5 Day Trips From Paris

5 Day Trips From Paris

There’s no doubt Paris is a gorgeous city with lots of sites to see and many things to do.  You could spend weeks and months wandering the city’s lovely streets and still not see it all.  But there’s lots to see and do outside of the city, so if you have extra time or just want to get away from the city for a few hours you might  consider some day trips from Paris.

You don’t have to wander far, there are several places you can explore just an hour or so away.  Here are 5 day trips from Paris that might help you plan your next vacation.  If you can’t find the time for all of them that’s okay, it might just inspire you to return to![spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]

Day trips from Paris1. Chateau de Versailles  and its gardens are one of the most popular attractions outside Paris is located in the wealthy suburb of Versailles.  This UNESCO World Heritage Site is about an hour away.  It’s very accessible by train, coach, or private car.

Built by Louis XIV, the Sun King, in the later part of the 19th. century Versailles was once the seat of political power in France.  It’s a beautiful palace which many of us associate with Marie Antoinette one of the palace’s most notable residents.  Versailles has definitely played it’s part in French and world history.   It was in its Hall of Mirrors that the Treaty of Versailles was signed and effectively ended World War I between German and allied forces.  Today it’s a major tourist destination.  It houses a museum of French history and art exhibits.  It is also used in modern political functions, most recently Persident Hollande’s speech given there to a rare joint session of Parliament shortly after the 2015 Paris attacks.  Learn more about Versailles here!

Day trips from Paris2.  Chateau de Fontainebleau is just over 55 kms. from Paris.  It is located in the town of Fontainebleau a commune in the metropolitan area of Paris.  It is easily accessible by TER train from the Gare-de-Lyon.

The Chateau which once belonged to the kings of France along with its surrounding forest is a favorite weekend get-away for many Parisians.

Today the Chateau is open to the public and is home to 4 museums with a great collection of art masterpieces.  It is listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

It’s also the launching point for France Montgolfiere a hot air balloon company.  It’s one of the best ways to experience this part of the country!  Learn more about Fontainebleau and hot air ballooning here!

3.  Chateau de Chenonceau is a bit further afield.  It’s about a 3 hour drive or 2 hour train ride away from the capital.  Arguably the most visited of the Loire Valley Chateaux and the second most visited chateaux in France,  Chenonceau is a beautiful palace.  Spanning the Cher River this palace was once home to Cathrine de Medici the Queen of France when she married Henry II.

This Chateau built in the early 16th. century played many roles through out history.  It was here that Mary Queen of Scots married Cathrine de Medici’s son Francis II.

It is also France Montgolfiere’s launching point for their Loire Valley balloon rides.

Learn more about Chenonceau here! [spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]Paris Tours

 

 

 

 

 

day trips from Paris4.  Chartres the capital city  of Eure-et-Loire department of France is located 96 kms from Paris.  It is known for its cathedrals, most notably the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Chartres a UNESCO World Heritage site.

This Cathedral is famous for its stained glass windows whose blue color is unique and called “bleu de Chartres.  It is not known how this particular colored glass was created but it has not been replicated to date.

The Cathedral offers tours of the church itself as well as its crypts.  It’s definitely worth a visit.

There are other notable churches and museums in this city, as well as its markets.  Chartres is a major market town of the Beauce region of France  which is also known as the “granary of France.”

It’s a delightful town that is easily reached by train.  There are frequent trains between Chartres and Paris Montparnasse station.  The train ride takes about 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes depending on the train.  Round trip tickets cost about €30 per person. [spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]

day trips from Paris5.  Reims  is the main city  of the  Alsace-Champagne-Ardenne-Lorraine region of France is 129 kms from Paris.

Founded by Gauls 2000 years ago Reims was a very important city of the Roman Empire.  It played a major role in imperial French history where for over 1000 years most of France’s kings were crowned there.  Today Reims is the center of the champagne industry.

day trips from ParisThere are many things to see and do in Reims.  Its most famous attraction is the Gothic style Cathédrale Notre Dame de Reims.  It is the seat of the Archdiocese of Reims and where the French kings were crowned.  It’s a beautiful cathedral complete with flying buttresses, vaulted naves, towers, and stained glass windows.  Tours of the cathedral are available, you can buy the tickets from the Palais du Tau entrance store across the street.

The Palais du Tau right next to the cathedral was the palace of the Archbishop of Reims.  It played a major role in French history.  It was in this palace that the kings of France resided before their coronation; here that they dressed for their coronation at the cathedral nearby; and here where coronation banquets were held.

