We marched along, gravel crunching under our shoes, flip-flops; ballet flats; hiking sandals; les baskets rounding out the mix. The lilliputian chateau diminished into the trees as we found a quiet spot for our pique-nique in view of a fountain. Wildflowers swayed violently in the breeze, a seeming haphazard arrangement of nature, but, in fact, very well thought out in their organization. The sun played hide-and-seek as goodies tumbled out of paper wrappings. Quiche, fromages, bread, saucisson, sandwiches. A motley mix but as good as any. Food with any sort of view is generally pleasant, and Rambouillet, France was proving pleasant indeed.
A day trip to the tiny town of Rambouillet somehow made it on my summer adventure list, and because it is easy to get to, I didn’t replace it with a trek to Fontainebleu. I suppose the draw of the place is the fact that the château was a residence of Napoleon, but many a castle and estate has been favoured by one king or another emperor.
After lunch, we split; two to the château and three for a bicycle ride around the park. A canal runs through the vast property, and as we’re in the throes of summer, everything is quite green. It’s a lovely place to stroll.
A walk through the château gave us the view of many opulent rooms, from the sumptuous breakfast salon to the ornate bathroom, where Napoleon had his initials plastered all over the artwork. We (pretended to) twirled around the marble ballroom and saw an opulent banquet setting (the sort for the politicians, I imagine, and read). We promptly decided that we should host a merry Saturday afternoon tea, followed by a five-course dinner and dancing. In our wildest dreams, of course.
The visit also lead us to the queen’s dairy — nothing exciting nor horribly fancy, rather a letdown. We did, however, find some lovely turquoise doors and drooping summer flowers. The adventure ended at the shell cottage, which, while barely large enough for seven people comfortably, was exquisite. It is exactly what you’d imagine, with shells lining the walls. Oysters, mother-of-pearl, and other beautiful, luminous things meticulously arranged. Our eyes widened and we shook our heads upon reading that this cottage was a gift to the daughter-in-law of the duke who had formerly owned the place.
We reunited, the five of us, to meander back into the town, searching for ice creams and coffees to tide us over as we waited for the train. A pause along the way, to the Palais du Roi du Rome, a quiet hidden garden filled with dainty hydrangeas and a trickling fountain. The afternoon ended with bowls of ice cream on the terrace as the carrousel turned and the wind whipped everything about; ash trays, glasses, napkins, menus tumbling down with clangs and clatters.
Paris Day Trip to Rambouillet, France
How to Get to Rambouillet, France
Take TER N from Gare Montparnasse (train station), covered by the Navigo (unlimited pass). Check the time tables as it does not run frequently. CityMapper is a great app for this.
The Town of Rambouillet
When you arrive, walk down Rue de Gaulle. It’s the main commercial street and also the site for markets. Check the website for the times. They take place Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings until around noon. The cheese we bought here was divine.
The Château & Grounds
The end of the road will dump you right into the park, just behind the château. Entrance to the park and gardens are free.
Admission to the château, dairy, and cottage is 9€; free for those under 26 from/living in the EU.
If you have time, check out the garden at Palais du Roi de Rome. It was a fun discovery and quite peaceful!
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