Countryside getaway in Ile-de-France

Chevreuse © T. Joly
Some thirty kilometres south of Paris, Chevreuse is a charming village overlooked by a powerful medieval fortress. All around, beautiful landscapes, thick forests, small rivers and farms give tourists the feeling to be far away from the capital.

[ Practical ]

Getting there
- By road
33 km from Paris on autoroutes A13 and A12 till exit Le Mesnil-Saint-Denis, then on D13 till Chevreuse
- By train
RER B from Paris to Saint-Rémy-les-Chevreuse. The journey takes about 45 mn.
- Hotels
Hôtel les Ducs de Chevreuse
Château de Méridon
- Bed and breakfast
La Maison Haute
Relais Saint Laurent
Auberge La Brunoise
Le Clos de Chevreuse
Le Normand
La Croq’Mitoufle
La Caprosia
Getting around
From early April to late October, on Sundays and bank holidays a shuttle bus called Baladobus departing from the railway station serves the main sights of the park.
There are also regular bus services connecting the railway station to Chevreuse and other villages.
- Yvelines tourist office
Tel : 0139077122
- Chevreuse tourist office
Tel : 0130520227
- Parc Naturel Régional de la Haute Vallée de Chevreuse
Tel : 0130520909
Who said it takes a lot of time to get to the countryside when living in Paris ?.... Take the RER B to its southern terminus, Saint-Rémy-les Chevreuse, and only a few minutes walk away from the railway station you already find yourself on the edge of pastures where cows are grazing peacefully.

Chevreuse © T.Joly
 Fresh dairy products
These animals belong to the Coubertin farm, a nearby family farm raising dairy cows and goats. It produces various cheeses, milk, fresh cream, yoghurts and butter sold on the spot. Freshness guaranteed. Moreover, young and old alike can freely visit the farm and watch the cows and goats milking that take place every day at the end of the afternoon.
Lying next door, the Coubertin estate extends over some twenty-nine hectare. It was once the property of baron Pierre de Coubertin’s brother and the founder of the modern Olympic games stayed there briefly on several occasions. A majestic avenue of lime trees leads to a beautiful 17th century castle holding 1 500 drawings and some fifteen sculptures by sculptor Joseph Bernard.

Chevreuse © T.Joly
 Art foundry
It also boasts a lovely garden serving as a setting in which 20th century master-works of French sculpture are on permanent view. Unfortunately, most of the time the castle is only visible from the road because it’s only open to the public for the "Journées du Patrimoine" (Heritage days) and during temporary exhibitions. The estate is now home to the Coubertin Foundation that welcomes, as boarders, young promising talented carpenters, cabinetmakers, craftsmen in wrought iron and stonecutters. Housed in the buildings of a 17th century hamlet located in the park, they can complete their technical education in workshops set up on the spot under the guidance of highly qualified professionals. There is also a world-renowned art foundry working for the most famous sculptors and museums.

Chevreuse © T.Joly
 Varied architectural heritage
Castings produced by this foundry include Rodin’s The Gates of Hell at Stanford University as well as statues of De Gaulle and Churchill by Jean Cardot that are on display along the Champs-Elysées in Paris.
Tucked away a bit further in the valley, roughly 2,5 km from the railway station, the charming village of Chevreuse owes its name to the presence of numerous goats in the region in the 9th century, when it was founded. Once an agricultural village and a market place, it’s now a residential place with a varied architectural heritage sought after by the well-to-do. As you wander through the streets, you will discover a church dedicated to Saint Martin made up pf 13th, 16th and 19th centuries parts, a 10th century priory, tiny cobbled squares that were once host to popular markets and ancient houses of which the oldest, the Maison des Bannières dates back to the 15th century.

Chevreuse © T.Joly
 Stroll along the river
But the most enjoyable stroll is unquestionably along the Yvette, a small river lined with washhouses, cosy mansions, gardens and drying lofts reminding of past times when tanneries operated in this neighbourhood. From there you also get a nice view of the medieval fortress overlooking Chevreuse. For centuries, it was a strategic point along the road from Chartres to Paris and the village also retains some sections of its former ramparts. To reach the castle you must take the Jean Racine path, so called because the famous French playwright spent there few months in 1661 and a marble slab bears four verses he dedicated to Chevreuse. « Que je me plais sur ces montagnes / Qui s'élevant jusques aux cieux / D'un diadème gracieux / Couronnent ces belles campagnes ».

Chevreuse © T.Joly
 Thick forests
Built in the 11th century, refurbished in the 16th century, the fortress consists of a massive wall flanked by round and square towers, and its sentry path provides a panoramic view of the valley. The inner buildings house a small exhibition tracing back the castle history and the headquarters of the Vallée de Chevreuse Regional Natural Park. Covering 25 000 ha, this park is home to a large number of rare and protected botanic species as well as to many birds, batrachians and dragonflies. Numerous footpaths and routes that you can follow on foot, by bike or on horseback give access to its beautiful hilly landscapes and thick forests dotted with farms and monuments. The closest one is the Meridon castle, only 2 km away from the village, a beautiful neo-renaissance building located in a 7 ha park constructed at the end of the 19th century. It’s now a cultural centre run by a Dutch non-profit organization but it also offers reasonably priced accommodation and can host wedding receptions.

July 21, 2010
Thierry Joly