So you want to head out of Paris for the day and favor the grand architecture of the fairytale chateaus. Here are some tips that can save you time and money.
Vaux-le-Vicomte and Fontainbleau are practically neighbors and can be visited together in 8 hours with plenty of time to tour the gardens and get some lunch. By train and shuttle it can take hours to get to VLV. From Paris Gare de l’Est, take the direct train Line P (in the direction of Provins). Get off at the Verneuil l’Etang train station. Direct trains every 60 minutes (travel time 35 minutes). Add to that waiting in line, purchasing tickets and taking the same route back from the Chateau. Inexpensive, headachy.
Fontainebleau is about 35 miles away from Paris. For $20 you can get there via public transportation. Trains leave from Gare de Lyon station regularly and the train ride is about 41 minutes. The train will be heading to Montargis. When the train arrives at Fontainbleau Avon station there are two options for getting to the chateau. There is a bus that leaves from bus station next door to the train station at the arrival of each train.
Now, I never thought I would recommend a tour because I like getting to places the cheapest way possible. But after researching this 2-castle trip and visiting each chateau website, I arrived at the decision that taking a tour cut out alot of grief (which train, timetables, avoiding lines).
The good news: for about $70 you can visit both via a deluxe air conditioned coach. Includes price of admission (you skip the lines), audio guides (or tour guide depending on $$), no extra walking or worrying. Leaving Paris at 9:00, you get back around 6:00, just in time for cocktails.
The best companies to book with are Expedia and Viator. Their packages are very similar and one or the other always has a deal. I don’t recommend the ParisVision site…wonky confusing and you pay in euros. Expedia represents them and you pay in dollars and immediately can printout your voucher, price a little cheaper.
Then there’s the Vallée de la Loire, one-hour away from Paris. This tour adds up to a twelve hour day, but taking in 3 chateaus and being delivered to each door (price of admission included) by deluxe bus for around $177 is a real deal! You get to see the beautiful countryside out the window and can choose the audio guide or personal tour guide. Time to wander the grounds is taken into consideration. Again, I found the most economical way to see the chateaus I love the best is reserving through the Expedia site…Chambord, Cheverny, and Chenonceau (they even have one that’s a little pricer that includes wine tasting). Through Viator (a TripAdvisor company), the price for Chambord, Chenonceau and Amboise is $169, tour guide included. Note, you travel by van.
“Leave the driving to us” is now my motto. I like to maximize my vacation time, maybe you do too.