When I was in university, I was obliged to read Chateaubriand. While it would be very nice to wax about all the lovely things I learned and how marvellous he is, the truth is that I remember very little. Even that is a generous statement. I remember nothing. My level of French at the time is partially to blame. It’s no fun to read when you need to google every fifth word on WordReference. However, now in France, I must do as the “tourists” do, and paid a visit to the the maison de Chateaubriand at Vallée aux Loups. The arboretum inspired me to go pick up one of his works again.
Maison de Chateaubriand, a Haven Just Outside Paris
The day we went was forecasted to rain. Clouds were grey and heavy, and the stroll was a nervous, drizzly one. A bit humid, but more heavy with worry that the sky would open on us. ( I had left my umbrella at home. Photographers can’t get much done when one hand must be bothered to hold a parapluie). We wound down a quiet street, admiring architecture, stopping for photographs. Marvelling at the fact that people lived in abodes as adorable as these (we generally do this for every tiny town and village we visit).
Arriving at the fork, we continued down the left lane (after nearly adventuring into the parking), and were met by a jolly, burnt orange building home to a quaint bookshop. A blue trim, peeling paint, dusty glass.
We entered the arboretum after some indecision, but seeing as the house was closed for a leisurely lunch hour, and the majority of us were standing on the side of the garden, to the arboretum we went. Both the arboretum and the estate have gardens rather in the English style. Not terribly sculpted and symmetric (if at all).
Lawns, a small orchard, a mess of flowers and lavender. A perfect place to pull out the picnic supplies and enjoy a sandwich in the afternoon.
Chateaubriand’s home (if a four-story rectangular mansion with a spire is a home) is across the way, and you can walk up the winding driveway or take the forest path. You’ll be dumped off to rejoin the driveway in front of a sign that say sous les bois interdit (walking in the forest forbidden) and greeted by the house, covered in vines.
Paris Day Trip to Maison de Chateaubriand
How to Get to Maison de Chateaubriand
This is an easy Paris day trip. Take the RER B to the end of the line (Robinson) and a 20-minute stroll later, you’re dumped onto a lazy lane forking left and right. A sign will direct you to the estate and arboretum, or to the parking lot.
Visiting the Arboretum
Admission to the arboretum is free. You can picnic on the lawn or on the benches, which is what we did. It’s large and worth taking a tour for some serene scenes, bridges, and the most magnificent tree.
Visiting the House
Admission to the home is 5€. While nice, if you are not a fan of French literature nor architecture nor antiques, you might not fancy it much. I, however, found it particularly romantic.
Though the house is four stories, only two are available to tour. The cheerful people at the ticket office set you up with a little booklet detailing information about the rooms and the writer’s life. It’s a bit whimsical, from the yellow study to the harp to the floral wallpaper in the sitting room.
You can make a short tour of the “backyard,” the sprawling field behind the French doors, and have a tea on the terrace. We skipped tea, and wound our way back to the train station, and to Paris.
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