Narrowing down daytrips from Paris

Aug 10th, 2014, 03:26 PM
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Narrowing down daytrips from Paris

Upcoming trip to Paris will be our 4th. On previous visits we've done daytrips to Versailles, Fontainebleau, Chantilly and Vaux-le-Vicomte. We definitely want to go to Chartres, Giverny and Malmaison. On our short list of other destinations:

Ile des Impressionnistes

We haven't been to the Loire Valley and don't really want to do a big tour of multiple chateaux all in just one day, so are thinking of Amboise since we can tour the chateau and Da Vinci's home and still have time to experience the small town.

I am thinking we may be able to see Malmaison and Ile des Impressionnistes on the same day; if anyone has experience doing that, would appreciate info on the logisitics, overall experience (I've been to Malmaison many years ago, but not Ile des Impressionistes)

Auvers-sur-Oise - We're primarily interested in the Van Gogh associations

Rouen - for the cathedral and city in general -- not too interested in wineries

We know we won't be able to do all these; we will have to make a decision soon since train tickets to Rouen and Amboise are cheaper now than if we bought them on the spot.
Any input would be most welcome. Thanks.
vanne is offline  
Aug 10th, 2014, 03:34 PM
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A good starting point might be PARIS TO THE PAST: Traveling Through French History by Train by Ina Caro, a real Francophile who also includes suggestions for a fine lunch at the destinations she so lovingly describes.
latedaytraveler is offline  
Aug 10th, 2014, 04:49 PM
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If you have visited all those chateaux around Paris - why go to Amboise to visit just 1 chateau??? The train schedules there & back aren't that great either.

Glad you're not interested in wineries in Rouen - I don't think there are any. Normandy is not really a winegrowning region. Are you confusing it with Reims??

Personally, I would go to Rouen - one of our favorite cities in France. It is a little different from Paris with all the cross-timbered houses.

This is from my Normandy & Brittany itinerary:

This is a beautiful city – one of our favorites in France. We’ve visited it twice. It is a large city, and getting into the historic center can be a little hectic. Remember - shops close for lunch around noon, so get there by 9:30 so that you can pop into some shops that look interesting. Lots of cross-timbered buildings & great churches. Follow the walking itinerary in the Michelin Green Guide. However, we had mixed impressions of the main pedestrian street through the city – the Rue Gros Horloge**. It is a very pretty street, but it’s loaded with visually distracting chain stores (Pimkie, Foot Locker, etc) and it is difficult to really appreciate the beautiful architecture with these distractions. We prefer other streets. One of our favorites is the Rue de Martinville* east of the Cathedral Notre Dame. Follow it as far as the cobblestones go. Slip into the beautiful and quiet Aitre St Maclou** courtyard at the end of the cobblestone section of Martainville. We also like the architecture along Rue Damiette* and the adjacent Rue Eau de Robec with the stream running down the middle of the street.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
Aug 10th, 2014, 04:59 PM
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How long are you in Paris for? In 2008 we were there for 12 nights, and decided to go to Bruges, Belgium... Left around 6 am (got a fantastic Prem rate) and we got back in Paris the following night around 6pm. It gave us a glimpse of another country, and we liked it enough that we returned to tour some of Belgium in 2010.

If you want to stay in France, I really love the Loire Valley, and again, I would try to stay at least overnight.

Have fun!
Ruby99 is offline  
Aug 10th, 2014, 05:25 PM
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Stu - we haven't been to the Loire Valley before; we don't really have more than a day for a trip with the other things we have planned, so thought Amboise might be a place where we could experience a small town and see a chateau (actually 2 counting Da Vinci's home) without signing on for a whole tour of chateaux; sometime in the future we'll probably spend a few days so we can tour the other chateaux.

And you're correct; Rouen is on our list, but when I was writing what we're interested in there, I inadvertently was thinking of Reims, which I've already been to, when I mentioned we weren't that interested in wineries.

