Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Day trips from Paris in the ile de France

Traveling to Paris does not mean that you are limited to the sites that are within the city limits. There are some very easy trips that you can do by bus or train that take a little over an hours travel time.

Louis XIV started Chateau de Versailles in 1668 and in 1682 the Royal Court and Government moved there to become a permanent resident. Court life at Versailles was to develop into the basis on which all European royal courts of the time were to be modeled. The rooms are opulently decorated and culminate in the Hall of Mirrors, a 70 m (233 ft) long hall, looking out over the gardens. The gardens are simply breathtaking. They were designed and built in celebration of the divine authority of Louis XIV and feature over 200 statues amongst the numerous fountains, ornate gardens and two out-palaces, the Grand Trainon and the Petit Trianon.

The town of Chartres, located south west of Paris, was one of the first urban conservation cities in France. As a result there are many 12th to 17th century half-timbered houses buildings and cobble stone roads run throughout the town. The greatest site though, is the Chartres Cathedral. The Cathedral at Chartres has been drawing pilgrims for over eight centuries the view the sacred relic Veil of the Virgin. The current Cathedral was built in only 25 years, when the original cathedral was destroyed by fire in 1194, and has a style and beauty that few others possess. The most notable characteristic of the Cathedral is the stain glass windows. Donated by guilds between 1210 and 1240 there are over 150 windows covering a surface area of over 3000 sq m (26,900 sq ft) and depict biblical stories and daily life of the 13th century. The light and colour the glass creates a sight that is truly inspiring. During both World Wars these windows were dismantled piece by piece for safety purposes and in the 1970’s underwent some restoration work. The result is a Gothic Cathedral of unspeakable glory.

Vimy Ridge is a 100 hectare national park dedicated to the First World War, Located north of Paris it saw constant actions for most of the war. The strategic ground was a ridgeline of14kms (8.5 miles) worth of high ground held by the Germans from the opening of the war until April 1917. It was a vital part of the German defense system along the entire front and its capture was a turning point for the Allied Forces in the First World War.
Much of the site has been left “insitu” with shell holes pock-marking the landscape from the artillery bombardments. On average there were 5 shells per square foot over the 14kms front. Sections of trench have been preserved as well as the numerous underground tunnels, used for bringing up supplies and as protection for the troops, so visitors can picture the enormity of the tasks facing the forces on both sides of the war.

The town of Epernay lies in the Champagne region of France north east of Paris. The production of the champagne blend was begun with Dom Perignon, a Benedictine monk (1638-1715) who wrote the rules for making wine in the region. The Core of his treatise is the blending of grapes before the pressing and the care of the bottles after they have been “corked”. The Ave de Champagne in Epernay is lined with 19th century mansions housing the headquarters and cellars of the prestigious Champagne houses. The most famous of the champagne producing wineries is Moet and Chandon. Established in 1743 they have set the benchmark for the production of champagne. You are able to visit the Champagne houses cellars, dug out of the chalk they stretch over 100km (62 miles) underneath Epernay, but the grapes do not come from a specific patch of ground but from 1600 different wine growers in the region so you cannot see the actual vines of the specific wineries.

Giverny is the small town north west of Paris where the impressionist painter Claude Monet made his home. At his home he created a large and colourful water garden, which became the subject of some of his best known works the Water-lily Pond and the Bridge series, Rose Garden series and of course the Water- Lilies, The gardens fell into some disrepair after his death in 1926, but have been restored to their original glory and his house has been turned into a museum which houses the Nympheas Water Lilies series.

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