Ecouen, France is just North of where I live in Paris-Saint-Denis, France. My idea: stay overnight in the Hotel Campanile near Ecouen, not far from Paris. Not very expensive, and pretty comfortable, as French hotels go. In the morning, either walk to the Château d'Ecouen, or ask the hotel to call you a taxi, but first, check out, and leave your bags there for later in the day. Spend the morning (they open at 10 am, I think) visiting this, arguably the best collection of medieval art, items and rooms in the world. The castle's history is fascinating, and there are even some nice gardens. The surrounding woods are lovely, but be careful! There are old gypsum mines there, and it's dangerous! Stay on the paths. (Gypsum is used to make plaster of Paris.)
This museum is free many days, and way, way cheaper than most museums in central Paris. All around Paris, right OUTSIDE the city, you may see more interesting, less-crowded sights, and they're certainly cheaper! This museum has the best boutique ever -- their Spring, 2010 selection was wonderful! Gifts galore, at fabulous prices. For as little as two euros fifty eurocents, you'll find wonderful treasures to carry away and share or cherish.
This place is so big, and budgets are tight so they cannot open it all, every day. So you have to keep going back! I must have been there twenty times already! I get frustrated when I cannot see the great things I saw before, but such are the limits of the French culture ministry. Alas.
The first Sunday of each month, lots of stuff in France is FREE! They call it "heritage days," and these started nearly ten years ago, and are a GREAT way for EVERYONE to be able to enjoy the wonders of France -- for free!
Ecouen CAN be reached via public transportation from Paris, but it's a bit tricky.
After you've spent the morning feasting your eyes, feast your palate in their gorgeous restaurant. What a setting!
After lunch, if the weather is nice, spread that bedsheet you packed in your bag for the day, and take your siesta out on one of the lawns. There you'll be, perched high on hills, with a marvelous countryside all around you. Feel like a prince, or a princess, even if for only an hour or so!
Then, go back in and see more of this museum! The gardens are not famous, but they are ample and wondrous to stroll. The architecture of the castle is fascinating. Of course, there are tours. But I just wander. And wander. And wander . . .
Later on in the afternoon, when your "eyeballs are stuffed," as I like to say, go back to the Hotel Campanile, pick up your bags, and then go into Paris, or move on on your wonderful tour of Ile-de-France, "the Greater Paris region."
Don't be a sap! Central Paris is for squares. Even if you've GOT the do-re-mi, why throw it away in those same old boring haunts everyone else has seen? Why not stay in Senlis? Saint-Denis? Houdan? Verneuil-sur-Avre? AND SO ON!
All around Paris are marvelous castles and abbeys. I've lived here 16 years, and haven't even scratched the surface!
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This video is dedicated to Meagn Maguire.
copyright 2010 Lisa B. Falour, B.S., M.B.A. all rights reserved
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