Ruby99 - I've been to Belgium, Netherlands and we've both been to England many times; when I asked my husband if he'd like to do a daytrip out of the country, he preferred to stay in France and mostly go to places we don't have to prebook trains so we can be more flexible on our travel days.

Latedaytraveler - I've heard of the Caro book and tried to get it from our local bookstores but it wasn't in stock --will probably order online. Just thought I'd get some comments from others that might nudge us one way or the other, particularly re the two locations where we'd want to book tickets ahead. I'm sure eventually we'll get to all of them.
vanne is offline  
Aug 11th, 2014, 12:03 AM
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I'd vote for Amboise - the Da Vinci Chateau is like nothing else I've seen - more like a country estate than the usual chateaux.

The grounds particularly impressed me; plenty of sculptures plus some other parts that I won't spoil the surprise with. There are a couple of options for cafes in the grounds - much more appealing than the touristy offerings in Amboise itself.

I seem to remember there were evening markets in the street outside the main castle - might be worth investigating these if you have a choice of days you can set aside for that visit. Di
di2315 is offline  
Aug 11th, 2014, 05:27 AM
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We were in Paris last year in May and went on several day trips that were great - All by train - out in the morning and back in the evening: Dijon - We went on Market day which was great. Strasbourg - a great city for walking and touring. We also went to Reims to tour champagne houses... Some ideas for you...
denmal is offline  
Aug 11th, 2014, 04:47 PM
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Can' recommend Paris to the Past highly enough. Tons of great options with the history of why you should visit these places.
denisea is online now  
Aug 11th, 2014, 05:29 PM
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I vote for Amboise. A really pretty town with a wide variety of things to see do that are very different.
nytraveler is offline  
Aug 11th, 2014, 08:59 PM
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Amboise does appeal to both of us -- particularly the Da Vinci house with models of some of his inventions. And it seems to be of a size that we would feel we can see everything we want to see in a day.

Dijon and Strasbourg were on our possibles list, along with Lyon, but we decided we would probably rather have at least a day and a half to 2 days for those cities. We know we'll keep going back to France as long as we're physically able (which I certainly hope will be a long time) so we're not in a hurry to see everything all at once.
vanne is offline  
Aug 12th, 2014, 04:09 AM
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tdk320n is offline  
Aug 12th, 2014, 05:00 AM
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Hi again VANNE,

Agree with DI2315 - I would also recommend Amboise to visit Chateau Du Close Luce, given to Da Vinci by the King of France, where the master spent his last three years. Thanks to that arrangement, France got the Mona Lisa.

DENISEA wrote "Can't recommend Paris to the Past highly enough." I think that Caro wrote that book before PARIS TO THE PAST: Traveling Through French History by Train. Both are excellent, but the latter focuses on day trips from Paris.

Factoid: Caro is the wife of presidential historian Robert Caro - they travel in style.
latedaytraveler is offline  
Aug 12th, 2014, 09:00 AM
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If you've been to Malmaison already I don't know that it's worth going back just for the island. The only thing to see/do there is visit the restaurant where Renoir created his famous painting and perhaps dine there, although the walk along the river is nice. Other than that the only thing to see are the tableaux which depict famous paintings on the spot where the artist created them. Chartres, Giverny and Auvers-sur-Oise are all worthwhile day trips that are easily accessible from Paris and the transport fares are fixed so you can do them last minute based on the weather and your whims. If you want more day trip options from Paris I'd be happy to post my list of Paris day trips, though I could probably give you a few dozen other options that aren't on my list if you've got specific requests.
FrenchMystiqueTours is offline  
Aug 12th, 2014, 10:32 AM
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da Vinci left his heart in Amboise - his tomb or at least that of his heart if not the body (not sure) is in town.

And check out the street of troglodyte houses hidden away on a small street just behind the castle.

The Amboise train station is across the Loire, perhaps 1.5 km or so from the town center - if walking you get a neat view of the castle hovering high above the Loire from the ancient bridge traversing the Loire here.
PalenQ is offline  
Aug 12th, 2014, 12:05 PM
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If going to Amboise there are two rail routes - one is to hop TGVs from Paris-Montparnasse station to St-Pierre-des-Corps then trains to Amboise or you can take direct trains from Paris-Austerlitz station to Amboise.

