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Your suggested itinerary in Paris
Some of the Ile-de-France is accessible by local train (the RER)
from Paris, but you'll need a car to get to most of these
villages. Stay off the Périphériques (Paris's beltway or ring road) betwcen
8:00 to 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. and your day trips won't
take all night.
The region is famous for its drizzle; keep an umbrella handy even in
the summer months. Except during full summer--July and August--the
weather will be mainly mild to chilly. And watch the sky, the spectacular
cloud changes aren't as dramatic as those of Normandy, perhaps, but
TOURS & VISITS:
Many of the churches in the smallest villages open only during Mass
on Sundays. Others open only for a few hours in the mornings. Check
beforehand. Sometimes you may be able to catch someone in the rectory
who will open up for you; a small (20 francs or so) donation is
appropriate in these circumstances. Many of the châteaux are private, or
like many of the churches, too fragile to be visited; you just have to
Dourdan: Visits to château, tower and museum. Open Wednesday to
Sunday, 10:00 to 12:00 a.m. and 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. Closed January. Museum
has a collection of Romanesque and medieval furniture. Tel: 64-59-66-83.
Etampes: Museum of regional antiquities. Next to the Hotel de Ville.
Open daily 2:00 to 7:00 p.m., Sundays 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. Tel: 64-94-80-90.
Montfort l'Amaury: Maurice Ravel Museum. By appointment only. Tel:
Musical Saturdays, May to October, baroque concerts at the Centre de
Musique Baroque de Versailles.
The Festival of Auvers-sur-Oise, May 19 to July 2, voice, piano,
chamber music and opera.
Festival de Thoiry at the Château, June to October, concerts Tel: 1-34-87-52-25.
The Medieval Festival of Provins, June 12 to 13, medieval games,
concerts and popular celebrations.
The Festival of Moret-sur-Loing, Saturdays June 19 to September 4, a
sound and light show with 600 costumed participants in procession
through town. Reservations Tel: 60-70-41-66.
DINING & ACCOMMODATIONS:
Though the Ile-de-France offers a range of hotels mid-priced to
inexpensive, probably the best way to visit the region is by day trips
from Paris. Look for lunch spots tucked away along the many rivers in
the region, especially the Loing. Many restaurants in the Seine-et-Marne area have organized special 150-franc menus for lunch; the
local tourist office can give you a brochure listing their addresses.
SPORTS & LEISURE:
Bicycles can be rented at train stations throughout the region, and
the good news is that most of Ile-de-France is relatively flat. There
are plentiful forests and woodlands for hiking and rock climbing,
numerous golf courses, and fishing (river trout) and canoeing on some of
FOOD & WINE:
All year round you can find les produits du terroir--regional
specialty products--at the farms and markets in Ile-de-France. Search out
delectable honeys, fruits and foie gras in Essonne; apples, champignons
de Paris and vegetables in Val d'Oise; famous Brie cheeses and all
kinds of products prepared on the farm from ducks, geese and turkeys in
Seine and Marne.
Roadside markets offer cheap fruits and vegetables if you buy in
quantity. Look for myriad varieties of mushrooms in season. There are
many weekly outdoor markets in the villages.
To really understand what Notre Dame once was to the city of Paris,
Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame. For a novelistic historic
exploration of medieval France, Barbara Tuchman's A Distant Mirror.