5 getaways outside Paris (and none is Versailles)
After three years focused on touring the endless Paris, I finally launched myself to frantically explore its surroundings. I have discovered magical places, full of small stories or artist shelters, all of them perfect for a half or maybe one day getaway. And above all: away from the crowd and the hordes of visitors of the most touristy Paris. Here is my five favorite findings:
Note: Attention, this list does not include Versailles, sorry. The city of Marie Antoinette has the ability to stress me to unsuspected limits. The cameras of the Japanese, the children screaming (I, instead, would do the same), and the thousands and thousands of people parading through the halls of the palace make me want to run away. We look for something different.
1) Giverny: behind Monet's impressionistic footprints. How many times have I come here? Four, five ... I don't know, but I'll never get tired of imagining that I'm part of the impressionist landscape that inspired Claude Monet. The great painter lived here with his second wife and eight children from 1883 until his death, in 1926. The house, converted into a museum, and the gardens, reveal the artist's dream determined to capture the essence of the landscape under different conditions of light and weather. In the "water garden" he painted his famous series of "Ninfeas" (which can be visited at the Orangerie Museum in Paris) and on the Japanese bridge it is impossible not to be absorbed contemplating the waters that quarreled the painter.
The visit to the tiny village of narrow streets full of flowers and bird music includes the Museum of the Impressionists opened in 1992. And for lunch, nothing like the Baudy Hotel, with its decadent decoration. He used to be frequented by Monet's friends on his visits to the town. Do not miss the backyard with its painter atelier, a true wonder that transports us to a time when everything seemed to revolve around art.
Giverny: Monet's inspiration © Corbis
2) Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, The Castle that inspired Versailles: I confess it, before arriving in Paris, I had never heard of this castle with an elaborate name, but after going through it several times I am a faithful devotee of the palace that served as a reference to Versailles itself. Not surprisingly, the lavish gardens were designed among others by Le Nôtre, the principal author of the Palace of the Sun King.
The castle was built by the Minister of Finance of King Louis XIV, Nicolás Fouquet. The grandeur of the Château de Vaux-Le Vicomte aroused the suspicions of the King, who He considered it too extraordinary to belong to a simple minister. The whim of the unfortunate Fouquet took him to prison, where he would die in 1680.
Currently in private hands, the Château organizes several interesting activities throughout the year: from April to October, the second and last Saturdays of each month, beautiful water shows are organized and in spring a busy picnic is celebrated where attendees are dressed in period.
It is essential to have dinner in the restaurant at one of the tables overlooking the garden. Simply charming and although you miss some care and sophistication in the kitchen, For being here we forgive (almost) everything.
Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte © Corbis
3) The mysterious Abbey of Jumieges and the best site in France. It is true: it is a bit far from Paris (about 120 kilometers), perhaps in the limit of being considered a simple getaway, but I have not been able to resist including it on this list: it is difficult not to be seduced by the romantic and mysterious halo of the ruins of this 7th century abbey.
And just after, gastronomic tribute in the Auberge de Deux Tonneaux. Behind the stove at this Norman restaurant There are no Michelin chefs or pompous culinary awards, but it may be one of the best tables in which I have eaten since my arrival in the Gallic country (and they have been three years now). In this seventeenth-century shelter of a tiny little village lost on the roads of the Normandy green, a convincing meal is served, delicious and at a good price (attention to traditional cocottes). Water it with a glass of cider and if the weather is good, ask for a table on the terrace facing the apple trees. And if it's cold, it's also not bad next to the fireplace, right?
The mysterious Abbaye de Jumieges © Corbis
4) Chantilly, the city of cream. How many times have we not taken this vanilla scented milk cream? The chantillí cream has its origin in the elegant city of the same name, 48 kilometers north of Paris. Like all the great castles in the 17th century, that of Chantilly had a hamlet with cows where the idle ladies of the house and their guests had fun playing "milkmaids" (I do not see the grace but ... it was), one of the hobbies, by the way, of the ill-fated Maria Antonieta.
In one of these experiences a cream of milk is born that would become the envy of the European aristocracy. So, the first objective of the visit is to try it. It is everywhere but we recommend the Auberge Le Vertugadin (44, rue du Connétable), a regional food restaurant, perfect for trying traditional “terrines” with sweet onion chutney in front of a crackling fire, not forgetting, of course, the most typical dessert. Let's not forget a visit to the beautiful castle of the city surrounded by lakes, parks and a forest where is one of the most sophisticated (and a bit sneaky) racetracks in Europe
Chantilly: vanilla and castles flavor © Corbis
5) Auvers-sur-Oise: following the last steps (and pictures) of Vincent Van Gogh: The Dutch painter fell in love with the landscapes that previously seduced Pisarro or Cézanne and, despite his precarious state of health, he settled in a room at the Ravoux pension, where he began a frantic artistic activity (in two months, more than seventy picture). Van Gogh returned here to paint with great enthusiasm as he described his mother:
“I am fully absorbed by these immense plains of wheat fields on a background of hills, vast as the sea, of a very tender yellow, a very pale green, of a very sweet mauve, with a part of carved land, all together with flowering potato plantations; all under a blue sky with white, pink and violet tones. I feel very calm, almost too calm, I feel able to paint all this ”.
However, his depression worsens and on July 27, 1890, at the age of thirty-seven, he shoots himself in the chest with a revolver. He died two days later, in his room at the Ravoux pension. It is still possible to have lunch in the same pension where the artist spent his last days and visit the room he occupied and where he died at the hands of his beloved brother Theo, in addition to visiting the places that inspired the painter (in the places where Van Gogh painted there are explanatory posters). In addition, in the village cemetery you can go on a pilgrimage to the graves of the Van Gogh brothers.
Auvers-sur-Oise: the village of Van Gogh © Corbis