If you’re looking for something simple to do on the way home from a Paris trip, consider driving through Pierrefonds and Compiegne. The drive itself is beautiful and both towns offer beauty and history as well.
To Pierrefonds, you’ll take the A2, then exit and drive through the Foret de Compiegne towards Pierrefonds. The Foret is well marked with large white signs bearing spokes at the tops pointing in all directions with the names of nearby villages and the distances away on them. It seems that you’re in the middle of nowhere, but the roads are nice and beyond the thick forest of trees, there are some very nice villages.
Pierrefonds is a quaint town known for it’s Chateau. Constructed in the 14th C, it was a ruin by the 18th C. Napoleon I bought the Chateau for less than 3000 francs and Napoleon III commissioned the architect, Viollet-le-Duc (who also did restoration work on the Notre Dame in Paris) to restore it. It was completed in 1884. The exterior is quite medieval, but beautiful. It has a moat as well and a very daunting moss covered drawbridge.
Bottom line, I wouldn’t plan an entire vacation around Pierrefonds, but it is a nice town in a beautiful part of France with a rather lovely, if not horribly old, Chateau, so for a stop on the way home from Paris, it’s just about perfect.
The Clairiere de l’Armistice, near Compiegne, is the place where the armistice of WWI was signed in 1918. There is a small museum here and an interesting monument to the soldiers of WWI with a large fallen black bird. It reads:
“Aux Heroiques Soldats de France
Defenseurs de la Patrie et du Droit
Glorieux Liberateurs de L’Alsace et de la Lorraine”
Compiegne is where Joan of Arc was captured in 1430. The royal chateau, Louis XV’s summer home, isn’t as pretty as the castle in Pierrefonds, but is open for tours. The plaza at the city center is in front of a large church. This is where they have ice skating and the Christmas market in December.
Hungry? The Brasserie Parissienne is very good. The Croque Monsiers here are better than those we tried in Paris. The omlette isn’t anything special, but is good. If you like French food, I recommend getting the course meal. It is sure to be delicious. I had a slice of Quiche au Saumon and a small salad for the first course, then “Chafon a ‘l orange et pommes de Terre Campagnarde” for the second. In English, a very flavorful chicken leg with orange sauce and the most delicious mashed potato dish I’ve ever eaten. I can’t possibly describe it except to say that not a crumb was left.
From here, it’s a 3 hour drive back to the GK area.