The Basilique Saint-Remi was the church of the Abbey of Saint-Remi.  It has housed the relics of Saint Remi the Bishop of Reims since 1099. The cathedral, palace, and abbey are all listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

As I mentioned earlier Reims is the center of the champagne industry.  The city is surrounded by vineyards and chalk caves both integral components in the making of this sparkling wine.  Did you know that only sparkling wine made in the Champagne region of France using only specific grapes grown there can be called Champagne?  Yes it’s true, sparkling wines made in other regions can not bear the Champagne designation, they must be labeled as Sparkling Wine!

day trips from parisHaving said this it’s safe to assume that the city is home to many of the famous Champagne Houses.  You’d be right of course.  The city and surrounding area is home to Veuve Cliquot, Martel, Mumm, Taittinger to name a few.  Many of them are open to the public and have guided tours and tastings.

We went to Taittinger which is located in the heart of the city.  It was a fascinating tour!  The tour goes thru the 4th. century chalk mines which serve as their cellars.  Their mines by the way are  listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

On the tour you will learn how champagne in made.  Very intersting.  The best part of the tour is the champagne tasting!

Tour prices start at €17 per person depending on the how many types of champagne you want to taste.

In my opinion definitely worth the price of admission.  The bubbly were lovely!

Other sights in Reims include museums, churches, and squares.  It’s a lively town with many shops, markets, cafes, and restaurants.

Reims is easily accessible by train, car, or coach from Paris.  You can book day tours from many local companies if you don’t want to venture out on your own.  To get to Reims from Paris from the Gare de l’Est station.  Trains leave every 40 minutes from 6:30 am to 10:30 pm. The train ride is 40 minutes to 1 1/2 hours depending on the train you take.   A round trip ticket cost €30 per person.

If you will be in Paris for a week or so and would like to take day trips around the city you may want to consider purchasing a rail pass before you leave home.  The day trips listed here can all be reached by trains that are included in the rail pass.  Compare prices of point to point tickets vs. rail pass before you buy anything.

Depending on your destination sometimes buying point to point tickets are less expensive.  But the major advantage of passes in my opinion is convenience.  You don’t have to buy train tickets each time you want to go somewhere, just hop on a train and show the conductor your pass and ID.  You also won’t have to validate your pass each time you hop a train as you would have to do with point to point tickets.  Validating tickets isn’t a big deal, just one more thing to remember to do.  If your ticket isn’t validated you could find yourself paying a hefty fine.


Ballooning Over Chateau de Fontainbleau

Ballooning Over Chateau de Fontainbleau

On our last trip to Paris I wanted to do something different and exciting; as if just being in Paris wasn’t exciting enough!  I think this was our fourth or fifth trip to the City of Lights and we’d pretty much made the regular tourist rounds; the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Notre Dame, Rive Gauche, and all the other must sees of the French capital.  Not that you can see everything you want to see in a few trips, I’m not even sure you can do that in a life time!

Paris is an amazing city!  There is always something to do and see.  The place is filled with art and culture.  I’ve been to more than my fair share of museums multiple times; the Louvre of course, the d’Orsay my favorite, Les Invalides, Pompidou Center, and more.  I’ve viewed the Eiffel Tower from just about every perspective; from the Seine, the top of the Arch de Triomphe, the Trocadero, and from within the tower.  And we’d taken day trips to Versailles, beautiful, but not quite exciting unless you get a thrill from the slow moving electric cars you can drive around the estate.

ballooning over chateau de fontainebleauThis time I talked my husband into a hot air balloon ride.  It couldn’t be that much different from parasailing I reasoned, and he loved to do that!  Luckily we were in Paris during the ballooning season which is from April to October.  So I booked our adventure with France Montgolfiere  a couple of months before our trip.  The tickets cost 399 Euro, just under $450 for a couple, that was the best deal they offered at the time.  That’s how we found ourselves Ballooning Over Chateau de Fontainbleau on a cool October evening!

Fontainbleau is a commune in the metropolitan area of Paris.  It’s located 55.5 Km south-southeast of the city center and is known for its scenic forest and historic Chateau de Fontainbleau which once belonged to the kings of France.  It is easily accessible by Ter trains departing from Paris-Gare de Lyon.  Take the train to Montereau / Montargis and get off at the Fontainebleau-Avon Station(Zone 5).  The trains run from about 6 am to 11:30 pm.  The train ride is just over an hour.  Once at the station you can walk to the chateau, just follow the signs!

