Have you been to Paris? Most of us have. The City of Light, the City of Love. Home to the iconic Eiffel Tower. Paris in springtime, one of the most popular city break destinations in the world. Yet most people visit Paris the tourist mecca, missing out on its true character. The culture and identity that lies beyond the city walls.
Exploring the outskirts of Paris
Some of the most iconic tourist destinations in Paris actually lie on the outskirts. Take the Palace of Versailles for example. Once the palace of the French royal family, this extravagant building has retained its regal ambience. A short ride on the RER C from the city centre brings you to the Versailles-Rive Gauche station a short walk from the palace. Once you’ve admired the building, you can enjoy a relaxing walk in its spectacular gardens.
If you prefer art to architecture, the home and gardens of Claude Monet in Giverny will reward your trip out of town. On arriving in the gardens, you can see at a glance where Monet drew his inspiration from. Japanese bridges, delicate water lilies and carefully selected flower and fruit trees look like they’ve materialised from one of the artist’s elaborate paintings. Giverny is a little harder to reach than Versailles, with a train ride to Vernon and a bus ride on from there to Giverny. That said, if you have even a passing interest in art it will be a worthwhile journey.
Most holidays to France with children wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Disneyland Paris, another must-see destination on the outskirts of the city. RER trains leave the city every 15 minutes to get to Disneyland Paris. You’ll need to get an early start, it’s easily a full day out and you may want to spend more than a day there.
Easy to reach destinations beyond Paris
When I lived in France, Paris was a city I passed through once in a while. It’s convenient to take the train or plane in from the UK. Travelling on from there is simple too, with trains to most major French cities. I spent a year living in Nantes, which looks a long way southwest of Paris on the map, but in reality it’s only a two hour train ride with the majority of trains running reliably and on time.
Nantes is well worth visiting. It’s twinned with Cardiff and is similar in size. Its scenic river, fascinating castle and cathedral make for a relaxing city break. Well worth a visit are the beautiful Jardin des Plantes and the futuristic machines on the Ile de Nantes river island.
Another city lying under two and a half hours by train from Paris is Strasbourg. On the border with Germany, this cosmopolitan city lies on the banks of the Rhine river. Cultural amalgamation of its French and German roots, its huge gothic cathedral, gastronomic delights and quirky resident storks make for a day trip or short break to remember.