The latter has pretty much a flat fare system so you can buy your tickets right before the train or anytime in Paris- TGVs have a multi-tiered fare structure - just show up and ouch - you'll pay a whole lot more than booking far in advance at or - same trains same fares latter is supposed to be much easier to use.

For complete flexibility on your return just take the slower but cheaper walk-up fare train via Les Aubrais/Orleans to Paris - but for variety and a faster trip book the outward ticket if you can find one of those deep discounted tickets (non-changeable non-refundable though I think) - as you never know how much time you may want in a place like Amboise having a fully flexible ticket to use on any of the about hourly slow train route may be desirable - you can always change the ticket - so set a realistically late time to return and if you're ready to go earlier just change the ticket.
PalenQ is offline  
Aug 12th, 2014, 02:33 PM
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Frenchmystique - understand your question about Malmaison, but my husband hasn't seen it. Since I've traveled more than my husband sometimes I'm seeing things for the 2nd time when he's seeing them for the 1st; but it's been I hate to admit over 40 years since I was there, so I'll enjoy seeing it again. Ile des Impressionistes is not a big priority, but it appears something we could do in the same day. I'm now thinking it could be possible for us to get to Giverny right when it opens and then possibly go on to Rouen, forgetting about the Ile des Impressionnistes. We'll just see how things go time wise. Rouen may have to wait for another time -- logistics may well make it impractical.

PalenQ - thanks for the train advice. I discovered last night that I didn't necessarily have to prebook Amboise to get a decent fare, so I think we will not prebook. I'd rather have the flexibility more than saving a few euros.
vanne is offline  
Aug 12th, 2014, 03:04 PM
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Auvers-sur-Oise is an easy commuter train trip from Paris-Nord, even though you have to change in Pontoise during weekdays. It costs less than 5 euros to get there.

Here is a photo report about it that you might find interesting:
kerouac is online now  
Aug 12th, 2014, 03:06 PM
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For someone who has already seen Versailles, Fontainebleau, Chantilly and Vaux-le-Vicomte, I think you would be very disappointed by Château Amboise. 80% of Château Amboise was destroyed during the Revolution. What remains is comparatively unremarkable. It´s best viewed from the far side of the Loire River which, if you take the train to Amboise, you will see as the train station itself is on the far side of the river and a bit of a walk into town.

Le Clos Lucé, or Leonardo´s home given to him by François I, is not really a château, at least not by most standards. It contains absolutely nothing of Leonardo´s and probably not really worth a day trip from Paris to visit.

Amboise is a sufficiently charming town but it is absolutely swarming with tourists in summer. If I were to suggest a Loire Valley location worthy of a day´s travel from Paris, I would either take the TER (train from Austerlitz) to Blois and then the bus to Chambord and Cheverny, and not overlook the Château Blois itself:

or the early TGV to Tours Centre (not St Pierre des Corps) and take one of the many mini bus tours to local sites from the Office de Tourisme just across the street from the train station:

You can admission purchase tickets at a slight discount here:

If you do take the TGV to Tours, consider staying for dinner, train schedules permitting, and visit the historic Place Plumereau - a short walk from the train station.
Sarastro is offline  
Aug 12th, 2014, 04:07 PM
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We found the castle in Amboise fascinating just because it wasn't a "pretty/pretty" chateau - but seemed more of a legitimate military fortress and a big change from many of the others.

Also Le Clos Luce had some wonderful displays of drawings and reconstructions of machines by Leonardo - also fscinating.

If I could only do one chateau I think there would be other I would prefer (Chenonceau, Chambord, the gardens at Villandry) but after all those this was different.

We LOVE Strasbourg - but agree that you need more like 3 or 4 days to see it and the wine road down to Colmar.
nytraveler is offline  
Aug 12th, 2014, 07:56 PM
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I adored Rouen.
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