but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane."
Power has its privileges but also its own brand of hysterical theater.
Where do the Presidents of France go to relax & restore their battered spirit?
Presidential entitlement offers plenty of options for retreat from the capitol
but the "official" choice is the Chateau of Rambouillet,
just a hop, skip and a jump away from the unholy politics of Paris.
Once inauguration day has come and gone, it's not much fun being head of state.
By today's polls, French President Francois Hollande, skewered day and night by the press and the public, is at an unheard of low point in presidential popularity.
Think you've had a bad day at the office?
Try being President!
If the embattled head of state decides to "run away" for the weekend,
he can easily make his way to the official weekend residence of the chief executive,
Rambouillet, its chateau and welcoming breath of fresh country air.
Surely a change of pace from disagreeable Paris can do wonders.
Since 1896, the CEO of France has been privy to
escape Parisian political pinball to his own peaceful refuge.
Perhaps as a visitor to fast-paced Paris, you're ready for a quick get-away, too.
City life is fast, noisy and polluted and for some, even the siren song of
Parisian treasure and merry-making gets to be too much after a while.
Imagine a place neighboring Paris that's green and quietly beautiful.
Restore your inner quiet and take a break from the big city lights.
Chez Château de Rambouillet. You're not just seeing a museum-palace but
an actual working residence, one that's a mix of present-day & old lang syne.
It's used as a Presidential retreat that's part work / part play
for the commander-in-chief but pure indulgence for you.
Located in the lovely Yvelines department of the Île de France,
Rambouillet is just 30 miles outside the capitol, easily accessed by train
(SCNF from Gare Montparnasse - makes a lot of stops along the way).
The trip takes a little less than an hour and there's an
abundance of options for your day "off.".
Dwight D. Eisenhower, George Herbert Walker Bush, Harold Wilson,
Helmut Schmidt and even Nelson Mandela have visited
or spent the night in this special residence.
Oh yes, and Putin and Hemingway, too.
In 1975, French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing summoned the top
industrialized nations for the first ever G6 summit, a Who's Who of heads of state.
King Francois I allegedly died at Rambouillet, in the same tower
currently used as the official guest bedroom. Yikes.
Napoleon spent his last night at the chateau just
before committing to his exile on St. Helena.
Charles de Gaulle set up "shop" here just after the Allies' D-Day landing,
using the exalted quarters to plot the liberation of Paris.
And you, too, are invited to navigate the halls -- well, some of them anyway --
the same byways where emperors, kings, generals and outlaws
enjoyed a mix of work and R & R.
Full of game, the forest has always been the incentive that
attracted VIPs, yesterday, today and tomorrow.
The castle, too, boasts stunning French formal gardens
as well as refined and gentle English-inspired greenways.
Canals and islands dot the landscape to complete the idyllic oasis.
The Laiterie de la Reine -- the Queen's Dairy, is part of the package.
Built for Marie Antoinette's amusement, the little dairy originally boasted
buckets made from -- what else - Sèvres porcelain.
Today you can see the cooling room with its stunning decorated grotto.
Also worth a look (and a walk) is the Chaumiere des Coquillages,
a thatched roof picture postcard of a cottage that boasts a stunning
interior of marble, shells and mother-of-pearl decoration.
Wandering unaccompanied through the chateau is not allowed.
There are several tours daily so make sure to check tour times before you go.
Even if your guide doesn't speak your native tongue, there's a printed guide
to help you along and offer fascinating insight into the life of the palace.
The National Sheepfold (Bergère Rambouillet) can be visited as well as
a miniature train museum, the Musée Rambolitrain.
The area is a golf course heaven so if your mate doesn't enjoy
a chateau excursion, send him/her on a golf outing.
There's more than one way to skin a cat.
There's even a memorial to nine fallen American soldiers
who gave their lives in August 1944.
France remembers and we love the chance to pay our respects.
Just 4 miles from Rambouillet, you'll find a restaurant I can personally recommend.
I usually leave these recommendations to professional food tasters like Alex Lobrano and Patricia Wells, but what the heck, this is outside of Paris and
a good opportunity to enjoy a pretty village and a worthy dining experience.
Several years ago, I dined at Villa Marinette in nearby Gazeran,
a classy, well-rounded French restaurant in a lovely village.
The chef and his wife have created a marvelous experience for their guests.
From the moment you walk into their warm home-based restaurant to the minute
you finish dessert, you'll feel spoiled and utterly satisfied.
It's not an inexpensive escape from Paris
but it is a complete experience in the art of fine dining.
Gazeran is a delightful village, worthy of the effort to get there.
Call the restaurant for reservations as it's usually full.
Rambouillet is not a destination for a first-time visitor to Paris.
It's an ideal addition to your itinerary if you're someone who has made the rounds of Paris and searching for a well-rounded taste of what's just outside the capitol.
I hope you'll enjoy a bite of a different side of the Île de France.
Paris may be the icing on the cake, no arguments here.
But a closer look outside your Paris back door reveals new layers.
As you build your French experience into an epic adventure, you're gaining
insight into the true picture of this wonderful country.
Rambouillet, stop-over for VIPs since the 14th century, continues to make memories.
Make some of your own!