While Paris is wonderful, if you want to spend a day in the countryside you can consider either Champagne or the Loire Valley. From Montparnasse to Tours it's 55 mins via TGV, so you can be ready to explore one or two chateaus in a day and return in the evening.
There are buses to take you to the chateaus from Tours Gare and cost around 49 euros per person for a full-day tour- you'll visit Chenonceau, Amboise then Chambord which is quite a lot in one day.
While I would recommend a full day for each of these attractions, if you haven't the time it's a great day for the whole family and no need to drive or hire a car. Lunch is usually at Amboise which has lovely cafes, nothing really really gastronomic but good for lunch.
You can probably organise tickets for the chateaux pick-up via SNCF (gare) or www.tourevasion.com for more Loire Valley activities
Paris-Tours 55 mins via TGV
Anatomist Honoré Fragonard flayed the skin off his subjects, soaked them in alcohol, and preserved them with a secret-recipe varnish.
But his best ingredient was a bizarre sense of humour. In the Musée Fragonard, you meet a trio of dancing foetuses, ‘Sansom’ - a toothless man waving a jawbone, and a horseback rider with veins of brightly coloured wax.
Until the 1990s it was only open to those with a ‘specialist interest’.
Fragonard was deemed insane and lost his job. But perhaps he was only trying to bring a human face to medicine – a leering, monstrous, pop-eyed one at that.
cole Nationale Vétérinaire de Maisons-Alfort
7 avenue du Général de Gaulle
94704 MAISONS-ALFORT Cedex
tel: 01 43 96 71 72
fax: 01 43 96 31 62
A guided tour of Les Egouts (the sewers) is an unusual and surprisingly enjoyable way to learn some fascinating history of Paris.
English speaking guides have some great anecdotes as they guide you through the underground tunnels.
The smell is not offensive! Tours take place Saturday to Wednesday between 11 a.m and 5p.m. The entrance is near the Eiffel Tower at 93 Quai d'Orsay.
Try a cycle tour of the city with Paris a velo - c'est sympa!
Tried and tested with initially reluctant friends who later admitted it was the best part of the holiday.
You see so much more and it's better for the environment so what's to lose?
Tours can be arranged in your own language and the tour guides are excellent.
Visit the Parc Floral de Paris, great for everyone - the most amazing play equipment for children, great cafe with amazing food especially the desserts, classical music at weekends.
Even better, it's free in the winter, and one Euro in the summer - a bargain for 70p!
Formerly a railway track linking the Bastille Square to Saint Maur, the "Promenade Plantée" is a hidden oasis of Paris.
Climb the concrete steps from the bustling rue de Lyon, and stumble upon an enchanting winding path filled with an explosion of marigolds, pink roses and trailing vines.
Over the course of about 3km you will be able to gaze over the rooftops of Paris and discover a plethora of small gardens, ageing viaducts and strolling lovers, young and old, arm in arm.
The path finishes at the golden gate and the Vincennes park to the east of the city.
Auteuil and Longchamp are for snobs and special ocasions. For the real Parisian racing atmosphere, it can only be trotting at Vincennes or racing at Maisons Laffite. Both host events redlecting a fast disappearing working class community.
For a different type of nostalgia, visit the old Autodrome at Montlhery, south of Paris. In the days of my misbegotten youth one could take your own car for a few laps, but I expect in these health and safety conscious days that is no longer possible. One more tip for nostalgia fans: Le Paris de Simenon by Frederic Franck is a guide to places written into the Maigret novels with accompanying text and pictures.
On the Ile de la Cite most people flock to visit Notre Dame but at the upstream tip of the island you will find the memorial des Martyrs de la Deportation - a humble and moving reminder of the 200,000 French citizens who were sent to German concentration camps during WWII.
The 'Heart of Paris' tour is a great way to see some of the sights including the Louvre and Notre-Dame.
The guided tour is a relaxed pace with regular stops and info in French & English(34€ for 3 hour tour).
The hardest part is making a patisserie choice.
Take a morning train and get the metro to Bastille. Shop for lunch at the huge open air market, bus, metro or walk to Ile de la Cite and eat your picnic in the gardens round Notre Dame.
Walk along the Seine, looking at the bouquinistes and take in an exhibition: Louvre, Musee d'Orsay or Grand Palais.
Up to Montmartre for the view, moulees plus a glass of white wine in the Place du tertre by the light of the setting sun, and a short stroll back to the Gare du Nord.
Discover the old world delights of the Mariage Frères tea shop in Paris, rue du Bourg-Tibourg (4th arrondissement).
Some many teas stored in tin boxes on wooden shelves served to you by gloved hands. And if you don't want to take any home, you can still try their teas, cakes etc. or buy gorgeous teapots and kitchenware.
Take a trip/ picnic into the country from Paris to the beautiful Foret de Marly (where Louis XIV used to hunt) on the 'petit train' from Gare Saint Lazare to Saint Nom La Breteche in less than an hour.
The station is in the middle of the forest. Much of the forest is now closed to traffic, which enables pleasant walking and cycling away from the hubbub.
If you're travelling with children and you're looking to kill a few hours before departing from Gare du Nord, visit the Parc de la Villette.
There are some fantastic adventure playgrounds that will keep kids of all ages amused for hours. It's fully secured allowing you time to relax before leaving Paris.
With any luck, the kids will tire themselves out too, making for an easier journey home!
Take the metro to Pere-Lachaise cemetery to see amazing array of tombs dating back centuries - Edith Piaf, Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde and Colette to name a few.
Plus amazing war and concentration camp memorials. Peaceful, beautiful, and inspiring in a weird way. An opportunity to refine your thoughts on what you would like your eventual memorial to be.
Get off the metro at Gambetta for the entrance closer to more modern dead. Pere-Lachaise stop for the more historical monuments.
The top of the "Parc de Belleville" is incredible and unspoilt by throngs of tourists. The view of the city is breath-taking and there is a nice little café to sit and have a coffee or wine as Paris stretches out infront of you.
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