Paris Day Trips & Excursions
The royal palace at Versailles is what this delightful city just outside Paris is deservedly most famous for. The chateau is one of the finest examples of French 17th-century grand architecture and is an awe-inspiring sight. In fact the whole town is a shining example of architecture from the period and many buildings have been fully restored to their former glory. The church of Notre Dame in particular is a beautiful structure created by Louis XIV's own architects.
However all this is mere furnishing to the grand palace that dominates the town. Built at the instigation of Louis (the proclaimed "Sun King") the palace was home to the royal family from 1682 until 1790. It's a sumptuous complex of gardens and grandiose buildings that takes literally hours to explore.
Mont St Michel:
Almost a kilometre off the Brittany coast, Mont St Michel is an amazingly atmospheric and unique place. When the sea is at low ebb you can easily walk to the tiny village along a causeway. When the tide comes in however, almost a kilometre of sea up to 14m deep separates the enclave from the mainland.
The village itself is a Gothic maze of staircases and wynds that progress up to the towering edifice of the abbey church. Although added to over the years it was the church that formed the original settlement of the mount, with the construction of a monastery in the 10th century. The town's defences are similarly spectacular and include towers and ramparts dating from various periods over the last millennium.
80km west of Paris lies Chartres with its massive Notre Dame cathedral (dwarfing the dimensions of its namesake in Paris). The current cathedral dates from the 13th century and is a splendid example of Gothic architecture at its most magnificent.
The cathedral is home to the sacred relic of the Sainte Chemise, a garment of the Virgin Mary, and the nave still retains the labyrinth that the penitent pilgrims who came to see the relic walked round as they prayed. However, Chartres's history goes back even further than that of its cathedral. There is evidence of a Roman settlement here and the druids held their arcane rituals where the cathedral now stands. Wandering the narrow streets of the old town will reveal many fine examples of medieval architecture as well as more modern half-timbered buildings dating from the 15th and 16th centuries.
Around 70km south and west of Paris lie the most north-easterly reaches of the Loire Valley region. This massive expanse is liberally dotted with the finest chateaux in France. These examples of Renaissance architecture are remarkably well-preserved and the most famous draw thousands of visitors each year.
The best examples are the castles at Chambord and Chenonceau although Anet and Chateaudun are a lot closer to Paris. Even older, ruined fortresses and grand houses are interspersed among these sumptuous palaces as well, making it a remarkably rich area to explore.
Just 75km from Paris, Giverny is a totally separate world from the massive metropolis. The tiny town is a picturesque rural idyll in its own right although visitors tend to flock here for another reason - Claude Monet. The impressionist artist spotted Giverny when passing in 1883 and immediately moved his family into a farmhouse in the village.
He remained there until he died - and it was the garden of the house that was the subject of most of his paintings in the latter years of his life. Nearby lies the water garden that Monet created, and which was the subject of his most famous painting, Waterlilies. The garden and the house can still be visited and it is easy to imagine the artist being inspired by the lush richness of the flora here.
A medieval town, Rouen was for a long time a bone of contention between the English and the French - changing hands a few times in the two nations' many squabbles. Now it is a delightful settlement of half-timbered houses, steeped in history.
The most famous incident in the city occurred in 1431 when Joan of Arc was tried, condemned and burned at the stake in the town. Several museums commemorate the town's bloody history including one dedicated to Joan herself. The city's Notre Dame cathedral was extensively rebuilt after being horrendously damaged in World War Two. Rouen is an hour and a half's drive north-west from Paris.
It doesn't really need much introduction. Disney's first theme park in Europe is just as impressive as the American equivalents, and just as packed with the usual Disney characters, rides and attractions. The trademark Disney Castle at the park was allegedly built bigger than any other in the world because of the competition of the real castles nearby.
Children and adults alike will love the parades and cartoon pageantry as much as ever and the French have even managed to instill the park with an air of gallic chic that is quite palpable to the visitor. It is possible to get a good meal here rather than the usual limp hotdogs and flat soft drinks of theme park cuisine, and the mouse even keeps a pretty good selection of wines to accompany the fine food.
This sumptuous Renaissance palace to the south of Paris was a favourite hunting lodge of French kings in its day. Napoleon also sojourned here. The little Corporal's apartments have now been restored and are a feature of a tour of the palace and its grounds.
The surrounding forest makes a beautiful backdrop to the magnificent grandiosity of the architecture and it is easy to conjure up images of the royal hunts that must have ridden from the palace at one time. The nearby town of Barbizon is considered an artistic centre - Millet, Daubigny and Robert Louis Stevenson were just a few of the famous names that inhabited the town at one time.
Suzain Allen is a travel consultant and she has years of experience in travel industry. She in now sharing her views about river cruise in Paris.
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