So many options abound for a day out of the center of Paris that it's almost numbing to decide what to choose. It just about paralyzed me, so much so that, other than my "randonnée" in a nearby pastoral suburb a while back, I just couldn't pry myself out of Paris for even a moment. Of course, being tempted by all that Paris itself has to offer makes it just that much harder to leave.
However, finally prodded by friends to move out of my comfy surroundings, Vaux-le-Vicomte was the choice for a Saturday in the country. Vaux-le-Vicomte is a chateau (one of many) that exists within a short train ride from Paris. It was a perfect day trip on a perfect late-fall day.
There is great history to this chateau (isn't there always?), and inside the chateau itself, they do a good job (kid-friendly, too, with some animated life-size figures in the decorated rooms) of presenting it. In fact, the chateau and the gardens were designed by the architect and garden designer who later designed Versailles, and it is referred to as the "inspiration" for Versailles. The good news is that it's not only much more manageable than Versailles to take in as a visitor, but the whole world isn't there with you on the day you're visiting!
For me, the real treat was the garden that seemed to go on and on, which in its time was so sophisticated in its design that the view changes throughout one's stroll through it, providing optical illusions and points of interest that are unseen until reaching various points along the way.
We brought sandwiches with us that we'd purchased at the train station, and so one goal was to locate just the right spot for our picnic. That worked out well because, even though there was food for sale on premises, we didn't have to succumb to tourist site prices and quality.
Practical tip: the chateau runs a shuttle service to and from the train station closest to the chateau (Melun), but only in season. My visit was OFF-season (check the website) and the shuttle was no longer running. Getting to the chateau from the Melun train station after the 25-minute train ride from Gare de Lyon in Paris was no problem, but the return was an issue. We waited almost an hour by the side of the road, along with others who'd called the same lone taxi service for the town, which appeared to have a total of two drivers and two taxis on staff.
That bit of inconvenience was quickly forgotten when we decided to check out the spectacular (and also historic) Le Train Bleu in the Gare de Lyon upon return and sit for a while in the cushy leather chairs of its "Big Ben Bar" contemplating our out-of-Paris day.