One Hour or Less from Paris
When I first moved to Paris, one of my sisters asked me, “What is there to do outside of Paris?”
At the time I thought she was nuts. Why come to Paris if you’re going to leave the city when there is a lifetime of things to do, discover and learn INSIDE Paris? I couldn’t imagine such a thing! Then, I moved to Paris and after so many years, have learned that sure, what I thought from the outset was true, but there’s even so much more to do within an hour outside of Paris, virtually undiscovered even by Parisians, that it’s mind-boggling.
Author of two books — “An Hour From Paris” and “Half An Hour From Paris” — Annabel Simms explained that as a Londoner transplanted to Paris, she was yearning to find green space when she first moved to France, that Paris was lacking. This incentive began her quest to find countryside to visit without going too far from Paris and managing it without having a car. What she discovered from the outset is that most guide books, such as the Michelin Guides, had great information but were written for those who have a vehicle at their disposal. That wasn’t helping her all that much, so she set out on a journey that led her to amass the information and write these two books.
Parisians don’t venture out of their city much to discover the Ile-de-France region, quite rich in history and wonderful adventures. Even those living in the Ile-de-France don’t crisscross it either, as most modes of transport lead to Paris and out again, although that is changing with new routes added to SNCF’s train system. She talked a lot about the Ile-de-France and how ignored the region is from many perspectives. It became her “raison d’être” to fully explore it, learn about it and then write about it.
I first met Annabel when her first book of 20 day trips from Paris within an hour by train, many of them unknown to most Parisians, let alone tourists, was published in 2002. For no real reason at all, other than our lives taking different paths, we didn’t reconnect during all these years until yesterday, when she spoke at Après Midi, but I’ve always had her books on my shelf and used them for fun out-of-the-city excursions.
Yesterday she spoke at length about one particular excursion — to Marly-le-Roi, a commune in the Department of Yvelines near Saint-Germain-en-Laye. It is virtually unknown to most Parisians, but is rich in history and lore. It’s less than 12 miles from Paris and takes 30 minutes to get there by train. This was the location of the Château de Marly, once the famous leisure residence of the Sun King Louis XIV, but it was destroyed after the French Revolution. The National Estate and Park of Marly-le-Roi now occupies most of the grounds of the former château, including restored waterways and lawns. You can get there easily by the Transilien train system from Gare Saint-Lazare.
Once you own the two books (purchasable at local bookstores or online), or even before you do, Annabel makes available from her website a download of 10 new trips from Paris that take a bit longer than the ones in Half An Hour From Paris, plus optional walks are also slightly longer. They are available as separate PDFs for 3€ each, or the full set can be downloaded for just 13€. You can even download each trip to your smartphone, or print out just the walk and map to take with you. See annabelsimms.com/download-10-new-trips-hour-paris for details.
This weekend, don’t just stay in town and take in what Paris has to offer. Add an extra bit of travel time and discover a world out there you might not have known otherwise.
A la prochaine…
(with Annabel Simms)
P.S. Every now and then, someone leaves Après Midi without paying for their drinks, leaving me with the bill. It happens unintentionally, we are sure, but nonetheless, it’s why I announce at the beginning of each FREE session, to remember to pay your bill as you leave. This time, a carafe of rosé wine for 15€ was left for me to pay the café. If you believe it was you, don’t be embarrassed — just fess up and I’ll be happy to accept the repayment! Email us at [email protected] to arrange it. Thank you.