As you know, France practically shuts down in August. All the Parisians are gone, all off on 2, 3, or 4-week vacations. Even Berthillon, the ice cream shop on Ile St. Louis – i.e. the tourist center of the city – closes in August. The only people left in Paris in August are tourists… and me, getting pitying stares from those dashing to and from exotic locations.
September, however, is essentially a second New Year’s. La rentrée, or the return, marks the restart of school, work, and life as we know it. It also marks the start of “autumn” whether it feels like it outside or not. I’ve been giggling for a week watching people dressed in dark colors, fall boots, and actual coats while it’s still hitting 75* out. Parisians don’t dress for weather, they dress for ideas. La rentrée means fall, so we dress for fall.
It may be September and la rentrée may be in full swing, but I like to hold onto summer as long as I can.
Parc de Sceaux
All that to say, as part of our Do More Stuff mission, Frenchman and I recently have been making a point to find places in and around Paris to explore on the weekends. While we used to pick new parks and places to visit pretty regularly, we had gotten a bit lazy since moving to Saint Germain en Laye and hadn’t gone on many adventures in a while.
This summer, we decided to get back to it. One of our earliest Fun Things was, of course, Disneyland Paris for my 30th birthday. Next we wanted to go to Fontainebleau, the magnificent castle and massive forest, but we needed to take the time to prepare and plan our day, so as not to get lost in the woods and miss limited train service, etc.
So instead, Frenchman had the lovely idea to go to the Parc de Sceaux. Conveniently on the RER B, one sunny Sunday we took a ride through Paris and out to the town of Sceaux to visit the gorgeous chateau gardens.
A Walk in the Park (de Sceaux)
Just south of Paris, the Parc de Sceaux features a beautiful chateau and (the real destination) gorgeous gardens that are essentially like Versailles in miniature. In fact, the gardens were designed by the same landscape architect, André Le Nôtre.
We got off the RER in Sceaux and wandered through the town, making a stop at a boulangerie for sandwiches to carry to the park. We wandered through the side gardens surrounding the small chateau, because there are two, apparently, purchased for castle guests to stay in, until we found a nice bench with an excellent view for our lunch:
Once finished, we made our way through the grounds to explore as much of it as possible. We strolled up around the (main) chateau, down the center alley to the edge overlooking the full length of the grand canal. Then we adventured through the woods and down along the canal, following it as it takes a left turn and around to a big fountain overlooked by massive hunting statues. There is, apparently, also a massive waterfall, but it was not running when we visited.
We decided to look for a place to sit a while, but we were definitely not the only ones with this idea. The park was absolutely chock full of families and couples, having picnics or birthday parties or just lounging in the grass. It was a gorgeous day and we enjoyed a little break half-dozing in the summer heat. We eventually moved on, and finished our tour around the rest of the grounds, taking a detour through the woods, before making our way back through Sceaux to the train station.
It was a simple, peaceful day, and I loved it. We visited a lot of parks when I first moved to Paris, waking up on a Saturday and deciding to pick a garden or park in the city to check out and the wander home. This little lazy summer excursion was a nice reminder of exactly that type of activity. Parc de Sceaux: highly recommended.