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Postcards: Versailles and Trianon (FR)

Just about every non-French visitors chez nous had requested a visit to Versailles in their Paris to-do list. Some got the required information on how to get there for a day-trip, some were personally accompanied by yours truly.

On average, I’ve gone out there at least once a year. Each time I came back swearing I’d never subject myself to the cattle-herding system of visiting the palace again, until sufficient time had lapsed and I found myself agreeing to another visit request. I am not learning my lesson very well, am I?



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The elephantile cliffs of Étretat

The July heatwave in Paris became unbearable for a bit, so we escaped to Étretat for a change of scenery and cooler fresh air. Oh it was cooler alright, and the water was actually rather cold that even Frédéric who’s normally a big fan of the sea retreated back to shore after a few minutes snorkel. We also had time to walk both the cliffs that flank the village of Étretat and had a picnic along the way. What a lovely getaway from Paris indeed :)



We started our visit with a walk along the cliff of Amont (la falaise d’Amont), where the smallest of the three natural arches – Porte d’Amont – can be found. From the village, along the sea front, it’s a left turn followed by a set of well-paved stairs to arrive to the foot of the hill that eventually leads to the small chapel of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde.

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Daytrip from Paris: Amiens

I must admit, I didn’t know much about Amiens. In fact, even after visiting the capital city of Picardy, I still have much to learn about it. My daytrip happened very much out of coincidence, suggested by Anne when we were chatting one day while I was searching for an interesting place not far from Paris that I could visit. At that point, I’ve been working on getting myself upgraded from the status of Voyageur to Grand Voyageur with the national train company, SNCF, and I was just a couple of train rides short from making it.

Travel time between Paris-St Lazare and Amiens takes just a little over an hour on the inter-city train, and as the train pulled into the station of Amiens, I could spot the one dominant building in the skyline – the Amiens Cathedral. My plan for the day then was to visit the cathedral, the historical centre of Amiens, and the Hortillonnages. I wish there was a walking tour that I could join, but a quick check on the eve of my visit showed that the sole walking tour available for the months of September to June runs only on Saturday afternoons. Visiting on a Wednesday, I was out of luck.

Amiens train station

Le Carlton

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Daytrip from Paris: Monet’s Giverny

It shouldn’t be any surprise that the main road of the village of Giverny is named after its most famous (former) resident, the Impressionist painter Claude Monet. Afterall, without his fame, it is unlikely that thousands of visitors would flock daily between April and October to the village. He lived here for over 40 years, drawing inspiration from the kaleidoscopic garden just outside his house and the adjacent water lily pond/garden.



The star attractions of the village are undoubtedly Monet’s House and Gardens, and the Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny. Apart from these, the Ancien Hôtel Baudy and the Église Sainte-Radegonde de Giverny are getting considerable attention as well from the visitors, particularly the latter, for the burial site of Monet and his family can be found in the grounds of the church.

In addition, the tourism board has done an excellent job in setting out a trail of cultural walking tour of the Giverny Village. Along this route of approximately 4km (give or take an hour walk), 20 points of interest are identified with information panel planted in front of them. We did try to complete the trail but was unable to do so, as the path parallel to the Aqueduc des Moines had been closed off, most likely for safety reason given the high water level of River Seine in recent months.

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“Short and easy” day-trip (to Mont St Michel)

I am bemused each time I read an article exclaiming that Mont St Michel is a short day trip away from Paris, and this includes Rick Steves’ claim of it being an easy day trip. Maybe, if you are a staunch believer of around-every-country-in-Europe-in-30-days kind of tourism…?

Mont St Michel

Let’s established a couple of basic things here. Given 24 hours in a day, and assuming one gets a good 8-hours sleep, we’re left with 16 hours for all activities in a day. If you need an hour or so to get ready in the morning – shower, personal grooming, breakfast (and coffee!) – now we’re down to 15 hours available for the day to play tourist etc.

The Mont St Michel is a beautiful site and I highly recommend it to anyone who’s pondering whether to go or not. Situated at the boundary between Normandy and Brittany, it was assigned Unesco World Heritage Site all the way back in 1979 (before I was even born!) and attracts reasonable number of visitors each year. It is also, however, some 360km away from Paris. Not exactly the next town over.

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Daytrip from Paris: Chartres

Paris is wonderful. However, once in a while, it is also nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Even within a mere hour or so of travelling time (and I’m not talking about getting to the airport in order to be jet away!), there are possibilities aplenty. For those without a car, fret not, the rail system is extremely efficient and exploring France couldn’t be made any easier! Taking advantage of rare sunny spring days last weekend, we decided a day-trip to Chartres – famed for its magnificent 12th-century Gothic cathedral – should be the order of the day.

Given the impromptu nature of our decision (made on Friday, trip on Saturday), we bought our tickets at Gare Montparnasse just before our elected departure time and paid about €30 per person for return tickets (specifically, €14.90 each way). There were trains scheduled nearly every hour in both directions, which left us with a very flexible timetable on when to leave and when to return. Needless to say, we were not at all prepared and without even a basic map, we set forth on our adventure.

Médiathèque l’Apostrophe


Monument Jean Moulin

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