Ah Paris, the city of love, lights, art, food and more! Ok, that’s the romanticized version of Paris… Yes, Paris does have all of those things, but it’s also the city of crowded metros, air pollution, and hoards of tourists. Can you tell I’ve been a little fed up with life in Paris lately? Paris is fun to visit and even study abroad in, but when you are a full-time Parisian, sometimes it’s nice to get out of the city.
Escaping Paris for the Day
Outside of Paris, Versailles is the most well-known destination in the Île-de-France region. However, there are so many other lovely châteaux, parks, and little towns to explore in the area! So even if you are in Paris just to visit, consider checking out other hidden gems in this part of France. Two of these places are Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse and Chevreuse, adjacent rural towns in the Yvelines department, just south of the capital. I had the privilege of visiting the area on a day trip from Paris this spring.
In May, France has many saints-days that are also bank holidays, so often when a holiday is on a Thursday, people will also take the Friday off to faire le pont ( make the bridge ) to have a long weekend. I used couple of days to rest since since the end of the school year was starting to feel stressful as a teacher. On one of the other days, I felt like taking a day trip to escape the city and get some Fresh air. One of the places my boyfriend who was visiting me for the holiday suggested Chevreuse, which just so happens to be in the middle of a national park!
Getting to Chevreuse
To get to Chevreuse you can take the RER B train all the way to the end of the line in the direction of Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse. If you are a resident of the Paris area, you might have a Navigo Pass already, which you can use on the RER B (Zones 1-5). If not, you can purchase tickets from the same machines that distribute metro tickets for around 10€. From the RER station, it’s about a a 30 minute walk to the center of Chevreuse.
French Countryside Cycling
When we got off at the terminus we noticed a bicycle shop called Ecox. Since the path to get to town was via a shared bike/pedestrian lane, I suggested we check out how much it would be to rent some wheels for the day. Since we arrived just after lunch, we rented two bikes for 15€ each for a half day. They also had electric bikes and mountain bikes, but we were just going for a short leisurely ride, so we for the standard city bikes. This is a decent price for rentals, but we did have to pay a security deposit (that was reimbursed when we returned the bikes) of 400€ per bike! Not quite as cheap if something happens to the bike… I decided to go for it though because I really wanted to ride and missed my cycling adventures in the south.
The bike path was smooth, the air fresh, and the sky full of cumulonimbus clouds as we rolled past green pastures with herds of cows and goats. To the left, we noticed a sign for the Fondation de Coubertin. We veered off our path to go check it out, but it turned out it was closed on the weekends. I’m still not really sure what it is exactly, but it looked like a châteaux. Next to the foundation is a dairy farm, which we agreed to come back to after going into town.
Les Petits Ponts : A Scenic River Walk
Our next stop was the promenade des petits ponts, a scenic path along a section of the Yvette river with little stone and wooden bridges attached to waterfront homes. It was giving Monet’s Japanese garden in Giverny kinda vibes. Since the path was quite narrow and we shared the path with fellow visitors, we walked with our bikes alongside us. If you decide to cycle here, I’d recommend parking your bikes somewhere else so you can enjoy the walk and take photos more easily.
Castles and Churches
The center of Chevreuse is relatively petite, but charming with a couple of cafés and shops. We told ourselves we would come back here for a drink after doing some more exploring. After securing our bikes in the parking lot, we took a quick look into the Église Saint-Martin, a church that dates back to the11th century, to admire the stained glass windows. After visiting the church, we went to see another quintessential small french town attraction: the local castle!
To get to the Château de la Madeleine, we took the uphill path from the center of town. Ten minutes later we arrived and were immediately enamored by the view of the valley below. The grounds of the castle were free to enter, so we just spent several minutes wandering. Apparently, there is an exposition about the history of the castle in the cellars below, but somehow we missed it. Once we had seen enough, we headed back down into town.
Artisanal Syrups and Refreshing Drinks
The café we had our eyes on was also a shop that sells artisanal syrups! This place was on my radar thanks to a tiktok video by a woman named Kinga who makes videos about spots to visit in Île-de-France. Her mini-guide to Chevreuse really inspired me to visit this quaint town. L’Alchimiste was quite the popular afternoon spot , but we managed to secure a table. For a refreshing post-castle visit drink, I had sparking water with a strawberry mint syrup and mon copain chose still water with geranium syrup. We split an assortment of dainty French cookies made with egg whites, almonds, caramel and more. As a souvenir, I picked out a lavender syrup for myself and bought a lemon mint one as a gift for my boyfriend’s parents.
A French Dairy Farm
With a couple of hours left before we had to return our bikes, we headed back towards the farm, stopping once again by les petits ponts to check out what was on the left side of the path we didn’t wander down earlier. It ended up being more of the same, but it was still pleasant to pass by. Once at the dairy farm, the smell of cattle was quite strong. There was a long line to go inside the farm shop, but I also noticed a cheese vending machine! With this self-serve machine, you can pick up an order you placed earlier in the week or purchase a bundle that hadn’t been claimed. Since we had about an hour’s train ride back to Paris, we figured buying some fresh cheese probably wasn’t the best idea.
We then walked around the farm to see some animals. In a small pen, there was a pair of calves that were licking the arms of a young boy as he tried to pet them. My frenchie gave the baby cows a little pet too and got the same treatment. As much as I love baby animals, I didn’t want sticky, smelly cow saliva on my hands, so I just watched from the side. Before we saw them, we heard the bleating of several goats. We didn’t pet any of them, but just observed these funny creatures crying out at each other and chewing on their enclosure.
If you want to take a day trip from Paris, but don’t want to spend a fortune on train tickets, I’d highly recommend visiting Chevreuse. It may not be the most flashy and exciting destination, but it certainly is charming and peaceful. It’s also a good place to experience a part of France that ISN’T Paris, while not being far from Paris. If you’d like to see more of Chevreuse, stay tuned for the vlog coming soon to my YouTube channel.
Mille mercis for reading and à la prochaine,