace is the sight of a lifetime. It's an unbelievably vast and elaborate jewel-box built by the kings of France. The palace is divided into sections - one including the famous Hall of Mirrors where the Treaty of Versailles was signed. Another section is the Museum, and finally the Grand Apartments where you'll see the apartments of Madame de Pompadour and the great salons.

During the Revolution, Versailles was "sacked" by the rebels. Gradually, the French Government has been able to recover many of the original furnishing.

The Park surrounding the palace is the ultimate in landscaping. Every tree, shrub, flower, and hedge is placed to blend with the great fountains, lakes, steps, and statues.

This palace is the most crowded tourist attraction in France. It has ceased to be an enjoyable visit. Even the vast plaza in front of the palace will be totally full of people and tour buses. And there are not enough toilets.


Giverny: Monet's home and gardens

Take the train from Gare St. Lazare to Vernon... about 30 minutes. When you exit the train station, go to the bus stop just outside. The only bus stopping here will take you to Monet's Gardens. Driver speaks English. Daily except Mon 10-12, 2-6.

Monet designed the gardens around his home and studio and constantly used them as subjects for his paintings. Everything has been brought back to its former glory... the willows, the water lilies, the Japanese Bridge, the boat, and the flower gardens around the house. If you know his paintings, you'll see them come to life here.

The house has also been restored and is well worth a visit... especially the dining room and the kitchen. His large, separate studio has been turned into the gift shop. Before leaving Paris, check the train schedule carefully. All trains going in this direction do not stop at Vernon. Check also, the return schedules before you leave the station to go to the gardens.


Rouen

Take the train from Gare St. Lazare... about 1 hour. It is possible to stop at Monet's home and then continue by train to Rouen during the same day. Rouen Cathedral is a famous gothic cathedral that was consecrated in 1063... and was painted at every time of the day in all types of lighting by Monet in one of his great series of paintings. It has a famous carillon of 56 bells. The Church is about 1 mile from the train station and an interesting walk. Place du Vieux Marche is the square where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in 1431. It's about 1½ miles from train station... and is a modern church, which stands on the spot of the burning. Musee des Beaux Arts is an outstanding small museum... Ingres, Delacroix, Renoir, David, and of course Monet. Tower of Joan of Arc is the tower where St. Joan was imprisoned.


Malmaison

10 miles from Paris. Take the RER from Auber or l'Etoile to La Defense Station, and then take bus #258 at the station exit to the Chateau Malmaison stop. The Chateau is built on the grounds of what used to be a leper colony and was originally home

To Josephine and Napoleon. It's a charming chateau with manicured gardens, and the home Josephine retired to after Napoleon divorced her, and the place where she died. You'll see most of the original furniture as well as David's famous painting of "Bonaparte Crossing the Alps". One is required to take a guided tour in the palace. Unfortunately, the tour is in French. Tip the guide. Daily except Tuesday... Closes at lunch.

Note: Be sure that the 258 bus you get on goes all the way to the chateau, some go only part way. Ask the driver to be sure. Get off at the Le Chateau stop. This will take about 20 min. Cross the road, and walk about 100 m back the way the bus came (You will pass the bus stop for going home). Then turn right and follow the signs for the chateau. A 5 - 10 minute walk to the front.


Fontainbleu

40 miles from Paris. Take the train from Gare de Lyon... 1 hour.Exit the train station and buses are to your left and run to the chateau every 15 minutes..10 minutes. Many consider this palace more appealing than Versailles. Much of it dates from Henry IV and Louis XIII, from the 13 - 16th centuries. Napoleon made his farewell speech to his troops here, and signed his first abdication. The grounds and the chateau are quite beautiful. You'll be able to see most of the palace. It's planned for self-guided tours. Take a picnic lunch and eat on the grounds. The nearby village of Barbizon was a famous artist's colony. Open daily except Tuesday from 10-12:30 and 2 - 5. Note: Most trains stop at Fontaineblue Forest and then a few minutes later stop at Fontaineblue/Avon. Do not get off at the Forest stop - or you'll be in an unpopulated area. Get off Fontaineblue/Avon.


Chartres

60 miles from Paris. Take the train from Gare Montparnasse, almost every hour... trip takes about 1 hour. One visits Chartres for the magnificent Chartres Cathedral. This 13th century Romanesque-Gothic Cathedral with spires, flying buttresses and sculpture is one of the world's greatest churches and is the 3rd largest in the world. Its stained glass is un-rivaled. The towers are open from 10-11:30, 2-6.


Chateau tours

One, two, three and more day tours are available from Paris. The longer tours can be booked in advance. There are 3-day chateau tours which include hotels and food.
About the Author
Author of this article is Gene Gill. For more information visit his website: Gene Gill Miniatures.
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