Exciting Day Trips from Paris, France

by on January 7th, 2011
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You’ve enjoyed the spectacular view from atop the Eiffel Tower. You’ve strolled along the banks of the Seine. You’ve spent hours viewing the masterpieces at the Louvre. What’s next? How about leaving the hustle and bustle of Paris behind for a day? While the City of Lights is magnificent, there are some amazing spots within a day’s travel from Paris that you shouldn’t miss.

Normandy

If you’re looking for some history in France, Normandy is the place for you. Walk along the beaches where the Battle of Normandy began. You can almost feel the tension from when the beautiful Omaha Beach was turned into a battlefield that claimed the lives of so many soldiers. Omaha was the bloodiest of the five beaches and was almost captured. However, the courage and bravery of the soldiers defending it led to victory. By looking toward the eastern end of Omaha Beach, you will see the American cemetery. This is the final resting place for more than 9,000 men who came from the United States to liberate Western Europe from the Germans.

Getting from Paris to Normandy by train takes one to two hours. It is a bit longer if you go by car. France has a great high-speed train system, and I highly recommend traveling in this manner. Trains leave from Paris’ Gare Saint Lazare several times during the day, so you should be able to find a time that fits with your schedule. If you prefer to secure a car, simply take the A13 all the way to Normandy.

Claude Monet’s House and Gardens at Giverny

A must for art enthusiasts, Monet’s house and garden are sights to behold. Monet lived in his home for 43 years and tailored it to the needs of his profession and family. Next door to the house sits a barn that became his first studio. Over the years, Monet added to the house. During a time when subtle colors were used for decorating, Monet brought in vivid colors. Visitors are often surprised to see the colorful rooms of this famous artist’s home. The most dramatic room is the dining room where everything is painted yellow. This even includes the furniture. After the Second World War, the house and garden were both neglected. It is due to the generosity of many donors that the house was restored. Much of the ancient furniture and fixtures were restored to their original condition as well.

The garden is actually made up of two parts – a flower garden and a Japanese-inspired water garden. Arches and bridges can be found throughout the gardens and add to their charm. There are no words to describe the absolute beauty of this area. It is easy to see the depth of Monet’s talent as you meander through the breathtaking flowers. You will be overcome with the aromas and sights.

A 45-minute train ride will get you from Paris to Giverby. Take the Rouen bound train from Paris’ Gare Saint Lazare, and get off at Vernon. From there, you can choose to walk or bike (rentals are available across the street from the station) the four miles to Monet’s garden. You can also take a bus or taxi.

Chartres Cathedral

Second only to Notre Dame, Chartres Cathedral is one of the best-known cathedrals in France. It is an amazing example of Gothic architecture. This cathedral boasts some of the most beautiful stained glass windows I’ve ever seen. The mismatched spires dominate the town and can be seen throughout the area. Construction on this majestic cathedral took more than 60 years, and the building has been perfectly preserved. You get to experience the original beauty as you tour the cathedral.

Chartres Cathedral has several portals. The North Portal displays the Old Testament with a scene depicting the creation of Adam. If you look between the doors of the Central Portal, you’ll see a breathtaking statue of St. Anne holding a baby Mary. The theme of the New Testament is found throughout the South Portal and focuses on the Last Judgment. Known as the Royal Portal, the West Portal houses elegant statues of kings and queens from the Old Testament. They are so full of expression, you’ll feel as if they are looking right at you. The other portals are just as amazing.

After touring the cathedral, make sure to take some time to wander around the area. To say the town of Chartres is charming is a gross understatement. It is exactly what I think of when I imagine a small, quaint French town. You will certainly feel far away from the big city of Paris.

Trains for Chartres leave Montparnasse train station regularly, and the one-way trip takes about an hour. To drive from Paris, take the A10 motorway and then the A11. I suggest taking the train since Chartres is a town you’ll want to walk around and explore.

No matter which day trip you decide to take, you’re sure to see a side of France you hadn’t expected. There’s nothing like Paris, but the outlying cities and towns are rich in history and beauty. Enjoy the charm that only France can offer!


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