Here’s what to expect once you’ve booked yobur tickets, by the way be sure you include your contact information when booking AND be sure you have your cell phone turned on to make and receive calls and text messages in Paris.

A day before your flight you must contact the number on your ticket to confirm your flight, they will give you instructions on where and when to meet.  They will also tell you that he will contact you the day of your flight if there are any changes.  Remember this activity is dependent on weather and wind conditions, if either aren’t  favorable the pilot may cancel the flight.  Should your flight be canceled they will reschedule or  extend the validity of your ticket. I’m really not sure if they issue refunds for cancellations due to weather, you should contact them for more info before booking.

Ballooning Over Chateau de FontainbleauOn the day of your flight dress comfortably with comfy footwear, leave the heels at the hotel.  Arrive at the meeting spot at the appointed time and wait for the pilot to pick you up.  Unless you booked a private flight there can be up to 15 to 17  people with you, depending on the basket size it can hold up to 19 people.  You can’t miss the pilot’s van, not only does it have the company name on the side it’s towing the basket behind it!

In our case we choose the 5 pm flight so we met the pilot in front of the Chateau de Fontainbleau around 4:30.  He determines the take-off spot, it will vary depending on wind direction.  We got lucky and took off on the chateau grounds!  You will drive to the take-off location with the driver and fellow passengers.  You’ll probably find a second balloon at the spot with you, it seems they travel in pairs. It sure makes for amazing photos!

Ballooning Over Chateau de FontainbleauAt the take-off spot your adventure begins!  The pilot and his helpers will unpack, set up, and inflate the balloon. Passengers are expected to help too!  It’s part of the experience!  It takes many hands to hold down the balloon while the pilot inflates it!  The balloon is anchored to the van and ground, but it still needs to be held down!

The husband and the other men did most of the helping, the rest of us snapped photos![spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]
Ballooning Over Chateau de FontainbleauOnce the balloons are inflated it’s time to climb into the basket.  [spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]

Ballooning Over Chateau de FontainbleauWith baskets loaded and anchor ropes released the balloons start to rise.  You get an awesome view of the other balloon as it rises not far from your basket!  That’s just the beginning!

You’re in for an amazing ride!  We flew over the chateau and surrounding forest before drifting over the French countryside.  The ride takes about an hour, it goes by all to quickly!

Ballooning Over Chateau de FontainbleauWhile in the basket you will need to be standing, there are no seats, but believe me you wouldn’t want to sit down anyway, you don’t want to miss anything![spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]

Ballooning Over Chateau de Fontainbleau  It seems all to soon the pilot will tell everyone to bend your knees, crouch down and hold on to the basket, you’re about to land.  When the pilot gives these instructions do so immediately! That’s the only warning you will have and it means that landing is literally seconds away!  So hunker down and hold on, the landing can be bumpy!

The basket hits the ground, ending up on its side, and dragged a few meters along the ground before it comes to a complete stop.  I have to admit this was my least favorite part of the adventure!  But it lasts moments and soon you’re crawling out of the basket.

 

Ballooning Over Chateau de FontainbleauYou’re met on the ground by the ground crew who will help stow the balloon and take you back to the meeting point. In our case the farmer and his family came running out to greet us, it seems we landed on his farm.  It turned into a festive occasion with everyone pitching in to fold and stow the balloon.[spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]
Ballooning Over Chateau de FontainbleauFinally the traditional landing toast!  Trust the French to do it right complete with bubbly, glass flutes, and flowers![spacer height=”20px” id=”2″]

Ballooning Over Chateau de FontainbleauAfter the toast the crew will take you back to the initial meeting spot, or in our case they drove us back to the station for our ride back to Paris.
You can choose to hang out in the town, you can even stay there if you like.  There are many hotels in the area.  You may want to spend some time there to tour the Chateau, hike in the forest, or just hang out in the town.

We had arrived early to explore the town and have lunch at a local creperie so after our flight we were ready to return to Paris.

I know this adventure wasn’t cheap but it was so worth every penny!  It was amazing!  I know we will remember it for the rest of our life!  Actually I’m thinking of doing it again sometime!

France Montgolfiere offers balloon rides in several areas in France including Chenonceau in the Loire Valley.  Check their website for more details!

Here are some photos from our Ballooning Over Chateau de Fontainebleau adventure!

 

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