Another early morning for a French excursion! This time to Amiens, we took the train from Gare du Nord to Amiens, which took about 1h45mins and cost about 30€ return, considering everything we visited in Amiens was free (being under 25 and, for now, a member of the EU).
We headed first for the all important coffee and croissant to start the day right, and then to the Tourist information centre to pick up a map and guide. Then, we visited the Amiens Cathedral, which is a UNESCO World Heritage sight, being the biggest Gothic church in France. It actually looks a lot like the Notre Dame in Paris, inside and outside.
Next we walked down to the Somme river, and walked along the banks to the Quartier Saint Leu, the ‘Venice of the North’ as described in the guide. In the summer, you can take a boat trip to the floating gardens which looks like it would be a great visit, however being November, these visits had finished.
We stopped for a lovely lunch, then headed back through the town centre (via a few shops) to the Maison Jules Verne. This is the house that the author (famous for writing Around the World in 80 Days amongst others) lived for much of his life. The house provides an interesting guide describing the life of Jules Verne, and there is lots to look at including all the different book covers, a replica of his ship, and a map of the Around the World in 80 Days voyage.
After that it was time to get back on the train and head home, leaving time for a cup of tea and another pastry of course!
The Château of Chantilly is fairly easy to get to from central, on either RER line D (45 mins) or the main line train from Gare du Nord (25 mins), then a 20 minute walk to the grounds.
The Château itself is really beautiful, it’s surrounded by a moat and looks like it’s floating – and the still water gives an amazing reflection of the Château. The castle was actually used in the James Bond movie A View to a Kill!
There are also large gardens there, landscaped by the same man as the Palace of Versailles. We spent most of the day wandering around outside along the Grand Canal, and even found some Kangaroos!
One thing I would do in hindsight is remember to bring a packed lunch…There are two restaurants there, which are pretty exclusive and very expensive. We managed to get a table at one of these, where we had apple pie and Chantilly cream, which although delicious was slightly spoiled by the terrible service we received and extortionate prices…
Versailles is probably one of the most impressive and beautiful places to visit on your trip to Paris. It’s about 45 minutes on the RER C from central Paris (you have to buy a separate ticket for the train), then a short walk to the Château entrance. If you get there early the queue to get in is much shorter, but I’ve also read it’s worth getting there and exploring the gardens first and the Château in the afternoon as it’s less busy.
Considering how big it is, you only get to see a small section of the Palace, but the rooms are incredible – the ceilings especially are really beautiful so look up! You also get to walk through the famous Hall of Mirrors from which you get a great view over the gardens, and is also a room that has seen many important historical moments such as the signing of the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I.
The most impressive part however has to be the extensive gardens. You could spend hours wandering around and still not see everything. We had a picnic by the lake, then hired rowing boats. After that we walked over to the Trianon Palace and Marie Antoinette’s Farm which is really adorable. There is a little train which we ended up taking back to the Château as it was really hot and we’d walked far.
Versailles is such a nice day out of Paris, especially in the Summer as you can take time to relax and explore the beautiful gardens.
Having previously visited Versailles, I thought it might be nice to visit somewhere slightly quieter, away from the majority of tourists. To ge tthere you take the RER D from gare de Lyon for 45 minutes, then it is just a short bus ride to the entrance of the Château. This is great for anyone with a Navigo or Paris Visite pass as it is included and you don’t have to pay extra.
Fontainebleau Château is a great visit. It served as a sovereign residence for eight centuries, and each King or Queen has made their own changes and improvements. There is an amazing Renaissance style horseshoe staircase at the entrance to the Château, and inside there is a beautiful Chapel dating back the the Reign of Francis I. The grounds of the Château are also lovely, with lots of courtyards, fountains and lots of trails through the forest (you can get a map of these from the Tourist Information).
Around the Château there are lots of cafés, bistrots and pâtisseries to get your lunch, we had a picnic in the grounds – a great way to get away from the hustle and bustle of Paris.
It happened, I caved in to the lure of Disney and spent the day at Disneyland Paris. Having previously been and hated every moment of my day there, I did not have high hopes, but was pleasantly surprised!
Being a Sunday in late October (and possibly due to half the park being shut for renovation) it wasn’t unbelievably busy which made the day more enjoyable. Queues weren’t ridiculously long meaning we didn’t waste most of the day.
I took a packed lunch so didn’t need to buy any of the overpriced food (which to be quite honest is an absolute joke how much they charge).
Definitely enjoyed my day, and it was so easy to get to on the RER A from central Paris, and despite being above the target age I still had a great day!
So my original plan was that on Sundays I would visit a new city in France, half way through my stay this so far hasn’t worked out. However, eventually I made plans and bleary eyed at 8am on a Sunday morning made it onto a train to Rouen!
The train journey itself was very smooth, leaving from Gare Saint Lazare and going straight through to Rouen in just under 2 hours. I love the older French trains as they still have compartments and it feels a bit like you’re on the Hogwarts Express!
Arriving in Rouen, you can instantly see the charm of the town, with its pedestrianised cobbled streets, lined with brightly coloured half-timbered buildings, a beautifully intricate astronomical clock (from which you get an amazing panoramic view of the city), and of course the Rouen Cathedral.
This makes it a lovely town to wander around. There are 3 Cathedrals in total, a Fine Arts Museum, a small museum inside the Gros Horloge (large astronomical clock) and you can also visit the Tower where Joan of Arc was held for part of her trial. Something also worth a visit is the Joan of Arc Historial, a museum / cinematic experience which takes you through the life and story of Joan of Arc.
So overall, Sunday may not be the best day to visit as most shops are shut and the town was fairly quiet, however it was a great day out with lots of interesting things to see, and a perfect distance from Paris for a day trip.
In order to make the most of my Erasmus year, and my time living in France, I’ve decided to try and get out of Paris on Sundays to explore more of this country! I work on Saturdays but have managed to create a list of places that will make great day trips from Paris!
The first of these day trips was to Provins, a small Medieval city about 1,5 hours from Paris. Provins is composed of two parts, the Medieval Ville Haute, and the Modern Ville Basse. It just so happened the day we went was the day of the Harvest Festival, which worked out very well as the town was really busy, and there were many food and drink stalls and activities.
After spending some time enjoying the festivities with a bottle of Breton Cidre, we walked through the old part of the city (sampling the local produce on the various stalls). The historic part of the town is enclosed in Medieval walls, which you can climb up and walk along, giving you a great view of the surrounding countryside. We also visited le Tour Cesar, the highest point of the city, and the Cathedral.
Provins was lovely, and well worth a visit from Paris, especially if you have the Navigo pass as Provins is in zone 5 and therefore included.
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